Happy Hunting – Certainly in the League
In 2002, Burnley travelled south sitting in a healthy league position, but needed to keep their play off hopes alive after being outplayed by West Brom and particularly Jason Roberts in a 2-0 loss at Turf Moor just days previous.
The Clarets dominated early on, but as the game progressed, Jermaine Pennant, on loan from Arsenal, began to find extra freedom down the right hand side, eventually finding enough time and space to cut inside left back Graham Branch before sending an unstoppable shot into the corner of Beresford’s goal.
Stan made major changes before half time and Burnley once again started to take control. Midway through the second half, Watford had the chance to tie up the game, after current Claret, Gifton Noel-Williams was awarded a penalty following a shirt pull from Arthur Gnohere. Marcus Gayle stepped up and at this point the game was turned on its head; Beresford made yet another impressive penalty save in the Burnley goal and kept the Watford lead down to just a single goal.
Minutes later Burnley levelled the scores – Lee Briscoe fired a free kick onto the post and Ian Cox was the grateful recipient, smashing the rebound into an open goal. Both teams desperately wanted the three points and as it happened, the game began to stretch, leaving both defences exposed.
In the dying moments Watford were on the attack and Clarets fans behind the goal had few finger nails left to chew and then suddenly it was Burnley’s turn to push forward. Robbie Blake who had earlier come on for Graham Branch clearly wasn’t fully fit. He was replaced by Maylett late on and like pennant in the first half, it was Maylett who was able to find space down the right hand side, sending a cross into the Watford box where Paul Weller arrived like an express train to send the Burnley fans into delirium.
The game ended 2-1 to the Clarets and had put us back into the top six, but no one would have predicted such a scoreline once Marcus Gayle had placed the ball on the penalty spot 25 minutes previous.
It was a terrible afternoon of football and all Burnley fans were left feeling bitterly frustrated after seeing Watford win the game 2-0. The Clarets lacked attacking endeavour throughout the whole game, mustering up only a handful of goal attempts in the 90 minutes of play. Late on, Watford did manage to get a foothold and Helguson leading the Watford line started to cause the Burnley defence trouble. With little over a quarter of an hour remaining the Hornets took the lead; Tommy Smith prodding the ball home from a matter of feet after the Burnley defence were unable to clear a relatively poor corner.
Burnley heads suddenly dropped and we never looked like getting back into the game after such a bad blow. Just five minutes after the opener, Helguson, now playing his football for Fulham, was fouled by Ian Cox on the edge of the area. Stephen Glass stepped up and struck a sweet left foot shot over the Burnley wall and past a despairing Beresford dive. The Cup run was over and sadly the Clarets had missed out on an opportunity to play in the Semi Final’s, where Watford did ever so well, just coming up short losing to Gordon Strachan’s Southampton side 2-1 at Villa Park.
Only Graham Branch remains from the side defeated in the cup, then as now he was playing at left back. The Watford side too contained a lot of players who have since moved on and they include Micah Hyde, who played the full ninety minutes and Gifton Noel-Williams who was introduced as a substitute just prior to the first goal. Gifton disappointingly missed out in the Semi-Final, he wasn’t even on the bench.
The recent overall form at Vicarage Road has been in contrast to the few games we had played their previously, most of which frankly are far from memorable. We still didn’t realise just what was in store for us when we fell to defeat on the opening day of the 1997/98 season in temperatures that were too hot even for watching cricket.
Chris Waddle’s team fell to a 1-0 defeat although probably the worst day of all was the day we brought a disastrous 1979/80 season to an end with a 4-0 defeat against Graham Taylor’s team. The only plus on that day was the impressive debut from teenage right back Brian Laws as we headed down to Division Three for the first time ever.
The recent form is good though, cup ties apart, and since we won promotion we have lost just one out of five league games there. That’s the sort of form we hope to continue, as long as we don’t get a torrential downpour around 2:30 p.m. as we did in 2000 that forced the game off.
Just as we did for Micah last year, we can make it a special day for Gifton with a win on his return to Vicarage Road in a Claret & Blue shirt.