Home wins don't come around too often
It wasn’t expected, we were some way behind them in the table, had conceded ten goals in our previous two games, and things had continued to go badly against them following our promotion in 2000.
The first home meeting of the 21st Century came on New Year’s Day 2001. For once we were above them but we had lost our previous four games after going into December in fifth place in the league. Not only that but Lee Briscoe and Glen Little were ruled out with injuries whilst Steve Davis, Kevin Ball and Paul Cook were all serving suspensions.
Wolves were hardly having the best of times, they were not far above the drop zone, manager Colin Lee had been sacked leaving John Ward in charge, and the man tipped to take over, former Southampton boss Dave Jones, was sat in the stand.
We were soon in front with a Graham Branch goal after nine minutes but just before the half hour Adam Proudlock equalised for Wolves against the run of play and that changed the whole complexion of the game as Wolves got on top for the rest of the first half.
It remained at 1-1 as it did for much of the second half as both sides struggled. But this was Wolves, and we weren’t likely to win but no one could have expected them to get a second in such bizarre circumstances.
They won a somewhat dubious free kick out on the right wing and Lee Naylor played it straight at the ref. As it bounced back the Wolves player took the ball forward and crossed with the bemused referee Roger Furnandez incredibly allowing play to go on rather than award us a free kick.
And it cost us, Naylor’s cross should have caused no problems at all but it sailed straight into the net past Nik Michopoulos with just five minutes to go. Stan threw on Ronnie Jepson, the crowd booed the decision, and it was defeat number five.
One season on and things weren’t to get any better. The worst refereeing performance I have ever seen came in the 1969/70 First Division game between Burnley and Wolves at the Turf. That was a Mr. George Hartley from Wakefield. In March 2002, Barry Knight run him very close with a performance that awarded Wolves the points.
In a mad two minutes, Burnley thought they had gone in front but then went behind. Gareth Taylor scored at the cricket field end and to this day no one has any idea at all why Knight disallowed it. Within a minute, we were behind to a Dean Sturridge goal that twice should have been ruled out for offside.
Ian Moore replaced Gareth Taylor at half time and within two minutes of the restart he pulled one back. We pushed forward for a second but just before the hour I’m afraid Knight struck again when he sent off Alan Moore for kicking out at Gunnar Halle.
It was a shocking decision, there was no evidence that Moore was doing anything other than getting up after the two players had gone down in a challenge that was admittedly a foul. Whether Knight was influenced by the rantings of Alex Rae we will never know but Moore had to go.
David Johnson pulled one back with five minutes to go and we came so, so close to pulling it level. But once again controversy had seen us beaten by Wolves at home.
Then 39 years and 47 days after that 1963 victory we finally pulled it off again on that glorious Boxing Day in 2002. The heavy defeats to Rotherham and Gillingham leading up to Christmas were forgotten as the Clarets returned to form against a Wolves side who did no favours with the moaning of Ince and Rae alongside the diving and cheating of Cooper and Kennedy.
We took the lead midway through the first half and it was a first home goal of the season for Gareth Taylor and he would go some to better it. He started the move in a deep position with a sublime piece of skill as he controlled the ball and beat a Wolves player all in one move before playing it out to Robbie Blake on the left.
Blake produced a piece of vintage wing play that ended with the perfect cross for Taylor, who had made yards and yards of ground, to power home a header giving the Wolves keeper no chance.
Eight minutes later and for once we were thankful to a referee against Wolves. Dean Sturridge committed an awful foul but as the ball run loose referee Messias played an advantage. He got it right, it fell to Dean West who doubled the lead with a deflected shot.
Wolves won promotion that season via the play offs but they were soon back at the Turf, on the third Saturday of the 2004/05 season, following an immediate relegation. It was a new look Clarets and only Tony Grant and Robbie Blake had survived from the starting line up of that Boxing Day win.
We turned in a superb performance but it looked as though the jinx of this fixture was back to haunt us when we went behind after fifteen minutes. It was a bad error from one of the new signings Frank Sinclair who sold Danny Coyne short with a back pass, and that left Shaun Newton with the easiest of chances.
Nine minutes later we were level with a goal that simply lifted Turf Moor. Graham Branch started it with a powerful surging run and fed the ball to Robbie Blake on the edge of the box. From then on it was pure Robbie as he turned defenders right and left as he weaved a path through before slotting home past Jones.
For me it was our goal of the season, and it was such a shame it didn’t come in a win. We dominated the game, Micah Hyde and Richard Chaplow were magnificent in the midfield whilst the man of the match was the brilliant Michael Duff at right back.
But somehow Wolves hung on for a point they hardly deserved whilst the Clarets continued their unbeaten run to the season. A performance like that will go down well tomorrow, and it would be even better with a result to match the Boxing Day win of three seasons ago.