Subs Payton and Branch win it for Clarets

David May - good game on our last visit to Palace
Three wins out of four and ten points from a possible fifteen have seen Burnley, who found wins almost impossible to come by up until recently, spring from third bottom to the dizzy heights of 14th in the Championship and dare it be mentioned, only a few wins away from a play off spot.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s quite clear that the 4-5-1 formation adopted at Molineux three weeks ago, has worked wonders for Steve Cotterill’s side. There is little doubt that things will remain the same when the Clarets visit England’s capital for a clash with Iain Dowie’s Crystal Palace side, currently lying in the top six of the division and looking for an immediate return to the Premiership after last season’s relegation.

Our last meeting with Palace was in 2003/2004 and it ended in a stalemate, with neither side overly impressing. David May and Mark McGregor had particularly good games for the Clarets, keeping the likes of Shipperley, Johnson and Freedman at bay throughout. Looking at the game, it was hard to believe that we were playing a side who would sneak into the Premiership via the back door of the play offs just a few months later. Maybe on reflection this was a better point than we had first thought.

Taking a look back at other recent games with the Eagles - we haven’t lost a game to Palace at Selhurst Park since gaining promotion under Stan Ternent. In fact, our only major disappointment at this ground against them in the last five years has been the 1-1 draw in 2000, which brought an end to our League Cup campaign, seeing the Clarets go out on away goals, with the aggregate score at 3-3.

A few weeks before the League Cup disappointment, Burnley travelled back down to London for a league fixture against Palace. In the season with no sponsor, the Clarets took to the field in their sky blue away shirts and were probably second best for the majority of the match. However it’s goals that win games and after denying the impressive Tommy Black on countless occasions, Burnley grabbed the only goal of the game in the 77th minute.

Graham Branch and Andy Payton had started the game on the bench, but it was this pair who linked up for the goal, with the Padiham Predator slotting a perfect ball through the centre for Branchy, who duly slotted under the despairing frame of Stuart Taylor in the Palace goal. It was Burnley’s first away win of the season and it lifted Stan’s side to 8th in the league.

With Gareth Taylor out of action for our visit to Palace in 2001/2002, Ian Moore was left upfront on his own as the Clarets employed a 4-5-1 formation in what was Palace’s first game with Trevor Francis at the helm.

Our back four consisted of Graham Branch and Dean West at fullback, with Ian Cox and Arthur Gnohere at centre half. No need to panic though, this was the defensive line up of a Burnley side sitting in one of the automatic promotion slots.

Two goals for Ian Moore as Burnley go top
On 23 minutes, Burnley took advantage of some poor Matt Clarke goalkeeping. After Clarke failed to claim a corner Burnley instantly won back possession and Ian Moore placed a header into an open net, when the ball was centred for the second time.

Burnley looked comfortable at this point and it therefore came as a surprise when Clinton Morrison (who is now back at Palace after spending a few seasons in the Premiership with Birmingham City) brought the scores level; this time heading home after Burnley were unable to defend a corner themselves.

Teams at the top of the league don’t lie down though and this proved to be the case midway through the second half. Kevin Ball had come on as a substitute shortly after the interval, and after letting the Palace midfield know who was boss, he won a 50/50 tackle and released Alan Moore. He in turn slotted the ball through for Ian Moore who finished impressively into the corner of the net, putting the clarets on top of the pile and leaving the travelling Burnley contingent with realistic thoughts of Premier League football.

The aforementioned Gareth Taylor was ruled out of our match at Palace in 2001/2002, but one season later, Taylor came back into the side following a three game suspension, for this important league fixture. However, this season Stan went for an attacking 4-3-3 formation, with Ian Moore and Robbie Blake lining up alongside our target man.

After witnessing a half which the Eagles dominated from the off, it was the Clarets who ironically went in at the interval with the lead. From a rare Burnley attack, a free kick was awarded at the left side of the penalty box. Robbie Blake stepped up and swung in a vicious delivery, which Taylor got to and guided (with his head of course) past Berthalin in goal.

In all fairness, Burnley’s lead was underserved but there were no complaints coming from the Burnley end. In the second half, Burnley upped the tempo and should have gone 2-0 up when Blake slotted in Tony Grant for a one on one. Grant made a meal of it, hesitating too long and unable to even get a pass away.

The attack broke down and a new one immediately commenced for the Eagles. Straight up field the ball went and Adebola this time was the one through on goal. Dele Adebola, who would soon serve a loan spell at Turf Moor was brought down by Beresford in goal for Burnley, albeit controversially. Australian, Tony Popovic, confidently stepped up and brought the scores level from the awarded spot kick. The last quarter of the game brought further chances at both ends, but when referee Cooper brought proceedings to an end, a draw did seem to be a fair result.

This Saturday sees Ade Akinbiyi return to Crystal Palace, another of his former clubs. As at Leicester in midweek, Ade is likely to receive a hostile reception. On a personal note, Ade comes across as a player that gives absolutely everything when playing for Burnley. He is passionate and very proud. When he doesn’t find the net, he almost always makes up for it by stretching defences so wide that gaping gaps are freed up for our hungry midfielders to take advantage of. He’s a vital member of our very small, but tight knit squad. Although it isn’t nice to see members of your own team getting jeered from opposing fans, something tells me that Ade prides himself on occasions like these. Same again please Ade!