2005/06 Review Part Two – It is getting better

Garreth O'Connor - his penalty took us off the bottom of the league
As it turned out, a win against Brighton would have lifted us seven places in the table, but after another awful performance we could only muster a draw and had to settle for being next to bottom on Saturday evening.

That was just about the only consolation on another poor day for the Clarets. With only just over ten minutes gone, Danny Coyne went up to catch a ball unchallenged, fell to the ground and was stretchered off with what turned out to be a cruciate ligament injury.

That was the first time Brighton had got the ball into our box, the next time they went a goal up as we conceded yet another goal from a set piece, this time a corner. Within ten minutes, one of the top homer referees Eddie Ilderton awarded us a somewhat dubious penalty and Garreth O'Connor found the net from the spot to ensure we would not be bottom of the league for another night.

Even Steve Cotterill was down after the game and said: “It is hard to see too many positives at the moment, because we have not won the game which we are disappointed with, given away the goal which we are disappointed with, and Danny's serious injury sums up our luck at the moment.”

We needed a change of luck, and thankfully three days later Irish eyes were smiling on us as we took on Ipswich at the Turf. Three goals, from three Dubliners, and without doubt our best performance of the season so far.

That little bit of luck came with the first goal from James O'Connor. His first half shot took a deflection to see it into the net, but there was nothing lucky about the second as his namesake Garreth netted for the second successive game with a superbly taken free kick move.

To round off the night, Chris McCann came on and headed in the third for his first goal in league football and you could sense the confidence lifting around Turf Moor. This was the sort of performance we'd been hoping for since August, but could we maintain it?

John McGreal - played despite a bad ankle injury
I suppose there was very little confidence amongst the fans for the next game, after all it was Wolves and wins against Wolves are as rare as hot summers, and just to make things more difficult the game was being shown on Sky which always seems to give people that bit less confidence.

Well, it might be time to get ready for a hot summer, because we won at Molineux for the first time in 19 years, and the only goal of the game, a Garreth O'Connor free kick, was our first goal there since Neil Grewcock grabbed the winner back in 1986.

We had some luck, we were under some pressure for long spells but, despite both central defenders Frank Sinclair and John McGreal carrying ankle injuries that should have kept them out of the side, we held on for a second successive win.

As I left the ground I got a phone call from a friend who had been sat watching the game on TV in Leeds. “We've gone up to thirteenth,” he told me. Now that's not bad after being bottom just seven days earlier.

Could we keep it going? We probably should have done against Leeds the following week and we went in front early in the second half from a Garreth O'Connor penalty, his fourth goal in four games.

It must have been blatant as Sean Gregan brought down Akinbiyi, not even Kevin Blackwell bothered to complain about it. If the officials spotted that, they clearly missed the foul by David Healy on Jon Harley shortly afterwards and the assistant ridiculously flagged the other way.

Brian Jensen looked to be struggling lining up his wall, there was a big gap on one side, and Eddie Lewis found it. Four minutes later and Hulse converted a cross from the left and our min-revival was over.

Ade Akinbiyi - abused by the Leicester fans but got the only goal of the game to win it for the Clarets
It was back to winning ways on the following Tuesday, and a second successive away game. This was our third ever visit to the Crisp Bowl at Leicester and the best news of the night was that Ade, abused throughout by the home fans, got the winner, the only goal of the game.

The game was hardly a classic but we were the better side with Leicester, who were led in attack by the dynamic duo of Mark de Vries and Elvis Hammond, never looked as though they might score a goal.

On the Saturday it was the tiresome coach journey to Selhurst Park and a game that we were destined to lose once Palace had gone in front. We didn't play particularly well although the 2-0 scoreline flattered the home side.

Our exit from the Carling Cup followed, a Kevin Phillips goal in the first half was enough to give Aston Villa the opportunity to go our in the next round at Doncaster. We played well enough but once behind it was difficult to see where a goal might come from. There was never going to be a repeat of the Turf Moor night of a year earlier.

Sky were with us again on the Friday, this time at home against new boys to the division Hull City and their legend Peter Taylor. Now Ade had scored the winner against Leicester, the club where he didn't have the best of times, and he went and did the same against the manager who took him to Filbert Street.

He scored a cracking goal in the first half and that proved to be enough, although I don't think anyone will forget Brian Jensen's stoppage time save that kept us in front. We were the better side and deserved the win, and with a home game to come on the Tuesday we were now looking to push up the table further.

Millwall were the visitors and what a game. Incredibly we went a goal down in the first minute of the game when loan player Jermaine Wright scored. In the same midweek a year earlier the same player had given Leeds the lead against us in the first minute at Elland Road. On that occasion we came roaring back to win the game 2-1.

Nathan Dyer - came on for his debut and scored the equaliser
I think we'll skip over the first half, suffice to say we went in at half time still 1-0 down. But by the time the teams came out for the second half Millwall were a player down after Ben May was sent off in the tunnel area by referee Richard Beeby for racial abuse.

Richard Beeby – remember him? He's the referee who sent Steve Cotterill to the stands early in his Burnley career, a referee who we had managed to get stopped from refereering our game at Stoke in January 2005. We were set to have some fun with him over the next 45 minutes.

We'd brought on Southampton youngster Nathan Dyer for his debut. He'd sat on the bench watching the win against Hull but this was his first chance in the first team. He came on with Gifton and it was a fantastic sight to see them both together on the touchline waiting to come on. Could we really tell them apart?

So to Beeby and just past the hour he increased his red card count to three after a foul by Jody Morris on James O'Connor. There were some afters as Morris grabbed O'Connor by the throat and Beeby sent both players off, although to this day I have no idea why James received a red card, and neither did the FA, he won his appeal.

Ten against nine now yet we were still behind, that is until a quarter of an hour from the end. Then Dyer arrived on the scene in no uncertain terms. He turned his man on the corner of the box before hitting a powerful shot into the corner off the post.

Four minutes later and Wade Elliott won it for us with a shot that was deflected in. Millwall were beaten, and they decided to blame Beeby at the final whistle. The referee lost it completely and looked set to launch himself at one Millwall player before being pulled back. So out came the red card again and off went goalkeeper Marshall.

Hardly a quiet night but it had seen us go into the top half of the league – four days later we were off to Luton, surely there wouldn't be anything like the same incident there as we had just witnessed, surely that would be a quiet game.