2006/07 Review Part One - A mixed start

There were two additions to the squad with forward Steve Jones and defender Stephen Foster both having arrived from relegated Crewe. Andy Gray and Alan Mahon had both made their loan moves permanent from Sunderland and Wigan respectively and the squad had a much healthier look to it than it had at the end of the 2005/06 season, presumably because we'd cleared out the potentially dangerous disease known as Ricketts.

No other players had gone although Steve Cotterill had placed four under contract players on the transfer list. They were midfielder Micah Hyde, striker Gifton Noel-Williams and reserve team players Duane Courtney and Danny Karbassiyoon. Micah was perhaps the only surprise.

We're underway - the Clarets in action at Accrington

The Accrington game used to be nothing other than a reserve team outing for the Clarets, but with our smaller squad and their rise in status has meant this has been a first team game for the last four years. By half time in this first friendly we were 2-0 down with the big guns set to come on in the second half.

That wasn't good enough for some Burnley fans. "Bloody rubbish Burnley," screamed one supporter as the players left for half time whilst another cried, "If that's the best you can do Cotterill why don't you **** off." Nothing like giving a side a chance is there? As it happens the manager had ***** off, he was away on holiday, and in any case we came back to win it in the second half with goals from Jones, Gray and Mahon.

A draw at Bury and a home win against Big Sam's Bolton followed and then it was off to the heat of northern Italy and two very tough games against local opposition. They were hardly the most testing of fixtures and they were one of the reasons why, a year on, we have chosen to return to Austria. It was a fantastic area to spend a few days taking in two Burnley games, there's no doubt about that, but there was never any respite from the heat as they soured well into the forties day after day.

and action from Italy
Home, sun tanned, we were ready for the season to get underway and the first game was a home game against QPR who were hardly going to be one of the leading lights in the division. Gary Waddock was not the permanent boss having held the fort in the previous season whilst Ian Holloway got his garden in order. Holloway had gone to Plymouth and we gave Waddock a losing start.

New signing Jones was the hero with two second half goals, both good goals with the second one a stinging shot from outside the box that flew into the corner. Our 2-0 win was the biggest of the day and so we went to Leicester in midweek as league leaders. If the QPR game had been scrappy at times this one wasn't, we played well from start to finish and were head and shoulders better than Leicester. On three previous visits to the Crisp Bowl we've kept clean sheets and we made it four. Gray headed in a Mahon free kick right on half time and it was six points from two games, you can't ask for more than that. There was no sign of the man from Accrington who was shouting bloody rubbish, although he was to return later in the season.

Just as we were getting excited at the start we were brought back down to earth at Hillsborough although a late James O'Connor goal earned us a point. It was a very disappointing performance against a poor Wednesday side and to add to that we lost Gray to a second booking right at the end. The only positive was the point took us back to the top for the second successive Saturday. We needed to find better than this though and had the chance with three home games in the next four games.

Andy Gray - scored the winner at Leicester but was sent off at Sheffield Wednesday
The first of these home games was Wolves, and yes I can hear you say that we hardly ever beat Wolves. You're right, they've only lost one league game at the Turf in well over forty years, and this wasn't to be the second. A crazy mix up in defence allowed their debutant striker Jemal Johnson to score the only goal of the game. We could have predicted it, they'd signed him that week from down the M65, he was booed every time he went near the ball, and you just knew he would score.

I thought the goal was more Michael Duff's fault but the finger of blame was pointed at Wayne Thomas. The Burnley fans hadn't taken to him and were quick to criticise. However, both he and the Clarets had the chance to put things right in the Carling Cup as League Two Hartlepool, without a win all season, came to the Turf.

We didn't put things right, and Thomas certainly didn't - he gave the penalty away that led to the only goal of the game and he was sent off by referee Boyeson for a professional foul although video evidence suggested that Duff had got back and it really should have been a yellow card. The Burnley fans preferred the red, it gave them the chance to heap more abuse on the defender who Cotterill had flown out to the States to sign.

What we didn't need after that was a trip to Palace. The Legend's outfit were third in the table, had won both home games and were already being tipped for promotion. John McGreal came in for his first game of the season and for forty five minutes we played the best football we'd seen from the Clarets for some time.

Inspired, as we were at Leicester, by the brilliant Mahon, we simply outplayed Palace. How we were only one goal in front at half time is anyone's guess but Mahon's effort following a superb move down the left was all we had to show for a wonderful half of football.

As often happens, Palace came back and equalised early in the second half, but within just a few minutes Kyle Lafferty got his first of the season to restore the lead. We should have won it, but in the end could well have lost it. They just hit big high balls into our box and eventually one led to an equaliser with a quarter of an hour to go and then we were under pressure. Brian Jensen turned in an inspired last fifteen minutes, with one wonderful save in particular, and at least we had a point.

Alan Mahon - brilliant at Leicester and Palace
It should have been three, it really should, but we'd been lifted by that performance and we could have done without the international break. Even so, surely we would have too much for Colchester when we did get back into action two week's later.

By the time Colchester arrived at the Turf the transfer window had closed with no additions to the squad. Hyde had come off the list but for two of the others made available it was a farewell to Turf Moor as both Courtney and Karbassiyoon were paid up. Courtney eventually signed for The New Saints in the Welsh League but for poor Danny K it was to signal an end to his football career because of injury.

Not quite, and this was a result that really brought out the critics. Colchester took the lead midway through the first half and doubled it early in the second half through a somewhat debatable looking penalty decision. Colchester made a habit of winning penalties during the season and Iwelumo made a habit of scoring from them.

Two down, an hour gone, and Cotterill replaced Jones with Gifton Noel-Williams. Shockingly the striker was booed on by the home crowd. Some even defended the booing by saying he is crap, but the fact is that he finished as our man of the match after an excellent thirty minutes play from him. It didn't see us get any points although Gray did pull one back late in the game.

A win against Colchester would have seen us go third in the table, the defeat meant that we were eleventh. Cardiff were top, Derby were in the bottom three. Things can change you know.