Saxton's York hit for six
We'd finally started to move on from the Orient game, a year later we'd ended the season in the top half of the division and had a trip to Wembley where we played in front of over 80,000 against Wolves in the Sherpa Van Trophy Final.
The 1988/89 season had got underway and by the third Saturday of that season we'd already won two league games, at home to Rochdale and at Halifax both by a 2-1 scoreline, and also defeated Rochdale 5-4 on aggregate in the Littlewoods (League) Cup and won ourselves a tie with First Division Luton Town.
We'd been by far the better side in all of the four games, but slips at the back had cost us goals in all of the games. We were scoring goals though and new signing from Exeter City Brendan O'Connell had already hit four whilst midfielder Paul Comstive had chipped in with three.
Our opponents on that third Saturday were York City, managed by former Blackburn Rovers boss Bobby Saxton. They had just the one point, from a home draw against Carlisle and had crashed out of the Littlewoods Cup at the hands of Sunderland, losing the second leg 4-0 at Roker Park after holding them to a goalless draw in the first leg at Bootham Crescent.
Neil Grewcock had missed the end of the previous season and saw a specialist that week, although his comeback was still over six months away. Peter Daniel was a doubt having got stud marks down the back of his leg in the game against Rochdale, although he was passed fit to play, but there was good news with Gary Rowell, injured on the opening day of the season, fit to return.
It all turned into a good afternoon for the Burnley fans as we recorded our biggest win for over three and a half years. We beat York, who included Claret to be Ian Helliwell, 6-0 and it could have been an even bigger win. “It could have been ten, and that's no exaggeration,” wrote Granville Shackleton of the Burnley Express.
He went on to say: “It was football of a quality one doesn't normally associate with the lower divisions as the Clarets clocked up their third successive league win to equal the best ever winning start to a post-war season.”
It took us all of seventeen minutes to go in front, bringing Paul Atkinson his one and only Burnley goal in what was possibly his only decent performance in a Claret & Blue shirt, and it owed much to a mistake from former Blackburn full back Jim Branagan who allowed an Ian Britton cross to go right across goal to the scorer who cut in from the left to finish with a well placed shot.
I'm sure many of you will remember goalkeeper Chris Marples making his debut on loan for Scunthorpe against us in our Fourth Division Championship season. He was sent off for punching Mike Conroy and was immediately ditched by the Humberside club.
He was in goal for York this particular afternoon and he wasn't having the best of times on this day either. He came to the edge of his area to collect a back bass from defender Kevan Smith but came too far and handled outside his box. Britton, who had made the first goal, scored from the resulting free kick, bending the ball round the wall into the corner of Marples' net.
“Saxton, Saxton, what's the score? Saxton, what's the score,” cried the Burnley fans as the former Ewood boss stayed rooted to his seat in the box before marching across the pitch to give his side a rollocking at half time.
It worked too, and within two minutes of the restart they had conceded another, and once again our old friend Marples was in the thick of the action. Atkinson was having a stormer, and he played a magnificent ball through for Paul Comstive. Commie waltzed past two defenders and set himself to shoot when the keeper brought him down.
In today's football he would have been sent off for the handball that led to the second goal, but this was the 1980s and he faced the penalty, taken by Comstive, but went the wrong way and the game was now well and truly over.
There was better to come, we had a former Blackburn manager squirming, Branagan had helped us to the first goal and when Atkinson fired in a corner on 56 minutes it bounced off Derek Fazackerley to leave George Oghani with the task of stabbing the ball into the net from close range.
It was exhibition stuff now and the Clarets, having gone nap, were looking for more. There was just one, the sixth goal coming three minutes from the end. Yes it was Atkinson again involved, putting Oghani through and he played a first time ball for Comstive who slammed an unstoppable left foot shot past the helpless Marples.
6-0: The Longside were in full voice, and of course not forgetting to have a final word with the visiting manager as he walked across the pitch, head bowed, at the end of the game.
He kept his players locked in the dressing room for an hour and forty minutes – and knowing Saxton it wouldn't have been too polite a word he was having with his players. He was ultimately the loser though and by the end of the month he was replaced by John Bird to bring to an end his last job in management.
Brian Miller though was thrilled to bits with the performance, and despite scoring six goals he was just as pleased with the fact that we had kept our first clean sheet of the season. Miller, who had just signed a new two year contract, said: “I felt in our previous league games this season we have been a little unlucky to have conceded a goal after dominating play so much, but this time we were in control at the back as much as we were up front. You need a good back four before you can even talk about promotion and I think we now have the best in this division.
“Our football was excellent and perhaps of a higher standard than one associates with the Fourth Division. We created chance after chance with some excellent passing and everybody here at Turf Moor now seems to be bubbling.
“There's a long way to go yet but we have got every incentive from our great start and it is up to us to maintain it.”
The win was certainly celebrated by Barrowford Celtic youngsters. We won the Barclays Performance of the Week Award and, after we nominated them, they received a cheque for £300 as well as their team being kitted out with a new strip.
It was off to Stockport next for many of us, with the Supporters' Club charging £2 for coach travel and a warning from the Edgeley Park club. Due to a lack of turnstiles visiting supporters were often missing kick off so they said we should arrive early. Admission was £3 for adults.
Next time we will be moving some years on to more recent times, and a very special day for one ex-Claret. Hopefully this will have been a nice reminder for those for whom this game was a very special one to remember.
The teams were;
Burnley: Chris Pearce, Peter Daniel, Steve Davis, Steve Gardner, Ray Deakin, Ian Britton, Andy Farrell, Paul Comstive, Paul Atkinson, George Oghani, Brendan O'Connell. Subs not used: Steve Taylor, Gary Rowell.
York: Chris Marples, Jim Branagan, Paul Johnson, Darren Bradshaw, Kevan Smith, Derek Fazackerley, Gary Howlett, Tony Clegg (Phil Wilson 63), Ian Helliwell, Dale Banton (Martin Butler 72), Gary Himsworth.
Referee: Vic Callow (Solihull).