Needless to say it was bitterly cold, and the same bone-chilling wind which froze the crowd at the reserve game last week had not relented (does it ever in Oldham?). This did not deter 21 stalwarts from attending, including six Burnley fans, and they witnessed a highly competitive match which the young Clarets just about deserved to edge. This win was all the more pleasing as Oldham had won their last two games, one of which was against Tranmere, the division's champions elect.
Burnley lined up in 4-4-2: James Salisbury; Andrew Leeson, Earl Davis, Jonathon Leary (Joel Pilkington 34), Liam Eves; Paul Barrett, Steven Richardson, Sean Blakey, Richard Chaplow; Damian Hindle (Mark Rasmussen 79), Matthew O'Neill. Sub not used: Andrew Waine.
With the Oldham Mistral at their backs the young Clarets started strongly and were moving the ball about well, with Chaplow and O'Neill showing lots of skilful touches. At the back the defence was coping comfortably with Oldham's quick breaks, with the mighty Earl Davis in particular dominant. It came as no surprise when the Clarets took the lead after 10 minutes: Hindle was brought down in the area and Leeson banged home the penalty confidently.
Both sides succeeded in overcoming the difficult conditions, and the game flowed from end to end. In the 23rd minute an Oldham "goal" was correctly ruled out for offside and in the next minute Chaplow had a good shot well saved, with O'Neill going close with a header shortly after.
Burnley had to make a change in the 34th minute when Jonny Leary limped off. Joel Pilkington came on to play at left back, with Liam Eves moving inside to partner Earl. Pilkington is rapidly becoming Turf Moor's Mr Versatile. Including reserve games he must have played in every position except goal, and each time he excels. It's only a matter of time before he makes the first team squad.
After a couple of close calls Oldham themselves were awarded a penalty in the 41st minute when Salisbury brought down Scott Vernon, scorer of the goal against us last week, as he broke into the box. Salisbury then atoned for his error by saving the spot kick superbly, diving to his right to keep the ball out.
1-0 to Burnley at half time and a good performance, but with the wind against them now could the Clarets hold out? It looked likely to be a long half as within seconds of the restart an Oldham shot was narrowly wide. Salisbury became easily the busier of the two goalies but dealt confidently with everything thrown at him. One tip over towards the end of the game was outstanding. The defence held up well against the lively home team with able support from the midfield when necessary.
Hindle, who had had an excellent game up front, was replaced by Rasmussen for the last ten minutes. Immediately his pace and skill caused problems. Urged on by Terry Pashley's Claret and Blue Army he twice surged through and almost produced a second decisive goal.
As the gale increased in intensity Oldham threw everything at the Clarets but to no avail. After three additional minutes the referee thankfully blew for time to signal a dash for the Claret contingent to the changing rooms and cars to warm up; not so fortunate the Oldham lads who, to compound their disappointment at defeat, were instructed by coach Tony Philliskirk to carry the goalposts back.
The Clarets move above Wigan with this win into third position. With the top three forming a new "elite" Youth Alliance league for the remainder of the season with teams from the north-east conference, Saturday's home game with Tranmere assumes a great deal of importance. With just two games left it's between ourselves and Wigan to see who will join Preston and Tranmere in the new top tier.