Off-key Clarets fight back at Dark Lane

Last updated : 25 January 2009 By Andy Ashworth
Nik Kudiersky - scored the winner
It was only our 2nd game in a month and at times this morning the lack of recent regular football was more than evident. The sixteen on duty was the same as in the FA Youth Cup defeat to Everton, although there had been a slight reshuffle in the starting line-up. Both wingers dropped to the bench, to be replaced by Liam Newman and Oliver Devenney, with the Welshman moving up front and James Craggs lining up on the left touchline.

We were quite optimistic in the stands as the whistle blew; after all, our hosts last game saw them on the end of an 11 goal hammering. We started brightly with a couple of thrusts at the Dale backline but amazingly found ourselves behind within three minutes. A deep ball into the box was misjudged by Stef Ritchie, who got under the flight of the ball, allowing a big defender to nod in unchallenged at the back post.

When we restarted the game we basically dominated. Possession was predominantly ours, but our play in the final third left a little to be desired. We could have been 2 down around the half hour mark as Ritchie again got under a cross, giving the assembled Claret fans a scare. The fact that he's done the same kind of thing twice suggested that the stiff breeze was having more of an impact that was initially expected.

Following this scare it was all Burnley until half time. Alex-Ray Harvey went on a mazy run but his ball in to the forwards evaded them both. Dan Brown then surged down the left hand side and battled his way through the defence. When the ball was played across though, there was no-one there to finish. A free kick on the left wing was swung in by Devenney but the deft flick from Wes Fletcher just cleared the bar. Further shots from Fletcher and Brown should have at least worked the keeper but both went wide.

We then picked up a booking as Nik Kudiersky was shown the yellow for a crunching, mistimed tackle in the centre circle. There was no malice but the ref was probably justified with this one. Following this were more chances for Fletcher and Devenney, who had a powerful drive tipped over. Another Claret booking soon followed with Dil Chaggar being carded by the ref after a challenge on the touchline near half way. This one I felt was harsh as it looked like a foul and nothing more.

Just before half time our best chance of the half fell to Newman as he was fed centrally on the edge of the box. He had the whole goal to aim at with only the keeper to beat but hit his shot straight down the goalie's throat, meaning the half drew to a close with us one goal down.

The 2nd half began with the lads no doubt geed up by the words of Terry Pashley. However, any plans we may have worked on during the break were dealt an early blow. Harvey made a typically full bloodied challenge but was left in a heap on the floor. He was clearly in pain and, although he tried to play on after treatment, was forced to succumb and was replaced by Michael King.

We had a glorious chance as Fletcher was put clear and, pre-Christmas, I'd have put my house on him. It just wasn't to be though as a tame effort trickled to the keeper, when the goal looked odds-on. Following this chance the game just went horribly flat. Play became scrappy as our lads looked as though they believed it was just going to be 'one of those days'.

With around a quarter of the game remaining we made a change to try and create a spark. Craggs made way for Dom Knowles, who went right side, allowing King to take up the left wing berth. It didn't serve to lift us though as we stuttered and stumbled along with a complete lack of fluency. The bad morning seemed to be complete with around 15 minutes left. A goal kick from Ritchie was returned directly and the defence failed to cope with it, allowing the number 8 to wrong-foot and curl past the stranded keeper.

We all accepted that our run was coming to an end and that we were going to suffer our first league defeat of the season. How wrong we were though. We had an immediate reply as Brown floated a deep free kick from the half way line. Fletcher rose and flicked a header goalwards. Typically, it bounced back from the post, almost evading Kudiersky who managed to clip it across the box to Chris Anderson, who stabbed home.

The Clarets bench obviously smelled blood and made an attacking change, with Dil Chaggar coming off to be replaced by U-16 forward James Taylor. The clock was running down and with five minutes remaining we drew level. Newman surged down the wing and swung in a delicious cross. Fletcher ghosted in through the defence and diverted the ball past the keeper to get the goal that looked like evading him today.

The belief had returned in abundance and from the kick off we stole possession and charged. Forcing a corner on the right wing we packed the box as King floated the ball over. The ball seemed to stop dead in the air as the wind apparently caught it, keeping it agonisingly out of reach of the keeper. Kudiersky though had read it well and threw himself at it like a battering ram and he found the back of the net.

The comeback was complete and the record remained intact!

It must be remembered though that every silver lining has a cloud. The injury sustained by Alex-Ray Harvey could keep him out for over a month and he will be missed.

Team:- Stef Ritchie, Dil Chaggar (James Taylor), Dan Brown, Chris Lynch, Nik Kudiersky, Oliver Devenney, James Craggs (Dom Knowles), Chris Anderson, Alex-Ray Harvey (Michael King), Liam Newman, Wes Fletcher.
Subs not used:- Ben Woodhead, Ed Williams