Burnley (in 4-4-2): James Salisbury; Andrew Leeson, Earl Davis, Gordon Armstrong (capt.) (Danny Pitham 46), Paul Scott; Mark Rasmussen (Rhys Carpenter 66), Joel Pilkington, Andrew Waine, Matthew O’Neill; Anthony Shandran, Damien Hindle (Richard Chaplow 58). Subs not used: Sean Blakey, Stephen Richardson.
Town (in 4-3-3): Phil Senior; Thomas Heary, Adam Fowler, Chris Holland (Ben Austin 68), Eddie Youds (Nat Brown 58), Chris Brown, Chris Senior (Simon Baldry 46), Kenny Irons, Jon Stead, John Worthington, Paul Macari. Sub not used: Andy Jeffrey.
It was good to see Shandy start a game at last following his lengthy absence through injury. Richard Chaplow too was returning after a long spell out, this time though due to illness; and Earl was playing his first game since his successful loan spell at Stalybridge Celtic.
Interestingly, the Terriers played two players who strictly speaking are now amateurs. Adam Fowler and Chris Senior were both released by Town last week (along with Doni Clarke and club stalwart Jon Dyson) as part of their measures to address the club’s parlous financial situation. The 21 year-olds had asked if they could still turn out for the team on a non-payment basis, and the club had agreed. No doubt the watching Andrew Watson will have taken note!
The Clarets started as brightly as the Huddersfield weather and were soon creating chances. Within the first ten minutes Shandran had been denied by the out-rushing goalie, and Hindle twice had shots saved, albeit comfortably. At the other end Town forced a fine save from Salisbury, pushing away a flicked header from Stead.
Burnley were looking sharp in the build up with Town’s defence caught flat on several occasions. The linesman came to their rescue somewhat dubiously a couple of times before Hindle was put clean through in the 22nd minute. Phil Senior in goal was again alert though, and did well to smother Hindle’s effort.
Within a minute however the Clarets took the lead. Pilkington exchanged passes with Shandran on the edge of the area before placing a shot wide of Senior for his third of the season. The Accrington Terrier now becomes the Clarets’ leading scorer, with these goals all coming in the last four games.
The lead lasted approximately ten seconds. Stead, the game’s outstanding player, received the ball from the kick-off, advanced unchallenged on goal, and promptly chipped Salisbury from 25 yards, much to the delight of the locals.
Three minutes later it was 2-1. Following a well-worked freekick, Chris Senior laid the ball back for Stead to place the ball into the bottom corner from 15 yards giving Salisbury no chance.
Although clearly shaken, the Clarets responded well, and Pilkington was just over when trying to emulate Stead’s opener. Burnley then forced three corners in succession, with the last causing panic in the home goalmouth before the ball was scrambled away.
Halftime arrived to generous applause from the crowd, unofficially estimated at 120 (only slightly more than its average age). It had been an entertaining half, with both sides moving the ball around well, although Burnley would have been disappointed to be going in at 2-1 down having created the clearer chances. Shandran was looking particularly impressive, leading the line well and creating problems for Town’s defence throughout the half.
The Supremo made an immediate change for the second half: Danny Pitham replacing Gordon Armstrong. Stretch had had a solid 45 minutes, and had clearly done enough for the watching Stan to give him the nod for Saturday.
Unfortunately the home side made one change too, with the experienced Simon Baldry coming on for Chris Senior. It was unfortunate in that for the next twenty minutes Baldry proceeded to tear the Clarets apart. Salisbury twice made good saves, before the wingman wriggled into the area and blasted the ball into the roof of the net for 3-1 after 55 minutes.
With the Clarets’ midfield now vainly attempting to stem the tide, our forwards were becoming increasingly isolated, with Shandran often ploughing a lone furrow, particularly after Hindle’s substitution.
Rasmussen denied the irrepressible Stead his hat-trick with a clearance off the line following a corner, before the inevitable fourth arrived in the 61st minute. Stead (who else?) flicked on a corner and substitute Nat Brown headed home from close range.
Burnley’s youngsters valiantly tried to get back into the game but a fifth was always the more likely outcome. However the gap should have been reduced after 78 minutes when Leeson was chopped down a yard inside the area. The result: a free-kick a yard outside the area, much to the crowd’s amusement.
With Town seemingly now content to sit back, collect the three points, and consolidate their lead at the top of the table, the last few minutes of the game were played out in a subdued atmosphere.
Except that is for one of the most bizarre sights I have ever seen at a match. Suddenly, and apparently from nowhere, a seemingly endless line of fluorescent-jacket clad police officers came streaming into the ground, astonishing the crowd. Was an advanced guard of Peterborough hooligans, Town’s Saturday opponents, expected at any minute? Was that nice Mr Blair right after all, and we were under imminent threat of a terrorist attack? Even Stan was captivated. "What! Will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?" he must have muttered, Macbeth-like, as the police kept pouring in. Finally, when it seemed there could be no more officers left on the streets of West Yorkshire, with military precision they marched into the away end, ascended the steps, and seated themselves in an immaculate square at the top, where for the remainder of the match they no doubt amused themselves with arresting imaginary fans for imaginary breaches of the peace.
As the last of the fictitious miscreants was having his non-existent collar felt the ref blew for time. A 4-1 scoreline perhaps flattered Huddersfield a little, but there was no doubting their dominance in the second half where strength and experience came to the fore. The Clarets fought hard, and certainly in the first 45 minutes played some good football, but ultimately they remain in the relegation places.
The fixtures now come thick and fast, with Wolves the visitors to the Turf next week. Burnley produced their best performance of the season in winning 2-0 at Molineux in August. A similar scoreline on Wednesday would be welcome news indeed.
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