Both teams fielded strong sides, although Burnley did start with four youth team players, and had Graham Branch back from injury. The Clarets, in 4-4-2, lined up: Cennamo; McGregor (capt), Earl Davis, Armstrong, Branch; Papadopoulos (Leeson 65), Pilkington, Waine, Rasmussen; Ellis (O'Neill 58), Payton (Shandran 2). Subs not used: Salisbury, Scott.
Tranmere, in 4-4-2: Murphy, Morgan (Taylor 75), Baker, Hinds, Olsen; Parkinson, Rideout, Thornton, Sharps; Barlow, N'Diaye (Harrison 85). Subs not used: Ralph, Hay.
It was interesting to see that Papadopoulos lined up on the right side of midfield. Clearly, with Glen's injury, Stan is looking at other options for this position. However, this plan had to be drastically revised with Payton's early injury, and Anthony Shandran came on to play in the position he has filled successfully recently, with Papa moving up front with Ellis.
Tranmere were breaking quickly, and with the linesman's benevolent interpretation of the offside rule had gone close through Barlow and N'Diaye. But it was Burnley who took the lead in the 15th minute when a slide-rule through ball from Waine put Rasmussen clear and he calmly slotted the ball past the Irish U-21 international Murphy for his first goal at this level.
Burnley then dominated, and their lively movement and quick passing on the edge of the area threatened to tear apart the somewhat static Tranmere back four. Once again Papadopoulos was creating all sorts of problems, and in the space of three minutes he went close twice and was then pulled down when clear on goal by Baker, who received the red card, one of Mr Canadine's less controversial decisions of the evening. He then booked Waine for trying to take the resulting free-kick quickly, much to the bewilderment of everyone present both on and off the field.
McGregor went close soon after and Lui raced off his line well to clear an isolated threat, but rather to everyone's surprise 10 man Tranmere drew level in the 35th minute when N'Diaye latched on to a through ball, went round Cennamo and scored.
That really was the end of the action. The second half was truly dire. Tranmere looked occasionally dangerous from corners, but Burnley scarcely put in an attempt on goal. To their credit, Tranmere defended well with their 18 year old Irish youth international Sean Thornton looking particularly impressive in converting defence into attack. The Clarets best chance came in the 54th minute when a poor clearance by Murphy went straight to Papa; he pulled the ball back for Rasmussen but his tame shot was scrambled away.
Although there was scarcely a foul in the game, Tranmere's Thornton, Olsen and Morgan all managed to annoy Mr Canadine who in turn managed to annoy everyone else in the ground. The Supremo shuffled the pack with O'Neill replacing Ellis up front; Shandran then joined him when Leeson came on for Papa. This meant that we were then fielding six members of the youth team, and although they performed well against the more experienced opposition only one further chance was created, O'Neill failing to control the ball when in a good position. Olsen managed to get himself sent off in the 83rd minute for a second bookable offence, but the nine men negotiated the last few minutes without too much difficulty.
So a rather disappointing game. The reserves didn't really do themselves credit tonight. Waine and Pilkington continue to look good in central midfield, and Lui had a sound game, but another two home points dropped means that an assault on the title is becoming increasingly difficult. The attendance of 414 was well down on the Preston game, although about average for the division. However if the club had publicised the match a bit more it would have helped; there was no announcement at the Canvey Island game which might have encouraged a few more to turn up. No mention either in the Burnley Express so it was left to the LET and ourselves to draw attention to the fact that there was a game tonight. After the success of Roll Up For The Reserves it was disappointing to see the lack of follow up.
Unfortunately though, I fear that for those present tonight the game will be remembered for the sad sight of Andy Payton being stretchered off. Best wishes to you, Andy, from Clarets fans everywhere.
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