That’s what greeted the excellent midweek attendance of 25 this afternoon as the youth team got in their first home game in almost two months against Stockport County. And, I am pleased to report, the playing conditions at pitch level were far better than I dared hope.
The young Clarets, straight from a morning in the classroom, included three players from the Centre of Excellence in goalkeeper Matthew Evans, central defender Neil Trotman and midfielder Marc Pugh. Some of the more experienced players were given substitute places.
We lined up in 4-4-2: Matthew Evans, Joel Pilkington (captain), Danny Pitham, Neil Trotman, Paul Scott, Rhys Carpenter, Sean Blakey (Mark Rasmussen 72), Steven Richardson, Marc Pugh (Tom Ince 45), Richard Chaplow, Robert Grimes (Damien Hindle 72).
The game kicked off early (before the 2:00 p.m. scheduled time) and that forced all but the prompt spectators to miss the first goal. They didn’t miss too much though, it was Stockport who had taken the lead. It wasn’t long though before the visitors were 2-0 up but what a scrappy affair it was with the defence all at sea failing to clear allowing a tap in.
We were playing with the very strong wind in our favour in the first half but were certainly not making any real use of it and on numerous occasions passes were over hit giving our forward players little in the way of opportunities and the Stockport keeper was having a fairly quiet time.
Not so Evans in the Burnley goal and he made three good saves to keep the score down, one in particular when he stood up in a one-on-one situation was outstanding.
But we were second best and it came as no real surprise when a third was added before half time. The Burnley players had spent the morning in the classroom and really had struggled to get into the game and were fortunate to be just three behind at half time. What was it going to be like against the wind in the second half?
As if by some miracle the wind dropped during the half time break, it made little difference on the pitch but came as some relief to the spectators who had now dropped to 22.
And it was to be a much better showing from the Clarets in the second 45 minutes although a frustrating 45 minutes. We had far more possession and took the game to Stockport who were finding playing with the wind not quite as easy as playing against it.
Burnley looked stronger and tried to get forward down the flanks and with some success. The balls into the box though were disappointing with many of them getting caught in the wind, and certainly our best moves came when we kept the ball on the deck.
Now it was the Stockport defence who had some work to do and on the occasions we did get through we found their keeper in good form. He didn’t have many difficult shots to save but he dealt very well with everything that came his way. There were a number of scrambles but mostly moves broke down because of poor balls into the box.
With eighteen minutes to play Mark Rasmussen and Damien Hindle came on and Hindle had a good shout for a penalty turned down within a couple of minutes. It looked clear cut but the assistant referee with a superb view said no.
The last few minutes saw us pushing for a consolation goal but the closest we came was a shot from Richard Chaplow that flew wide.
There is no doubt that the youngsters have played better than this on numerous occasions this season, for some reason today they didn’t quite look up for it. Maybe we shouldn’t follow a morning’s school work with a game.
But no games for a month and training severely restricted it is no surprise that many of them looked a little rusty. So to get 90 minutes in will have been a boost.
And so the crowd, now down to 19 despite the addition of two late arrivals, made their way home and hopefully to somewhere warmer.
Youth team fixtures and results