Blake's Heaven

Last updated : 13 December 2004 By David Clark
A Fine Claret - Robbie Blake
His was a performance way above the standard of the rest of this generally average game.

With transfer speculation in abundance that Robbie is on his way somewhere, what do you think if you're Barry Kilby or Steve Cotterill? On the one hand there is the sheer joy that he can score such goals, yet on the other hand, such goals just increase the numbers of vultures waiting to prise Robbie away with the temptation of all things wonderful in someone else's squad.

On a decent winters afternoon, the Clarets had to play with still the nagging of the injuries list, depriving Clarets of Graham Branch and with John McGreal suspended for this one, the team was that that finished at Plymouth apart from Micah Hyde in for McGreal.

Whilst PNE settled into their largely wasteful game, their early passing bordered on the laughable, it was little O'Connor who had the first opening and his powerful strike from the edge of the area was comfortably saved by former Claret Ward, preferred in goal from Gould.

Ref, Mr Leake, started his off-day by booking Frank Sinclair on the quarter hour for what looked a perfectly good tackle, he clearly got the ball, but also got a yellow for his efforts, much to his annoyance.

Mid-way through the half, Jensen was left short by Duff's weak pass and the Beast needed to be quick from his lair, with Hyde also covering the resulting cross with Jensen still recovering.

With Clarets playing a little deeper than normal, there was little seen of Blake or Cresswell, both sides cramming centre midfield with five players apiece.

The game needed some craft and on the half hour, Blake provided some with a peach of a cross field ball that sent Camara clear with half the pitch to run into.

Run he did and his fine low cross was just in front of a full-stretch Moore as Clarets closed in for once on Ward's goal.

Hyde was booked for a silly and needless foul ten minutes from the break and the Beast was again quick on his feet in dealing with a free kick bound for the top corner.

Grant was impeded by a dozing Mr Leake, the move enabling Etuhu a run and shot at Jensen's goal, thankfully the shot went wide and Mr Leake got away with it.

Five minutes from the break and Clarets almost stole the lead, when Grant's superb curled cross eluded everyone in the area, including a stunned Duff who though the ball was in and watched the ball pass the wrong side of the post with Ward hopelessly lost in goal.

On the stroke of half time Clarets took the lead and what a goal it was. With PNE protesting about the actual award of the free kick, the ball was still fully thirty five yards from Ward's goal with only Blake in attendance of the dead ball.

Up he strode and struck a bullet like shot that arrowed into the top left corner of Ward's goal, sending Turf Moor into raptures from a simply wonderful goal and early goal of the season contender, at any level.

HT 1-0.

Sour Grapes - not many Preston fans
The second began like the first, with neither side quick out of the blocks. Blake lifted the gloom with a piece of typical skill weaving past three before despatching a shot that warmed Ward's finger tips ten minutes into the half.

Moments later and Creswell, like the PNE bench thought Sinclair's challenge in the box was too rash, but Mr Leake waved away the frantic gestures and play moved on.

With the adrenalin still flowing, Cresswell was again thwarted a minute later, but youngster Cahill, again resolute in defence, recovered well, putting in a very solid block on PNE's most dangerous threat on the day.

PNE were beginning to get the upper hand and Jensen made an impressive stop, going down on the line to smother the ball with feet all around and as the half progressed Mr Leake continued to frustrate all around and Roche was harshly booked for a petty foul twenty minutes from time.

Blake once again caught the eye with another superb cross field pass, this time picking out Roche on the right flank and his shot after taking the ball in stride was well struck but only found the side netting.

A disappointing Grant was replaced by the returning Valois. PNE continued their threat and a great left wing cross from O'Neill deserved better from Cresswell than the wayward glance it received.

With time petering out, it looked like a tight one-nil win, that was though until Blake's chased a seemingly lost cause from Roche's long clearance up field with five minutes remaining.

Pursuing Lucketti to the corner flag, Blake robbed the hapless defender then turned inside, and tapping into an empty net when Lucketti’s attempted clearance was parried by Ward. It was so thoughtful that he enabled many of the 3,000 or so visitors to reduce crowd congestion and leave early.

The remaining minutes were played out with both sides knowing the points were now safe and Mr Leake's final blow on the whistle kept his record intact of never refereeing anything other than a Clarets victory in his games where he has been in charge so to speak.

FT 2-0.

Att:- 15,318

Sour grapes:-
That PNE only brought approximately 3,000 says a lot for today's support in the Championship. The combination of high match attendance costs and the repetitive nature of some of the grounds for some of the supporters, leaves a dwindling number of visitors for most Championship sides. Something needs to be done to arrest the slide in visiting support levels and help to regenerate the stadium atmosphere in what is after all the fifth biggest League in Europe.

A fine Claret:-
Now who could it possibly be? Two goals, the first from the top of top drawers and the second crafted from tenacity and coolness of thought, it has to be Robbie Blake. Thirteen goals to date this season from a total of twenty says it all. The guy is simply on the top of his form and a joy to watch on days like this.