Can we play you every week?

Last updated : 15 January 2003 By Steve Cummings

Questions such as why could only 5,435 supporters be bothered to turn up at Turf Moor? And questions such as why did Grimsby Town approach this game with a level of enthusiasm more readily associated with a meaningless end of season fixture?

It is difficult to imagine the Clarets having an easier fixture than this all season. They more or less dominated from start to finish. And if Burnley had shown a greater willingness to shoot, rather than pass the ball into the net, the Mariners would not have been able to complain had they found themselves on the end of an 8-0 thrashing.

With the Clarets still unable to field a good number of players through injury, suspension and ineligibility in the case of Drissa Diallo, Burnley had to mix and match for the second game running. After a flawless performance against Ipswich, Nik the Greek held down his place in goal. (In fact it was the only thing he had to hold all night, so toothless were the visitors.)

Following a solid performance on Saturday, Mark McGregor was rewarded with a starting place alongside Arthur Gnohere in the heart of the Clarets defence, with Graham Branch and the recalled Dean West filling the full-back berths.

The rest of the team remained unchanged from Saturday, with a midfield comprising Little, Grant, Cook and Alan Moore, whilst the striking partnership of Blake and Ian Moore continued, after the latter had made it very publicly known that he wanted another chance to show what he could do up front. In fairness to him, he didn’t disappoint.

Grimsby were on the back foot from the off, as Burnley showed a desire to get the ball down and pass and move. On 7 minutes, Little released Blake down the left hand side. Blake fired in a shot which Danny Coyne gave the impression of not knowing an awful lot about, yet managed to divert the ball away. Coyne was in action again just before the quarter hour mark, this time thwarting Ian Moore as he bore down on a loose ball ten yards out.

But he was helpless to do much about Moore’s effort a little over 10 minutes later. Picking up the ball 25 yards from goal, the striker did his case to maintain his place up front no harm at all with a sweet left foot strike (yes, LEFT foot strike) which sailed beyond Coyne and nestled in the right hand corner of the keeper’s net. So far so good. Surely one more strike would see them off. Little did we know we would have to wait another 55 minutes for it to arrive.

Moore’s strike briefly stirred Grimsby. The visitors David Soames embarked on a solo run which took him into the Clarets’ box, but no further thanks to a well-timed tackle from skipper, Paul Cook. In fact Soames seemed to be the only Grimsby player who fancied a trip to Brentford, and on 40 minutes Mark McGregor had to close the forward down, forcing him to blaze the ball over Michopoulos crossbar. The first half came to a close with Ian Moore throwing himself at Glen Little’s centre and narrowly failing to connect.

Stan Ternent’s half-time team-talk must have been something along the lines of, "Same again, lads", as Burnley looked to score what would be a killer second goal. On 56 minutes Tony Grant deserved better luck than to see Wes Parker deflect his goal bound effort harmlessly away. Indeed his luck seemed symptomatic of Burnley’s display, inasmuch as the Clarets created a host of chances over the next twenty minutes but were unable to convert any of them. That having been said, it should be noted that the Clarets did not help themselves by appearing to want to walk the ball into the net, rather than accept the invitation to lash it home – an invitation which, thanks to the Mariner’s feeble centre back pairing of Chettle and Livingstone, was offered to Burnley on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, with the Clarets pinning the visitors back in their own half and Grimsby offering only token resistance, a second goal seemed inevitable. On 70 minutes Alan Moore, who for the second consecutive game had shown encouraging flashes of his true ability, was replaced by Dimi Papadopoulos

It finally arrived 11 minutes from time. Glen Little found himself in space ten yards out. Shaking off the attentions of a brace of Mariners, Glen twisted, turned and fired a shot beyond a full-stretch Danny Coyne into goal.

Well that was that. Grimsby had merely been offering token resistance up to this point. Now they folded completely. A little over five minutes later, Robbie Blake’s slide-rule pass played Dimi through on goal. Whether he made a meal of it or not, the Greek international was definitely impeded by having his shirt pulled. It is also debatable if the offence took place inside the box. What isn’t debatable is that if you are stupid enough to pull a player back when he is clear through on goal, you deserve all the bad luck that comes your way. Initially, Mr. Laws waved away our appeals, but having consulted with his linesman awarded the penalty, which Robbie Blake dispatched with aplomb. It was to be his last act of the game, as he was immediately substituted for Andy Payton who received a standing ovation from most supporters. If only he were four years younger…

Ternet also gave a run-out to Ian Cox, allowing Dean West to take the applause. Virtually on full time came the best goal of the game. Picking the ball up midway inside the Grimsby half, Ian Moore shrugged off the attentions of two Grimsby players before drawing Danny Coyne and keeping his head to slide the ball past the helpless keeper.

This was a comprehensive and fully deserved victory for the Clarets and one which keeps the dream of a second cup run well and truly alive. The F.A. Cup can be an unpredictable competition, but one thing is for sure – Brentford will provide tougher resistance than this when the two teams meet in the fourth round.