Fantastic Clarets see off team from egg chasing land

Last updated : 29 December 2004 By Tony Scholes
Graham Branch - scored the winning goal after taking over the captaincy
Graham Branch, leading the side out in place of the absent Robbie Blake, scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half against a Wigan side that hardly threatened us at any stage of the game.

Much of the pre-match debate centred on whether manager Steve Cotterill would play Blake or not after it was revealed that he is almost certain to join Birmingham in a record transfer deal for the Clarets later in the week.

The manager chose to leave him out of the starting eleven against the side that had caused all the upset in the first place, but named him as one of the five substitutes. Lee Roche came in for him in what was the only change from the side defeated at Sunderland.

Wigan boss Paul Jewell got the reception he deserved with incensed Burnley fans booing from three sides of the ground as he made his way to the away dug out, and one prominent Burnley supporter was seen letting Jewell know exactly what we think of him.

The visitors probably started the brighter of the two sides and had much of the possession in the opening exchanges without really threatening us but we soon got ourselves into the game with Wigan, and more importantly central defender Emerson Thome, having a lucky escape.

Thome brought Ian Moore down and if Neale Barry had shown any interest in refereeing the game properly then he would have had no option but to show the Brazilian a red card – to avoid that he didn’t even give the free kick.

It was a pattern we were to see throughout the match with Thome’s only real ability being that of fouling the opposition, it is no wonder he cannot get himself a regular game.

Wigan’s best chance of the afternoon came shortly afterwards when Nathan Ellington lifted the ball over the advancing Brian Jensen only to see it hit the top of the netting. Some thought Jensen should have stayed on his line but for me he got this absolutely right and prevented a goal.

It hardly mattered, in our next attack we went in front through Branchy. Ian Moore got a head to a Michael Duff cross and Latics’ keeper John Filan got down to save the goal bound effort. He couldn’t hold it and Branchy smashed in the loose ball from close range.

There were suggestions that the header had crossed the line but Mooro didn’t appear to try and claim the goal – it was Branchy’s goal.

We had no difficulty in holding that lead for the remainder of the half and the visitors were left trying the occasional shot from distance after failing to make any headway against our defence.

And if another goal had come it would have been more likely to double the lead as both Micah Hyde and Gary Cahill tested Filan.

Gary Cahill - another superb performance
A goal up at half time and Chris Brass came out to make the half time draw looking remarkably like our former dancing goalkeeper Chris Pearce. Well at least the information was half right – the Christian name was Chris.

As the second half got underway Wigan tried to get at us with much of their play revolving around Jimmy Bullard. He seemed at times to be running round in circles looking somewhat like Winston White on speed.

Whatever he was trying to do he had an amazing knack of putting the ball out of play even though the assistant didn’t always notice.

Wigan did test Jensen and he made two good saves from shots fired in from the edge of our box but they certainly never got closer than that. At the other end though Filan had to be alert on a good number of occasions, none more so than a save from Mo Camara.

Mo was put clear by James O’Connor. He moved into the Wigan box at pace and unleashed a superb shot that Filan did well to save and parry upwards and that gave Lee Roche running in little chance of getting any power into a header.

The tactical battle was being won in the home dug out by Steve Cotterill and the longer the game went the easier it became with Wigan not causing any problems at all. Jewell seemed to have no clue on how to change things and his substitutions had little effect.

They did get one shot in following a corner that Jensen saved well with his legs but generally they gave the impression that they didn’t know how to break down a defence.

A strange decision gave them one last chance when Barry gave them a free kick out on the right wing with less than a minute of stoppage time to go. Ellington got the last touch to it and put it out for a goal kick and the Burnley fans started to celebrate as they waited for the final whistle.

And when it came it signalled our first win against them since John Bond’s Burnley beat them 3-0 in October 1983 in our first ever league meeting and like the last occasion this one was deserved.

We had good performances all around the pitch. Goalkeeper Jensen played well and was protected by a back four who were simply magnificent. In front of them the midfield trio of Hyde, Grant and O’Connor at times dominated proceedings whilst the two wide men helped to support both them and loan front man Ian Moore.

Robbie Blake watched on, knowing he had played his last game for Burnley and probably thankful he wouldn’t be playing for a Wigan side who to put it mildly are well and truly on the slide.

No wonder Jewell wants new players but he’ll need some new ideas to go with them. Wigan in the Premiership – you’re having a laugh.

It is a day when it is difficult to pick out individuals in such a top team performance but it would be unfair not to mention the performance of Gary Cahill at the back. There cannot be a Burnley fan in the ground today who wouldn’t want to sign him on a permanent basis but we all know that there is no way Villa would let him go.

Is he really just an eighteen-year-old with no experience? It does take some believing. It was another superb performance from the Villa youngster.

A fourth successive home win without a solitary goal conceded and every goal scored by the captain. We are going into the New Year with 36 points, we have to be delighted with that. What a good way to start the holiday programme.

The teams were,

Burnley: Brian Jensen, Michael Duff, Gary Cahill, John McGreal, Mo Camara, Lee Roche (Richard Chaplow 89), Micah Hyde, Tony Grant, James O’Connor, Graham Branch, Ian Moore. Subs not used: Joel Pilkington, Amadou Sanokho, Matt O’Neill, Robbie Blake.

Wigan: John Filan, Nicky Eaden, Emerson Thome, Ian Breckin, Leighton Baines (Gary Teale 84), David Graham, Jimmy Bullard, Gareth Whalley, Alan Mahon (Michael Flynn 64), Nathan Ellington, Lee McCulloch. Subs not used: Gary Walsh, Matt Jackson, David Wright.

Referee: Neal Barry (Scunthorpe).

Attendance: 16,485.