Unusually for Burnley this season, Stan "The Man" Ternent was afforded the luxury of naming an unchanged side, which meant the same eleven who had so impressively seen off Wolves on Boxing Day had the chance to shine again. Yet the lack of experience in the squad was underlined by the inclusion of the youngsters Andrew Waine and Matty O’Neill on the substitutes bench.
In the "unique" surroundings of the Withdean Stadium, it was the home side who started the brighter. On 2 minutes, Bobby Zamora slipped in Steve Sidwell, but the man whose brace was to undo the Clarets shot wide on this occasion. Burnley replied five minutes later, when a loose ball broke kindly for Gareth Taylor in the penalty area. Unfortunately, the Welshman shot against keeper Kuipers’ legs.
The visitors had to wait just sixty seconds for their next opening when Robbie Blake latched onto a long ball from defence. His lob had the goalie beaten but flew harmlessly wide. On 21 minutes, Glen Little sent Alan Moore away down the left flank. Moore picked out Robbie Blake in the area, but his shot was blocked.
By this point, the Clarets were building up a head of steam and Tony Grant might have won Burnley a spot-kick when he was bundled over in the area on the half hour, but referee Trevor Parkes was not interested. Burnley certainly caught his interest a quarter of an hour later. On the stroke of half time, Glen Little broke into the box. He should probably have done better with his first shot, but Brighton failed to clear the ball and gave Glen another opportunity. This proved to be a mistake, as Little stabbed home to give Burnley the lead. As Mr. Parkes blew for half-time, those hardy souls who had made the arduous trek to the south-east dared to dream of a first away win since Leicester.
After a dull opening to the second period, Brighton came closest to scoring on 54 minutes when Charlie Oatway lobbed the ball goalwards. His effort eluded the stranded Beresford, but not Dean West who was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball to safety. Three minutes later, Brighton threatened again. This time it was crowd favourite Bobby Zamora who dragged his shot wide of goal.
Just short of the hour mark, Robbie Blake managed to get to the byline and pulled the ball back for Gareth Taylor. As Taylor attempted to score with his feet rather than his head, his effort came to nought. It was also to be Robbie Blake’s last action of the game, as he was immediately substituted for Dimi Papadopoulos. But it was another striker from the subs bench who had the greatest impact. On 69 minutes Ian Moore was introduced to the action in place of namesake, Alan who had picked up a knock moments earlier.
Sixty seconds later, Glen Little sent over a deep cross which Ian Moore headed against Kuipers. Fortunately, the keeper was unable to keep hold of the ball and Moore gleefully accepted a second bite at the cherry as he netted the rebound. With twenty minutes left the Clarets had a two goal lead. Not only that, Brighton were out for the count, and Burnley looked dead certs to end the year on a high. Indeed, the visitors continued to push with Tony Grant having a long range shot saved well by Kuipers.
With two minutes on the clock, Burnley were all but home and dry. Hmmm.
To Brighton’s credit, they kept on going and were rewarded with a consolation goal when Sidwell cut in from the left hand side, beat Dean West and sent a low shot beyond Beresford. Well, it would have been nice to keep a clean sheet, but a win is a win. And at least we would only have to hang on for another minute or so. Surely we had learnt the lessons of Bradford?
Sixty seconds after grabbing a consolation, Burnley invited the home side onto them and paid for it dearly. Bobby Zamora broke unmolested down the right and centred the ball. Sidwell was again on hand and bundled the ball over the line to give the Gulls an unlikely / ridiculous / unbelievable / anger-inducing / shocking / heartbreaking / obscenity provoking (delete according to how you felt at the time) equaliser.
After the game Ternent insisted it was a good point. Well, it may have been at three o’clock, but it certainly wasn’t at ten to five. The two games played so far over the festive period have embodied Burnley’s season thus far. Sublime against Wolves, (cf Leicester, Norwich, Nottingham Forest) ridiculous against Brighton ( cf Bradford, Grimsby, Preston). That Burnley are exactly halfway up / down the table tells you and have won ten and lost ten speaks much about this side. On any given day they can play some of the best football seen at Turf Moor for quite some time. But on any given day they are also capable of shooting themselves in the foot.