In am attempt to stop Fulham’s short-passing game, Burnley adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation, stifling midfield. Despite fully playing his part in the Clarets 1-0 win at Coventry, Nik the Greek was dropped to the bench as Beresford re-appeared in goal. The back four, however remained in tact with Branch, Cox, Diallo and West ready to repel all borders. Paul Cook played an inverted sweeper role just in front of the back four, whilst Alan Moore, Briscoe, Grant and Ian Moore were strung across the middle. Gareth Taylor was our lone striker.
One could understand Stan Ternent’s strategy, and on four minutes it seemed a masterstroke. Steed Malbranque was keen on giving his defenders an early touch of the ball – only they were still half-asleep. Alan Moore wasn’t, and he nipped in to intercept the ball. Beating two players, time seemed to go into slow-motion as Moore bore down on Maik Taylor’s goal. The essence of composure, he slotted the ball under the frame of the hapless keeper to put the Clarets one up, right in front of the 3,000 travellers. What a start.
In attacking terms, that was more or less as good as it got in the first half, as the Clarets fought a rearguard action for the remainder of the opening period. That having been said, it should be pointed out that the linesman nearest to the Burnley supporters demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge of the offside law, as he seemed intent on flagging anything that moved in the direction of the Fulham goal.
On 35 minutes, a rare Burnley break-out saw Ian Moore’s intelligent pass put Lee Briscoe through on goal. Somewhat predictably, our over-zealous friend running the line couldn’t wait to wave his flag about. Most Burnley supporters were anticipating enjoying their half time pie whilst sitting on the cushion of a one-goal lead. But that cushion was dramatically whipped away at the end of the half. Both Cox and West chased a high ball into their own box. Cox could only half clear the ball, and it fell to Steed Malbranque on the edge of the area, unmarked. By the time he had been closed down, the Frenchman had unleashed a tremendous volley which Beresford could do little about as it nestled in the corner of the goal. It was a deserved equaliser, but a bitter pill to take with the sanctuary of the dressing room only moments away.
Jean "The Toothpick" Tigana may have been one of the best midfielders of his day, yet he seemed unable to pick his players up at half time, as for the first part of the second period Burnley created the better chances. On 50 minutes, Gareth Taylor had a shot blocked. The ball deflected to Ian Moore whose initial cross was blocked but broke to him. Moore tried his luck but his shot was headed away. Two minutes later Moore embarked on a run which ended with a pretty feeble effort causing Taylor no problem.
But on the hour mark, the game began to turn. Burnley’s pressing game was beginning to take its toll on some of the players. Closing Fulham down was hard work, and Burnley began to sit deeper and deeper. On 62 minutes the increasingly impressive Drissa Diallo flung himself in the way of a Louis Saha shot. Five minutes later, it was West’s turn to get in Saha’s way. This particular challenge underlined the level of commitment to the cause, as West caught Saha’s shot right where it hurt and was sidelined for a good few minutes. On 73 minutes Beresford had to make a routine save as Marlet dispatched a shot goalwards from Malbranque’s cross.
This was an excellent defensive performance from Burnley, and only a curmudgeon would have denied the Clarets a replay. The effort, work-rate and commitment were top-class from start to finish. The same could be said of the travelling support who were even deemed worthy of a mention on Five Live on the way home. All in all this was a good day’s work, and on this evidence, the Clarets have an evens chance of becoming quarter finalists in this year’s competition.