Purple patch Clarets as Brown sees Red

Last updated : 07 December 2003 By David Clark

Star Geezer - Robbie Blake
Stan would certainly have been the happier of the two managerial adversaries, in gaining both the three points and that they were gained from Warnock's promotion chest. Warnock once again avoided Stan at all costs and instead made his way at the final whistle to a police guarded ref, Neale Barry, who presumably was not receiving season's greetings from a whinging Warnock as they left the field of play.

Stan was forced to make changes from his small squad. Arthur was back from suspension, but McGregor kept his place in defence, as May was suspended. Tactically, West was deemed to still not have recovered from his Sunderland "experience" and was given a tracksuit to keep him warm, so Lee Roche got a rare run out and given his performance, we should now be seeing more of him.

In what was a superb first half, played on a bitterly cold afternoon, Clarets took the game to the Blades, repeatedly cut them open and carved opportunities aplenty, yet strangely after half an hour trailed 2-1, before turning the game on its head with two more goals to lead by the break 3-2.

The entertainment started after only three minutes as Clarets, who started much the brighter of the two sides, were unlucky not to take the lead, when, a great pass from Grantona released Little, who in turn fed Chaplow and the youngster was desperately unlucky to see his first time shot on the turn rebound off the face of the bar, young keeper Baxter beginning to worry about his goalkeeping debut.

Little was booked by prem ref Neale Barry, a man who was to frustrate both sets of supporters with a display based more on his own feeling of self-importance than anything else. On twelve minutes, Clarets should have taken the lead when Camara's well struck low hard cross beat everyone and more bounced off the legs of an unexpecting Little at the far post, the resulting trickler easily saved by the grateful Baxter.

The opening goal was not far away though and Clarets deservedly took the lead on the quarter hour. Good work from Chaplow on the edge of the box resulted in a pass to Blake and goal number ten for the season arrived from a twenty yard shot that went straight at then through the butterfingers of Baxter - an act of great charity seeing the ball fumbled over the line as 9,000+ started walking 500 miles in celebration.

Blades tried an immediate reply and it was Beast v Chief when Allison's downward header to Tonge enabled a good low shot that Jensen toed around the post. Little had a good shot charged down at the other end as the game swung in Clarets favour, territorially speaking.

Blades were being carved open and Blake sliced through the defence in a cutting move that fed the ball to Little, who should have shot when well placed, but passed to Chadwick who should have shot when well placed, but passed to Chaplow who did shoot when well placed, but only succeeded in ballooning the ball over the bar.

The opening twenty minutes saw only one team threatening, yet Blades drew level courtesy of some dozy defending. Ndlovu got the better of Arthur on the edge of the area and fed the ball out to Montgomery who gained a yard on a sleeping Camara and his right foot shot from eighteen yards was too good for Jensen.

Clarets continued to press and look the more likely to score, yet on the half hour trailed after Tonge was allowed to cross the ball in to a stooping Whitlow, who's sublime back header spun past a surprised defensive line and in to the far corner, as United's arrogant fans began a chorus of premature celebratory chants.

The lead lasted less than two minutes and Ian Moore's ghosted run enabled a down ward header from Blake's free kick, that Baxter allowed to go under him and into the net, cue the beautiful sight of Warnock head in hands in despair.

With the game now even, both sides had chances to regain the lead and Allison should have done better than shoot weakly after Tonge's good run had put the Chief in. A minute on, and the Chief's header flew just wide of the upright with Clarets defenders looking inquisitively at one another.

Into first half added time and the upper body strength of Arthur set up Clarets third goal. Holding off a defender, he nudged the ball through a crowd into the path of McGregor who was upended and endearing himself to the home fans, Neale Barry ignored penalty claims only to look to his assistant who had his arm across his chest.

Star Gazer - Glen Little
Step forwards Robbie Blake and for the first time in four attempts, his penalty found the back of the net with rookie keeper Baxter rooted to the spot. There was little enough time to take the kick-off, before Blades players and management team alike surrounded the officials as they headed off up the tunnel.

Clearly, by the start of the second half, Warnock had apportioned blame and debutant keeper Baxter was left in the dressing room, replaced by ex-Rover Fettis, who, on hearing his name, was reminded of his playing past by the homesters.

Stan also saw fit to make a change and Weller replaced Chadwick, without who the Clarets would not pose the same threat going forwards. If the first half had everything counting towards entertainment, the second half did not and a forty five minute largely barren spell of football ensued.

Clarets sat deeper and deeper, ball retention was next to nil and for those in the top tiers of the stands there were many chances to see the ball at eye level, such was much of the poor fodder served as far as the home side were concerned.

The visitors were clearly lifted by their half-time pep talk and Montgomery tried to make immediate amends with a twenty five yarder that the Beast did extremely well to get to. Grantona tried his luck with one from twenty yards, but the shot was skewed wide, before Montgomery was acrobatically at it again, leaping to volley only to see an airborne Beast tip the ball over.

Clarets best chance of the half came on ten minutes. Blake showed great footwork to create an angle and an opening, but selfishly elected to shoot over when Chaplow was all alone on the penalty spot.

Blades were beginning to pressure the Clarets and build up a head of steam, but Brown saw red, when after a fresh aired volley saw the ball run kindly to Blake, the Blade cut through Blake leaving Mr Barry little option but to order the player straight off.

Though one side was definitely reduced in number, as always seems to be the case, Clarets struggled to use the advantage of the extra man, one or two noticeably taking the easy option. Little wandered aimlessly around in midfield, Moore looked like a lost soul and generally, defence apart, Clarets lost their way.

With twenty minutes remaining, Peskylittleguy replaced Allison, Rankine replaced Morgan, Warnock electing for three at the back against a home side that had given up the will to attack. The lengths of fingernails were beginning to reduce and good work was required from Roche in holding up Ndlovu as Clarets were caught down the centre, Arthur on hand to clear the dangerous resulting ball into the area.

Injured sub Weller, was subbed and replaced by West for the last ten minutes as Clarets continued to frustrate both the fans and the visitors. Jensen was by and large a spectator, ably protected by his defenders, but a silly foul was conceded right on the edge of the area in the very last minute.

With everyone bar Fettis in or around the Clarets area it was, to say the least, a tense few seconds, but with Brown thankfully off the field, the kick when eventually taken was deflected wide, just, the ball spinning just by the foot of Jensen's unguarded post. So that was that, Mr Barry blew and Clarets moved up to fourteenth spot, the points margin increased between they and the bottom three with the half way point of the season looming and Clarets on plan to achieve the objective of divisional safety.

Att:- 11,452.

Star Gazer

Glen Little. For a player who can play successfully in only one position, that of wide right midfield, he sure does his damndest to try other positions during a game. The nomadic midfield role he adopts suits neither he nor his team-mates, serving only to allow the opposition to exploit the gap he vacates in front of whoever is playing right back on the day.

Beer Money

11,452 attending fans. Assuming two thousand woolly backs traipsed over t' Pennines, that means Clarets have gained no further fans from either the recent marketing ploys or the beating of Reading in the recent decent run of results. What's the matter with the stay away fans as the Clarets remain unbeaten since the introduction of the Proclaimers anthem?

Star Geezer

Robbie Blake. Led the attack well and carried the threat to the Blades. His neat and skilful footwork created many an opening and two further goals put him on target for twenty goals a season.

Champagne Tastes

With Chadwick, Blake and Little on the same field of play, Clarets have plenty of creativity and quality in midfield. If the coffers could just cough enough for a striker, you just feel the current squad could really kick on, achieve safety with some ease and who knows, just crack on a little further onwards and upwards in this division.