This one's for Steve
There initially looked to be a burly bodyguard with Steve but it turned out that it was our new Head of Youth Development – Big Vince Overson.
I’ve never been keen on visits to Stoke, funny really because we do usually win there, and find there fans anything but welcoming, and they certainly don’t like returning former players and the reception James O’Connor received was dreadful.
Steve had won the first battle, and after being alerted by Clarets Mad that the referee was Richard Beeby he was able to get it changed and instead the man in charge was Phil Joslin from Newark who in the past has had some good games with us.
There was one change from the Burnley side that worked so hard for nineteen minutes against Leicester with Gary Cahill returning at the expense of Lee Roche. This meant Frank Sinclair, our new captain, moving to right back with Michael Duff playing on the right hand side of midfield.
The game kicked off and Stoke treated us to their complete repertoire within the first five minutes, it consisted of lumping the ball forwards for Ade Akinbiyi and Gifton Noel-Williams. Akinbiyi’s role is to bully the defenders and try and get away with it, he must have thought he was in for some fun this afternoon coming up against a youngster.
Think again, Gary Cahill didn’t fall for his tricks once and just got on with putting in another excellent ninety minutes.
They did create the odd chance and Brian Jensen had to be very alert to get out and block an effort from Marcus Hall whilst Frank Sinclair got back to win the ball of a painfully slow Akinbiyi after a dozing assistant referee had failed to note that he was half a pitch length offside.
But mainly it was punting the ball up and little else with all the football being played at the other end as Burnley played with a more cultured style and Micah Hyde was involved in just about everything that happened going forward for us.
He played in Duff whose shot went just wide and then set up Ian Moore who saw his superb effort tipped onto the bar and over by Stoke keeper Steve Simonsen. And right on half time Micah had an effort himself from outside the box which just missed the target.
The half ended with Lee Roche replacing the injured Duff and Graham Branch struggling after picking up a knock but we were somewhat unfortunate not to go in with a lead.
The first half had been played in reasonable conditions with a breeze but the Windy City didn’t let us down and as the temperatures dropped so the wind increased as gloves and head gear appeared in the away end for the second half with the Clarets attacking the visiting support.
There was one scare when Stokes less than popular captain Clive Clarke, playing despite receiving a red card at Forest that should have left him suspended, had the easiest of chances but again captain Frank came to the rescue and that was basically it as far as Stoke were concerned.
We got back into it and they were never really to threaten us again as we went looking for a winner and it looked as though we were going to find out who was taking over penalty duties when Joslin appeared to point to the spot for handball.
The Stoke players were incensed and surrounded him as the Burnley supporters celebrated before it all became clear that he had awarded Stoke a free kick for pushing.
We didn’t have to wait long and we won a corner on the left after an excellent run from Mo Camara. Tony Grant hit the flag kick to the near post for the flick on and when the ball dropped it was Cahill who turned it in, hitting Akinbiyi on the way in.
What a way for the Villa youngster to celebrate completing his long term loan deal, another top performance and the winning goal. And we ensured it would be the winning goal by allowing them nothing more than a half chance in the remaining time.
I don’t know whether the Stoke fans had intended booing Steve at the end but as it happened they were too busy booing their own manager Tony Pulis and their own players. You really do get the impression that they have just about had enough of this long ball crap. They were so busy with all the booing that we only had to suffer one chorus of Delilah, today it was us stood there laughing.
It wasn’t the greatest of games but it cannot ever be the case when one side plays like this. For us there were decent performances in most areas of the pitch. The defence looked at its best again and we dominated the midfield where O’Connor showed them what they are missing.
For me our man of the match came from the midfield. Micah Hyde was involved in just about every opportunity we created in the first half and was the commanding figure throughout the second forty-five minutes. He is now really beginning to look a very good signing for us, it is a disappointment that he will now have to miss the Liverpool game.
But today this result was for Steve Cotterill – and all the players and fans knew it. No wonder he had that big smile on his face as he disappeared back down that tunnel. It had in the end been a very good return to the Windy City for him.
The teams today were,
Stoke: Steve Simonsen, Lewis Buxton, Michael Duberry, Wayne Thomas, Marcus Hall, Karl Kenry, Darel Russell, John Eustace (Chris Greenacre 71), Clive Clarke (Lewis Neal 78), Gifton Noel-Williams, Ade Akinbiyi. Subs not used: Ed de Goey, Jermaine Palmer, Jay Denny.
Burnley: Brian Jensen, Frank Sinclair, Gary Cahill, John McGreal, Mo Camara, Michael Duff (Lee Roche 43), Micah Hyde, Tony Grant, James O’Connor (Richard Chaplow 85), Graham Branch, Ian Moore. Subs not used: Amadou Sanokho, Joel Pilkington, Matt O’Neill.
Referee: Phil Joslin (Newark).