We said our goodbyes

Last updated : 05 May 2003 By Daniel Kendall

Marlon Beresford - one of four players to make their last Burnley appearance
Like that day 9 months ago against Brighton the atmosphere was subdued with the glory cup nights against Spurs and Fulham never seeming so far away.

The game was either going to be an insight into the new start that Ternent is promising us next season, or a final farewell to the players who have served so well over the last few years and have been released. It was to be the latter.

The game kicked off in glorious sunshine with several interesting selection choices. Marlon got the nod over Nico in goal with Stan choosing to go for a 4-3-3 formation.

The back four lined up from left to right, Armstrong, McGregor, Branch and West with Arthur Gnohere conspicuous by his absence from even the substitutes bench. The midfield three were the increasingly influential Matty O'Neill on the left, Tony Grant playing from the centre to the right and, the star of the show Stevie Stevie Davis making his farewell appearance after nearly a decade of service. The frontline was the usual three of Big GarethTaylor, Mooro and Blakey.

Despite this seemingly attacking formation Burnley were reserved and defensive in the early stages. No doubt the hitting for seven last week was still playing on their minds. The back four allowed Franchise to come at them and gave them a great amount of time on the ball, perhaps too much.

David Connolly and Neil Shipperly looked bright and eager to add to their 46 goal tally for the season. The first twenty minutes were punctuated by two speculative Connolly efforts from the edge of the area both saved with relative ease by Marlon in his final appearance for the club.

Burnley looked sheepish going forward, our probing being kept at bay by the Franchise back four. Our midfield was hardly cavalier. Davis was playing a holding role in front of the back four in order to allow 'attacking' midfielder Tony Grant to push forward. He didn't. Our early attacks were based either on Matty O'Neill throw-ins or Robbie Blake's usual bag of tricks just behind Taylor. Grant's only trick seems to be the disappearing act in the centre circle.

Despite this it is a testament to the front three that the first time that they got a sniff of goal inside the box they grabbed the opportunity. Taylor collected the ball after the goal-mouth scramble that Matty O'Neill's throw-in caused. Firstly a Franchise player had challenged Kelvin Davis with a mis-directed header then Taylor slotted the ball under the hapless Davis.

It was a scrappy goal but was pleasing that Taylor was willing to work with the ball at his feet. An evermore regular and welcome occurrence. I will never forget his goal away against Norwich two seasons ago. He scored a spectauclar diving header, from an Ian Moore rolling pass.

It would be fair to say that Taylor's goal was against the run of play. Franchise were playing more attractive football with Shipperley and the impressive Connolly linking well with the industrious wing play of Alex Tapp on the left and to a lesser extent, Jermaine Darlington on the right.

Burnley's back four though was pleasingly too strong. Stevie Davis slotted in perfectly to provide the Burnley goal with extra, reliable cover. Franchise, for all their attractive midfield play could not impose themselves effectively on the Burnley goal.

The first half ended at 0-1 and it was such a relief to end 45 minutes not only in front but with a respectable score on the doors. Half-time was met with a new chant from Rocky who in his usual charming, witty and understated manner shouted "Super Burnley, We are the champions" to keep those Clarets who didn't boycott in good spirits as the atmosphere, as expected, left a lot to be desired.

It's been a long hard season and even Rocky takes a nap on the way home
The second half began with Burnley taking the initiative. Matty O'Neill became more influential down both wings switching with ease. Gareth Taylor challenged Davis several times from close range headers resulting from O'Neill crosses.

Unfortunately for Burnley the turning point of the game was yet to come. Steve Davis pulled up with a strain around the hour mark and was replaced by Andrew Waine. Stevie left the pitch to a rapturous chorus of "You'll always be a Claret" and it was a poignant moment. It is such a pity that his last game in a claret shirt couldn't have been at Turf Moor, such a great servant deserved more fitting surroundings for his send-off.

The loss of Davis in the holding role meant that the back four lost a line of cover and its leader whilst the midfield was weak and ineffective. Tony Grant was forced to work harder and sit deeper whilst Waine offered nothing. It is tribute to young Richard Chaplow that he seemed the answer to our lack of midfield creativity. His little flicks and stylish play shown against Nottingham Forest would have been perfect today.

It was no surprise that shortly after the substitution Franchise scored an excellent team goal making the Burnley back four look static. Connolly started and finished the move linking with Alex Tapp to score with ease. It was nothing more than the diminutive striker deserved in what was a very convincing display.

The second half was spent mostly in the midfield with the teams almost taking turns to attack playing football that was pleasing on the eye. Burnley's efforts were almost exclusively based on crosses and corners put on to Taylor's head. Blake had several corners resulting in goalmouth scrambles with the most threatening being wasted by Gordon Armstrong on the edge of the six yard box.

Matty O'Neill continued to grow in confidence throughout the half challenging players and looking confident on the wing both crossing the ball and running past players with it.

Franchise had few efforts but one, a potshot from the edge of the box found the top corner. This did result in a late rally from Ternent's side, Ian Moore, after another typical hardworking performance was replaced by Dimi Papadopoulos.

Dimi lead the line in the final stages and was eager to find an opening although ultimately frustrated by a Franchise side with eleven men behind the ball, desperate to end their 12 year spell at Selhurst with their 100th win.

The final whistle came and signalled the end to a season that despite two interesting cup runs most Clarets will be glad to see the back of. The players finally gave us fans the applause we were robbed of after the Sheff Wed game by the Burberry Kids.

There was a sense of finality at the end of the game. We said our goodbyes to Marlon, Stevie Davis and Gordon Armstrong. Franchise said goodbye to Selhurst, ground-sharing and disgustingly their status as a London football club. Wimbledon Football Club died today and Stan Ternent's old guard did their best to spoil their farewell and were ultimately outplayed.

After a season of struggle we can now look forward to a new beginning. Roll on August.