What a difference a year makes

Last updated : 14 January 2007 By Tony Scholes
Michael Duff - man of the match performance
That day at Cardiff signalled the end of Ade Akinbiyi's Burnley career after just eleven months, his yellow card meant he missed the game against Preston the week after and his appearance at Ninian Park proved to be his last for the Clarets.

One year on and how different things are at Turf Moor, Ade is back and one year on was making his second league debut for us, and as he stepped onto the field he was joined by two further signings, Wigan's Mike Pollitt and Eric Djemba-Djemba, both on loan from Premiership clubs. This January there has been little talk of departures, although Micah Hyde has left for Peterborough, and all the talk is about who might be the next player coming in.

Three league debutants in the side yesterday, and that meant the side looked a bit different from the one that lost the last league game, at Hull on the last Saturday of last year. Out went Brian Jensen, Steve Jones and Gifton Noel-Williams as well as the departed Hyde, and also Stephen Foster who had deputised recently for both John McGreal and Michael Duff.

We'd have also had Alan Mahon back but a late knock ruled him out and Chris McCann returned to play on the left hand side of the midfield. New goalkeeper Pollitt and Djemba-Djemba both received warm welcomes from the 700 Burnley fans at St Mary's but, as was the case at Reading, the big welcome was for the returning Ade as I'm sure it will be next week when we finally play at home again.

It was probably something of a surprise to see Djemba-Djemba in the starting line up, he's hardly played this season and having only met up with his team mates on the Friday evening he was expected to be on the bench. But start he did and he almost had a dramatic and immediate impact on the game.

We started the game the better side and took the game to the home side. We didn't create too much but the new man from Villa was inches from giving us the lead with a striker from about twenty-five yards out. The ball was played back to him by Ade, and Eric hit a first time shot that was not too far over the bar.

Only the alertness of Kelvin Davis prevented Ade getting on to a ball, the goalkeeper who has often made howlers in games against the Clarets was spot on and got to the ball before the Burnley striker.

Mike Pollitt seemed hesitant on a couple of crosses but little was seen of the home side although they did provide us with one skirmish in the penalty box and then an unsavoury incident that saw experienced defender Darren Powell booked.

What happened is difficult to see but as we awaited a free kick being taken out in our left back position, a foul for which Jon Harley was yellow carded, Wayne Thomas was clearly angry at an off the ball incident. The assistant saw it, consulted with referee Tony Bates, who had a dreadfully poor game, and he held up a yellow card when many were expecting a red.

Was it déjà vu, did Southampton get away with it? Remember a similar incident at the Turf between the two sides with the Clarets losing and our captain getting his marching orders?

The free kick was cleared, and that was about as much as they offered during the first half, although we didn't have much in the way of opportunities and it was hardly a surprised that the teams went in at half time with the score at 0-0.

The game stepped up a gear early in the second half and we had two early opportunities. Firstly Wade Elliott's shot-cum-cross was tipped over and then, and very encouragingly, the two strikers linked up well but Kyle couldn't quite apply the finishing touch.

Not as though it was one way traffic, not by any means, and Southampton put us under pressure at times, particularly with corners and free kicks. They seemed to be able to get free kicks far more easily from the disappointing Bates, but at least the referee stood firm when Rasiak got up to his usual tricks. Down he went in the penalty box screaming for a spot kick when he had clearly not been fouled, Bates didn't fall for it and waved play on as Burnley broke quickly.

The break ended with Ade shooting wide but then Bates turned from the far end and came racing down the pitch towards the cheating Polish striker clearly indicating he had caught him diving. Incredibly Bates did no more than speak to him, there was no sign of a card.

A similar incident shortly afterwards, this time involving Mario Licka led to Bates again indicating he'd seen a dive, and again nothing more than a word. I don't know about Licka's reputation but I've seen this far too often from Rasiak and I'll be delighted when he's back out of this country playing his football elsewhere. Still, at least he didn't score against us this time.

We probably came the closest to winning it, when only a good block from a defender kept out Ade, but in fairness the closing minutes of the game were mainly played in and around our defensive area although I don't recall Southampton creating one clear cut chance all afternoon.

So finally a point away from home again, finally a clean sheet on our travels and the first since Luton in October. There were some good performances, particularly from Djemba-Djemba, but my man of the match was not one of the new signings but a player returning from suspension. I thought Michael Duff turned in an immense performance, particularly in the second half when we had to deal with a lot of balls hit into our box. He seemed to be the end of virtually all of them, heading clear our getting blocks in.

Things are changing, with more players set to come in and join the Clarets things are surely on the up. We're not looking over our shoulders this time worrying if the likes of a Blake, a Chaplow or an Akinbiyi will be sold but wondering just who might be coming in. What a difference a year makes.

The teams were;

Southampton: Kelvin Davis, Gareth Bale, Chris Baird, Claus Lundekvam, Darren Powell, Mario Licka, Jermaine Wright, Pele, David McGoldrick, Kenwyne Jones (Bradley Wright-Phillips 45), Grzegorz Rasiak. Subs not used: Bartosz Bialkowski, Alexander Ostlund, Jhon Viafara, Adam Lallana.

Burnley: Mike Pollitt, Wayne Thomas, Michael Duff, John McGreal, Jon Harley, Wade Elliott, Eric Djemba-Djemba, James O'Connor, Chris McCann, Ade Akinbiyi, Kyle Lafferty. Subs not used: Stephen Foster, Garreth O'Connor, John Spicer, Steve Jones, Gifton Noel-Williams.

Referee: Tony Bates (Stoke-on-Trent).

Attendance: 20,486.