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Part Time Moral England - Burnley Away Report


blandy
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Burnley's got a lot to be proud about right now. At the top of the town's list of course is their Football Club. Brought back to the nation's attention by the virtues of Owen Coyle, hard work and a pleasing willingness to play the right way.

In turn Burnley Football Club can be proud of its fans. They're a fine bunch to talk to and they generate a good atmosphere in the ground.

Of course even for a town on the up, the recession is having an effect and it was while Lancs Villan was pointing out to me the colour TVs in a local shop, as we walked to the pub, that I realised something was missing, something not quite right about the place. It wasn't the shape of the TVs - sort of rounded and square, as opposed to these fancy flat screen jobs you see in horrible out of town shopping centres - it was something else, but I wasn't sure what. On the short train journey eastwards from my west Lancashire home I hadn't noticed anything amiss. The train, gradually filling up with Claret and Blue clad folk from all parts, trundled happily enough past cottages, streams, hills, woods and sheds. The blades on Wind turbines gently meandered their circular paths. Everything looked fine.

We walked to the pub, and everything seemed OK. We drank beer, ate pie and peas, drank some more beer, chatted to people and eventually left for the ground. It was at this point I realised what had been missing - the weather hadn't been turned on. I was alerted to this fact by the rain that began gently falling from the sky, as if the young lad at the Town hall had overslept and only just that minute turned on the big lever that starts up the weather generator. Fortunately we made it into the ground before the machine had built up any head of steam.

The ground itself sits just on the edge of the town centre and has changed since the last visit, for a league cup tie 5 years ago, only in as much as a dividing wall has been built half way across the inside of the away end, so that it is now half filled with home fans. The concourse is still way too small, the "facilities" utterly inadequate for the number of people and the seats in the stand are the old wooden type, with adequate legroom - clearly not of recent vintage, but all the better for it.

Taking my seat I noticed that the flag atop the stand to my left was doing it's best just to hold onto it's pole. I also noticed the rain teeming down onto the floodlit pitch. Clearly the weather machine was operating at full efficiency, now.

Burnley started the brighter and after less than 10 minutes got themselves in front. A free kick knocked in from their left wing position landing on the bonce of their Captain, beating Dunne and the out-rushing Friedel, who perhaps might have been better staying on his line. The ball plopped into the net.

With the wind behind them Burnley were much the better side. Because of the conditions neither side was making a lot of chances, but most of the efforts on goal were coming from Burnley. They were playing more as a team. It was noticeable that Carew wasn't getting into the game at all. Gabby was looking good, but without much service. It was mostly Villa chasing and harrying. Things did pick up when their keeper rushed out of his goal to try to get to a ball through before Gabby, but failed. Gabby pulled back for Ashley Young to try to loft it into a semi-unguarded net, but his effort from 30 yards went just over. Mostly though it was Friedel, roundly jeered everytime he touched the ball, who was the busier. He dealt comfortably enough with the long range efforts that Burnley attempted. The ref booked Sidwell and Cuellar for tackles and half time arrived with Burnley having been pretty comfortable for most of the half.

The second half was better for Villa. Carew started getting into the game a bit more, we gradually got hold of possession and started to test the Burnley defensive strengths. As had been the case in the first half, the pressure on the goal in front of me was mostly from free kicks and corners and the odd long range shot, rather than clear cut chances. Gabby came very close to scoring from the best opportunity so far, when he was put through one on one, but Jensen just tipped his shot past the post. Jordan nicked in to steal the ball from Milner, I think it was as he was almost through, too.

MO'N decided to change things round a bit - Heskey coming on for Luke Young, and Stewart Downing coming on for Sidwell, with Ashley Young moving more central. I felt we would score, as Villa were dominating the play in seeking the equaliser, but then again, though Burnley were not breaking effectively, due to misplaced passes it would only take one to go right and we could have been beaten. Friedel did save one long range effort extremely well.

Happily Villa did equalise, Downing took a corner in a spell of Villa pressure, the keeper punched away, rather than catching the ball and Milner lofted the ball back to the far post, where Emille Heskey outleapt his marker and headed in easily enough.

There were still maybe 7 or 8 minutes of play left at that point, and though Villa tried, lifted by the goal, they couldn't manage to force a winner that truth be told would have been undeserved.

I hugely enjoyed the day out. I like Burnley, perhaps for their Claret and Blue kit, perhaps because the fans were, to a man and woman, good company, perhaps because the ground is a bit of a reminder of how things used to be 20 years ago, before Sky and Identikit Super Stadia. Even the game was a bit of a throwback - influenced by the weather and the hard endeavour of both sets of players. Nobody dived, no cheating handballs, no dirty fouls, pretty well ref'ed overall. Right as rain, in fact.

Some marks for the players:

Friedel - 6. Maybe slightly at fault for the goal, but otherwise sound, as ever.

Luke Young - 6. Pretty quiet attacking wise. Replaced by Emille Heskey who did well from his first touch to the end of the game. Well played big man.

Cuellar - 7. Excellent again in the middle. MotM for Villa.

Dunne - 6. Didn't let the disappointment from the week affect his game at all.

Warnock - 6. Not jeered like Friedel, also pretty quiet attacking wise.

Milner - 6. Crossed for the goal, ran his socks off, as he always does.

Petrov - 6. In the first half he was one of the few who played well. Keeps things ticking along nicely.

Sidwell - 5. Almost managed to get on the end of a cross early in the second half. He works diligently, but for me I'd like his to have more of an impact when we've got the ball. Replaced by Downing who slotted in nicely after his long lay off.

Ashley Young - 6. Might have scored in the first half, but was fairly well controlled by the Burnley defence.

Gabby - 7. Looked fit and hungry and was by far the more effective and dangerous forward.

Carew - 5. Not really good enough today, from big John. He defines hot and cold.

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...Part Time Moral England. Am I missing something?
No. It's the title of a song from a rather patchy album called "In The Good Old Country Way" released in 1986 by a band called the Nightingales. Some of the Nightingales stuff is very good and they're from Birmingham.

The reason I used it for the title was to do with the connection (via Richard Dunne) of Thierry Henry cheating in the week contrasted with the honesty and decency of both sets of players and fans at the game. And seeing as I wrote it (the article not the song) I could indulge myself in a large wedge of pretention.

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...Part Time Moral England. Am I missing something?
No. It's the title of a song from a rather patchy album called "In The Good Old Country Way" released in 1986 by a band called the Nightingales. Some of the Nightingales stuff is very good and they're from Birmingham.

The reason I used it for the title was to do with the connection (via Richard Dunne) of Thierry Henry cheating in the week contrasted with the honesty and decency of both sets of players and fans at the game. And seeing as I wrote it (the article not the song) I could indulge myself in a large wedge of pretention.

Or, alternatively, yes. :winkold:

I missed it too, before anyone gets annoyed.

Nice article, Pete. Cheers. :thumb:

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