Date:Sunday April 1 2007
31 March 2007 3pm
Kevin Blackwell ended Luton's run of six successive defeats with a hard earned point at Burnley.
With three Burnley fans and one other Town fan in my local quiz team, it was the day for a boozy trip to Turf Moor for the seasonal bragging rights. Setting off at 9 am for the 178-mile trip, the air was bristling with banter and a two and a half hour journey was broken by a visit to the M62 services for some Kentucky Fried Chicken. Mine was stone cold so the day began to look ominous!
Arriving at the Working Men`s' Club at Rossendale, meeting Chappie's dad Gordon, and his mate Neville, two of the old school of football fans, was enjoyable, along with a pint of Sam Smith's. The other three passengers managed to drink four pints while I had the one and chatted to Neville about 1966 and the following era, before moving into Burnley and calling at the Turf Hotel opposite the ground, where masses of home fans were drinking. The lads managed to throw down another four pints while I had one again, amidst criticism about being a lightweight etc. and at 2-55 pm I walked and the others (apart from the driver who was begrudgingly drinking J2O) staggered across the road and by 2-59, 'Luton', the other Town fan, and I were ensconced in the away end seeing that Kevin Blackwell had immediately adopted the formation that I was screaming for earlier in the season for away matches; a 4-1-4-1 with Heikkinen holding in midfield. Also, absent from the starting line up was Marlon Beresford, with Dean Brill getting another chance to impress, and while he did not dominate his area sufficiently when there were defenders in his way on balls bouncing into the penalty area, he came for high balls well and looked solid against the few shots that came his way.
Good start! However, both teams looked scared to death of conceding and Burnley looked the likelier to create something in the first half.
It was very reassuring, however to see that Luton's defensive fragility was nowhere to be seen and they looked as solid as a rock.
Sol Davis returned for the recently ill Emanuel and Dean Morgan started alongside Matty Spring with Kevin Foley on the bench, and no place on the bench for either Idrizaj or Runstrom.
Burnley, in a run of 17 matches without a win, had giant keeper Jensen back after a long spell of injury and Gray returning up front. New loanees Graham Coughlan and Paul McVeigh also started and Djemba-Djemba was given a rare start in midfield.
With four forwards on the field, Burnley seemed to be playing a 4-2-4 at first, rare these days, but McVeigh son began dropping off to make it more effectively a 4-3-3.
Burnley struggled to get through the five man midfield of Luton, but strangely when Luton's defence, which did its duties with aplomb, had possession, they pumped long balls out by-passing midfield (and thereby half the team) far too often.
As the half wore on, Jones was having some success down the left flank and got past Keane on two occasions, which both led to problems as first Akinbiyi and then McVeigh brought sharp saves from Brill, the second a particularly good one as it was deflected in flight.
As Burnley stepped up the pressure Leon Barnet made an excellent challenge just inside the box, which prevented a shot from a good position. Unfortunately, he appeared to strain a thigh in doing so and was replaced by Chris Coyne.
To be fair, the replacement was seamless and the defence looked no less solid. Clarke Carlisle had his best game for Luton, and must have been tired at the end from Keepeing both Gray and Akinbiyi in his pocket for virtually the whole match. What a loss he is going to be as he now returns to the Hertfordshire team!
Jones broke free again and from his cross the ball was cleared and a silly foul led to a dangerous ball into the box, which McVeigh headed but Brill saved well.
As half-time loomed, Gray broke free and laid the ball to McVeigh who dwelled on the ball allowing Sol Davis to put in another committed defensive challenge and the shot was blocked and cleared.
Although Luton had showed little attacking flair, with Morgan starting very well and then disappearing from view, largely because he received no service as Luton concentrated on not conceding, it was very refreshing not to have my heart in my mouth every time the ball came towards the Luton defence.
So, with the pies in this region being lauded by all and sundry, we both availed ourselves of the meat and potato variety. Firstly it was hot - damned hot, which was a surprise as lukewarm is more than most grounds' catering facilities can muster, and the potato was delicious. However, I was able to detect as much meat in it as there had been goals in the first half! Still it went down well.
In the interval we discussed what sort of impact the new manager would have, after seeing the first half, giving his half time talk.
The second half began in much the same way as the first, but Luton began to show more attacking intent, and a period of good Town pressure saw their defence able to take a breather as the Home defence laboured to keep them out.
The only clear cut chance of the match came just before the hour when some forceful play by Spring saw him float the ball over the Burnley defence and the onrushing Morgan headed marginally over the bar, when he should at least have tested the keeper.
Morgan was getting more into the game now and drove the ball into the side netting after skinning the right back and cutting inside.
Bell was also getting forward more and a determined run ended with a deft pass to Spring who dragged the ball past Coughlan and created an opening but scuffed his shot at the vital moment and Jensen easily gathered.
As Luton were dominating, Blackwell swapped Morgan for Calvin Andrew and took the tiring Sol Davis off, bringing Foley on as right back and switching Keane to the left.
Calvin Andrew was as full of running as Drew Talbot, who worked tirelessly throughout as lone striker, and some good work by Andrew who switched the ball from the left to the right flank, led to Spring repeating his earlier trick of turning past Coughlan but this time shot marginally wide.
All the attacking play in the final minutes was coming from Luton whose lack of confidence from the first half, seemed to have disappeared and been replaced with a little belief and passion. Meanwhile Burnley`s effort of the first half was ebbing away and they looked as though they were happy to settle for a point.
With a few minutes to go, a rare Burnley foray into Luton territory saw substitute Kyle Lafferty, on for the ineffectual Akinbiyi, run into the box as a far post cross from the left was wildly overhit and was always going to result in a goal kick. Lafferty ran into Foley and threw himself down holding his face when there was no contact other than Lafferty`s shoulder into the back of Foley, in an effort to con referee Mick Thorpe, but the official merely waved his hand and ordered the miscreant claret to get up and get on with it. I did not notice any cards being issued and Mr Thorpe did a very good job and was hardly noticed all game.
The match ended with Luton in the ascendancy, but to be honest, neither side did enough to deserve all three points and a point apiece was a fair result.
So it was back to the Turf for a couple more pints for the others and another one for me, and then back to the Queens Hotel Rossendale, to meet some more of Chappie`s old mates. This turned into a beer fest and on a countback, I estimate about fifteen pints each on the days total for the other three non-drivers while I only managed five all day.
I can say that the people of Burnley with whom I came into contact were a pretty good bunch and there was plenty of banter and laughs, but I felt I made a few new friends.
An uneventful journey home saw all passengers, Burnley and Luton alike, agreeing with the above report and the sentence to sum the day up was that both teams were lucky to get nil!
Burnley: Jensen, Thomas, Harley (J O'Connor 69), Coughlan, Jones, Gray, Djemba-Djemba, Akinbiyi (Lafferty 69), McVeigh (G O'Connor 88), Caldwell
Subs not used: Coyne, Duff
Luton: Brill, Barnett (Coyne 24), Heikkinen, Carlisle, Davis (Foley 70), Bell, Robinson, Spring, Keane, Morgan (Andrew 70), Talbot
Subs not used: Beresford, Brkovic.
Date:Sunday April 1 2007
Luton to Entertain Aston Villa (Friday May 17 2013)
Tyler`s Staying (Friday May 17 2013)
I Wish It Was Us! (Wednesday May 15 2013)
Favourites (Again)! (Monday May 13 2013)
Keeper Ranks Bolstered (Monday May 13 2013)
Nielson Finds New Club (Monday May 13 2013)
Welcome to the Mad World! (Monday May 13 2013)
I Felt Physically Sick! (Monday May 13 2013)
What a Difference a Year Makes (Friday May 10 2013)
Something to Look Forward To? (Wednesday May 8 2013)
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