Nine years ago we played our last game of the season at Burnley. The lads got a result (a draw as it happened, although it turned out we didn’t need it) and we cheered them from the rafters for having avoided relegation to the second (nee third). When the fixture list came out, and particularly after the opening day defeat at Forest, I’d have taken that again. This time we won (although it turned out we didn’t need it) and we cheered them from the rafters for having gone into the play-offs with the important advantage of second leg at home. Throw in a visit to Old Trafford for an FA Cup semi and this has been a topper season. And yet the best could yet be to come.
Don’t you hate 1 o’clock kick-offs on a Sunday? Burnley cricket club don’t. They had “arranged” a match which meant they could open up their bar dead early (we were there at quarter to 11 and the seats outside the pavilion were already covered in SAFC supporters supping pints of the good stuff). Add in the fact that it is right next to the ground and that all the other pubs seemed closed and unlikely to be welcoming in away fans and you had the makings of a rip-roaring trade. Unusually they actually had put a large number of bar staff on and had catering staff mass producing pie and peas. Sitting in the sun supping Guinness watching bairns in SAFC and Burnley tops having a mass football match with a beach ball while some joker totally decked out in red and white garb joined in the cricket team warming up routine. Some times you just have to think, “Life is good”.
We had the whole of the end behind one goal so it meant 4,000 of us could officially go in (a lot more were unofficially in the home end). This created a great atmosphere and, after Tuesday night at the SoL against Norwich was an excellent warm up for the play-offs for us as well as the players.
Myrhe was in goal for the one match suspended Poom and McCartney was out (rested apparently). With Wright still injured this meant a back four of Dazza, Breen, Jockie and Babb. Midfield was Oster, Thornton (hurray!), Robinson and Jeff. Up front was all change with New Dazza and Smith.
Games often seem to repeat and this one was very similar to Norwich. They started better and were very lively. Unlike Norwich though they managed to score when we left one of their best players, Little, alone in the six yard box to side foot a cross into the net. Like against Norwich we pulled ourselves together and by about the half hour point got a goal we deserved. Thornton again proved he could deliver a dead ball (this time from a corner) to a point no larger than a football and Breen nodded in having lost his marker (well I assume he’d lost him – there certainly wasn’t anyone with him). Lovely to see a well-worked goal come off – credit to the training staff as well as tubby Sean.
Second half Mick swapped the two strikers so we had Kyle and Stewart. Strange that – I’d always swap one and then the other five or ten minutes later to keep the opposition uncertain of formation, play etc. Anyway Stew played too deep and Kyle barged into everything so that was fine. Half way through, the ball comes down the centre and Kyle plays it off to Oster who is in a sort of inside right position. He does a lovely chip and Stew (who this time is in the box where he belongs) gets his head to it but hits the bar. As it comes back out Kyle comes charging in and sends several players, small children and a herd of wildebeest scattering as he ploughs into the ball to knock it straight back in and this time under the bar. Bloody marvellous. Kyle getting back onto the score sheet. Coming from behind to win. Finishing on two wins. And the red and white army in fine voice. What a preparation for the play-offs.
Only one other thing I want to mention- Clark (nice to see him getting a bit of football again) came on for Thornton. So Sean again fails to do 90 minutes. This lad is possibly the most talented at the club (and I’m including Julio here) but he has to get his fitness levels up (and I suspect, cut down on the damn booze).
A bliddy long Sunday night M6 journey home, exchanging pleasantries of the “see you in Cardiff” type with West Ham fans at high speed. Friday night now beckons. I really hate Selhurst Park and south London generally. Still Palace hold no fear for us. If we play the way we’ve played these last two games we’re going to do it. Life is good.