Date:Saturday April 29 2006
It has been a long drawn out season and not one that most Clarets will want to remember.
Early promise when we attained the dizzy heights of 5th place just before Christmas soon fizzled out when we said goodbye to Ade Akinbiyi. It is difficult to know just how much that transfer affected our chances or morale and how much was coincidence. Whatever the implications of losing Ade, his loss set us on a downward spiral after Christmas. During that awful period between January and March we could hardly score let alone win.
Our last win in 2005 was on Boxing Day against Stoke when we won 1-0 at home. In the next 14 matches we only managed 5 points. The Clarets lost 11 of the games with only the win against Plymouth at home on the 4th February bringing any real cheer.
At one low point during that time the dreaded 'R' word was even mentioned as we embarked on five straight defeats on the bounce with no goals scored.
Michael Ricketts, brought in on loan from Leeds, as a replacement for Ade showed early promise but then his goals dried up and we struggled until the arrival of Andy Gray and Alan Mahon. What a relief it was on the 24th March to finally score and win a match. The Sky televised match against Norwich at home saw Andy Gray score his first goal for the Clarets and become an instant hit with the loyal fans. We then cheered even more as Phil Bardsley put in a glorious cross for Branchy to head home in the second half and effectively put paid to any chances the Canaries may have had of reaching the play-offs. That was just the tonic we needed! We then went on a spree of six games undefeated only to be spoilt by last weeks awful perfomance and defeat at the New Den to already relegated and managerless Millwall.
So here we are facing our last match of 2005-6 and it has to be said it has not been a good season although the omens for the future are good and seem better for some time.
We will not better our points tally of 60 last season. A win against Luton will leave us on 56 points with a remote chance of finishing 13th like we did last season. In addition we did not have any memorable Cup runs unlike the previous season when even the ultimate European Champs, Liverpool fell to the Clarets!
So really no significant improvement over 2004-5 and one could argue a backward step as we maintain our position as midtable mediocrity!
There are however lots of positive signs for next season. We dont have anybody out of contract in the close season and although Branchy would have been, he has now signed a new one year contract. Andy Gray and Alan Mahon have been quality signings and we look forward to more new quality signings coming in the close season. A few might arrive by train from Crewe at this rate!
We have good youngsters being blooded in the team with Chris McCann now almost regarded as an automatic choice. Kyle Lafferty will also hopefully be given more of a chance to shine in 2006-7 following his one-year contract extension.
We are told we are now debt free with the Turf sale finally going through and we have Steve Cotterill signed up for another 4.5 years. The club also seem to be walking the talk about ambition as well so maybe 2006-7 will be our season at long last!
Although automatic promotion and even the play-offs may be a dream too far, lets hope at least we can become a Top 10 outfit playing with consistency throughout the whole season. Lets also become recognised as an entertaining team with always a good chance of being there or thereabouts!
Oh well thats for the future, we still have the little matter of our final match against Luton to play this Sunday and dont forget not only is it on a Sunday but it also kicks off early at 1:30pm
The last time we played Luton, it was the most memorable and entertaining game I have seen for sometime and since. It was also in fact one of our only three away wins all season but what a win!
It was fitting that the Luton v Clarets match at Kenilworth Rd on the 5th November won the 'Match of the Season' award. Who could forget the Ade hat-trick and the cameo appearance of John Spicer in Goal as our ten men held on to win 3-2?
No doubt Luton will be out for revenge but lets finish on a high and make sure they dont get it!
For the Clarets, John McGreal has a back injury and is doubtful. This injury forced him to be substituted against Millwall last weekend. There are also doubts over Phil Bardsley with an ankle injury and Chris McCann still suffering from a hamstring problem.
Luton skipper Kevin Nicholls could make his first start since injuring knee ligaments in March.
Kevin Foley has shaken off a knock, but Russ Perrett, Chris Coyne and Markus Heikkinen are all ruled out.
Hatters leading scorer Steve Howard also looks set to continue as an emergency centre-half.
Oh well, another game with no real relevance apart from pride, at least its the last one for some time. I hope the lads are up for finishing the season on a high note in front of the Clarets faithful. Lets get that win, rapidly forget the season and pile into the Foundation Bar afterwards for the Clarets Trust Beer Festival!
I really,truly have 'hat' enough of this season!
Date:Saturday April 29 2006
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