No Longer Damn All at Bramall
Saturday 6th December 2008 @3pm KO
Thirty five years ago on the opening day of the 1973/4 season, my dad drove me over the Pennines to Bramall Lane for my first time at this strange stadium that in those days shared it`s ground with the cricket club.
The Clarets faced Sheffield United for the first time since 1966 and had just been promoted as Champions to the old Division One top flight.
I was a fresh faced 19 year old and being the old fart that I am now don`t remember much about the game except that we won 2-0 thanks to goals by Doug Collins and Martin Dobson, two of my 70s heroes.
So what you might ask? Well little did I realise back then that it would be another 35 years before the Clarets would be able to claim victory again at this old stadium.
Last season we did pick up a point at least in Steve Cotterill`s last away game in charge drawing 0-0 but a win was unheard of in recent times.
At long last in yesterday`s match we finally put the curse of this bogey ground to rest after a superb 3-2 victory against the Blades. This game was another good one for the neutral with the Blades making the last few minutes sweaty for the Clarets fans after Quinn scored on 87 minutes to bring the score back to 3-2. The opening goal by Paterson after 19 minutes was wiped out by a Blades penalty nine minutes before the end of the first half. However it was the Clarets who would go in at the break in the lead after another penalty, this time at the other end was slotted home by Alexander after 42 minutes of play.
A superb solo effort by Eagles after 79 minutes put the Clarets 3-1 up before the Blades got a goal back. The Clarets held on though for a well-earned and long-awaited victory on this ground.
Before this game the Clarets were in fourth place just one point ahead of Sheffield United in 5th place. They remain 4th and now have 36 points but have further consolidated their place in the top six after putting some clear blue water between themselves and the chasing pack.
The victory at Bramall Lane seemed a forlorn hope at the start of this match after some late enforced changes to the team sheet were required following the news that Michael Duff had injured himself in the pre-match warm up. With no Clarke Carlisle available thanks to a one match suspension following his fifth yellow card and with Kalvenes still injured, this caused major headaches for Owen Coyle in the back four.
Chris McCann had also picked up an illness and had not travelled across the Pennines with the lads, so he was not available as a makeshift central defender and would miss his first game of the season.
Coyle decided to play Wade Elliott at right back, move Jordan into the central defence with Caldwell and give Alexander the unfamiliar role of left back. Thompson who would have been on the bench suddenly found himself in the starting eleven partnering Paterson upfront as the Clarets adopted a true 4-4-2 with a strike pair as targets rather than Blake playing behind a lone striker.
Because the Duff injury happened before the start of the game, we were allowed to name another substitute and that place was taken by Van der Schaaf. This was the first time since October and the Reading game at Turf Moor that he was named in the sixteen. He had suffered in recent times with an illness but at least seems to have now fully recovered from the virus.
Young Alex MacDonald was also named on the bench for his first League match of the season and his namesake Kevin also made the starting eleven after shaking off a minor knock picked up in the midweek Arsenal game.
So the Clarets eventually lined up as follows:
Jensen, Elliott, Jordan, Caldwell, Alexander, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Blake, Eagles, Paterson, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Van der Schaaf, Mahon, Akinbiyi, MacDonald
United gaffer, Kevin Blackwell must have sensed a victory at the start of this match after the late Clarets team news broke. He certainly knew where to focus his attacks too putting pressure on Wade Elliott in particular in the first half. The fact that so many of our players were playing out of position makes this victory even sweeter after surviving everything that the Blades could chuck at us.
At the start of this match, the Clarets didn`t look to be at the races which is not surprising considering the team changes we had to make especially in the back four.
Gradually though they built up an understanding after surviving the early pressure.
We also had a bit of luck during the early Blades bombardment. With just 3 minutes on the clock, James Beattie got the ball in the net with a header after the ball was flicked through to him by Billy Sharp. Greater Manchester referee, Anthony Taylor though disallowed the goal after a flag was raised for a highly debatable offside.
The first meaningful Clarets attack came on 8 minutes and Eagles was just a little off target as the Clarets began to settle down and take the game to the Blades.
Elliott was on the ball with a great tackle to deny Quinn after 13 minutes and 6 minutes later we were amazingly ahead.
A corner to the Clarets was taken by Robbie Blake. Thompson flicked the ball towards the near post where Paterson was ready to pounce and score from a few yards out.
The Clarets could then thank James Beattie for trying a couple of wayward shots that were rather laughable before we nearly doubled our lead on 30 minutes following some really attractive, attacking football.
Paterson linked well with Eagles on the right to set the midfielder free. Chasing towards goal, Eagles should have perhaps done better with his shot but he dragged it across goal.
Four minutes later though it was the turn of the Blades fans to cheer after being awarded a controversial penalty. Billy Sharp was adjudged to have been nudged by Jensen in the penalty area and despite strong complaints by the Clarets, the Blades were back in the game after Beattie slotted home from the penalty spot.
However revenge was about to be sweet for the Clarets when another penalty, this time for Burnley was awarded with just three minutes of the half remaining. This time it was clear cut as Naysmith clipped Eagles Wings (Well OK, his heels then!)
Up stepped the confident Alexander to make no mistake as the ball flew into the bottom corner to make it 2-1 and ensure a Clarets lead at half-time.
The Clarets made no changes for the second half but the Blades decided to test Alexander more at left back by bringing on Cotterill as replacement for Halford.
The start of the second half saw the Clarets defending deep as the Blades had their best spell of the game putting our makeshift team under continual pressure.
Kenny though was kept on his toes at the other end after Eagles tried to put the Clarets further ahead with three attempts in the first five minutes of the restart.
Thompson flicked onto Paterson after 57 minutes but the Northern Ireland International was just off target with his 25 yard screamer.
Both sides decided it was time to now change things around. A double substitution by Blackwell on 62 minutes led to Coyle responding by bringing on young Alex MacDonald to replace Robbie Blake six minutes later.
MacDonald brought some much needed pace on the right with Eagles now spurting down the left.
Sheffield United though then had a spate of corners in quick succession and from the third on 73 minutes Gudjonsson on the line headed the ball away to safety after a Stokes header at the back post.
Chris Eagles by now was having another good game despite by his standards missing a couple of chances previously when he would probably have normally scored.
However those misses were all about to be forgotten when in the 78th minute the former Manchester United midfielder picked up the ball on the right and after cutting inside to beat two defenders let leash a shot that gave Blades keeper, Kenny absolutely no chance to put the Clarets 3-1 up.
The Blades though to give them their due did not fold and even managed to pull a goal back and set up a nervy last few minutes for the Clarets. It was Quinn on 87 minutes who scored from a free kick, 20 yards out after a subtle shot over the Burnley wall.
Clarets fans hearts sank when the fourth official announced there would be another four minutes of stoppage time. Gawd knows where that came from but we held firm to set up an historic victory and cap a fantastic week that has seen the Clarets score 8 goals in 8 days and defeat Arsenal in the Carling Cup Quarter final.
We now have two home games coming up with Cardiff on Tuesday night followed by Southampton on Saturday. Six points from those two games and we really will be motoring in this New Dawn of a season.
Sheff Utd: Kenny, Naughton, Morgan, Kilgallon, Naysmith, Halford (Cotterill 46), Spring (Stokes 62), Howard, Quinn, Beattie, Sharp (Henderson 62).
Subs Not Used: Ehiogu, Webber.
Booked: Naysmith, Naughton.
Goals: Beattie 36 pen, Quinn 87.
Burnley: Jensen, Elliott, Caldwell, Alexander, Thompson, Jordan, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Eagles, Blake (MacDonald 68), Paterson (Akinbiyi 85).
Subs Not Used: Penny, Mahon, Van der Schaaf.
Booked: Elliott, Jordan.
Goals: Paterson 19, Alexander 42 pen, Eagles 79.
Ref: Anthony Taylor (Greater Manchester).
However, the Star Player award has to go to Chris Eagles who once more scored a wonder goal after being in the thick of things most of the afternoon whilst running rings round the Blades.