17th April 2007
It was the Clarets on song not the Canaries in last Tuesday night's match at the Turf. A comprehensive 3-0 victory saw the Clarets reach 54 points and move up one place to 16th in the table. With three matches remaining we could now equal or finish higher than our best post-Digital season (60 points in 2004/5) despite the awful 19 match winless run between Dec-March. A pretty good recovery although disappointing after the play-offs hype and Top 6 achievements between August-November 2006.
The most encouraging aspect of the match was seeing both Ade Akinbiyi and Andy Gray on the scoresheet. Wade Elliott completed the goal scoring for the Clarets.
Akinbiyi put in his best performance since returning to Turf Moor in January. There were a number of glimpses of the form he had the first time round, and he seemed to have more pace, energy and determination about him which augers well for the future. His goal, a classic Ade header was put away in style in the first half making it his third of the season for the Clarets. Although he is still not completely like the Ade of old, this is the first sign that he could still have what it takes and it will be interesting to see what the close season training and fitness schedule does for him in time for the start of 2007/8.
But what about Andy Gray? He had still not scored since his return from injury back in February. In recent matches, he seemed to have returned to his old form and could do anything except score! The last Leeds match proved a bit of a blip and a dip in form but thankfully against Norwich, the old Andy Gray was back and he celebrated by scoring our second goal in the second half.
Paul McVeigh of course had to miss out on this match because of the loan arrangement with Norwich and as predicted Ade Akinbiyi replaced him upfront with Andy Gray.
This was the only change necessary with Lafferty being recalled to the bench after missing out on recent matches.
The team therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Duff, Thomas, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott, Djemba-Djemba, James O'Connor, Jones, Akinbiyi, Gray .
Subs: Coyne, Coughlan, McCann, Lafferty, Spicer
Norwich, a team already crippled by a number of injuries suffered another blow. Darren Huckerby, named in the starting line-up, failed to appear at kick off after injurying himself in the pre-match warm up. He was replaced by teenager, Kris Renton.
Match referee, Martin Atkinson blew for the start of the game and it was Norwich who were quickly out of the blocks first.
After 5 minutes, Eagle from a free kick found Dion Dublin who side-footed a shot against the cross-bar from 12 yards.
The Clarets however steadied their nerves after that near miss and started to play some attractive passing football.
Elliott, James O'Connor and Djemba-Djemba all put in good shots to no avail before the deadlock was broken by Burnley's first goal on the half-hour mark.
Djemba-Djemba having an excellent match in midfield passed the ball wide to Duff. His accurate and delightful cross found Akinbiyi whose powerful header was unstoppable as it crossed the line into the bottom corner of the net.
The Clarets chants of 'Ade,Ade,Ade' rang round the Turf! He was back!
Chris Martin five minutes later missed a sitter for Norwich skying his shot from close range, but the Clarets deserved their half-time lead as the whistle went for the break.
The second half started brightly for the Clarets and within three minutes Akinbiyi nearly doubled our lead. He beat Dublin with the keeper advancing towards him but miscued his shot.
Burnley have not been awarded a penalty now in 64 matches, most Clarets fans cant remember the last one and we have no idea who our penalty taker(s) would be these days! It came as no surprise therefore that a claim for a penalty by Andy Gray after being tripped in the area would not be given.
The match seemed to then deteriorate into a scrappy affair with Norwich looking the more dangerous on occasions as we seemed to revert back to the longball rather than continue the attractive passing game.
Lafferty replaced Akinbiyi with 12 minutes to go and McCann came on for Jones after 85 minutes. One minute later, to the relief of the Clarets fans, the second goal was scored.
James O'Connor's thunderous shot easily beat keeper, Warner but the ball then hit the inside of the left hand post. Gray was there waiting to pounce and he got his first goal on the board since his return from injury much to the delight of player and fans alike.
The cheering had hardly had chance to die down when suddenly it was 3-0!
Harley's cross found Elliott and he shot into the bottom corner to make that three goals in five matches.
Spicer had a minute or so to run around coming on for Gray in the final minute but by now it was game over
The Clarets are now effectively assured of safety, only Leeds and Hull could catch them if both won their last three matches and we lost our last three. We would however have to lose by rugby scores and they would have to win by them thanks to our vastly superior goal difference. Its not going to happen and the Clarets can now plough on and hopefully achieve that respectable, if disappointing midtable finish.
Burnley: Jensen, Duff, Thomas, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott, Djemba-Djemba, James O'Connor, Jones (McCann 85), Akinbiyi (Lafferty 77), Gray (Spicer 90).
Subs Not Used: Coyne, Coughlan.
Goals: Akinbiyi 30, Gray 86, Elliott 89.
Norwich: Warner, Drury, Shackell, Dublin (Smart 87), Hughes, Croft, Etuhu, Spillane, Eagle (Earnshaw 72), Martin, Renton.
Subs Not Used: Gallacher, Cave-Brown, Bexfield.