Date: 3rd March 2008 at 11:11am
Written by:

Robbie Blake rescued the day for the Clarets against Watford at Turf Moor on Saturday. The stalwart striker came on as a substitute for Akinbiyi with only 17 minutes of the match remaining and twice scored a goal (after Watford were ahead each time)to secure a valuable point for the Clarets.

A point at home is usually disappointing and yet somehow the twists and turns of this game led to the feeling that the point obtained was actually a victory despite all the bad luck that seemed to conspire against us.

What bad luck, you might ask? Well let`s start with the referee. We are used to shockers in this Department at Turf Moor but this one took the biscuit! Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire) has only refereed a few games at this level and this was the first time he had refereed a game involving Burnley. I hope it is his last! He clearly didn`t have a clue and his inexperience shone like a beacon across the Turf aided and abetted by two equally useless linesmen.

Why do they inflict referees of such poor calibre and inexperience in such vital games with both Burnley & Watford fighting for promotion? Anyway that`s enough griping about that one; let`s look at some of the other issues.

Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd said this after the game:

“I thought overall it was a fair game but we shot ourselves in the foot twice. I thought it was a game of missed chances.’

Missed chances? He is not wrong there, pity they all seemed to be efforts from the Clarets. The most telling miss which could have put the Clarets ahead in the first half came from Ade Akinbiyi. He only needed to tap it in with a wide open goal in front of him and somehow he sliced it wide. Miss of the season award, it would most surely be and probably of all time! In fact Ade had a number of chances to score but fate was against him. At one point, he thought he had scored and was dashing towards the Longside to celebrate, only to see the numpty of a linesman with his flag raised for offside which is certainly not a clear cut decision and on the replay looked doubtful.

The match turned ugly on a number of occasions, mainly due it seemed to daft decisions by the referee or the fact the linesmen seemed to have superglued their flag-waving arms to stay up in the air! A number of melees on the pitch were also seen off the pitch as the fans in the Longside, clearly frustrated were additionally incensed by the attitudes of the police and Rock Steady to try and calm them down. Some idiots also decided to run across the pitch towards the away fans as the game was in play. Thankfully I think they all got caught and chucked out the ground!

The 2-2 draw means that we actually went up a place to 8th and are now on 51 points,only one point now behind the sixth placed club, Ipswich. They could only manage a 1-1 draw away to Southampton. Yet again though we have failed to get into the top six when an opportunity arose! Had we won that game the sixth place spot would now be ours, so in that sense it is disappointing not to have got all three points.

All we can say is that we are still in the hunt with the rest of the pack for a Top 6 finish but with games rapidly running out and with an inferior goal difference compared to most of the promotion contenders, we need to start picking up points and getting some convincing victories on the board in a busy March schedule ahead.

The good news for the Clarets against Watford was that Andrew Cole had fully recovered from his Achilles injury problem and was named in the starting eleven with his strike partner Ade Akinbiyi selected alongside him.

Robbie Blake was the player to lose out and he again was named on the bench with Lafferty retaining his place in the wide left role.

Mark Randall was unable to get his first start for the club and was again on the bench which perhaps surprised quite a few Clarets fans after his excellent cameo performance against Coventry in the previous match.

The back four also remained unchanged with Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell and Harley in the starting eleven. The now fully recovered Stan Varga was not even in the sixteen, with David Unsworth the loan defender on the bench.

The Clarets therefore lined up as follows:

Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott, James O’Connor, McCann, Lafferty, Cole, Akinbiyi

Subs: Kiraly, Gudjonsson, Randall, Unsworth, Blake

It was another blustery, albeit warmer day at Turf Moor and the windy conditions were about to make life difficult for both teams as the match got underway.

The Hornets had most of the early possession before Burnley almost took the lead after only three minutes of play. Chris McCann set Kyle Lafferty free on a run before the Northern Ireland international shot inches wide.

The ‘Miss of the Season` was then about to unfold on 11 minutes. Richard Lee, the Watford keeper attempted to clear the ball but the clearance was blocked by Chris McCann. A pass to Akinbiyi looked too good to be true with the striker now facing an open goal. Just a tap in would have sufficed but somehow he managed to put the ball wide after scuffing his shot.

Lafferty`s shot three minutes later was well blocked at the near post.

On 21 minutes, a cross by Elliott from a corner found Akinbiyi but his header was just wide.

Against the run of play and in typical fashion, Watford then got the lead on 23 minutes.

Watford had been awarded a corner and it was Henderson who got up to head home from Jobi McAnuff`s cross. The Hornets almost made it 2-0 a couple of minutes later with Ellington beating the offside trap. Jensen saved the attempt on goal with Henderson picking up the clearance. Thankfully his shot was deflected away for a corner.

Andrew Cole came close to putting the Clarets level on 42 minutes after an Elliott cross but he just couldn`t get his head to it and that was it for the first half with the Clarets going in 1-0 down.

The Clarets thought they had equalised after only four minutes of play in the second half. Akinbiyi got the ball in the net from close range in a rather scrambled affair. His headed goal though was scratched off after the linesman adjudged him to be offside.

Referee Dean Whitestone by now seemed to be completely losing control of the game as the match turned ugly both on and off the pitch. Both teams and especially the Clarets seemed to be continually arguing and challenging the referee about crass decisions as the Clarets fans became more and more incensed. Trouble spilled over into the Longside and at one point a few idiots decided to run on the pitch towards the away end. Rock Steady and the Police certainly had a busy day!

However, back to the game! McCann put his header just wide from a cross by Lafferty. Akinbiyi then put the ball just over the bar from a header only four yards out after Lee had parried Lafferty`s shot away. It wouldn`t have counted though because guess what? The flag was raised for offside!Yawn!

Whitestone infuriated the Clarets fans yet again after 71 minutes after Henderson had floored Jensen. Just a yellow said the inexperienced referee; a flipping red said the booing experienced Clarets fans!

Robbie Blake came on to replace Akinbiyi after 73 minutes and was soon in the action.

McCann nearly got the equaliser two minutes later from a Blake cross but his header hit the woodwork as everything now seemed to be going against the Clarets. However, we would only have a few seconds to wait for a goal to finally give the fans something to cheer about.

Blake picked up the ball from a deft Cole back-heel and shot past Lee to make the score 1-1. This was actually Blake`s 50th goal for the Clarets in his two spells with the club.

Watford though continued to look dangerous on the break and seemed to get I don`t know how many throw-ins. These all seem to be converted into virtually free kicks each time with the long throw- ins powered into the box.

The Hornets took the lead again after 85 minutes in debatable fashion.

Steven Caldwell looked to be pulled to the ground by Henderson but the referee waved play on as the ball found substitute Jordan Stewart. He made no mistake thumping the ball into the net to score with his first touch and put the Hornets 2-1 up with only five minutes left to play and the Clarets looking down and out. However, the fighting spirit from the Clarets shone through in the end and we were not going to give up.

Only 90 seconds after Watford`s second goal, Blake equalised to score his 51st goal for the Clarets and a brace on the day. His left-footed shot from 12 yards out went into the bottom left hand corner of the net and spun across to the other side behind the line. By then Blake was rushing towards the corner of the James Hargreaves in front of an ecstatic Longside.

The rest of the match was played out without much incident and as the whistle blew for the end of the match, a relieved Clarets crowd went home reasonably happy after a frustrating day compounded by an awful referee. We didn`t win but to me, the draw and the circumstances of getting that point almost made the match feel like a victory.


Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott, James O’Connor, McCann, Lafferty, Cole, Akinbiyi (Blake 73).

Subs Not Used: Kiraly, Gudjonsson, Randall, Unsworth.

Booked: Akinbiyi, Cole, Caldwell.

Goals: Blake 75, 88.

Watford: Lee, Mariappa (DeMerit 61), Shittu, Bromby, Sadler, Smith (Stewart 83), Eustace, O’Toole, McAnuff, Ellington (Kabba 73), Henderson.

Subs Not Used: Poom, John.

Booked: Henderson.

Goals: Henderson 23, Stewart 85.

Ref: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).