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Burnley 4 - 2 Town
Burnley 4 - 2 Town
Saturday, 21st Feb 2004 18:24

Town's unbeaten away run stretching back to September ended as the Blues were defeated 4-2 in a scrappy game at Turf Moor. The home side scored twice in the first half and again after the break, before Ian Westlake and Martijn Reuser hit back only for Robbie Blake to add a fourth in injury time.

Joe Royle sprung surprise by including Drissa Diallo in his side at left-back, Fabian Wilnis having returned to right-back where the Guinea international played last week. Matt Richards dropped to the bench.

It took only five minutes for a mix-up at the back to allow Glen Little to cross from the right. Paul Weller's shot was well-blocked by Wilnis, with Kelvin Davis comfortably claiming his second effort.

Despite this Burnley chance, Town had probably had the best of the early stages and could have gone ahead in the sixth minute. Shefki Kuqi picked up the ball on the edge of the box and might have shot but instead took the ball beyond the defence but wide, only to catch the ball with his wrong foot as he shaped to shoot.

Two minutes later John McGreal could have put the Blues in front. Jim Magilton sent in a freekick from the left, which the home defence failed to deal with, the ball dropping to McGreal's feet eight yards out. The defender hit a shot on the turn but didn't manage any power and keeper Jensen in goal wasn't tested.

Just before the quarter hour Tommy Miller similarly failed to get any sting in a shot from 25 yards, with Shefki Kuqi screaming for the ball inside the area.

Shortly afterwards Drissa Diallo, booed throughout by his old fans, should have put Town ahead. Darren Bent crossed from the right to the far post, but Diallo failed to get a major contact on the ball, although it hit a defender and almost went over the line, keeper Jensen scrambling back to save.

As the half wore on Town deteriorated, with passes constantly going astray while there was a tendency to over-elaborate and play themselves into trouble on the edge of the area.

On 26 the Clarets went ahead. Weller broke on the left and shot across the face of the goal, the ball deflecting out to Little on the right of the area who shot past Davis.

A minute later Burnley were two-up. Blake swung in a corner from the right, Kuqi missed his header and David May powered his home.

While Town hadn't played particularly well, neither had Burnley, who had certainly not been two goals better than the Blues.

On 31 Fabian Wilnis was replaced with Matt Richards, the Dutchman evidently not as over his shoulder problem as had been thought prior to the game. Richards slipped in at left-back, Diallo moving over to the right side of defence.

The Blues were somewhat rocked by the two goals and rarely seriously threatened in the latter stages of the half, although both Tommy Miller and Jermaine Wright struck 25-yard shots which gave Jensen little trouble.

With five minutes remaining to the break Burnley's McGregor picked up a yellow card for a foul on Darren Bent on halfway. Given the large number of fouls it was a surprise that McGregor's was the first yellow card of the game.

Soon after Wright shot to Jensen from wide on the right when a cross might have proved more profitable.

Just before the end of the half Diallo might have pulled a goal back from a Magilton freekick sent in from the Town left. The ex-Claret rose at the far post but Richard Naylor had made a similar run and Diallo's header struck his team-mate. In injury time Matt Richards was shown a yellow card for a foul on Robbie Blake.

It was little surprise when Pablo Couñago emerged for the second half, the Spaniard replacing Drissa Diallo, who had found it difficult going when on either side of the defence.

Couñago joined Kuqi and Bent in attack with Jermaine Wright moving to right-back, the Blues switching to 4-3-3.

It had been a bitty first half punctuated by a lot of fouls and freekicks, neither side managing to play much decent football. Both teams had had chances but only Burnley had taken theirs, while as ever the Town backline looked distinctly shaky.

Robbie Blake had the ball in the net not long after the restart but the whistle had gone for offside some while before he had beaten Davis. Three minutes later the Blues also had a goal disallowed for offside, Couñago appearing to convert a Magilton freekick from the edge of the six-yard box.

Irish international Glen Little dangerously ran at the Town defence in the 54th minute, his shot from the edge of the box flying just wide of Kelvin Davis's goal.

Town were starting to put a few passes together, and just before the hour mark an exchange of passes between Pablo Couñago and Tommy Miller ended with the former Hartlepool man getting in a shot inside the area, but his effort was deflected over.

Couñago had the ball in the net again soon after, from a Bent cross. However, keeper Jensen already had the ball under his control when the Spaniard struck the ball from close-range and referee Mike Dean who showed the Town number nine a yellow card.

In the 61st minute Burnley scored their third goal. Shefki Kuqi cleared a corner to the edge of the box where England U21 Richard Chaplow struck a sweet volley which gave Davis no chance. Soon after Kuqi made way for Martijn Reuser, the Dutchman taking up a left-sided midfield role.

The game briefly threatened to boil over in the 64th minute after Richards and Little squared up after the Irishman had rather obviously dived in the area. While the pair argued, Chaplow flew into Naylor's ankles. Referee Dean restored order and booked Chaplow.

A minute later Town had a goal back. Bent broke down the right and crossed low for Westlake, the midfielder stabbing past Jensen.

The action was switching from one end to the other by now, and soon after Kelvin Davis made a fine save from Chaplow after the Burnley man had turned an Ian Moore cross goalwards from eight yards out.

Davis was again in action on 67 when he stopped a Blake freekick from 25 yards, the keeper unhappy to concede a corner as he tried to get hold of the ball, feeling that Ian Moore's push had had a lot to do with it going out of play.

The Town keeper made an even better stop on 74 after the Clarets had broken quickly. Blake played a ball in to Moore inside the box, but Davis was out to block at his feet.

At the other end a Couñago shot was deflected over, John McGreal heading the resultant corner straight at the keeper.

Substitute Martijn Reuser got a second for Town with three minutes left on the clock to set up a frantic last few minutes. Jim Magilton had been fouled just outside the area, in prime Reuser territory. The Dutchman didn't disappoint, getting the ball up and over the wall and under the bar, keeper Jensen merely able to watch the ball enter his net.

Town put on the pressure for the first time in the game. Bent headed a Couñago cross straight at the keeper before Magilton also found Jensen's hands, but with a shot from the edge of the box.

The Blues came closest to a third goal when Matt Richards broke down the left, cut in a struck a shot which hit Jensen's right post.

In injury time, with Town committed to attack, a Burnley break led to a fourth goal. Little took the ball down the right and crossed for Blake who tapped home, the final whistle going a few moments later

The Blues were rarely at their best, and yet could easily have come out of the game with a point or even points. Both sides gave the other chances, the difference being the home side weren't already three goals down before they started to take theirs.

Town looked jaded throughout, and the injection of a loanee or two looks essential if they are to put in the decent run required to keep up the promotion challenge.

Town: Davis, Wilnis (Richards 31), Diallo (Couñago 46), Naylor, McGreal, Magilton, Miller, Wright, Westlake, Kuqi (Reuser 62), Bent.

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