Town 2-1 Burnley
Saturday, 11th Feb 2006 18:55
Town came from a goal down to beat a niggly and tedious 10-man Burnley side 2-1. The Clarets went ahead against the run of play just before the break through Michael Ricketts but a second half goal from Alan Lee and a Matt Richards penalty 10 minutes from time gave the Blues the points.
Ian Westlake came into the side on the right of midfield for the injured Gavin Williams. Town were otherwise unchanged from the team which started against Norwich, Darren Currie once again employed between frontman Alan Lee and the midfield four, with Danny Haynes out for a month.
It was the home side who had the first two chances of a scrappy opening few minutes, Gifton Noel-Williams shooting high and wide and Michael Ricketts failing to connect with the ball properly after beating Jason De Vos for pace on the edge of the box.
On 10, Westlake picked up the first yellow card of the game for a foul on James O'Connor. Westlake was in attacking action soon afterwards, sending the ball over the bar as Town broke quickly after the freekick had been cleared by Scott Barron.
Burnley's spoiling game-plan was very evident and John Spicer somehow managed to avoid a caution for a very late tackle on Scott Barron on halfway. Wayne Thomas wasn't quite as lucky a few minutes later, picking up his first yellow card of the afternoon for a wild tackle from behind on Alan Lee. Darren Currie's freekick was missed by everyone in the box and only just went past keeper Brian Jensen's right post.
Despite Thomas's card, referee Darren Deadman, taking control of only his second Championship game, wasn't impressing the home crowd, with a number of poor challenges going unpenalised.
Ricketts headed a Thomas cross wide when he might have done better, then Currie shot over from 30 yards.
On 19 Owen Garvan took the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the area but shot wide. The Blues were gradually beginning to impose themselves on the game after a disjointed start.
A minute later Westlake exchanged passes with Richards and shot straight at Jensen. The midfielder was somewhat further off target moments later, receiving the ball from Currie wide on the right and shooting well wide.
Mr Deadman continued to irk the Town faithful, failing to give even a freekick for Jon Harley's high lunge on Westlake.
Keeper Jensen saved from Currie's freekick after a foul on Richards on the edge of the box. The Dane was lucky soon after, a Barron cross striking the post, the keeper claiming the loose ball just ahead of Richards.
In the 41st minute the Blues were close to going ahead. A lengthy period of Town possession ended with Westlake crossing from the right and Alan Lee heading against the post, the ball rebounding across the face of goal but to a claret shirt.
Town had enjoyed much the better of the half against a Burnley side out to do little more than spoil for a draw, wasting time from early in the match. But, as so often in these circumstances, the visitors went ahead with a minute of the period remaining. Gifton Noel-Williams flicked on Spicer's long ball, Ricketts beat Town's offside trap and calmly slipped the ball past Supple from 10 yards.
The Blues might have had a penalty in injury time, Westlake's shot appearing to strike a defender's hand but the referee saw nothing untoward. Currie's 25-yarder gave Jensen little trouble prior to referee Deadman blowing his whistle, the home support booing off an official quickly gaining a reputation as one of the Football League's least competent cardsmiths.
Most of the possession had been Town's with Burnley happy to sit back and close them down quickly, soaking up the pressure and banging the ball long for Ricketts and Noel-Williams.
The Blues, having tried to pass their way through the Claret wall for most of the first half, switched things around at the break to match the visitors' more physical approach. Richard Naylor moved up front alongside Alan Lee, Darren Currie going to right midfield and Fabian Wilnis to centre-back as Sito took over on the right and Ian Westlake coming off.
Within a minute of the start of the second half, Spicer got his name in the book for a foul on Barron, although referee Deadman indicated that he had committed a number of earlier similar offences. Currie took the freekick, the ball dropping to Garvan 12 yards out but the Irishman shot well over.
On the hour, Richards found Currie on the right with a superb cross-field diagonal ball but the former Brighton midfielder's shot was straight at Jensen. Town were starting to pepper the Burnley goal with shots but Juan's 61st minute effort failed to trouble the keeper.
Lee beat Jensen to a poor Harley back header but, with his back to goal, the Irish striker couldn't get any power on the ball and John McGreal, warmly welcomed back to Portman Road, cleared.
A goal seemed like it was only a matter of time and in the 62nd minute it finally arrived. Currie chipped a ball into the box over Naylor to Lee's feet, eight yards out with his back to goal. The former Claret took the ball to his left and hit a shot on the turn past Jensen for his first goal at Portman Road since his £100,000 move.
Town were completely on top and weren't far from a second four minutes later. Barron crossed from the left to Currie beyond the far post. The midfielder deftly chipped in towards Naylor who, stretching, sent the ball over the bar.
Juan went wide from 20 yards, then Richards shot over from a Naylor knockdown in the area. At the other end, Ricketts shot wide after a rare Burnley break.
The hugely impressive Sito made a strong run down the right in the 78th minute and exchanged passes with Currie but Jensen saved his shot.
The Blues finally got the winning goal their domination of the game deserved with 10 minutes remaining. Michael Duff felled the well-placed Alan Lee inside the area, referee Deadman pointing straight to the spot. The Burnley players remonstrated and Thomas took his complaints too far and received his second yellow card of the game.
The former Stoke player, a Town target in the summer, took an age to make his way from the field via the tunnel, after initially walking off by the dug-outs, and could face action for failing to leave the pitch if the referee includes the incident in his report.
While Thomas ambled off, penalty-taker Matt Richards remained calm holding the ball, even exchanging a smile with keeper Jensen. Once the whistle went, the 21-year-old quickly lashed the ball to Jensen's left and into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
The Blues went looking for a third goal against the 10-men, Jensen saving Lee's effort from the edge of the box. The striker almost scored the Town goal of the season with two minutes left on the clock, taking the ball past several defenders and for some distance along the left flank before cutting in and hitting a strike to Jensen's right but the keeper got down well to save.
Burnley sub Wade Elliott got his name in the book only seconds after coming on for a foul on Richards.
As injury time ran down, Jensen was lucky to stay on the field when he pushed an elbow into Lee's face as they pair challenged for an aerial ball. When the Town striker complained to the Dane, he received a glove in the face for his trouble, referee Deadman typically managing to miss the entire incident.
Town's second win from being behind in a week, the Blues' first back to back victories this season and February is already the first month since August in which Joe Royle's side have won two matches.
A disjointed match overall, with Burnley disinclined to involve themselves in an open game, instead preferring to try to stop the Blues playing. Town had the better of the first half but dominated even more after the break, creating chances galore, and thoroughly deserved the win despite rarely being at their most fluent.
Results elsewhere went in favour of Town and, with the Blues already up to 10th place and now nine points off sixth, that late play-off charge is looking a more and more likely proposition.
Town: Supple, Wilnis, Barron, Naylor, De Vos, Westlake (Sito 46), Garvan, Juan, Richards, Currie, Lee. Unused: Price, Magilton, MacDonald, Peters.
Photo: Action Images
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