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stockport 1000x500It was March 2002 when I last visited Edgeley Park, the home of Stockport County, the club who, for some very strange reason, decided we should be their rivals.

Gareth Taylor and Ian Cox scored in a 2-0 win against a side already doomed to relegation and the Burnley fans all stood to sarcastically wave goodbye to them. Two seasons earlier they’d been a division higher than us; today they are five levels below in the football pyramid, playing their football in the National League North.

But today they also allowed us use of their ground for our final Premier League Cup game of the season. With Turf Moor getting its much needed rest we left for Stockport and then received news of two pitch inspections, a delayed kick off and finally game on with the kick off time restored to the original time of 1 p.m.

With all that, I hoped it would all be worth it and it most definitely was with eight goals, a host of close calls and an enjoyable ninety minutes that saw us at least end our interest in the competition with a victory.

The Burnley line up had caused some confusion. That given out during the morning wasn’t exactly correct and it eventually contained two trialists in the starting line up, one of whom we will call Harry Flowers and the other Trialist 1, and two on the bench, Trialist 2 and Harry Limb. For a while before kick off we also had a Bitch in the team; that proved to be right-back Arlen Birch. It reminded me of the day that I wrote about the potential for P3 to extend their sponsorship deal at Burnley and I missed out the letter R in shirt. It went unnoticed until someone contacted me to ask if it was a typing error or what I really thought of the deal.

Kevin Long made a return from injury, otherwise it was a young Burnley team, including three members of the youth team. But Sunderland, who are very strong at this level, had a much more experienced team out including some who were involved when they went out of the FA Cup at Turf Moor last month.

It was certainly a lively start to the game and there were chances at both ends. Conor Mitchell made one good save to keep Burnley level and we had a couple of situations of our own. Then, midway through the half, the game got its first superb goal when we took the lead through Dan Agyei (pictured).

Now with Football League experience at Coventry, he collected the ball inside his own half of the pitch to the left of centre. He stormed forward past a couple of defenders before reaching the penalty box before hitting a low shot into the corner of the net.

Things turned against us though. Eight minutes later and Sunderland were level and four minutes on from that they went in front. Reece Greenwood got the first for them and Josh Maja was the player who gave them the lead.

It was a difficult period of the game for us and Sunderland really should have made it 3-1 within a couple of minutes as they looked to put us under some pressure. Long made a last ditch clearance and a minute later what should have been 3-1 to Sunderland became 2-2 when Agyei got his and Burnley’s second, this time heading home a Dwight McNeil cross.

Incredibly, by the time of the half time whistle we were back in front. A right wing corner from McNeil was met by Jimmy Dunne, playing on this occasion in midfield. His header went in via the goalkeeper and post and shortly afterwards the half time whistle blew with Burnley 3-2 up.

Interestingly, these games are not usually refereed by Football League officials; this one was, it was Peter Bankes from Merseyside who finally made his mark early in the second half. Burnley had replaced Trialist 1 with Trialist 2. With no fourth official on duty we just kicked off the second half with the change, that as until Bankes spotted it. He came over, had a word with someone on the touchline and then promptly yellow carded Trialist 2 for entering the field of play without permission. I don’t think the player was too concerned to be honest and he did go on to leave a more positive mark on the game.

Six minutes into the half and we extended our lead. Another McNeil corner from the right seemed to bounce around and it looked as though Arlen Birch (with an R not a T) had stooped to head home. It was certainly no scorpion kick as suggested on the message board but he did apparently flick it in.

But it was the goal that made the score 5-2 that was the most memorable. The yellow carded trialist must have been at least 25-yards out when he unleashed a shot that flew into the top corner as the goals continued.

That was it for Burnley but Sunderland did pull one back close to the end. It came from the penalty spot after Long had tripped a player in the box. It was the eighth and last goal of the game.

It really had been an enjoyable game of football and we turned in a very good performance against what is a very strong academy team. It was a credit to both teams in what were difficult conditions. Agyei will get the headlines probably because of that first goal but there were good performances elsewhere.

That’s it for this season in the Premier League Cup but hopefully when we next play in the competition we will have a category 2 academy and will then be playing in a competitive league at this level.

I enjoyed my first return to Edgeley Park in almost 15 years.

The teams were; Burnley: Conor Mitchell, Arlen Birch, Harry Flowers, Kevin Long, Scott Wilson, Tristan Jumeau (Tommy Wood 85), Jimmy Dunne, Trialist 1 (Trialist 2 ht), Dwight McNeil, Jamie Thomas (Harry Limb 55). Subs not used: Tony Aghayere, Taofiq Olomowewe.

Sunderland: James Talbot, Josh Robson, Denver Hume, Elliot Embleton, Dan Casey, Sam Brotherton, Luke Molyneux, Ethan Robson, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja (Owen Gamble 86), Reece Greenwood. Subs not used: Max Strjjek, Dan Wright, Jean-Yves Poame, Brandon Taylor.

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