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When Burnley lost their Youth Alliance League game at Walsall last week it took the Saddlers above Bury and into first place in the league. This morning Bury were confident of regaining top spot with a win at Burnley but things didn’t quite work out for them as they had planned.

It was a busy morning at Gawthorpe. When I arrived both the Burnley and Bury players were warming up while, to my surprise, a coach carrying Liverpool players was parking up in the car park by the building I will always refer to as Arthur’s bungalow (Arthur Bellamy and his wife Maureen were the last people to live there).

Nashé Chakwana  scored Burnley's winner
Nashé Chakwana scored Burnley’s winner

It later became clear that there were two games to be played, our Youth Alliance League game against Bury and an under-16 fixture against Liverpool.

Michael Duff had a stronger squad to select from than has been the case recently. His starting eleven was made up of four second year scholars, four first year scholars, recent recruits Ali Koiki and RJ Pingling and one under-16 Ethan Kershaw who has settled in almost as a regular now at this level.

It reached a point last season when watching the youth team had become anything but an enjoyable experience. I missed a number of games I could have got to, to be honest, and I’d little enthusiasm left. This season, although the results have now always been positive, it is a much better experience and today’s performance, in fact the game as a whole, proved to be very enjoyable even though we had a referee who was less predictable than Craig Pawson.

The first half an hour was a fairly even affair. Both teams had chances, both goalkeepers made good saves and both teams could, arguably, have done better in front of goal. But it all sprung into life just past the half hour when, after almost going behind, Burnley took control.

No matter who plays, this is now a back four who don’t give things away too easily, but Bury looked certain scorers when the ball dropped kindly for them in the box. It wasn’t quite as spectacular as Oliver Younger’s recent block but a superb block from Scott Wilson kept the ball out and from that we went straight down to the other end when only a foul just outside the box stopped Nashé Chakwana from getting beyond the back four.

The free kick brought a corner which was only half cleared and the ball eventually reached RJ Pingling on the left wing. His ball in appeared to deflect off a defender before finding its way into the net at the far post beyond the helpless goalkeeper.

From the spectator side of the pitch it was impossible to determine whether it would have gone in without the defender’s touch, but I’m sure he won’t want the goal so the goal can be awarded to Pingling.

There were just over nine minutes of the first half remaining and, to be honest, we could so easily have had the game won by the break. A couple of efforts missed the target, they got in blocks and last ditch challenges and the goalkeeper twice kept us out.

Even so, 1-0 at half time was good and it was a half time lead we fully deserved.

Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last very long into the second half with Bury equalising with less than two minutes gone. I felt it was very fortunate because it came from a free kick just inside their own half that looked, if I was being kind to the referee, very soft indeed.

From there they won another free kick not too far outside our box and this time they made it count with their forward getting to the ball first to deftly head home into the corner.

Maybe at this stage of the game, Bury could have been considered favourites, but we regrouped and really got back into the game again with Dwight McNeil on the left particularly effective. But he wasn’t the only one, this was proving to be a good team performance and we got what we so richly deserved with just under twenty minutes to go.

The front two combined with Pingling playing in Chakwana who moved forward into a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. A goal never looked in doubt, he took it as coolly as you like to restore a lead that this time wouldn’t be lost.

Bury pushed hard for an equaliser with their best chance coming from a free kick. It didn’t just go over the bar, it went over by some considerable distance before we should have been given the opportunity for the best chance of the lot in the first minute of stoppage time.

Tommy Wood had just come on for the injured Chakwana and was clearly pulled back in the penalty box. You won’t see a clearer penalty but the referee gave nothing, in fact he appeared to see it, acknowledge it and then strangely play an advantage.

It mattered not, Burnley were winners, a first victory since beating Tranmere in August when Chakwana also scored the winner.

The team was: Connor King, James Clarke, Oliver Younger, Scott Wilson, Ali Koiki, Olatunde Bayode, Ethan Kershaw, Tyler Shrimpton, Dwight McNeil, Nashé Chakwana (Tommy Wood 89), RJ Pingling.

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