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Home from the south west and 4-0 wins against Dawlish Town and Elmore, it was a short trip to The Shay and a friendly against Third Division Halifax Town for the Clarets as they continued their pre-season programme.

Chris Vinnicombe and Paul Weller hadn’t been on the tour with both out of contract and looking to move on to new clubs. There was no update on Weller but Vinnicombe, as expected, had left the club after three years. The Burnley Express highlighted that he’d become the fourth big signing during the disastrous First Division campaign of 1994/95 who had left for nothing, following on from Liam Robinson, Steve Thompson and Jamie Hoyland while there had been a big loss when Kurt Nogan was sold to Preston.

Vinnicombe said: “I have agreed terms and I am looking forward to signing for Wycombe. The club obviously has ambition, and the manager Neil Smillie is trying to put a squad together which will hopefully push for promotion to the First Division.”

Hoyland, having left a week earlier, had signed for Scarborough as a player/coach, but there were no incomings although we had been strongly linked with a goalkeeper familiar to Burnley fans. With only Tony Parks and Craig Mawson at the club, a new number one seemed to be an urgent requirement and there was a buzz when we were linked with former loanee Andy Marriott.

He was at Wrexham but there had been a breakdown in his relationship with manager, and former Claret, Brian Flynn. Marriott explained: “I have been told I have no future at Wrexham and it is an irretrievable position. I asked for the support of the manager over a situation, and it was not given.”

Ahead of the game at Halifax, Stan Ternent reported that Michael Williams and Mark Robertson had returned from the tour with injuries: Williams had an ankle problem and Robertson had been forced off at Elmore with a hamstring strain. Neither had trained and Ternent said: “Both are doubts for Halifax, but we will have to wait and see. If they don’t play, it gives someone else a chance to impress.”

He said of the game: “Halifax will be a much tougher test. As I have said, results are not important, but it would be nice to win. If we continue as we have started it will instil great confidence. These next three games give more of our fans a chance to see us in action, and we know we will be well supported. We have to give the fans what they deserve. Some of the players were surprised by the support in Devon, but I wasn’t. We have superb support and we are aiming to give them something in return.”

Steve Blatherwick heads home the opener

Steve Morgan was again in the squad and now joined by Ronnie Jepson, another player on trial with the club. “Both might feature,” Ternent added: “We are seeing what both are capable of. Steve has done well in training and the games, and he offers us versatility in that he can play left-back, centre-half and central midfield. And I know all about Ronnie. He joined up with us in Devon but didn’t play as a precaution as he had a tight hamstring.”

Robertson didn’t make it; Williams did. Morgan again featured but again it was still a watching brief for Jepson in a game that ended 3-3 which left the manager seething at the goals we conceded but, despite holding a 3-1 lead, we were fortunate to get a draw in many ways against a team that were better both in terms of determination and on the ball.

Halifax were at us right from the start and Tony Parks twice came to the rescue after mistakes from Chris Brass and Steve Blatherwick had given them opportunities but then, against the run of play, it was the Clarets who went in front midway through the half.

Paul Smith made progress down the left wing but was brought down. He took the free kick himself and it was a superb, whipped ball into the box that saw BLATHERWICK rise highest to score with a powerful header.

We were close to doubling the lead too, but it was a lead that didn’t last long. Mark Bradshaw got the better of Neil Moore and released Jamie Paterson down the left. Paterson, who had won the Conference Player of the Year Award in 1997/98 as Halifax romped to the title, crossed for Geoff HORSFIELD to slide the ball home at the far post.

It was still 1-1 at half time but the stats were telling. Halifax had troubled out defence with nine shots at goal; our goal was the only occasion we had any attempt at goal. Things got worse too when Andy Payton was forced off with a hamstring injury in the final minute of the half and Parks was left limping with a groin injury that saw him replaced during the interval.

Celebrating the third goal scored by Andy Cooke

The start of the second half was somewhat feisty. Andy Cooke and Kevin Hulme were involved in a bust up and a challenge from Michael Williams on Halifax forward Jon Brown was so late it could have been in the following week’s game.

When things calmed down, it was the Clarets who went back in front but it was a fortuitous goal. Mawson’s long kick was met by Mark SERTORI who headed over his own goalkeeper Tim Carter. And it looked like Burnley’s game three minutes later when we scored again. This was a good move down the left before Neil Moore switched the ball to the right for Glen Little. His cross was pushed away by Carter but COOKE was on hand to turn the ball home.

That should have been it, but Paul STONEMAN headed past Mawson to reduce the arrears and they then put us under some pressure. Having not travelled to the south west, the last time I’d seen Burnley play away from Turf Moor was at Oldham at the end of the previous season when we’d lost a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3.

Surely the same wouldn’t happen here. It did. We just couldn’t handle them as they continued to put us under pressure and three minutes from time they won a corner. It was cleared to SERTORI who this time benefited from good fortune when his shot took a huge deflection to leave Mawson with no chance.

There were no words from the manager at the end but it’s fair to say he didn’t look best pleased at the final whistle.

The teams were;

Halifax: Tim Carter, Andy Thackery, Mark Bradshaw, Stephen Murphy, Mark Sertori, Paul Stoneman, Jamie Paterson, Kevin Hulme, Dave Hanson (Phil Starbuck ht), Geoff Horsfield (Ian Duerden 71), Jon Brown.

Burnley: Tony Parks (Craig Mawson ht), Neil Moore, Chris Brass, Steve Blatherwick (Mark Winstanley 63), Steve Morgan, Glen Little, Michael Williams, Mark Ford (Lee Howey 63), Paul Smith, Andy Cooke (Kevin Henderson 57), Andy Payton (Colin Carr-Lowton 45).

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