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Saturday night football came to Burnley fifty years ago with Sheffield United our visitors in a First Division clash.

With Saturday a working day in Burnley during the three-day week, and the Government lifting the ban on the use of generators by football clubs, Burnley, who had purchased a generator at a cost of £30,000 confirmed that it would be in use with kick off time at 7 p.m. to allow all those working to attend.

Some of our players had been on duty elsewhere during the week. Four of them were in international squads facing each other at under-23 level. Alan Stevenson was surprisingly left out of the England team by Sir Alf Ramsey but Paul Fletcher played and came up against Jeff Parton and Leighton James, both in the Wales team in a game played at Ashton Gate, home of Bristol City. Parton proved to be the hero for the Welsh, making a string of fine saves in shocking conditions to earn his team a draw in a goalless encounter. His best save was from Fletcher. “I couldn’t let him score, could I?” Parton said after the game.

Meanwhile captain Martin Dobson had been to the BBC studios in Manchester to take part in Question of Sport, that’s the TV programme that was good until Paddy McGuinness got his hands on it. Dobbo was in Henry Cooper’s team alongside showjumper Graham Fletcher, taking on Cliff Morgan’s team with guests Virginia Wade and John Edrich from the worlds of tennis and cricket.

With all of the players back at Burnley, we were looking to put that bad result at Derby a week earlier behind us. We were expected to win too which would continue our unbeaten home record in the league. And, we hadn’t been beaten in successive league games since Blackpool and Sunderland beat us on their own grounds over the Easter period in 1972.

Jimmy Adamson had no intentions of making big changes despite the mauling at Derby a week earlier, he made just one with Jim Thomson, having been the substitute since recovering from a hip injury, returning to the side. He came back in alongside Colin Waldron in defence and that meant Geoff Nulty returning to right-back, Peter Noble moving from there into midfield to replace Billy Ingham who dropped to the bench,

Tony Currie, Sheffield United’s play maker, was considered doubtful but recovered to play although they were without Billy Dearden up front and his place was taken by David Staniforth. Under new manager Ken Furphy, the major surprise came in goal. Tom McAllister had been out with a broken leg since October with John Connaughton coming in, but Furphy dropped him and brought in John Hope who hadn’t played a first team game in two years.

It wasn’t Burnley’s night and we fell to defeat at home for the first time in a league game since Sheffield Wednesday had beaten us in the previous season. We were beaten 2-1 because our finishing never matched the two splendid efforts that won the game for visitors.

John Hope saves from Paul Fletcher

They hounded us like a pack of hungry wolves during the first half which prevented us from settling into our normal style at all, and we suffered the setback of a goal in only the third minute of the game.

England star Currie started the move by beating two men and sending Staniforth on his way. The centre-forward held off Keith Newton’s challenge and crossed to the edge of the penalty area. The ball dropped to the right of Keith EDDY and he fell as he hit the ball on the half volley. But the control and power was all there as the ball ripped into the bottom corner of the net, clipping Alan Stevenson’s outstretched hand on the way.

Our efforts to get back into the game during the first half lacked the necessary inspiration to break down their defenders and it wasn’t until the second half that the pattern of the game changed and we began to dominate.

The equaliser came just seven minutes into the half and could be attributed to an error by goalkeeper Hope. He was slow coming for a through pass and Leighton James’ challenge forced the ball from his grasp and into the path of Doug Collins to the left of goal. His instant cross arrived invitingly into the box where Ray HANKIN muscled his way past two defenders and timed his jump perfectly to head home.

Burnley were now on top but this was the period of the game when our finishing let us down. Hankin should have scored again but he shot weakly and James screwed a ball wide of the post when he looked a certain scorer.

We were looking tied on for a win but then, out of the blue, Currie, whose class had shone throughout the match, showed how to start and finish a move. He first picked up the ball on the halfway line and after making space for himself he sent Geoff Salmons racing clear down the left wing. As the low centre came over Colin Waldron tackled Staniforth and the ball broke perfectly for CURRIE to send a scorching drive past Stevenson from twenty yard.

We were now chasing a game that we should have already won and went on to suffer some bad luck. Hope lost the ball to Fletcher and the ball dropped for Hankin whose shot was only kept out by the outstretched leg of Len Badger on the line. A Nulty header hit Hope and bounced out.

Whatever we tried just wouldn’t come off and the points finally were on their way to Bramall Lane. Our team performance generally couldn’t be faulted except in that vital area of finishing. It proved again, it’s not the number of chances you create but the number of times you hit the back of the net that counts.

Ray Hankin heads home Burnley’s goal

Manager Adamson said after the game: “It was our first defeat in eighteen home league games but we did not deserve to lose. We did not play well in the first half but after the interval we had enough chances to win. In fact, we created more chances than Derby did when they beat us 5-1 last week.

“The two goals against us were both very well struck and this wasn’t a hangover from the defeat at Derby. I could not fault my players in any way except for their finishing.”

Positive words for the players from their manager but some Burnley fans didn’t receive much in the way of praise from chairman Bob Lord who was surprisingly unhappy with an attendance of over 18,800 and accused those who didn’t attend of giving the club a kick in the teeth.

The outspoken chairman said: “I am terribly disappointed. I expected a gate of over 25,000. It was only an experiment but it will certainly not be repeated. We at Burnley Football Club don’t like to make the same mistake twice.

“There will be no more Saturday night football at Turf Moor, even if the national crisis goes on for months. It was a wonderful night, mild and dry, yet we didn’t get an average gate. We have spent £30,000 on a generator and put the kick off back to 7 p.m. to accommodate people working who could not get o the game. All we got was a kick in the teeth. I excuse those who were on night shift but that was only a small minority.”

He added: “We are only a village club and we have to work ten times as hard as every other club to get even reasonable gates.”

On the day after the game, many of the players attended the wedding of former Claret Alan West to Catherine Sutcliffe. The happy couple then went off on a one-day honeymoon with Alan required back for training at Luton on the Tuesday.

Two defeats in successive games and now it was another break from league action with the Clarets set to visit Oldham a week later in the FA Cup fourth round.

The teams were;

Burnley: Alan Stevenson, Geoff Nulty, Keith Newton, Martin Dobson, Colin Waldron, Jim Thomson, Peter Noble, Ray Hankin, Paul Fletcher, Doug Collins, Leighton James. Sub not used: Billy Ingham.

Sheffield United: John Hope, Len Badger, Ted Hemsley, John Flynn, Eddie Colquhoun, Keith Eddy, Alan Woodward, Mick Speight, David Staniforth, Tony Currie, Geoff Salmons. Sub not used: Steve Cammack.

Referee: Mr. D. Turner (Cannock).

Attendance: 18,878.

We were still third in the table with Leicester, Derby and QPR all just one point behind. Leicester had recorded a big 5-0 win against Ipswich in which Frank Worthington netted a hat trick with two of the goals coming from the penalty spot. It’s worth mentioning Tottenham’s 2-1 in against Coventry because that concludes the wins and losses for the week with all the other eight games ending in draws which suggested there would be no big pools winners.

First Division Results

Saturday 19th January 1974
Birmingham 1 Manchester City 1
Burnley 1 Sheffield United 2
Chelsea 1 Derby 1
Everton 0 Leeds 0
Leicester 5 Ipswich 0
Manchester United 1 Arsenal 1
Newcastle 1 West Ham 1
Norwich 1 Wolves 1
Southampton 2 QPR 2
Stoke 1 Liverpool 1
Tottenham 2 Coventry 1

Burnley Goalscorers (League)

7: Paul Fletcher
6: Ray Hankin
4: Geoff Nulty
3: Frank Casper, Doug Collins, Martin Dobson, Leighton James, Colin Waldron
1: Billy Ingham

Burnley Goalscorers (Cups)

7: Ray Hankin, Leighton James
5: Paul Fletcher, Peter Noble
3: Geoff Nulty
2: Colin Waldron
1: Doug Collins, Martin Dobson, Keith Newton

First Division Leading Goalscorers

16: Mick Channon (Southampton)
14: Alan Woodward (Sheffield United)
13: Mick Jones (Leeds), Frank Worthington (Leicester)
12: Stan Bowles (QPR)
10: Kevin Hector (Derby), Bob Latchford (Birmingham)
9: Tommy Baldwin (Chelsea) Alan Ball (Arsenal), Martin Chivers (Tottenham), Derek Dougan (Wolves), David Johnson (Ipswich), Kevin Keegan (Liverpool), Malcolm MacDonald (Newcastle), John Richards (Wolves)
8: Bryan Hamilton (Ipswich), Geoff Hurst (Stoke), Mick Lambert (Ipswich), Peter Osgood (Chelsea)

League Table

Pos Team pld w d l f a ga pts
 
1 Leeds 26 17 9 0 45 14 3.21 43
2 Liverpool 26 14 7 5 34 22 1.55 35
3 Burnley 25 11 8 6 33 29 1.14 30
4 Leicester 26 10 9 7 36 27 1.33 29
5 Derby 26 10 9 7 32 25 1.28 29
6 QPR 26 9 11 6 40 34 1.18 29
7 Everton 26 10 8 8 27 25 1.08 28
8 Ipswich 25 11 6 8 38 39 0.97 28
9 Newcastle 25 11 5 9 33 27 1.22 27
10 Southampton 26 8 10 8 34 37 0.92 26
11 Arsenal 27 9 8 10 30 33 0.91 26
12 Sheffield United 25 9 7 9 34 32 1.06 25
13 Manchester City 25 9 7 9 27 26 1.04 25
14 Coventry 27 9 7 11 29 34 0.85 25
15 Wolves 26 8 8 10 32 37 0.86 24
16 Tottenham 26 8 8 10 28 36 0.78 24
17 Stoke 25 6 10 9 33 29 1.14 22
18 Chelsea 25 8 6 11 39 37 1.05 22
19 West Ham 26 5 8 13 29 43 0.67 18
20 Birmingham 25 5 8 12 27 43 0.63 18
21 Manchester United 25 5 7 13 22 33 0.67 17
22 Norwich 25 2 10 13 18 38 0.47 14
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