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Burnley had a second successive home game as 1999 got underway as 1998 had ended with a home draw but this one against Walsall was very much different than the 0-0 draw against Lincoln City five days earlier.

Lincoln were bottom of the league and even with the point they won from the 1-1 draw, they were still four points behind Macclesfield and Oldham, the two teams directly above them. The visitors this time were Walsall and they were very much chasing promotion and sat in second place behind leaders Fulham.

Stan Ternent had made three changes from the Lincoln game and all brought good news. Andy Payton was fit to return having missed that previous game with a hamstring injury. He was back to partner Andy Cooke with Peter Swan dropping out. New signing Graham Branch was in for his debut in place of Phil Eastwood.

Usually, a new signing would receive a really warm reception from the Burnley fans on his debut, particularly with the debut coming at home, but he was almost ignored with all the eyes on the return of prodigal son Steve Davis who had been bought back from Luton after three and a half years away.

Davis received the most amazing of welcome and it helped set up a Turf Moor atmosphere that was better than it had been for some time. On another day it might also have brought us the win we needed so much and one that we should have got from a performance that was as confident and as good as anything all season. The only thing missing was a goal all our efforts deserved.

Walsall, under the management of Ray Graydon, showed no adventure at all. Their plan was clear, to pick up an away point, a crazy plan too given our lowly position. They showed so little adventure and had their goalkeeper Jimmy Walker to thank for winning them their point.

Over the ninety minutes, we fired no fewer than twenty efforts at his goal but when called upon, Walker was up to the task, not the first time we’d been thwarted by a top goalkeeping performance. There were times when he received little support from his defenders but he did from the Burnley team whose only fault was an inability to find the target with so many of our efforts.

Both Payton and Cooke were guilty of missing chances while new signing Branch, with his opportunities, might have ended his first game walking off with the match ball but, one way or another, it was always going to be about Davis.

Steve Davis in control

His passing, particularly the spraying of cross field balls, was a reminder of what we’d missed during his time at Luton and his organising of the defence was there for all to see, allowing Brian Reid to pick up all the man of the match accolades while Ally Pickering again showed just what a good signing he was and Steve Morgan continued to impress.

That defensive performance, along with Walsall’s lack of adventure, meant the quietest of days for Paul Crichton in goal.

After a quiet opening to the game, we created our first chance after twelve minutes with Walker denying Davis who had gone up for a set piece. The rest of the first half was virtually one way traffic but the goal didn’t come.

Walsall went off relieved at half time and although they showed more adventure after the break, they were still second best but no matter what we did, the goal wouldn’t come.

Midway through the half came the game’s big talking point. Payton broke into the Walsall box but Richard Green thrust out an arm to block his path and forced Payton to stumble despite making every effort to stay on his feet. Referee Trevor Jones blew immediately and the home fans prepared for a Payton penalty. Jones though carded Payton for diving but it was a clear penalty.

Andy Payton’s goal is disallowed

Walsall then had a goal ruled out for offside before Payton missed the chance of the match. Mark Ford, again in really good form, saw his powerful shot parried by Walker. Payts looked a certain scorer but squirted the rebound wide. He did get the ball in the net soon after that but it was ruled out because the ball had gone out of play earlier in the move.

Crichton made his one big save to prevent Darren Wrack winning it for Walsall but Burnley continued their push for a winner which just wouldn’t come. It was another draw, but this performance was so much better than in previous games and fans left believing that we wouldn’t drop into that bottom four if we could continue.

Davis said after the game: “Things went okay. It’s nice to keep a clean sheet and 0-0 against Walsall, a side near the top of the league, isn’t bad. We created a few chances but didn’t get the rub of the green. I am very optimistic things will improve.”

Our other new signing Branch was happy too. He had moved on from Stockport after a fall out with their manager Gary Megson. He explained: “I won’t go into what happened at Stockport. I have forgotten about that. But the gaffer here has a lot of belief in me and if I have any problems, he said I could go to him, which I appreciate.

“This is a massive club and I hope to go places with them. The size and passion of the club took me by surprise. This is the biggest club I have played for. I want to get into the Premiership, I’m not just looking at the First Division. This club is geared to do that, and if we can play like we did today, I am going to do that with Burnley.”

After the defeat at Fulham, some fans weren’t happy with Ternent claiming it wasn’t his team. After this game, he said: “I was criticised for saying it wasn’t my team because I had only four of my own players in. Saturday was a little different. There was Andy Cooke, Andy Payton, Mark Robertson and Mark Ford and the rest of them were my lot and I think they are gelling together quite well and that’s what I meant when I said that. “It may take a little longer but we are getting there. And I am hopeful that I can give them (the fans) what they have come to expect at Burnley and what they are hoping and wishing for. In conjunction with the chairman Mr Kilby we intend to have a right good go at it.”

The teams were;

Burnley: Paul Crichton, Ally Pickering, Steve Davis, Brian Reid, Steve Morgan, Mark Ford, Mark Robertson, Gordon Armstrong, Graham Branch (Peter Swan 80), Andy Cooke, Andy Payton. Subs not used: Chris Brass, Kevin Henderson.

Walsall: Jimmy Walker, Chris Marsh, Neil Pointon, Gary Porter, Richard Green, Ian Roper, Darren Wrack, Andy Watson, Andy Rammell, Bjarni Larusson, Paul Simpson. Subs not used: Jason Brissett, Wayne Thomas, Adrian Viveash.

Referee: Trevor Jones (Barrow).

Attendance: 10,892.

There were just five games played on the first Saturday of the year and that enabled us to move up two places in the league to seventeenth, going a point ahead of both Northampton and Wrexham whose games were postponed.

Division Two Results

Saturday 2nd January 1999
Burnley 0 Walsall 0
Colchester 2 Luton 2
Gillingham 1 Blackpool 0
Reading 1 Chesterfield 2
Wycombe 1 York 2

Burnley Goalscorers (League)

13: Andy Payton
5: Andy Cooke
2: Rune Vindheim
1; Gordon Armstrong, Phil Eastwood, Kevin Henderson, Glen Little, Brian Reid, Mark Robertson

Burnley Goalscorers (Cups)

3: Andy Payton
1: Andy Cooke

Leading Goalscorers

13: Carl Asaba (Gillingham), Richard Cresswell (York), Andy Payton (Burnley), Andy Rammell (Walsall)
11: Barry Hayles (Fulham, 9 with Bristol Rovers), Mark Stein (Bournemouth)
10: Stuart Barlow (Wigan)
9: Carlo Corazzin (Northampton), Martin Williams (Reading)
8: Shaun Goater (Manchester City), Kurt Nogan (Preston)
7: Grant Brebner (Reading), Jamie Cureton (Bristol Rovers), Paul Shaw (Millwall), Darren Wrack (Walsall)

League Table

Pos Team pld w d l f a gd pts
1 Fulham 23 15 4 4 36 17 19 49
2 Walsall 25 14 5 6 35 28 7 47
3 Stoke 24 14 2 8 31 19 12 44
4 Preston 23 12 7 4 41 23 18 43
5 Gillingham 24 10 11 3 35 19 16 41
6 Bournemouth 22 11 6 5 35 22 13 39
7 Manchester City 24 9 9 6 28 22 6 36
8 Chesterfield 24 10 6 8 25 20 5 36
9 Wigan 24 9 7 8 31 23 8 34
10 Reading 23 9 7 7 27 29 -2 34
11 York 25 9 7 9 35 41 -6 34
12 Blackpool 25 8 9 8 29 29 0 33
13 Millwall 24 8 9 7 24 26 -2 33
14 Luton 22 8 7 7 29 26 3 31
15 Bristol Rovers 23 6 10 7 27 25 2 28
16 Colchester 24 6 9 9 23 32 -9 27
17 Burnley 25 6 8 11 26 40 -14 26
18 Northampton 24 5 10 9 23 27 -4 25
19 Wrexham 24 6 7 11 22 33 -11 25
20 Notts County 23 6 6 11 26 34 -8 24
21 Wycombe 25 5 8 12 24 31 -7 23
22 Macclesfield 24 4 9 11 19 30 -11 21
23 Oldham 24 5 6 13 23 38 -15 21
24 Lincoln 24 4 5 15 23 43 -20 17
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