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nottm forest 2 1000x500Burnley’s five pre-season away games came to an end yesterday with Andre Gray scoring an equaliser as the Clarets drew 1-1 against Championship side Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

It felt like I was on a tour of English cricket’s county grounds to be honest. To avoid travelling time, it was a stopover in Derby between the Brocton and Forest games and the view from the hotel room afforded me a fantastic view of Derbyshire CCC’s ground, albeit with no cricket being played. Just a few hours later, in the pub for lunch, I couldn’t have been closer to Notts CCC’s Trent Bridge home just around two to three minute’s walk from the away turnstiles at the City Ground and I was in there watching the test match coverage on television from The Oval.

But it was a football afternoon and I made that short walk to the closest of the two football grounds ready to see the Clarets in action with Sean Dyche naming Phil Bardsley in his squad for the first time. He was on the subs bench and I was surprised to see Scott Arfield on there too given it is such a short time since he returned from the CONCACAF Gold Cup where he starred or Canada.

Sean Dyche said he would include those who didn’t start at Preston and he was true to his word with all of Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jeff Hendrick, Steven Defour, Ashley Barnes and Gray all in the starting line up and alongside them was James Tarkowski who had missed out altogether at Preston with a hip injury.

We lined up with a sort of 4-3-3 or 4-1-2-3 system. Jack Cork was the midfielder behind the pair of Jeff Hendrick and Steven Defour while Gray was flanked by Jon Walters on the right and Ashley Barnes on the left. As for the opposition, there was one familiar face in Tendayi Darikwa wearing the same number 27 he wore at Burnley, making his Forest bow after his £2 million plus move this week.

The Clarets started brightly enough and we could have been in front. Goalkeeper Jordan Smith just got enough on a Ward cross to prevent Walters from scoring and soon afterwards we were even closer when Tarkowski just couldn’t reach a Defour free kick.

It was all looking good and when Cork played the ball forward to Gray, he got the ball across for Walters who headed against the underside of the bar. From my vantage point I thought it was a chance missed but I was unaware that the goalkeeper had actually got a hand to it for what was a very good save.

Soon after we did get the ball into the Forest net but scorer Gray was ruled offside. I was in no position to judge this but reports suggest it might not have been the correct decision.

I might have missed Smith’s touch to Walters’ header but what I didn’t miss was Forest’s goal right in front of me. They got down their left far too easily for Ben Osborn to cross for Daryl Murphy. He was the Forest player to get a touch but there is no doubt the goal was a Mee own goal meaning for the second year running he’d conceded an own goal against Mark Warburton’s team having done so in last year’s game against Rangers at Ibrox.

Murphy did come close to getting his name on the scoresheet a couple of minutes later. After a poor headed back pass from Matt Lowton, he looked a certain scorer until Tarkowski got involved and after a bit of pinball in the six yard box the final shot was saved well by Tom Heaton.

By half time we couldn’t argue at Forest going in with a lead. Overall, despite our earlier opportunities, they had been the better of the two sides and they looked the side who were all but prepared for the new season which starts for them on Friday when they entertain Millwall.

With Ashley Westwood on for Cork for the second half and ten minutes into the half we were level. Lowton had failed to get a decent ball in from the right when receiving the ball from Westwood but a couple of minutes later he got another opportunity and this time got it spot on for Gray to run in and score from close range.

We were starting to look better and I thought we should have had a certain penalty when Walters was pushed in the box. The referee, named as Andy Woolmer, amazingly said no. But, as at Preston, a rush of substitutions disrupted things and the game died a little although Johann Berg Gudmundsson tested them right at the end with a shot from the edge of the box that Smith kept out.

So, 1-1 it was and Forest can look forward to their Championship opener against Millwall having just escaped the drop on goal difference from Blackburn. As for Burnley, those Turf Moor doors will be opening again this week for the first time since May with two international friendlies against Celta Vigo on Tuesday and then Hannover 96 next Saturday before our next away trip in 13 days to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in our first Premier League game of the season.

The teams were;

Nottingham Forest: Jordan Smith, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Mancienne (Jack Hobbs 60), Joe Worrall, Armand Traore, David Vaughan (Andreas Bouchalakis), Ben Osborn, Zak Clough, Ben Brereton (Jamie Ward ht, Jason Cummings 60), Barrie McKay, Daryl Murphy (Apostolos Vellios 60). Subs not used: Dimitar Evtimov, Chris Cohen, Thomas Lam.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton (Phil Bardsley 73), James Tarkowski, Ben Mee (Charlie Taylor 760, Stephen Ward, Steven Defour (Scott Arfield 60), Jack Cork (Ashley Westwood ht), Jeff Hendrick (Johann Berg Gudmundsson 81), Jon Walters (Sam Vokes 730, Andre Gray (Dan Agyei 81), Ashley Barnes (Robbie Brady 60). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Tom Anderson, Kevin Long.

Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 10,231 (including 566 Clarets).

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