Mullen’s Burnley hit six at Wrexham
When you are appointed caretaker manager of a club, and you want the job permanently, you can do no more than win your first two games and watch your team score six times in the second of them away from home. That’s exactly what Jimmy Mullen did as Burnley beat Wrexham 6-2, the first time a Burnley team had scored six goals in an away league game since the glory days of 1961, and it was a result that gave him more support in the boardroom and on the terraces.
It had been another awful week in town with a second murder in the space of just a few weeks. This time the police moved quickly to arrest 46-year-old Albert Sutcliffe of Cliviger of the murder of his wife Sarah when she was found dead in bed. At the inquest into her death, it was confirmed that when Sarah Sutcliffe, aged 37, had been found she had been shot twice in the head. Her sister informed the inquest that she had been having an affair for several years with a man who had now passed away. She added that there had been a lot of problems and that she hadn’t been in contact with her sister because of some money matters.
With one man accused of murdering his wife, a Padiham man was joining him in court charged with raping his wife. Marital rape exemption had just been abolished and this was thought to be the first such charge in the country to go to court. The man was granted bail but only on the condition that he resided in a hostel in Blackburn. Personally, I’d have preferred to be held in custody than be stuck in Blackburn.
This man might have been allowed out on bail, but the perpetrator of the robbery at the Casterton Avenue petrol station, the man who bought a bar of chocolate and some extra strong mints before demanding money, wasn’t quite so lucky when he appeared before the magistrates. There was no application for bail. Still, he avoided Blackburn.
A young man was barred from the Coach & Horses public house in Church Street. His crime was to steal an ash tray and turn over a table. He vowed to return and did just that to, as he put it, frighten the landlord. Now, had I been the landlord, I reckon I’d have been frightened when the lad returned and pulled an air rifle on him. If that wasn’t bad enough he pointed it at two police officers who were called to the scene. It all ended badly for him. He was fined £50 in court along with £200 costs and an order was made for the forfeiture of the weapon. There was no mention of the ash tray or the damaged table in court.
A week couldn’t go by at this time in 1991 without some mention of the poll tax. There hadn’t been any further jailings in Burnley but people described as ‘anti-poll tax fanatics’ were causing problems. They were inundating the town’s Labour councillors with unwanted goods and food. The tactics were described as shocking by the councillors who, like the protesters, were very much against the new tax that was causing so many problems.
A 71-year-old man certainly had problems when a lady accused him of exposing himself to her in Burnley Flea Market. She said it was the second time in two weeks and this time she was, with the help of her son, able to identify him. The man was distraught. He was covered by a shopping bag but said when he moved the bag he accidentally exposed himself because he wasn’t aware that his trousers were unfastened. That’s what he told the court, but they weren’t impressed and found him guilty of indecent exposure and threatening behaviour.
You did start to feel a little bit of sympathy for the old man until you learned, as the court did, that he’d been found guilty previously of such offences including one very recent case in Boston, Lincs. He received a conditional discharge along with £25 costs and was sent for treatment.
Burnley’s councillors, presumably with more rubbish to dispose of because of all the unwanted goods and food they were receiving, were considering introducing a trial run with wheelie bins.
The trial run was for just a couple of areas in town but one councillor spoke out very strongly against such a trial. It was all too much for Councillor Gordon Birtwistle who said the trial should not go ahead because wheelie bins were unsightly compared to the traditional dustbin, too heavy to use when full, blew away when empty, were dangerous when it was icy and impossible to use when there was snow on the ground. And as difficult as it is to believe, he went on to become our Member of Parliament.
It was a weekend of mixed entertainment in Burnley. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was appearing at the Kestrel Suite, there were karate classes for beginners at the Keirby and the Corporation in Oxford Road had exotic dancers. That wasn’t all. The English Brass Ensemble were appearing at the Mechanics, there was a charity quiz at the Centre Spot at Turf Moor where Miss Matthew Brown 1991 would present the raffle prizes and finally there was a care for the elderly weekend of clairvoyance at the Sparrow Hawk.
For many though it was a trip out of the country into Wales and a Fourth Division date with Brian Flynn’s Wrexham and things weren’t looking too good for Jimmy Mullen ahead of the game. Leading goalscorer Mike Conroy was still ruled out with a groin injury as was David Hamilton with the back injury sustained at Hereford. There was more concern about Ian Measham’s knee. He’d played in the win over Carlisle but would sit this one out as would John Francis who was still suspended. There were also doubts about both Graham Lancashire and Roger Eli but, thankfully, both made it and partnered each other up front for Burnley who turned out in an all blue kit.
It really couldn’t have worked out better for Burnley and Mullen. The Burnley Express headlined with “Wrexham Reeling” and “Six reasons to give Jimmy the job” as Burnley won a sensational game 6-2 to move three places up the table.
In September 1961, Burnley won 6-2 at Birmingham and four days later won by the same scoreline at Leicester. This Wrexham win remains the only occasion since when Burnley have scored six goals away from home in a league fixture.
With all those players out, and with us going a goal down very early in the game, it really was a fantastic performance but, despite this, there were shouts from the away fans for former Blackburn boss Don Mackay or Archie Gemmill, the latest name in the frame, to be offered the job rather than Mullen.
Out on the pitch, the players did just about everything to get Mullen the job and again one of the heroes was the teenage youngster Lancashire, but by the time he and Burnley got to work it was Wrexham who had gone in front. The home team started brightly enough in the opening two minutes or so and then they worked the ball down the right. Colin Marshall’s cross was met by Micky Thomas and when his shot went past Andy Marriott Burnley were in some trouble and there was Gordon DAVIES with an early goal from close range.
A goal down after two minutes was hardly the start we wanted but add another two minutes and the game had changed dramatically. Within a minute John Deary and Roger Eli linked up with a 1-2 and Deary went through. It was a good effort from the midfielder that goalkeeper Vince O’Keefe parried, but there was LANCASHIRE to get on the rebound to finish. That was three in three for the young striker since coming into the team. He did awfully well to keep his balance. The ‘keeper did well with the save but that’s the poacher’s instinct.
Wrexham attacked down their right from the restart but Ian Bray took the ball and played it down the line for Eli who stormed forward. He loved to run at defences and he had a man over to his right in Harper. He played it across and in two minutes it had gone from 1-0 down to 2-1 up for Burnley. Steve HARPER took his time and it was through the legs of the goalkeeper. What a start to the game. With just four minutes gone it was 2-1. We had to wait over 20 minutes for the next goals, but when Burnley again scored two in two minutes, it was worth waiting for.
A right wing corner taken by Joe Jakub was hoisted beyond the far post for Steve Davis. His header back in was headed back to him. This time he took on the defender before crossing for LANCASHIRE to head home from almost on the line. It was getting easier for Lancashire and easier for Burnley . It was 3-1 now. Almost immediately a free kick from defence found Eli whose flicked header reached LANCASHIRE just outside the penalty box. He eyed it up and placed his shot brilliantly into the top corner. What a way to get a hat trick. Graham Lancashire had made it 4-1 and for those who didn’t know, the scoreboard told them ‘GOAL’ it read.
Further good play by Andy Thackery, and neat play by Steve Watkin down the right set up Andy PREECE to make it 4-2 before the break but what a first half from Burnley and from Lancashire.
Wrexham thought they should have had a penalty early in the second half for handball but referee Vanes waved it away and from that moment on it was all Burnley as we totally dominated the rest of the game. DAVIS made it 5-2 when he headed in Jakub’s free kick from the right and then, with just over a minute remaining, Eli got the goal his performance so richly deserved. He was played in superbly by Paul France. Did ELI use his hand? No he didn’t, and that was six for Burnley as he finished expertly.
Jimmy Mullen strode to the touchline at the final whistle to salute his players. He was also sending the message to the directors – “I want the job”.
There was no news from the boardroom but it was impossible to wipe the smile from Mullen’s face when he spoke after the game. “We’ve worked hard all week for what we were going to do today,” he said. “That work has paid dividends and it was a great performance from everyone. It was a shock to the system when they scored after two minutes. It caught us cold, but I think that the response from the boys was right and was professional and to go a goal up just two minutes after being behind was a superb piece of professional work.”
He also had a word for his young goalscorer Graham Lancashire, and said: “By anyone’s standards, five goals in three games is a great record, you couldn’t ask for more. The hat trick goal was sensational. It would have done Gary Lineker proud. How many times will he score a goal that good in his career?” Having substituted the hat trick hero, Mullen admitted: “The emotions and the pace caught up with him and that’s why he came off. He was a threat and a danger from start to finish. He doesn’t mind getting stuck in where it hurts and he had taken a nasty knock on the hip just before half time.
“Three weeks ago one of our strengths was meant to be the number of strikers we had. Today we were down to the bare bones, but they performed magnificently and there will be a big scrap for shirts when John Francis and Mike Conroy are both available again. But having said that, Roger Eli was a perfect foil for Lancashire and I was really pleased for him when he scored right at the end.”
The result lifted Burnley three places in the table to eighth, with a home game the following week against fifth place Walsall, a difficult game against a side with Rod McDonald who had already scored seven league goals. By then, surely, we would know who the new manager was to be.
The teams were;
Wrexham: Vince O’Keefe, Andy Thackery, Phil Hardy, Nigel Beaumont, Micky Thomas, Joey Jones, Gordon Davies (Lee Jones 65), Gareth Owen, Colin Marshall, Steve Watkin, Andy Preece. Sub not used: Jim Kelly.
Burnley: Andy Marriott, Paul France, Ian Bray, Steve Davis, John Pender, Andy Farrell, Steve Harper, John Deary, Graham Lancashire (Mark Monington 80), Joe Jakub, Roger Eli. Sub not used: Mark Yates.
Referee: Paul Vanes (Warley).
With games played over three days, we had new leaders for 24 hours after the Saturday games with Mansfield Town going to the top on goal difference from Barnet and Hereford United. Blackpool, however, went back to the top with a convincing win against Lincoln City on the Sunday.
Fourth Division Results
Friday 11th October 1991
Crewe 0 Walsall 1
Saturday 12th October 1991
Barnet 2 York 0
Carlisle 0 Scunthorpe 0
Chesterfield 1 Rotherham 1
Halifax 0 Gillingham 3
Hereford 1 Aldershot 0
Maidstone 2 Doncaster 2
Rochdale 0 Mansfield 2
Scarborough 2 Northampton 1
Wrexham 2 Burnley 6
Sunday 13th October 1991
Blackpool 3 Lincoln 0
Burnley’s Goalscorers (League Only)
5: Graham Lancashire
4: MIke Conroy, Roger Eli
2: John Francis, Steve Harper
1: Steve Davis, John Pender, Mark Yates