Northern Ireland tour ends with big win
Burnley saved their best until last on the pre-season tour to Northern Ireland in 1997 with a 4-1 win against Glentoran at the Oval.
It wasn’t all plain sailing and we did have to come from behind to win the game. But Andy Cooke, who had previously looked subdued and was then involved in the ugly incident in the draw against Glenavon, finally showed the new management team what he was all about with an outstanding performance that saw him score twice.
Manager Chris Waddle opted to play with Cooke as a lone striker in this game, using himself playing behind Cooke in a 3-5-1-1 formation which included playing Chris Vinnicombe in a midfield role.
We played some really good football during the first half but despite this we didn’t really trouble home goalkeeper Neil Armstrong. Vinnicombe really should have given us the lead but managed to fire over the bar when he looked a certain scorer. Glentoran too missed a very good chance. Colin Nixon got into the box, went past Mark Winstanley but opted to take on the shot himself and fluffed his effort.
Cooke had a chance too but then, ten minutes before the interval, Glentoran went in front. Andy Kirk was fortunate to get on the ball after it had ricocheted off Marco Gentile. It enabled him to thread the ball between Steve Blatherwick and Winstanley for Justin McBRIDE to lob Marlon Beresford, much to the delight of the home supporters.
Burnley did level before half time. David Eyres, the new club captain, got down the left wing to float a superb cross to the far post where COOKE stooped to head the ball into the bottom corner.
It didn’t take the Clarets long to go in front after half time. Damian MATTHEW nicked the ball off Chris Walker on the edge of the box. He needed no second invitation and hit the sweetest of left foot shots into the corner of the net, the ball going in off the post.
Winstanley immediately came close to scoring only to see his header from Matthew’s cross cleared off the line but within a minute we got our third and this was the best of the lot. Cooke played a ball across to Waddle on the right. He took control of the ball and then played a superb ball through to COOKE who had stormed forward and the striker slotted home.
There really was just one team in the game now and poor Gavin Cushley had a difficult start when he came on as a substitute goalkeeper to replace Armstrong. Within twenty seconds he was picking the ball out of his net. Cooke was again involved, releasing Paul WELLER with a flicked pass and the midfielder just passed the ball into the bottom corner.
As the game came close to its end, there was even time for Ian Helliwell to get on and four minutes from time he hammered a header against the post. It would have been his first Burnley goal.
Cooke had been warned by Waddle after the incident at Glentoran, but this time the manager said of his striker: “We saw the real Andy Cooke against Glentoran. It was nice to see Cookey blossom after the other day. I had heard a lot about the lad before I came to Burnley without ever having seen him play. Cookey plays a physical game and he has got a lot of strength and desire. It’s probably taken him a few games to feel settled with a new management team in.”
He was also impressed by what he’d seen over the time the players were in Northern Ireland and said: “The squad really impressed me during the tour and I was especially pleased with the fierce commitment. The lads have been very professional on and off the pitch. The nice thing about this squad is there are no big-time Charlies here. Everybody gets on very well and that helps a manager. It is a long season and they’ve got to stick together. I think they will.”
Poor Gerry Harrison, waiting to get back home to his wife and newly born baby, ended the game in hospital with a badly gashed knee. It left him doubtful for the start of the league season and he joined the other absent trio of Mark Ford (food poisoning), Michael Williams (ankle) and Paul Barnes (calf). Glen Little remained unavailable with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, there was some transfer speculation to digest both in and out. Stoke, one division above us, had made an offer for Peter Swan but Waddle said on that one: “At the moment I would fully expect Peter Swan to be joining Bury.”
It was common knowledge that Waddle was looking to bring in a striker and it seemed he was close to getting Andy Walker from Sheffield United. All Waddle would say was: “I’ll have a chat with the chairman about what funds I have to play with.” He added: “We also want players to be able to play at a higher level of football because we are planning for the future as well.”
Burnley: Marlon Beresford, Richard Huxford, (Gerry Harrison 64, Ian Helliwell 76), Mark Winstanley, Marco Gentile (Jamie Hoyland 72), Steve Blatherwick, Damian Matthew, Chris Waddle (Gareth West 55), Paul Weller, Andy Cooke, Chris Vinnicombe, David Eyres.
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