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crewe 2 1000x500For the third year in succession Sean Dyche opted to split his squad in two and play simultaneous pre-season games. It was Crewe and Port Vale yesterday and that meant, for the first time really, a decision had to be made as to which one to attend.

A decision had to be made this time. Opting for Kidderminster over Alfreton was an easy decision in 2017 as was Macclesfield over Curzon Ashton last year. I went for Crewe. There was no reasoning for it other than it being the easier of the two to reach by train from Manchester and, as it turned out, I probably made the wrong choice.

There are, I suppose, two reports you can write for pre-season games. If we win it can all be about how well we played and how well we took the goals; if we lose it is just a matter of reporting that the game is all about fitness while the performance and the result matter not.

At half time yesterday it was looking like the latter kind of report for both games with us trailing 1-0 to a Charlie Kirk goal at Crewe with Tom Pope having given Port Vale a half time 1-0 lead just 13 miles down the road.

For those who made Staffordshire their destination, they got three goals to see in the second half, the first from Chris Wood, then a second from Matěj Vydra with Robbie Brady scoring the third. I’m sure I’ll get to see all of those three goals at some point but within a couple of minutes of getting home I did see Vydra’s on Sky Sports News, a good link up with Wood and a smart finish it was too.

At Crewe, I’m afraid there is little to report that would fit into the first kind of report. I was able to see Erik Pieters’ first public game in Burnley colours, the few shades of blue kit, and Jay Rod’s return. Although Pope scored at Port Vale, we had our own in goal on a day when Ashley Westwood, back at his first club, was given the captaincy.

There wasn’t too much to get excited about. We put a couple of shots off target while Westwood was closest to opening the scoring. He got in a shot from a long delayed ball from Matt Lowton only for Will Jaaskelainen to tip his effort over the bar.

That was about it for us in the first half but Crewe made the most of their best opportunity when Jimmy Dunne, stretching, could only play the ball to Kirk who made no mistake.

If we thought the second half would bring an equaliser we were to be disappointed. We dominated much of the play without ever really threatening and it was Crewe who probably came closest. Having said that, had VAR been in operation, as it will be in three week’s time, I think we’d have been given two penalties in the last five minutes but referee Paul Marsden failed to give either.

And so it ended in a 1-0 victory for Crewe but it really is all about fitness while the performance and the result matter not.

The teams in the two games were;

Port Vale v Burnley

Port Vale: Scott Brown (Jonny Maddison 64), James Gibbons (Callum Evans 60), Adam Crookes, Leon Legge, Luke Joyce, David Worrall (Ryan Campbell-Gordon 76), Tom Pope (Mark Cullen 64), Tom Conlon (Daniel Trickett-Smith 74), Nathan Smith (Connell Rawlinson 60), David Amoo (Scott Burgess 67), Richie Bennett. Subs not used: Richie Bennett.

Burnley: Tom Heaton (Joe Hart ht), Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Gibson, Ali Koiki, Aaron Lennon, Jeff Hendrick, Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Matěj Vydra, Chris Wood. Subs not used: Bobby Thomas, Scott Wilson, Christian N’Guessan, Nahki Wells.

Referee: Oli Yates (Staffordshire).

Crewe v Burnley

Crewe: Will Jaaskelainen, Perry Ng, Nicky Hunt (James Jones 74), Eddie Nolan, Harry Pickering, Daniel Powell, Ryan Wintle, Paul Green (Josh Lundstram 74), Charlie Kirk, Tommy Lowery, Chris Porter. Subs not used: Dave Richards, Lewis Riley, Callum Ainley, Oli Finney, Owen Dale, Billy Sass-Davies.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Josh Benson, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Adam Legzdins, Jordan Cropper, Oliver Younger, Anthony Glennon, Rob Harker.

Referee: Paul Marsden (Lancashire).

Attendance: 2,058 (including 348 Clarets).

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