They got Worthy out
Today should have seen us play our final away game of the season at Norwich. It was the game we’d chosen for a weekend away but our group are all currently stuck at home, no weekend in Norwich and no first league game at Carrow Road since 2010 when two Martin Paterson goals gave us a 2-0 lead only for Norwich to draw level in the second half, the second of them coming with a stoppage time goal that everyone in the ground saw was handball other than the hapless referee Trevor Kettle.
Today though, we’ll take a look back at our game there in October 2006. We’d gone into the weekend in 7th place in the table while our hosts were 15th, a position considered not good enough and one that had placed their manager Nigel Worthington under enormous pressure with fans launching campaigns to get him removed.
The game was played on Sunday lunchtime in front of the Sky cameras and proved to be a good watch for those Clarets there and those watching on television. We won 4-1 and below is my report from the day.
When substitute Alan Mahon hammered in an unstoppable last goal in the closing stages it was the first time we’d hit four in a winning away performance since we beat Stoke by the same 4-1 scoreline towards the end of the 1998/99 season.
And how we deserved it, this really was a treat of a performance without a weak link anywhere on the pitch. We were masterful at the back, inventive and in control in midfield and the front two surely gave Norwich their most difficult afternoon since the days when they were taking on the likes of Thierry Henry and Ruud Van Nistelrooy in the Premiership.
Getting to Norwich is not the easiest of journeys when watching the Clarets, and it was easy to hesitate given the early start needed and the fact that it was on television. For the early part of the afternoon I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere other than in the end block of the new stand at Carrow Road.
We wondered how Norwich would react following the latest Delia Smith PR gaffe, as it happened they turned in a committed performance, but they were simply beaten by a Burnley side that were just a lot better than them on the day.
As expected Steve Cotterill made just the one forced change to the side, Frank Sinclair coming in to replace the suspended Wayne Thomas, Frank playing at right back with Michael Duff partnering John McGreal in the centre. And it was Captain Frank again as he took the armband and led the side out to the sounds of Dario G, for one moment I thought I was back at Crewe.
We defended the end closest to us in the first half and I quickly pointed out that we played that way in the first half the last time we won at Carrow Road six seasons earlier, failing to add that most of the defeats since had come with us playing that way too.
We nearly got ourselves an early lead, as Duff got on the end of a free kick from Sinclair, but from close range he put his shot against the post when he’ll probably feel he should have scored. Norwich had a couple of opportunities, one in particular when their leading scorer Robert Earnshaw could have done better as he came in from the left. There were no somersaults from him this time but it was quickly becoming an isolated attack as the Clarets dominated.
Micah Hyde, he who scores goals only rarely, and usually in important games, got in but his shot was blocked. We needn’t have worried because in our very next attack we took the lead. The ball was played up to Gifton Noel-Williams who did so well to take it, turn and eventually play it out to Steve Jones on the left. Jonah got in a low cross which was swept in by James O’Connor with the home defence all at sea.
It was no more than we deserved but the home side came back and we were indebted to Brian Jensen who made a top save to keep them out after the ball took a late and cruel deflection. It was the nearest they came and we looked the more likely, as we pushed looking for a second before half time and it came in stoppage time. Andy Gray got the ball out to Wade Elliott on the right. The winger took the ball forward before playing a delightful ball into the box where Gray got on the end of it to head into the corner giving goalkeeper Paul Gallacher no chance.
Up went the red cards from the home fans demonstrating against their manager and the Clarets joined in with their chants of, “We want Worthy out.” It wouldn’t be the last time we heard it and I have to say I don’t think I can ever remember a football manager being subjected to anything like this before inside a ground during a game.
We didn’t care, we were two up as referee Crossley blew for half time and that gave the Burnley fans the chance to sample Delia’s Match Day Specials. It was either a chicken, ham and sweet corn pie, or for the vegetarians a rather less appealing cauliflower and cheese pie.
“The first ten minutes of the second half will be vital, we have to keep it tight,” I was told. It seemed to be the theme and the nearest Norwich came was from a free kick just outside our box about three minutes in.
We’d not let them get near us and if only we could get a third goal it would be party time, there would be no chance of a comeback for Norwich. And that third goal almost came on the hour as Gray, in superb form up front, got clear of defender Gary Doherty to leave him with a clear on goal. Now I’m not quite sure how Doherty did it, it looked very rugby league like, but he brought Andy down and despite pointing to a fellow defender who he thought had got back he got up to see the referee holding up his red card. Would the defender have got back to stop a shot? I’m not so sure he would, but Phil Crossley didn’t think so and they were down to ten men.
West Brom scored three times the day before with ten men, we’d done so well against Southampton a week earlier with then men, but we gave Norwich no chance at all by making it three within just a few minutes. Gifton was involved again, the ball found Jones on the left and he played the ball across for the unmarked Gray who slotted past the keeper and never looked as though he would do anything else.
‘Norwich 0 Burnley 3′ the scoreboard showed, the red cards from the fans came out again, and as the away fans continued to celebrate we just continued to knock the ball about and play Norwich off the park.
Could we have scored more goals? Yes we could, and probably should, and if Gifton had laid the ball back to Gray the striker could have had his hat trick. Gifton’s shot went wide. Norwich hadn’t exactly waved the white flag, they were just being outplayed, but they did muster up something and managed to pull a goal back.
Needless to say Darren Huckerby was involved and he played the ball in for Earnshaw to score. Cue the daft goal music. It left one or two nervous in the away end, what if Norwich got another now? They didn’t – and they never looked like getting one.
When the last goal of the game came it was from substitute Mahon. He was played in by Gray and from about fifteen yards out he simply crashed it into the net, and with his right foot. The points were well and truly won, we’d seen a fantastic away performance and we’d seen the Clarets go third in the league.
The Norwich fans probably got what they wanted, Worthington was sacked after the game but as we left the ground it was fantastic to have home fans come up to us and tell us they thought we were brilliant, awesome and the best team at Carrow Road since they rejoined the Championship. And on that showing, I think they were right.
Sometimes it is so easy to choose the man of the match, sometimes it is a little more difficult. This time it proved virtually impossible, it could almost go to anyone. I’ve gone for Andy Gray, this was his best performance for us and he did get two goals. He also created the situation that saw Doherty sent off, and alongside the equally impressive Gifton he gave the Norwich defence a very difficult afternoon.
We got drenched outside the ground after the game as the heavens suddenly opened, we got caught in a traffic jam and were then held up on the A47 following an accident that required the air ambulance. At one point it looked as though we were never going to get home, but they are nothing more than minor distractions on a day when Burnley showed television viewers around the country just what a good side we are.
Norwich dropped to 17th but Burnley climbed to 3rd in what had been a very impressive start to a season that a few weeks later would take a difficult to believe and concerning downturn.
The teams were;
Norwich: Paul Gallacher, Jurgen Collin, Gary Doherty, Craig Fleming, Patrick Boyle (Jason Shackell 62), Lee Croft (Andy Hughes 71), Carl Robinson, Youssef Safri, Darren Huckerby, Dion Dublin (Peter Thorne 65). Robert Earnshaw. Subs not used: Lee Camp, Ryan Jarvis.
Burnley: Brian Jensen, Frank Sinclair, Michael Duff, John McGreal, Jon Harley, Wade Elliott (Alan Mahon 75), James O’Connor, Micah Hyde, Steve Jones (Chris McCann 86), Andy Gray, Gifton Noel-Williams (Kyle Lafferty 86). Subs not used: Stephen Foster, Garreth O’Connor.
Referee: Phil Crossley (Kent).
Attendance: 24,717 of which 90% attended.
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