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In March 1961, Burnley, reigning league champions, were facing a hectic seven day schedule. A home league game against Chelsea on the Saturday would be followed by a European Cup quarter-final in Hamburg on the Wednesday before returning for an FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on the Saturday.

The team news
The team news

By now, the league was no longer a major priority. We were fourth in the table but a massive 17 points behind leaders Spurs (and that in the days of just two points for a win) and even third place Sheffield Wednesday had an eight point lead over us.

Our opponents Chelsea were no top club at the time. A year later they would bow out of the First Division and at the time of this game were down in 14th place. It was not, I suppose, considered to be a tough fixture for us so Harry Potts decided to rest some of his players.

The team news in the 1960s was always announced ahead of the game to allow it to be published in the Burnley Express on the Saturday morning so the bombshell hit the town on the Friday with the news that all but Gordon Harris, who had only just won a regular place in the team with Brian Pilkington’s sale to Bolton, would be rested.

This really was a different looking Burnley team. In came Jim Furnell in goal for Adam Blacklaw while the full backs John Angus and Alex Elder were replaced by David Smith and Billy Marshall. In the half back line it was a watching brief for Walter Joyce, Jimmy Adamson and Brian Miller with David Walker, Tommy Cummings and Jimmy Scott coming in while the usual forward line of John Connelly, Jimmy McIlroy, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson and Harris became Trevor Meredith, Ian Lawson, Andy Lochhead, Ronnie Fenton and Harris.

Of the ten coming in, Cummings had been a regular for years until losing his place that season but would come back as a regular in 1961/62. Besides Cummings, only David Smith, who made a total of 99 league appearances, really had a first team record at Burnley. For both Furnell and Smith it would be a last ever appearance in the first time with Marshall and Scott playing only once more for Burnley a month later.

Immediately the Football League were asked if Burnley would face sanctions but the secretary Alan Hardacre said they would only act once a rule was broken and not on something that might happen. There had been precedents. When Newcastle rested players ahead of a big cup tie in 1924 they were fined £750. Burnley were ultimately hit with a fine of 1,000 guineas.

Some Burnley supporters were sympathetic to the situation; others weren’t and made demands that reserve team prices should be charged. But they got nowhere, it was the usual first team price of 2/- in the ground for adults and it was supported with an attendance of over 19,000 although the Burnley Express at the time suggested some of those came out of curiosity while the real supporters were there to offer encouragement in face of a possible massacre.

What a game those 19,000 witnessed with the points shared in a game that saw eight goals scored and a game that Burnley probably should have won.

Gordon Harris scores the first goal
Gordon Harris scores the first goal

There was more enthusiasm from the terraces than was normally the case and it erupted into sustained cacophony of mass joy when HARRIS fired in a hot shot from the left wing after just eight minutes to give Burnley the lead.

That lead lasted just a further eight minutes when Jimmy GREAVES equalised for the Pensioners but the Burnley team continued with unabated enthusiasm as if determined to show all and sundry that they were capable of taking the place of their seniors and the lead was regained on 20 minutes when LOCHHEAD netted from a left wing centre after a cunning move.

Chelsea realised that if playing against a reserve team was a joke then it wasn’t being appreciated by them. They did have a spell of pressure with Smith clearing one shot off the line but then Burnley went two up when HARRIS obliged from Meredith just ten minutes before the interval.

Given the way Chelsea came out for the second half, it was assumed that whoever was in charge had taken the trouble to ask their players what they thought they were doing getting beaten by a set of reserves and what would be said about them up and down the country.

Andy Lochhead scores his first
Andy Lochhead scores his first

They were much keener in the tackle and that led to Fenton and Terry Venables having words which were obviously not of mutual admiration. There were more such incidents too.

Then came something of a goal rush with three scored in nine minutes. Bobby TAMBLING pulled one back for Chelsea but Burnley went 4-2 up when Harris rattled the Chelsea framework with LOCHHEAD firing the rebound past Peter Bonnetti.

The Londoners looked to be in desperate straits but TAMBLING restored their shattered confidence with a well taken and timely goal before HARRIS missed when clean through for Burnley.

Burnley tired in the closing minutes but looked all set for a famous victory until right at the end when GREAVES came into the scheme of things with a typical flash of individual genius.

He swerved round three defenders and cracked in an equaliser to the great disappointment of the home crowd who, naturally enough, had been hoping for victory.

It was a 4-4 draw in the end but the reserves had given a memorable display. They had proved to be valiant substitutes for the recognised senior side and the home fans left for home realising that the club had a very bright future.

The teams were;

Burnley: Jim Furnell, David Smith, Billy Marshall, David Walker, Tommy Cummings, Jimmy Scott, Trevor Meredith, Ian Lawson, Andy Lochhead, Ronnie Fenton, Gordon Harris.

Chelsea: Peter Bonnetti, John Sillett, Peter Sillett, Terry Venables, Bobby Evans, Sylvan Anderton, Peter Brabrook, Jimmy Greaves, Ron Tindall, Bobby Tambling, Mike Harrison.

Referee: Mr R. T. E. Langdale (Darlington).

Attendance: 19,117.

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