Win against Stockport helps lift the gloom
December 1995 had seen a boardroom rumpus that spilled over into the most farcical and laughable AGM ever at Turf Moor, and that was still more than simmering into the next year, whilst on the playing side the fans were furious at the departures of the two Adrians, Heath and Randall, to Sheffield United and York respectively.
Things had been made no better on the pitch with an awful 0-0 home draw against Bristol City to end the year and then a shocking 5-0 hammering at Brunton Park against Carlisle in the Auto Windscreens Trophy in our first game of 1996.
At the AGM, the first sign of problems was Bernard Rothwell getting all mixed up over club shop figures and after having a stand up row with a shareholder, He then had to apologise when he was proved to be the one in the wrong. Rothwell then got himself into an argument with fellow director Bob Blakeborough as one of them encouraged a local company to bid for the next season’s kit deal while the other embarrassingly had confirmed he’d refused the company the opportunity because they were too local.
That paled into insignificance compared to the major bust up between Basil Dearing and Clive Holt. Dearing accused Holt of trying to acquire further shares for himself without the knowledge and approval of other directors. Dearing made it clear he would not continue to work with Holt, who remained silent throughout, and turned the entire meeting into a pantomime by tending his resignation.
Afterwards, supporters were split and in letters to the local press there were demands for Clive Holt’s resignation and also for him to be elected Chairman and to take over completely. “Resign Holt,” said one whilst “Credit to Mr Holt,” was the theme of another.
On the playing side, we’d lost Heath to the Blades where he had joined Howard Kendall. He wasn’t so much a loss to be honest because injuries meant he was rarely fit enough to play but the sale of Randall to York for just £140,000 had stunned everyone.
“York City must have thought the New Year sales had come early,” said one letter while many were demanding a change of manager, that Jimmy Mullen was no longer getting the best out of the players and the almost weekly dressing room lock ins were becoming repetitive, boring and absolutely useless.
It was all billed so much as a Burnley FC crisis and even the Burnley Express editor Chris Daggett spoke out telling his readers: “In recent weeks supporters of Burnley, the very people to whom the club belongs, have had to put up with an ongoing saga of boardroom bickerings, share wars and perhaps worst of all, secrecy.”
And speaking about the Carlisle debacle he added: “A repeat of such showings against Stockport County should not, and will not, be acceptable. Burnley Football Club is one of the things that keeps our town on the map, Those in charge of affairs at Turf Moor – both on and off the field – should bear that in mind at all times.”
Fans were threatening demonstrations against the board, so what a background then to take on Stockport. They were making their first visit to the Turf since the Wembley meeting in 1994 and were just behind us in the league table ahead of the game and came confident that they could beat us and climb above us.
Reporting on the game the Express reporter Chris Boden wrote: “Little, it appeared, could go anywhere close to appeasing anyone. Enter the scriptwriters with a sumptuous plot. Let’s win a seven goal thriller against the new arch rivals, they said. Let’s come from behind three times, it was added. And then let’s hand the crowning glory to a player who has not netted since scoring two of the most important goals in Burnley’s history – the Home Park double that sent Burnley to Wembley. It was all too incredible to believe.”
Most Burnley fans were expecting a difficult afternoon, and we were a goal down before we’d even settled in our seats. It came from a header by Matthew BOUND and we feared the worst, but just three minutes later it was all square after Kurt Nogan had a shot charged down by the visiting goalkeeper Neil Edwards. The ball rebounded to full back Chris VINNICOMBE just outside the penalty box and he hammered home into the corner.
That was the lift we needed, or should have been, but we fell behind again with another header. This time, from a Chris Beaumont corner, Mike FLYNN got up unchallenged to get in the header, Marlon Beresford got a hand to it but it went in off the post.
There were only twelve minutes gone and the score was already 2-1, but six minutes later it was Nogan again who caused the Stockport defence more problems. He latched on to a sublime chipped ball into the box from Paul Weller, set up Andy COOKE and the striker made no mistake to bring us level again.
This time we got on top, they simply had no answer to the promptings of Kurt up front but somehow they survived and incredibly, against the run of play, went in front for a third time. Again it was a header after John Jeffers got the better of Chris Brass down the Stockport left and there to head home for Stockport was Ian HELLIWELL who was just a short time away from becoming a Claret.
Peter Swan and Jamie Hoyland both went close to equalising but when referee Allison blew for half time we trailed 3-2 after a pulsating forty-five minutes that had ensured the fans inside the ground were getting right behind the team.
Cooke missed a chance just twenty seconds after the restart and then Weller was brought down for what looked a certain penalty. But it remained at 3-2 to the visitors. Just past the hour Mullen made two substitutions within two minutes of each other. Firstly David Eyres replaced Hoyland and then John Francis came on for Weller, and how those changes worked.
Within five minutes we were level again and what a goal it was. Francis got down the right and hit over a magnificent cross to the far post and found Eyres who headed it back across goal. There was NOGAN, finally getting the goal his performance so richly deserved, as he steamed in to head home what was his 21st goal of the season.
Almost immediately Stockport came close to regaining the lead but Burnley countered and came within inches of going in front for the first time as Nogan hit a screamer just wide of the post. Then, with twelve minutes to go, the Turf finally celebrated as we got the winner. Warren Joyce played the ball through for Francis and immediately goalkeeper Edwards sensed the danger and came out to try and prevent him getting in a shot. FRANCIS, though, was too good for him and lobbed him from fully 25 yards.
It was certainly not the end of the action, both Vinnicombe and Cooke came close to adding a fifth whilst at the other end Helliwell and then Alun Armstrong saw close range shots blocked. But the Francis goal proved to be the winner and the thriller had lifted some of the doom and gloom around Turf Moor.
There’s no doubt that Kurt was man of the match, he turned in one of his best Burnley performances and had Stockport struggling to deal with him all afternoon. “There’s nothing quite like beating Stockport to take away the sour taste of a previous week’s failings,” said Boden, “And beating them by coming from behind three times is something like a dream come true.”
Jimmy Mullen was delighted after the game and said: “Stockport County are always going to be difficult opposition and to go behind three times and come back and win is all I’m interested in. I was oblivious to the criticism off the field, I’m not interested in that. In the end it was a magnificent performance.”
For Stockport boss Dave Jones it was nothing but disappointment in the end. “It was a crazy game,” he said. “We were brilliant going forward, but Christmas came again for Burnley.
“We just didn’t defend and the game could have ended 10-10. We had two good chances when we were 3-2 up and all afternoon the bench felt we had to be two goals ahead, that we always needed that extra goal. At 4-3 down we still had chances and everybody is disappointed.”
Just a couple of days after the game Mullen tried to sign Notts County’s veteran striker Devon White but having missed out he finally clinched the signing of Helliwell having scored against us in this game.
The win took us to fifth in the table at half way, but there was no happy ending for the Burnley manager who was to remain in charge for only four more games, all of which were lost without us scoring a single goal.
For the statisticians, this game saw Burnley have 17 shots on goal, Stockport just one less, and both sides having 10 each on target.
The teams were;
Burnley: Marlon Beresford, Chris Brass, Peter Swan, Mark Winstanley, Chris Vinnicombe, Gerry Harrison, Jamie Hoyland (David Eyres 61), Warren Joyce, Paul Weller (John Francis 63), Andy Cooke, Kurt Nogan. Sub not used: Liam Robinson.
Stockport County: Neil Edwards, Sean Connelly, Lee Todd, Chris Marsden, Mike Flynn, Matthew Bound, Chris Beaumont, Jeff Eckhardt, Ian Helliwell, Alun Armstrong, John Jeffers (Ben Thornley 79). Subs not used: Tony Dinning, Michael Oliver.
Referee: David Allison (Lancaster).
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