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On the eighth of September 1888, on the opening day of the Football League in England, Preston North End beat Burnley by five goals to two in their first match of ther season. It was the start of the year of The Invincibles, the Preston side that ran away with the Football League championship by eleven points. The margin was all the more remarkable for the twin facts that they only played twenty-two matches in that first, nascent season of league football in England and that, of course, teams only received two points for a win at the time. To put it another way, in their first season as a Football League club, Preston North End only dropped four points.
One hundred and twenty-two years on, Preston North End and Burnley resumed hostilities in the Championship in front of BBC television cameras last night. This is something of a secondary derby match for both of these Lancashire clubs. Burnley’s real ire is reserved for Blackburn Rovers, while Preston North End’s traditional rivalry sees them look towards the coast and Blackpool. Both of these rivals, however, are sunning themselves in the Premier League so Burnley and Preston have to make do with with each other for the time being. It’s an unsatisfactory situation and the empty seats at Turf Moor seem to indicate that this particular match hasn’t really caught the local imagination – the ground is only three-quarters full this evening.
It says something for the distorting effects of Premier League money and parachute payments that expectations at the two clubs are so different this season. Burnley are widely expected to challenge for a place back in the Premier League while Preston North End, who are the only of the traditional, “big” Lancastrian clubs not to have at least sampled life at the top table, have had well documented financial travails and may not be setting their level of expectation much higher than surviving in the Championship this season. Manager Darren Ferguson certainly has cause to be concerned at this early stage. Their sole league win this season came against another team for whom this season is likely to be an uphill struggle – Portsmouth – and it’s easy for a ropey start to become a habit as the tail end of summer turns to autumn.
Yet for the first eighty (yes, that’s eighty) minutes, Preston North End were in charge of this match as Burnley, who didn’t seem to have quite come to terms with getting back down to busisness after a break brought on by international matches last weekend, made enormously hard work of things. Chris Iwelumo gave them an early lead but this came against the general run of play and goals from Adam Barton and Keith Treacy gave Preston a 2-1 half-time lead that they thoroughly deserved. A win against Lancastrian rivals in front of live television cameras might just have proved to be the sort of kick-start that Preston’s season needs, but things don’t seem to be quite that simple at Deepdale, and the second half saw them hit the comfort zone before inexplicably throwing it all away.
The two sides spent much of the opening stages of the second half cancelling each other out, but with twenty minutes to play Preston extended their lead to 3-1 when Keith Treacy’s cross from the left-hand side was brilliantly volleyed in by Jon Parkin. This should, of course, have been enough to end the match as a competition but Burnley were offered a glimmer of hope with twelve minutes to play when Preston’s Billy Jones contrived to pick up a second yellow card for time-wasting. With the visitors now down to ten men, the complexion of the match changed again, and Burnley dragged themselves back into things with six minutes left to play when Iwelumo shot in from the edge of the penalty area to pull the score back to 3-2.
With this goal began the onslaught. Turf Moor is more than capable of being one of the loudest grounds that anyone can visit and this is never emphasised more greatly than when Burnley are chasing a game. Reduced to ten men and shorn of confidence by their tepid start to the season, the gaps in the Preston defence suddenly seemed enormous and with two minutes to play another lofted ball into the penalty area allowed Iwelumo to flick the ball past the Preston goalkeeper Andy Lonergan to bring the two sides level. To come back from two goals down with six minutes to play would have been quite enough of an achievement for Burnley, but Preston were now there for the taking and as the clock ticked over ninety minutes Jay Rodriguez headed in at the near post to complete the reversal of fortunes.
Quite where Preston North End go from here is anybody’s guess. They have three points from their opening five matches and sit in twenty-second place in the table at present. They need a win and they need one quickly, but the fragility of their self-confidence was more than evident in the events of the last ten minutes of this match. Burnley, meanwhile, have work of their own to do on the evidence of this performance, defensively at least. In Chris Iwelumo they have a proven goalscorer at this level but it was the second half introductions of Jay Rodriguez, Chris Eagles and Jack Cork that gave them a better, more effective shape. Will Brian Laws heed this and make changes for his team’s next match? He and his team had a lucky escape in this match, but they will need to improve if they are going to sustain a challenge for a quick return to the Premier League.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
A very accurate article (Other than pointing out that most of the empty seats were in the Preston away end) and the notable empty seats in the away and home stands were probably as a result of both the late kick off and the fact it was live on the BBC.
Brian Laws was certainly never my personal choice for the managerial seat at Turf Moor and on this showing (Coupled with the not so convincing performances both last season and this) my worst fears are already approaching the point of being confirmed.
In my opionion he is out of his depth and lacks the ability to manage player rotation, motivation and pick the best team.
Most of the half time talk in the gents were as one in thier disbelief that our 2 most creative palyers were yet again on the bench.
Players again being asked to play out of position (Paterson & Elliot) were also high on the half time rant list of things the fans felt Laws had yet again got wrong.
I never expected to leave Turf Moor with a smile on my face after the first 84 minutes, to be absolutlely honest Burnley were woeful in virtually every department.
The long ball thumped up front to target man Iwellumo is never going to be pretty to watch and especially when we have real footballing tallent in our squad to deliver so much more than route one tactics, but even this as well as most of our other passing game seemed to have completely deserted us as we failed to make pass after pass.
Lets be honest here, Burnley got out out of jail in a big way, yes the ref was dreadful and the sending off was harsh and probably changed the game in our favour but the changes to bring on 3 better players than the ones they replaced also played a big part.
I was sure that Laws had 20 games to convince the fans and more importantly the Board that he has the ability to get us back into the top flight, i am afraid that at the moment irrespective of what the table says, he is going to fall well short of everyones expectations.
Why was the sending-off harsh? Jones was deservedly booked for his part in the little fracas before half-time and some would say was lucky not to have been shown a straight red for his attempt to throttle (?)Treacy. Then Friend warns him for timewasting twice before getting the card out. Serves him – and Preston – right.
If the upshot of this is that there’s less timewasting in matches then I’m all for it. It’s the same as holding in the penalty area at a corner – all refs have to do is start blowing up and penalising defenders and very quickly it’s a non-issue. I just hope it’s a directive from the FL and that we’ll see more of it.
Agreed, the red card was well deserved, no complaints at all, it was definitely the catalyst for the 2nd Ferguson based capitulation of the day!
Burnley fan. I don’t really know about the sending off – possibly harsh but why would you even take the risk if you’d already been booked? Stupid, especially since the officiating was abysmal throughout. Preston’s equaliser should have been disallowed for one of the most obvious handballs imaginable, but they were were on the wrong end of two dreadful offside decisions and Danny Fox should probably have been punished for the tackle that injured King (thought the contact on the ball was minimal, clear intent to follow through and get the man).
PNE were terribly unlucky, particularly with injuries (I find it hilarious that Coutts managed to hurt himself while trying to do exactly what Fox did), but it goes to show that there’s never a lost cause against a team low on confidence. From Burnley’s point of view, the only positives were three points in a derby, the performance of Iwelumo and some impressive team spirit. Defensively they were a shambles and they were toothless going forward, while every player with some guile and creativity was kept on the bench until, by all logic, it should have been too late.