Date: 13 May 2017
It’s hard to believe but, as of tonight, only the big two Manchester teams, the big two Liverpool teams, the big two North London teams, and Chelsea, are ahead of us in terms of Premier League points. Not bad for a team that was on -17 at the bottom of league 2 during the noughties!
This puts everything else in perspective really. If we’re not right on top of our game for every second of a match, if one or two players are below par or decisions don’t go our way, just remember our history, look at the current league table, and smile!
This was a very warm afternoon (much warmer than forecast) and began excellently with Steve Cook winning three of the seasonal awards (though the announcer forget to mention Mick Cunningham’s name being on the Exiles award), Boruc one and King one (or two if you include the April monthly award). The team lined up exactly the same as the previous week (Stanislas had clearly recovered sufficiently but Gosling hadn’t). There were some early shots from Smith and Francis but the score was still 0-0 with 25 minutes gone.
Then a moment of magic: Lewis Cook had been running the midfield anyway, but now he got a free kick and managed a perfect diagonal pass over the whole of Burnley’s defence to pick out Stanislas. Stan settled the ball with his chest before sliding it into the bottom corner of the net. 1-0. Francis and Smith had more shots in the half but the score remained the same.
Two heart-warming moments occurred around half time. Firstly, Paul Gethin Willis – a familiar face around Dean Court who always wore the ‘44’ shirt, sold match day draw tickets, and brandished red and yellow cards during each home or away match – had died in the week. The whole stadium, including Burnley fans, stood and applauded him on the 44th minute. And then at half time itself the Under 18s paraded their Cup which they’d won midweek, and again it was both home and away fans that applauded.
The second half belonged to Burnley at times, and to us at times. On the 66th minute in an exact copy of the previous week Mousset was replaced by Fraser and we switched to 4-4-1-1 with the ‘wee man’ in the number 10 role. Mousset had appeared to get a slight knock, but this substitution would probably have taken place anyway. Ten minutes before the end, Arter was replaced by Gosling, presumably to give the latter some match practice as he’ll be required next week when Lewis Cook’s on international duty. And then on the 84th minute a Burnley cross found the head of former Bournemouth player Sam Vokes, who beat Steve Cook to head into the net for 1-1. A shame, though not totally undeserved; but within two minutes we were back in the lead after Gosling passed to Fraser and he to King, who had a little work to do but manged to score yet again. 2-1. Much to celebrate. Five minutes of added time seemed a bit scary but we endured it. We had a much longer wait for the players to return and do their promised ‘lap of honour’. Many fans left – especially if they had trains to catch. I remained but to be honest, as on a previous occasion, this ‘lap’ was such a muted affair it was hardly worth seeing – except for the welcome appearance of Callum Wilson, albeit still on crutches. Hopefully he’ll be playing again sometime next season. Once all the players had passed my vantage point I dashed for my train – and just made it. A good day out!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (7), Francis (7), S Cook (7), Daniels (7);
Stanislas (8), L Cook (9), Arter (7), Pugh (7);
King (8), Mousset (6)
A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels;
Ibe, L Cook, Gosling, Pugh;