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The flying scarf that signalled the end of an era for Blackburn Rovers
AS Danny Ings’ winner was greeted by pandemonium in the Darwen End, a lone Blackburn Rovers fan hurled his scarf away in the Jack Walker Stand.
That blue-and-white scarf said so much. Rovers knew it was over, 35 years unbeaten against their fiercest rivals, 35 years of bragging rights, gone the moment Ings’ left-foot shot hit the net.
There were still 12 minutes left, but there was no coming back this time. David Dunn, the man who had struck deep into stoppage time a year ago, had already been substituted.
Desperate attempts for a leveller produced half chances, but ultimately no goal.
Some Rovers fans had already started to stream out of the Riverside Stand before the final whistle blew.
They did not want to witness the celebrations of the Burnley players and fans at full time.
Kieran Trippier darted towards the away supporters before leaping on Ings. The rest of the team quickly joined him.
Sean Dyche marched across the pitch, gestured his appreciation to the fans, and marched off again at the briskest of pace.
He looked like a man still on a mission, destination Premier League. Rovers players could only trudge off, looking ruefully over to the celebrations of their opponents.
The mournful sounds of Passenger’s Let Her Go played over the PA system. It seemed to fit the mood of the home fans.
In a difficult few years for Rovers, they always had that record against Burnley to comfort them.
Now even that they have had to let go. A total of 4,500 Burnley fans made the trip to Ewood Park, via the official travel that has been mandatory in this derby for several years.
In an attempt to avoid any repeat of the confrontations after Dunn’s last minute equaliser at Ewood last season, the first 10 rows of the away section were left unused, along with two blocks of the Riverside Stand nearest to the Darwen End.
Burnley fans waved India flags, in reference to Rovers’ often unpopular owners Venky’s.
The first half was a little bit of history repeated – a goal from Jordan Rhodes, a plane circling overhead, even an obligatory chicken on the pitch.
The match was less than a minute old when the chicken was released from the Riverside Stand, as had been the case when these two sides met at Ewood a year earlier.
This chicken had planned its escape route, evading stewards before leaping over the barriers back into the stand.
After that moment of comedy, banter was put to one side on 13 minutes when Burnley supporters held a minute’s applause in tribute to Henry Tattersall, the 13-year-old fan who committed suicide in November.
Ten minutes later, Rovers were ahead through Rhodes – a third goal in four East Lancashire derby appearances for the striker, who ran half the length of the pitch to celebrate on the halfway line.
Many Rovers fans in the Riverside Stand were busy running half the length of the pitch in the other direction, charging towards the Burnley supporters to celebrate – albeit stopped short by stewards and police.
A blue smoke bomb was released in the Jack Walker Stand. In what is fast becoming a tradition in these parts, a plane soon started to circle overhead bearing the message ’35 years who cares? 20 points, Venky’s 4ever’.
No prizes for guessing which set of supporters had arranged it, with Burnley fans keep to remind Rovers of their supremacy in the league table. Then came a big chance for Ings.
A penny for Scott Arfield’s thoughts as Craig Conway’s backpass inadvertently played in Ings, only for Paul Robinson to save.
Arfield had not been as fortunate as Conway in virtually identical circumstances at Turf Moor in September, when his backpass had paved the way for Rhodes’ painful equaliser.
The game changed with substitutions midway through the second half, with Dunn going off for Rovers and Ross Wallace coming on for Burnley. Within minutes Wallace had provided the free kick for Jason Shackell to equalise.
“He was as brave as a chicken,” was how Dyche described his skipper’s goal.
The Burnley boss insisted later that this was not a mischievous dig at Rovers and Venky’s, but a reference to the fact that Shackell had shut his eyes before heading home.
With the momentum shift apparent, Burnley needed only five more minutes to score their winner through Ings.
Clarets fans clambered over the empty seats at the front of the Darwen End to celebrate with their top scorer.
They had waited for this moment for decades. This time the smoke bombs were claret coloured.
“We love you Rovers,” came the chant in the final seconds of the game, from those in the Blackburn End determined to stand by their team no matter what.
“We are going up,” was the cry from the Burnley fans, partying like it was 1979.
The 35-year hoodoo against Rovers always appeared their biggest obstacle. Having ended that, it is hard to back against them reaching the top flight now.
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