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Stephen Cummings: A huge opportunity for Dyche’s Clarets
LAST Saturday, we were informed by those who know about such things, was the shortest day of the year.
So why then did the 47 minutes between Scott Arfield’s delightful strike and Roger East’s final whistle take an eternity?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, and dispassionately reflecting on that second period it’s difficult to recall too many clear-cut opportunities for Blackpool other than Chris Basham skying one over from 12 yards.
But in the heat of battle one’s perception of events is very different and every time the visitors crossed halfway it was difficult not to fear the worst.
The truth is that despite an evenly contested first half, Burnley deserved the points.
On another day, Danny Ings would have walked away with the match-ball and Sam Vokes and Scott Arfield wouldn’t have been denied by Matt Gilks and the near post respectively.
And so Clarets supporters everywhere will wake up to the best possible present on Christmas Day morning – the sight of our club at the top of the league.
Older Clarets will remember that we’ve been here before. In the 2001/02 season (a campaign which even now retains the capacity to sends shivers of horror up supporters’ spines), Stan Ternent’s side went into Christmas with a four point table-topping lead over Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City.
That turned out to be as good as it got.
Burnley made the short trip to Maine Road in that strange twilight zone that is the period between Christmas and New Year, conceded four first-half goals, missed a penalty and found themselves on the end of a 5-1 hammering. They never recovered.
Pivotal players like Glen Little and Alan Moore succumbed to injury.
Robbie Blake was recruited, but hampered by a hernia was unable to impose himself.
And even a sprinkling of stardust, in the shape of Paul Gascoigne, failed to stop the slide. Burnley eventually and agonisingly missed out on the play-offs on goal difference.
Over a decade on, the lessons are plain: don’t lose key performers to injury and make sure you buy wisely.
While there’s little that can be done about the former, the latter is a different matter.
Opportunities like this don’t present themselves too often. And while no-one would advocate lavish speculation a la Brendan Flood, some January investments could make all the difference.
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