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COMMENT: Derby injected life into rivals
HE began by chasing a chicken, then ended by delivering the knockout blow. This was real life Rocky, on a day when East Lancashire football came alive once more.
David Dunn – it had to be him – was the man who stole the headlines on an afternoon of drama and fowl play in equal measure.
It may not have been the result anyone ideally wanted, certainly not Burnley fans after coming so close to ending their 34-year wait for a victory over Blackburn Rovers, but this was the shot in the arm that football in this area needed.
In a season of dwindling attendances, declining optimism and rocky times of a different kind, still the East Lancashire derby was as vociferous and dramatic as ever.
Just days earlier Rovers and Burnley had played out demoralising 1-0 home defeats in front of crowds that were largely resigned to their fate, so often had they seen it all before.
With two sides devoid of goals and badly out of form, put your money on 0-0 had been the general pre-match consensus for this.
Rarely had the build-up to a derby been met by such pessimism and even indifference from some.
‘Are you excited about the derby?’ asked a poll on the Lancashire Telegraph’s website. More than 50 per cent said no.
Fast forward to the 95th minute at Ewood Park yesterday though, and the feeling had changed dramatically.
Rovers fans erupted in joy andsheer relief as Dunn fired in an equaliser that few thought was coming.
Clarets supporters slumped in disbelief that, just when it looked like their derby misery would finally be over, their pain was extended once more. Whichever side you supported, this was dramatic.
It was quite a day for Dunn, who had begun the game having little luck attempting to catch a chicken that had been released on to the pitch, seemingly from the Riverside Stand.
The match had to be delayed as stewards took over the task and eventually apprehended the elusive bird, to much mirth from both sets of fans. But if chasing chickens was good enough preparation for Rocky Balboa, it was good enough for Dunn.
A lifelong Rovers fan and long-serving player, it was clear how much the game meant to him.
He had left the field in tears just four days earlier as Rovers had lost their FA Cup quarter final replay to Millwall, knowing that potentially his last chance to play at Wembley had disappeared.
‘He’s going to cry in a minute,’ Burnley fans had taunted Dunn earlier in the match.
It provoked a response, as the 33-year-old ripped off his shirt and postured in front of the travelling supporters after his leveller.
There were 20,735 present – the biggest crowd of the season, by a margin of 2,000. A total of 4,000 Burnley fans had travelled, transported in by bus.
Both teams were roared onto the pitch and looked keen to attack from the start.
In the stands, Rovers legends such as Bryan Douglas and Derek Fazackerley watched on, as did Burnley great Martin Dobson.
Former Rovers boss Paul Ince was also in attendance, watching his old club ahead of Blackpool’s Good Friday clash to Ewood.
Home fans became increasingly agitated, understandably so when Jason Shackell’s 32nd-minute goal put Burnley in front and sparked delirium in the away end.
Had the equaliser not come, and for so long there was no sign of it, one can only imagine the discontent that would have been displayed by the home support.
It did not get that far in the end, not quite, as Dunn struck with only one of the six minutes of injury time remaining – after Burnley had to play 25 minutes with 10 men following Ben Mee’s red card for two bookings.
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