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Branch signs off with a goal
CLARETS past and present, and almost 2,000 supporters, turned out to celebrate the Burnley career of Graham Branch at his testimonial match.
The versatile Scouser was roared out through a guard of honour formed by current and former Burnley team-mates, as well as a crop of ex-Clarets including Adrian Heath, David Eyres, Ian Cox and Ian Moore, while Verdi's La Donna e Mobile - the Rigoletto music for Branch's terrace song Graham di Branchio' - played in the background.
It provided the setting for an afternoon of fun and appreciation of the player who has served the Clarets for eight-and-a-half years.
And Branch capped it with a 65th-minute goal after riding a string of hilariously executed token challenges on a burst through the middle.
Burnley manager Steve Cotterill took a more hands-on approach to the afternoon's events as he started in midfield and played a key role in his XI taking the lead after just three minutes.
Cotterill and Mahon combined in the build-up before freeing Kyle Lafferty on the right of the box, and the Northern Ireland international finished well in the bottom right corner.
Branch, who started at left back, but in typical fashion played a variety of roles over the 90 minutes, denied Jones with a well timed tackle in the box.
Heath flashed a left-foot volley wide as Branch's team searched for an equaliser, which almost came from a quick break after Cotterill was robbed of possession on the edge of the area as he was about to shape to shoot, Eyres got the ball on the left and Heath had a header saved from the winger's cross.
Cotterill set up Steve Jones with a neat backheel in the box, but Jones curled it over the angle, before Alan Mahon made it 2-0 when Cox's block tackle on Cotterill spun into his path and he clipped it over the diving Paul Crichton.
Moore got a goal back for Branch's XI, managed by former Clarets boss Stan Ternent, less than 10 minutes after his introduction.
The Leeds United striker linked neatly with Tony Grant on the edge of the area before tucking the ball underneath Danny Coyne.
Burnley's newest professional, Jay Rodriguez, was brought on at the start of a second half where changes were rung, and was unlucky to have a goal disallowed for offside.
Steve Davis equalised with a spectacular 40-yard lob on the hour, after Coyne had lost the ball close to the halfway line as he made a mazy run from his goalline.
Jones quickly put the Burnley XI back in front before Branch got his moment of glory, ghosting past some comical fake high tackles to slip the ball home for 3-3.
Rodriguez did get a goal, via a Branch deflection, to restore the lead, then Brian Jensen, playing outfield and sporting claret cycling shorts to raise a few laughs, scored two quickfire close-range goals, after Joey Gudjonsson had replaced Coyne in goal.
And the Icelandic international was only beaten once, by Branch's friend Chris Camden, to complete the scoring before Branch said an emotional farewell to Turf Moor.
BURNLEY FC XI: Danny Coyne; Stephen Foster, Frank Sinclair, John McGreal, Alan Mahon; Garreth O'Connor, James O'Connor, John Spicer, Steve Jones; Kyle Lafferty, Steve Cotterill.
Subs (all used): Wayne Thomas, Jon Harley, Michael Duff, Andy Gray, Wade Elliott, Brian Jensen, Chris McCann, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Ade Akinbiyi, Steven Caldwell, Joey Gudjonsson, Jay Rodriguez, Andy Mitchell.
GRAHAM BRANCH XI: Paul Crichton; Dean West, Steve Davis, Ian Cox, Graham Branch; David Hamilton, Micky Mellon, Tony Grant, David Eyres; Adrian Heath, Peter Swan.
Subs (all used): Kevin Reeves, Ian Snodin, Craig Mawson, Andy Farrell, John Francis, Ian Moore, Chris Camden, Daryl Bielby, Nick Harrison.