AT LEAST Dick Turpin wore a mask!

Cardiff boss Lennie Lawrence wore nothing but a blank expression as he shamelessly insisted his side deserved a share of the spoils after staring down the barrel of a gun all afternoon.

Opposite number Stan Ternent simply felt robbed, lamenting a "smash and grab" raid on Turf Moor after his dandy highwaymen looked like swaggering towards a deserved three point haul.

And in all honesty, it really should have been a case of Stan and deliver!

For the opening 70 minutes, Cardiff were well and truly second best and trailed to Richard Chaplow's smart strike. The only fault you could possibly lay at Burnley's door is that for all their inventive play and general superiority, visiting keeper Neil Alexander was largely peripheral to the action.

Shots rained down on his goal, but either lacked accuracy or caught a defensive deflection to carry it to safety.

Chaplow's wonderfully-executed 52nd minute strike, only his second senior goal, finally looked like repeating the trick he performed two months ago with the only goal of the game against Crewe.

However, City slicker Rob Earnshaw tucked the latest strike in his swag bag following a horrendous mistake by Graham Branch - and the daylight robbery was complete!

"I thought we played pretty well and we were in complete control of the game," said Ternent. "Other than free kicks I don't think they had a free shot at goal, but we made a mistake and Earnshaw finished it extremely well.

"It was a self-inflicted wound and I feel as though it's a smash and grab and Lennie will be a lot happier than I am."

Things started so well for the Clarets. Glen Little was given a rapturous reception on his first game at Turf Moor since that August victory over Crewe, while Luke Chadwick provided another tonic by declaring himself fit enough to take a place on the bench just days after being effectively ruled out for a month.

Little was soon strutting his stuff, waltzing his way through the City defence and teeing up Chaplow for a side-footed effort that flew just wide.

Spencer Prior then needed every inch of his towering frame to deny Ian Moore a simple headed tap-in from Dean West's delicious right wing cross.

Robbie Blake curled a trademark free kick just wide and then slipped at the crucial moment when he seemed certain to end his worrying goal drought.

Cardiff were struggling to string two passes together in the opening salvo, with strikers Earnshaw and Gavin Gordon adding two to the spectators present.

Delroy Facey created the next opening following a sweeping four-man move down the left started by a marvellous piece of showmanship by Arthur Gnohere, who bamboozled Earnshaw with an outrageous dummy and found Chaplow.

The midfield dynamo, who once again excelled in the centre, slipped the ball to Blake, who spotted Facey in acres of space hugging the touchline.

Unfortunately, the majestic passing left most Burnley team mates trailing, so when Facey raced into the box and delivered a killer ball low across the six-yard box, no-one had made up the ground to finish things off.

Branch was next up, looking to glance Blake's wonderful near post free kick into the far corner, but getting too much on his header and seeing it loop over the crossbar.

Cardiff had pieced together a big fat nothing, and even their first opening came courtesy of some slack goalkeeping by Brian Jensen.

The big Dane carries the physique to take out everything in his path as he comes to collect crosses, but sometimes jumps with no real conviction and Gordon surprisingly beat him to Tony Vidmar's aimless 50-yard punt to head just over the gaping goal.

However, Jensen made up for his hesitancy on the stroke of half time, somehow getting a glove to Graham Kavanagh's 30-yard free kick to deflect the ball onto the outside of the post.

And Burnley would twice more be indebted to the last line of defence when Cardiff finally chased the game.

That came as a result of Chaplow's strike seven minutes after the restart.

Another sweet passing move involving Gnohere, Blake and West ended with the ball at the feet of Little, whose mis-hit cross fell kindly for man-of-the-match Chaplow to roll the ball into the far corner of the net and spark wild - and richly deserved - celebrations

Strangely, Burnley then believed the hard work had been done and that, allied with Cardiff noticeably picking up the pace, led to a reversal of fortunes.

It forced three quickfire corners mid-way through the half after Jensen saved well with his feet from Vidmar's fierce angled volley.

But the save from the third of those corners - from Willie Boland's 18-yard piledriver - was by far the pick of the bunch.

Sensing a chance, the Bluebirds continued to press, but they could never have expected to be handed the equaliser in such a bizarre fashion.

Branch, who had been totally in control alongside Gnohere, inexplicably rolled the ball to Kavanagh while deciding whether to clear his lines or slide the ball a few yards to Mo Camara.

The former Stoke midfielder quickly found Earnshaw loitering with intent and, with a quick swivel of the hips, the Welsh striker gobbled up the chance with the aplomb of an international striker.

Branch looked absolutely distraught - and later revealed he apologised to his team mates for the gaffe. Sadly, he seems to be getting punished for every mistake at present. Worryingly, so do Burnley.


(Chaplow 52)


(Earnshaw 76)

Turf Moor. Att: 10,886