AS A diversionary tactic, it worked a treat. Alistair Campbell provided the mass distraction to allow Burnley to deploy their own deadly weapon in the form of midfield foot soldier Richard Chaplow.

And the inquiry is probably still raging in the Crewe defence as to how the shaven-headed scholar 'sexed-up' Burnley's season in style.

It was a moment to savour for Campbell, Clarets boss Stan Ternent and the Turf Moor faithful as Chaplow went on a teenage rampage to open his senior account and earn a second successive win.

And the crucial moment capped a magnificently mature performance worthy of a seasoned campaigner, rather than a rookie still looking to make his way in the game.

Ternent himself later admitted: "Young Chaplow was fantastic. It's marvellous for him to score his first senior goal and for an 18-year-old he's a player. If he keeps his feet on the ground and maintains his progress, he'll be fine."

Here's hoping, but if this is the kind of relaxation Campbell had in mind when he tendered his resignation late last week, the former Downing Street spin doctor might want to seek less stressful ways of passing a Saturday afternoon.

It had looked like being a day of pure frustration for the Clarets, who rarely tested Alex keeper Clayton Ince in the opening half.

There was even more bad news for Campbell from Number 10 - Ian Moore that is, who was forced out of the action early on with a recurrence of the injury he picked up at Gillingham a week ago.

But thankfully Chaplow saved the day with a stunning strike and, as Ternent succinctly put it: "All's well that ends well".

Seemingly all the pre-match focus was on Campbell, as a posse of photographers lurking in the Turf Moor press room testified. But he certainly wasn't the only one with problems as Ternent again failed to fill his bench through a combination of injuries and lack of personnel.

Chaplow replaced the latest addition to the walking wounded, Paul Weller, who was sidelined with a groin strain. And the threadbare squad at Ternent's disposal was further depleted within 22 minutes as Ian Moore, who had undergone a pain-killing injection, struggled to get himself going.

That came shortly after the Clarets forced the first real save from either keeper as Mo Camara, again lively on the left, unleashed a stinging drive from out near the touchline that Ince parried to safety.

However, even at that early stage it was evident that Chaplow was throwing himself repeatedly into the danger zone in the hope of picking up the pieces.

He almost did that following a sweet passing move that began with Robbie Blake and ended with Moore drilling a low cross just ahead of the midfielder's outstretched boot.

That was Moore's last meaningful contribution, and namesake Alan was thrust into the action as an emergency striker alongside Blake.

But the switch seemed to knock the Clarets out of their stride and it was Crewe who carried the threat for the remainder of the first half.

Skipper Graham Branch had to race back 40 yards to block Steve Jones after the lively Alex striker showed him a clean pair of heels on the half-way line.

Stephen Foster then somehow volleyed wide from 12 yards before Dean Ashton dragged his shot right across Brian Jensen's goal.

But if the first half was shaded by Dario Gradi's men, the second swung Burnley's way - and it took just seven minutes for the decisive moment to arrive.

Dean West crossed low into the box from the right, Alan Moore cleverly wrong-footed the Alex defence by stepping over the ball and Chaplow - again lurking with intent - made no mistake from 12-yards.

Crewe were rocking and Glen Little really should have doubled the lead within a minute as Luke Chadwick and Blake swept the ball into his path on the right side of the box.

But heads were in hands as the wide man bore down on goal only to astonishingly blaze over the angle from the corner of the six yard box.

Blake soon had another glorious chance to wrap things up from the penalty spot after a harsh handball decision against Ashton following Ince's flap.

The Clarets striker has taken over spot kick duties following Gareth Taylor's departure to Nottingham Forest. But he followed up his miss in the recent Carling Cup penalty shoot-out victory over Chesterfield with another blank as Ince guessed right to make the save.

That gave the visitors the belief it could be their day after all, and it led to a nervy ending for the Clarets and Campbell.

Mo Camara's mistake let in Jones, who played a quickfire one-two with Ashton and, as the ball was returned to him with just Jensen to beat, bobbled his shot off the inside of the right hand post to everyone's relief.

Another three-man move had the Clarets backtracking again and Kenny Lunt's wicked low cross was a bootlace away from Jones converting at full stretch.

And as panic spread in the final moments, sub Allan Smart was oh-so-close following a similarly sweeping Crewe move involving Lunt and Dave Brammer.

Thankfully though, it was to be Chaplow's day and the midfield marvel - still only a third-year scholar remember - gained a deserved standing ovation as he made way for a late cameo from Arthur Gnohere.


Chaplow 52


Turf Moor. Att: 11,495