Bournemouth 2 Burnley 1 - Pete Oliver's big match verdict

OVER the course of a season you tend to get what you deserve and the league table rarely lies.

But when everything boils down to one or two results to decide a club's fate at the sharp end of the campaign, individual decisions can be crucial.

And there's no doubt that Burnley were denied a possibly vital result at Dean Court on Saturday by a non-decision of referee David Crick who ignored a seemingly blatant penalty.

Moaning about referees can often look like a case of sour grapes and officials often seem to be used as scapegoats for poor performances.

That makes me very cautious about heaping the blame for defeats at their feet.

But Saturday was a different case - even if a 1-0 lead hadn't guaranteed Burnley the victory that would have got them out of the bottom four.

It would certainly have given them a better chance against a Bournemouth side that needed a penalty themselves to make the breakthrough.

And had the Clarets taken a single point, which they so nearly did with a breathless fightback from 2-0 down, then the picture would have changed at the bottom of the table.

With Plymouth losing and Brentford drawing, two draws in their last two games might have been enough for Burnley.

Now they must beat either Oldham or Plymouth and whatever happens at Boundary Park tomorrow night the relegation outcome won't be decided until next Saturday's climax to the season.

Buy your ticket for Turf Moor now.

The controversy erupted six minutes from the end of a scrappy first half when Andy Cooke latched onto an under-hit back pass from Eddie Howe. The Burnley striker had beaten Cherries' keeper Jimmy Glass in the race for the ball and as he nicked it past him Glass kept coming and took the legs of Cooke as he attempted to go round him.

Cooke went flying but remarkably Crick failed to point to the spot when we were already pondering who would replace the injured Andy Payton as the penalty taker.

Tellingly Crick, who had a quite awful game, decided Cooke had obviously not played for the foul as he didn't even speak to the Burnley man which made the referee's version of events that more baffling.

Glass had already dropped a couple of clangers up to then but rode his luck as Cooke and Mark Robertson blocked his intended clearances.

Bournemouth had looked lively without threatening Chris Woods' goal which begs the question as to how they would have reacted if they had gone behind.

An end-of-season party atmosphere engulfed the ground as the home players, who had lost at Wembley six days earlier and were going on a bus tour of the town 24 hours later, completed a lap of honour and handed out bouquets of flowers.

And with the play-offs only a mathematical possibility, it's feasible they may not have had the stomach for the fight had they gone behind and Burnley had played with their tails up.

That's not to say that Bournemouth didn't play with commitment and they gratefully accepted the gift of a 56th minute penalty before adding a second six minutes later.

It's unfortunate that the spot-kick was conceded by Chris Brass's hand ball and that the second was scored by Fletcher, who had been so closely guarded by Neil Moore.

The two central defenders were Burnley's top two players as they snuffed out the threat of Fletcher and Mark Stein to build the platform for the Clarets to go forward. The highest compliment that can be paid to the pair is that the suspended Gerry Harrison wasn't conspicuous by his absence.

Payton's loss and the lack of an out-and-out striker to play in his place was a blow, however, with Chris Waddle often dropping deeper to provide the link and the ammunition for what then became a one-man attack.

The attacking instincts were also missing on the left as Mark Robertson again proved his ball-winning and short passing skills but as a naturally more central midfield player he didn't possess the same level of penetration out wide as Paul Smith or John Mullin might have done.

Waddle made the swap after 62 minutes with Phil Eastwood coming on up front and Waddle switching to the left and, with the player-manger firing in a stream of crosses, Burnley were by far the more dangerous in the final half hour.

The plan had been to claw back a one-goal deficit after Steve Robinson had stroked home the 56th minute penalty.

But, as Eastwood was warming up, Fletcher seized onto a flick-on and after lobbing his first effort against the bar followed up to make it 2-0.

Burnley, who had four players booked as their frustrations got the better of them at various times, desperately needed a quick response on which to build a fightback and it duly came 10 minutes later when Mark Ford was bundled over in the box by Franck Rolling. Crick decided that was worse than upending a striker in full flight so awarded the spot-kick which Damian Matthew took responsibilty for and drove high and hard into the net.

That was the catalyst for a bombardment of the Cherries penalty area and Moore looked to have volleyed the equaliser only for his close-range effort to hit a posse of players on the line.

The central defender then headed over from a Waddle free-kick as the player-boss teased the Bournemouth defence with his set-pieces.

From another, Eastwood was denied his first ever senior goal by Glass's block and, after Cooke had headed wide, Glass again thwarted Burnley in the final minute.

Ford, still dazed from heading away a John Bailey thunderbolt, lined up a 25 yarder which was top corner bound before Glass went full length to claw it away and leave heart-broken Burnley a further point away from safety.

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