Bournemouth v Burnley - Pete Oliver's big match preview

CHRIS WADDLE'S singing career has been well documented but he could be persuaded to rush out a version of Three Steps To Heaven if his Burnley side guarantee their survival over the final three games of the season.

Step one takes the Clarets to Bournemouth tomorrow, step two sees them visit Oldham on Tuesday night and step three could be heaven a week tomorrow at home to Plymouth Arygle.

Burnley know their fate is back in their own hands after last Saturday's win over Fulham but outside forces could still determine the size of the task ahead of them and whether they will need to beat the Pilgrims to stay up.

Two away wins in the space of four days coupled with nothing better than a draw for rivals in distress Plymouth and Brentford tomorrow will secure Burnley's Second Division future before the final day.

But any other set of results means the Clarets will need something on May 2.

Player-manager Waddle has his fingers crossed but is ready to slug it out to the death if needs be.

"If somebody had said a few months ago that the last game of the season would determine if we stay up and it would be in our own hands then you would take that," he said.

"It would be lovely to win at Bournemouth on Saturday and the others get beat and then go to Oldham and win and say bye-bye to that problem. Plymouth would then be a game that would have no meaning.

"But that's all dreaming at the minute and the main thing is to get a result tomorrow."

Since the first two games of the seasons Burnley have spent only a few weeks in November and February out of the bottom four.

That will count for nothing though if they time their run to safety to perfection.

"The whole season has been up and down and at times we have given the fans false hopes and then slipped back down into that position," acknowledged defender Chris Brass who is set to return to the starting line-up at Dean Court tomorrow. "But the result last Saturday has given us a positive feeling in the camp knowing now that it's in our hands.

"If we win these three games then we know we are up and we have not had the chance of saying 'yes we have a realistic chance of staying up' and not having to worry about other people's results.

"In an ideal world we could be safe on Tuesday but we will just take the Bournemouth game, hopefully win there and come quarter to five look at the results of the other people involved."

The finale against Plymouth has long stood out as a potential lifesaver for the Clarets but last weekend's results, when Argyle lost at home to Northampton, has made it a double edged sword.

If Burnley go into that game three points clear of the Pilgrims, which they would with a win and a draw coupled with a Plymouth defeat at home to Gillingham tomorrow, they may still be caught on goals scored as Waddle's men have currently scored five less than the west country outfit.

"It could come to that game next Saturday against Plymouth where they say 'if we beat Burnley we are safe' where in all honesty I thought it would go to the last game and we would have to beat them in order for ourselves to stay up," admitted Brass. "We'll see how it goes but hopefully three points on Saturday will change the whole situation again."

Burnley's fortunes at Bournemouth could depend on how the Cherries react to losing to Grimsby in the final of the Auto Windscreens Shield at Wembley last Sunday.

The south coast outfit have only a mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs and tomorrow's final home game of the season could have an end of term feel about it.

However, while they still have a chance of some tangible reward for another season of progress after going into receivership in 1996 they are likely to be firing on all cylinders.

"They had a hard game at Wembley and it will be interesting to see their attitude," added Waddle. "I was impressed with them for an hour at Wembley where they played very well."

However, even manager Mel Machin, this week offered the upgraded post of director of football, admits that his side has a tendency to sit one one-goal leads so like the relegation fight, tomorrow's game could go to the wire. Remaining fixtures: Burnley: Bournemouth (a), Oldham (a), Plymouth (h).

Brentford: Luton (h), Bristol Rovers (a).

Plymouth: Gillingham (h), Burnley (a).

Carlisle: York (h), Luton (a).

Southend: Oldham (a), Wrexham (h).

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