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Every so often, football throws up one of these results where the scoreline totally flatters the winning side. On another day this article could be written on the back of a big win for Lancaster, but this was one of those games where the old footballing cliché is certainly applicable: the only stat that really matters in football is the full-time result.
On a cold Wednesday afternoon in Lancaster, the football seconds were hosting UFCB in a cup match. Burnley arrived wearing the kit of their Premier League counterparts, and just like Sean Dyche’s men they were organised defensively – however, unlike Sean Dyche’s men, they knew how to take the chances that came their way.
As the game kicked off, a typical cup atmosphere formed as Burnley’s game plan became evident: to press high and attempt to get something on the counter attack. This meant that it took a while for Lancaster to get into a passing rhythm, and it wasn’t long before sloppy passing and weak defending led to Burnley taking the lead as an effort crept in at Hall’s near post.
After a slow start Lancaster were soon able to dominate the midfield battle as they began to grow in the game and look comfortable. However, for all of Lancaster’s dominance and possession, they were unable to find that killer ball to split Burnley’s defence, with several promising attacks breaking down in the final third. Burnley’s defence held firm and restricted Lancaster to long shots, with Zenda Stemp providing creative flair and not being afraid to have a go from range on several occasions within the first half.
Burnley began to make it a very physical affair and this, coupled with the failure to find the final ball, meant the Lancaster players began to grow increasingly frustrated, reflected by Tore Hammerø’s kick out at a Burnley forward. This caused a scrap between both sides and a yellow card for the Lancaster centre half. From the resulting free-kick, Lancaster failed to fully clear their lines and an effort from the edge of the area was too powerful for Hall to keep out. It was harsh on the Lancaster players, who were beginning to grow into the game and show what they were capable of.
Lancaster kept on pressing and a well-worked move led to a volley from Dom Perez, which forced a fine save from the Burnley keeper. Had that effort gone in, the game would have been a different one as half-time came. On the balance of first half play, Lancaster didn’t deserve to be two down at the interval.
The second half started the same way the first finished for Lancaster, with the team creating chances but not taking them. Within the first ten minutes after the restart Lancaster were creating chances – a header over from Dom Perez and a shot fired just wide from George Tofinis. These were chances which could and arguably should have bought Lancaster level.
As the second half wore on, Burnley began to drop whereas Lancaster attempted to push on and play the game. At a time when Lancaster were fully on top and looking threatening, the Burnley players began to display shameless acts of time-wasting, with these acts often going inexplicably unpunished by the referee. On the balance of play, it looked only a matter of time before Lancaster pulled a goal back.
But, as they switched formation to leave one sweeper at the back and pour forward, the players began to cramp up – a clear sign of how much they gave in this match. Perhaps sensing Lancaster’s tiredness, Burnley hit rapidly on the counter attack. After a scramble in the box and a fine save from keeper Hall, the ball was poked home, increasing the lead to 3-0 and sealing the game for Burnley.
On balance, 3-0 was a very harsh scoreline for Lancaster, who comprehensively dominated the game. If they had taken the hatful of chances that came their way, this 3-0 score line could easily have been the other way round.