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16:53 15th August 2009


Burnley went down fighting as their Premier League campaign brought a frustrating opening day defeat at fortress Stoke.

It was a case of what might have been away to a team with one of the best home records in the top flight last season.

The absence of injured skipper Steven Caldwell (groin) and fellow defender Michael Duff (ankle), allied to the suspension of David Edgar, only served to make the task harder.

And when emergency centre back Stephen Jordan headed past Brian Jensen just after the half hour, following an earlier Ryan Shawcross header, it proved a hammer blow for Owen Coyle's men.

Jordan inadvertantly heads past Jensen

However, a brave second half fightback had City on the back foot. And the only disappointment for the travelling 3,000 Clarets fans was that their heroes could not force a goal that their overall display merited.

In the absence of Caldwell Graham Alexander, the oldest outfield player in the Premier League at 37, made his long-awaited top flight debut as Clarets skipper.

A minute's applause for Bobby Robson

Martin Paterson recovered from his pre-season injury scare to resume the right-sided role he undertook in the Clarets charge to play off glory.

And new £3m striker Steven Fletcher led the line on his debut in English football.

And there was an early chance for the former Hibs striker, found by a raking ball upfield from Alexander.

Thomas Sorensen raced from goal, but as the angle narrowed and the ball skidded off a slick surface, Fletcher was unable to direct his shot goalwards.

And in the sixth minute Wade Elliott's low cross found Robbie Blake, whose first time drive was blocked in the nick of time.

It was just the start Owen Coyle would have wanted from his troops.

A vociferous home crowd were stoking up a magnificent atmosphere as City probed with a series of long balls and Rory Delap throws in the opening quarter.

And it was Blake who forced Sorensen into the first save of the game in the 18th minute with an ambitious long range drive following neat play from skipper Alexander.

But in the 19th minute that inventive start counted for nothing as City grabbed the lead.

Burnley nemesis Ricardo Fuller fell theatrically to the ground on the left touchline and bought a free kick that was delivered right onto the head of Shawcross, who headed effortlessly back past Brian Jensen and into the bottom corner.

Burnley's response was immediate and after Martin Paterson worked an opening down the left it needed a near post intervention from an outstretched City leg to deny Wade Elliott an equaliser.

But in the 33rd minute the Clarets were left with a mountain to climb.

Any throw in from inside the Burnley half was always going to be an invite to Delap to launch one of his exocets.

And from such a throw, Stephen Jordan's attempt to get a head to the ball ended in disaster as the ball flew past Jensen at the near post.

There was a decent shout for a Burnley penalty five minutes before the break when Tyrone Mears' deep cross was totally misjudged and the ball bounced up to strike Andy Wilkinson's arm.

However, referee Steve Bennett was unimpressed and from the resulting corner Clarke Carlisle headed over.

Fletcher comes close from Mears' cross

Things could have got worse before half time, when Fuller beat the advancing Jensen and got his head to a Liam Lawrence free kick.

The ball looped tantalisingly towards goal, but Clarke Carlisle's acrobatic clearance off the line meant the Clarets went in just two goals behind.

Coyle resisted the urge to make changes at the interval, sending out the same 11 to look for a lifeline.

And instantly there was encouragement as Elliott fizzed a 35-yard drive just over the bar with Sorensen stretching.

Abdoulaye Faye was booked for hacking down Elliott, and shortly after walked a tightrope by clattering into Mears - Alexander picking up a yellow card for arguing the second foul might have merited a second card.

And from the resulting free kick Blake and then Chris McCann both saw their efforts blocked by desperate defending.

It was an impressive response as Burnley looked to find a way back into the game.

And Sorensen needed every inch of his six-foot frame to hold onto Blake's fierce free kick just past the hour mark.

Paterson and Blake soon combined to release Fletcher, whose angled drive again found Dane Sorensen perfectly place at his near post.

Fletcher forces the save

Coyle looked to turn the screw with a double substitution in the 72nd minute; Chris Eagles and Fernando Guerrero replacing Blake and Paterson.

And Eagles' deep 77th minute cross nearly brought the second own goal of the game, as Sorensen flapped and missed and the ball cannoned off the back of Wilkinson and just wide.

Fernando Guerrero

City's first real effort of the half instantly followed, as sub Dave Kitson crashed a shot off the crossbar on the counter attack.

But Guererro's trickery soon opened up Stoke again, only for his cross to sail over Sorensen and just wide of the far post.

It had been a brave and spirited second half display from the Clarets, who showed the mettle they will undoubtedly need throughout their inaugural Premier League campaign.

And although there was no reward, there was plenty of heart to take for the battles that lay ahead… starting with Manchester United on Wednesday!

Burnley: Jensen, Kalvenes, Carlisle, Jordan, Mears, Alexander (Thompson 82), Blake (Eagles 72), McCann, Elliott, Paterson (Guerrero 72), Fletcher.
Subs: Penny, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Eckersley

Booked: Alexander 57, Jordan 66

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Lawrence, Delap, Whitehead, Etherington (Whelan 76), Beattie (Kitson 67), Fuller (Cresswell 87)
Subs: Simonsen, Griffin, Cort, Pugh

Booked: Faye 54

Ref: Steve Bennett

    Data provided by Press Association