Saturday, August 12, 2000, at Reebok Stadium Division One WANDERERS 1 (Frandsen pen 27 mins) BURNLEY 1 (Gray 56 mins) Attendance: 20,662 THERE was no mistaking which set of supporters was happier with the derby spoils on the opening day of the 2000-2001 season.
But nine months on, the 5,000 Burnley fans who delighted in seeing Phil Gray’s second-half header cancel out Per Frandsen’s 27th-minute penalty were casting envious glances in the direction of the Reebok, where Wanderers were celebrating promotion back to the Premier League.
First impressions are often misleading – and this was one such case.
Only a fool would have made predictions based on the first 90 minutes of any season – but it was a fair assumption on this particular opening day that, come May 6 when Sheffield United were due to at the Reebok for the final game, the Bolton team would bear little resemblance to the side Sam Allardyce sent out to face Burnley.
Nine of his first-team squad were unavailable – either suspended or injured – and two new recruits, drafted in at the 11th hour in a desperate attempt to make up the numbers, would be asked to make important contributions.
In fact, Isaiah Rankin, whose loan move from Bradford was thought to have missed the previous day’s deadline, was given a place in the starting line-up, leading the attack alongside Bo Hansen.
There had been conflicting reports on both sides of the Pennines with Allardyce confessing that, while the Rankin deal was not dead, he had not been able to secure the 22-year-old London striker’s signature until after the 5 o’clock cut-off, while the Bantams confirmed the transfer had gone through with half an hour to spare.
Burnley kicked off the new season with the momentum of a newly-promoted side, but it was Wanderers who looked by far the more impressive in the first half, and their 1-0 half-time lead was a fair reflection of the balance of play.
Burnley had no complaints about the penalty – won by Rankin who was brought down by Ian Cox in a chase for Gareth Farrelly’s pass.
It was confidently tucked away by Per Frandsen who was given a magnificent ovation on his Reebok return, 10 months after reluctantly leaving for an ill-fated spell at Blackburn.
There was a certain trepidation as Wanderers began life without Claus Jensen, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Michael Johansen. But Allardyce set out his stall well with Anthony Barness operating as the spare man between centre-backs Gudni Bergsson and Mark Fish, and full-backs John O’Kane and Simon Charlton playing as wide midfield players.
Clarets manager Stan Ternent turned the game on its head at half time when he made a pivotal substitution.
Lanky winger Glen Little was not considered fit enough to go the full 90 minutes, but he did enough damage in the second 45 to dent Wanderers’ hopes of recording a first-day win.
It was Little’s cross that Gray headed in for the equaliser and, although Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Bolton goal did not have another save to make, it took some desperate and sometimes scrappy defending to protect him.
Burnley, who could not match Wanderers’ accuracy or composure on the ball in the first half, got more tuned in as the game wore on and, despite Rankin’s willingness, a lack of punch in attack – the area Allardyce was most concerned about – became more evident and alarming.
But the introduction of Ian Marshall, another surprise name on the team sheet considering he only turned up with his boots to do some training five days earlier, triggered a late flourish.
And he might have claimed another slice of glory if Mitchell Thomas had not been on the line to hack away his goal-bound shot.
How they lined up: Wanderers (3-5-2) Jaaskelainen; Bergsson, Barness, Fish; O’Kane (Richardson 84), Frandsen, Passi, Farrelly, Charlton; Hansen (Marshall 62), Rankin.
Subs not used: Wheatcroft, Norris, Banks.
Burnley (3-5-2) Crichton; Thomas, Davis, Cox; Weller, Ball, Cook (Branch 56), Mullin (Little 46), Briscoe; Gray, Cooke. Subs not used: Mellon, Jepson, Armstrong.
Referee: Bill Burns (Scarborough).