FA Cup 6th Round: Saturday March 12, 1960.
Burnley 3 Blackburn Rovers 3 att: 51,501
Burnley: A.Blacklaw, J.Angus, A.Elder, B.Seith, B.Miller, J.Adamson, J.Connelly, J.McIlroy, R.Pointer, J.Robson, B.Pilkington.
Blackburn Rovers: H.Leyland, J.Bray, D.Whelan, R.Clayton, M.Woods, M.McGrath, L.Bimpson, P.Dobing, D.Dougan, B.Douglas, A.MacLeod.
These were heady times in East Lancashire and with Burnley and Blackburn Rovers coming out of the hat together in the quarter finals of the FA Cup excitement and expectation in these rival towns was at its most intense.
Coming into this fixture Burnley were lying 3rd in the first division trailing only Spurs and Wolves and the Turf Moor club had genuine pretensions of becoming the first to do the league and cup double in the 20th century, along with Wolves who were also in cup action that day.
Blackburn were safe and secure in 13th place in Division One and had only the cup to concentrate on. Denying Burnley at least one of their two possible honours was another motivating factor.
The previous weekend had seen a dress rehearsal for this fixture as the two sides met in the league at the same venue. Burnley had run out 1-0 winners in a tight but slightly tepid affair.
With almost 20,000 more spectators present for this one, including a vastly increased travelling support, there was little chance of this one being a mundane contest.
The expected fireworks did not begin immediately, however, and the first half generally followed the cagey pattern of the previous game.
Burnley had the better of the opening ten minutes with Dave Whelan needing to pull off a smart intercetion to prevent danger in the first real attack before Harry Leyland was quick off his line to dive on a dangerous through ball from Jimmy McIlroy ahead of the speedy Brian Pilkington.
The contest between McIlroy and Bryan Douglas, in direct opposition at inside forward, was anticipated with almost as much eagerness as the game itself.
McIlroy was king at Turf Moor while Douglas was idolised at Ewood Park. Both sets of fans were adamant their man was the better and most believed whoever came out on top in this personal battle would probably win the war.
In these early stages it looked as though McIlroy was going to dominate but as the game settled down the intricate passing movements of the Clarets began to get bogged down and as the tackling became ever fiercer less was seen of the home attack.
Blackburn were more basic in their approach, attempting nothing elaborate, but were soon looking the more likely side.
It was not Douglas to the fore, however, but Ronnie Clayton in a defensive role and Peter Dobing further forward who were responsible for giving Rovers the edge.
Dobing was soon the most prominent attacking figure but his probings found little support from his fellow forwards.
Clayton did well to smother John Connelly as the winger was about to shoot from a promising position but the first real saves of the afternoon were made by the Burnley keeper Adam Blacklaw.
Blacklaw fielded a Derek Dougan header with ease but had to react sharply to keep out a crisp drive from Dobing.
Pilkington skinned John Bray to create a clear opening for himself but then ballooned a wild shot way over Leyland's crossbar.
Rovers nearly caused their own downfall when a poor backpass from Douglas of all people let in Connelly. This time he got his shot away but a covering defender managed to deflect behind for a corner.
Douglas could not be faulted for effort, however, and was soon making a more positive contribution at the other end but his shot from the edge of the box was just off target.
The tackling was never less than keen. Dougan required treatment after being dumped on the floor and then Whelan went right through Pointer at the other end. The prickly atmosphere mirrored that on the heaving terraces.
Blackburn had taken to shooting on sight and Louis Bimpson sent in a couple of hopeful efforts which sailed uncomfortably close to Blacklaw's goal but did not, in the end, require saving.
The goalless first half had been something of an anti climax but had, if nothing else, set up the second half perfectly.
Half Time: Burnley 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
The second half saw the game shift into an altogether higher gear and the man chiefly responsible was McIlroy. Taking control of proceedings from the outset the Irish genius soon had Burnley pouring forward in concerted attack while Rovers were limited to sporadic breakaways.
Almost immediately his prompting brought Burnley the lead. His searching crossfield pass found Pilkington in space inside the area and his right footed drive whistled inside the angle.
Blacklaw had to make a fingertiop save from Bimpson and then the winger was presented with a clear chance but shot wastefully wide.
In general, however, Burnley were in control. With McIlroy dictating play and Connelly and Pilkington posing equal threats in their different styles the home side looked capable of increasing their lead at any moment.
Connelly almost had Pilkington through on goal with an incisive crossfield pass but Leyland was off his line quickly to snuff out the danger.
More and more questions were being asked of the Rovers defence, however, and when McIlroy suddenly darted along the byeline they ran out of answers.
Jinking effortlessly beyond two defenders McIlroy had options in the middle and he picked out Pointer perfectly. It was a gift and the centre forward eagerly accepted it.
With the majority of the crowd celebrating wildly and confidence flooding through the home team Rovers found themselves three down before they could draw breath.
The ball was whipped out to Connelly as Burnley swept straight onto the attack and the talented winger made a lightening burst in off his wing heading straight for goal.
Two startled defenders were left in his wake and when Leyland desperately lunged forward Connelly simply lofted the ball over him and into the net for a glorious goal.
There seemed no way back for Blackburn, especially as Burnley looked in no mood to take their foot off the pedal. The visitors were reduced to consistent back passes in an attempt to relieve the pressure but this tactic almost cost them when Bray's ball was short but Leyland's bravery got his full back out of jail.
Slowly Rovers began to force their way into Burnley territory but despite the indefatigable efforts of Douglas there seemed no way back. The shots coming in at Blacklaw remained mostly speculative and Dougan was getting little change out of Brian Miller.
Rovers' centre forward did squeeze in one shot through a crowd of players after being supplied by Douglas but the effort flashed just wide.
The visitors needed some real inspiration or a real break to get them back into the game and with 20 minutes left they got the latter.
Dobing sent in another hopeful shot which looked to be heading well wide before it shot up off Alex Elder's boot and struck the full back on the arm. To general amazement the referee pointed to the penalty spot and Douglas converted the penalty.
The decision was greeted with derision by the home supporters but there seemed little reason to be overly concerned with their side still two goals to the good and little to suggest that their arch rivals were capable of a comeback.
When Peter Dobing suddenly hit the jackpot with one of his speculative efforts just three minutes later, however, the mood inside Turf Moor instantly changed.
The previously subdued, possibly resigned, visiting supporters were suddenly buoyant, while the natives became angry, restless and tense. These attitudes transmitted straight down onto the pitch.
It did not help that Adam Blacklaw had made little attempt to save Dobing's shot. It had come through a crowd of players and the keeper reacted far too late. To those not directly behind the shot it looked as though it should have been saved.
Rovers were suddenly only one goal behind and it appeared to all in Claret and Blue that neither goal should have been conceded.
There was still a quarter of an hour to go for Blackburn to get the equaliser and they wasted no time in going in search of it. Now Burnley were well and truly pinned back in their own half desperately trying to hold on to their now slender advantage.
Shots and crosses rained in on the Burnley goal but still the visitors struggled to create anything truly clear cut. Their was a wall of claret shirts around Adam Blacklaw's goalmouth and as minute followed minute it looked as though the home side would hold on.
With four minutes to go, however, Burnley could only half clear a high free kick launched by Matt Woods and when Clayton instantly smacked it back goalwards the ball ricocheted into the path of Mick McGrath who managed to squeeze a shot between two flailing defenders which clipped the inside of Blacklaw's left hand post and nestled into the back of the net.
Blackburn continued to pile forward looking for a winner and had Dobing and Dougan retained their composure on seperate occasions and squared the ball to unmarked colleagues rather than shooting from unlikely angles then their amazing comeback might well have been complete.
At the other end Burnley desperately tried to retaliate but the best they could now muster was a couple of crosses which Leyland came and claimed with authority under severe pressure.
The final whistle brought loud cheers from the visiting contingent and even louder boos, aimed at the referee, from the home support.
Blackburn would complete their fightback at Ewood Park on the following Wednesday when they ran out 2-0 winners in the replay and would go on to the final against Wolverhampton Wanderers where their chances would be dashed by a serious injury to Dave Whelan.
Despite their bitter disappointment here this game might actually have been a blessing in disguise for the Clarets. Free from the distraction of the cup they made up the ground on the two sides above them and ended the season as league champions after a final day victory at Manchester City.
Heady days indeed.
Full Time: Burnley 3 Blackburn Rovers 3