Football: Cooke soars to save Burnley

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The Independent Online
Burnley 2

Cooke 12, 41

Plymouth Argyle 1

Saunders 25

Attendance: 18,811

A DAY of desperate tension at Turf Moor ended with Burnley clinging on to Second Division status thanks to an emotion-charged victory over Plymouth and Brentford's defeat at Bristol Rovers - a combination of results which sent Argyle and Brentford down.

Chris Waddle's first season in management ended in scenes of relief and jubilation for most of the packed crowd of 18,811. But it is unlikely that the former England international enjoyed the afternoon. Having put himself on the bench rather than in the team, he spent the game restlessly pacing the touchline and screaming instructions, a picture of nervous torment.

Asked last night if he would be celebrating, Waddle replied with a curt "No". He also refused to answer questions about his future, amid rumours of a boardroom takeover and moves to tempt Brian Little to Turf Moor. "I wouldn't like to go through that again," Waddle did admit. "I've learned more this season than any other year of my career."

It was Burnley who had the first decent chance, Mark Ford seeing his shot deflected over the bar in the third minute after the Clarets' first attack. The breakthrough was not long delayed, however. After 12 minutes, the eager Glenn Little surged down the right and from his inviting cross the centre-forward, Andy Cooke, headed powerfully past an exposed Jon Sheffield in the Plymouth goal.

In the 25th minute, the Devon side hit back. Darren Curriecurled in a fine cross to the far post, where the midfielder Mark Saunders, arriving unattended, headed in emphatically from four yards.

Burnley responded by hitting the bar twice in four minutes. Within 60 seconds of the equaliser, Paul Weller scampered through the Argyle defence to smash the ball against the woodwork, and then Little cut in from the right to strike almost the same spot with a screamer from 20 yards. Sheffield somehow clawed out Cooke's header from the rebound.

Cooke was not to be denied, though. Four minutes before the interval, Damian Matthew whipped in another damaging cross from the right and the centre-forward climbed above Mick Heathcote to head home.

Not surprisingly, the second half saw less in the way of decent football and the biggest roar was the one which greeted Bristol Rovers' first goal against Brentford. Burnley's only good chance after the interval came when Andy Payton was put clean through 10 minutes from the end, but Sheffield came out bravely to block with his legs.

Chris Woods was the busier goalkeeper in the second half, but he did not have any difficult saves to make. His only real alarm came when Mark Winstanley allowed a Conlon cross to pass under his foot in the 81st minute, but Earl Jean's shot was straight at the former England international.

It was close - a draw would have kept the Pilgrims up and sent the Clarets down - but it was not enough, and poor Plymouth failed to spoil the Turf Moor escape party.