May makes Burnley's day

Stoke City 1 Burnley 2
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The Independent Football

Stoke, who escaped relegation on the final day of last season, had hopes of climbing into the First Division's top three on the back of renewed optimism at the Britannia Stadium. Instead, they could never quite get the better of a Burnley side who were two goals up before the match was half an hour old, although the sending-off of striker Carl Asaba early in the second half hardly helped.

Burnley had gone ahead with something of a rare sight in football -- a goal from David May. It was the former Manchester United defender's first in senior competition for six and a half years since he found the net for United in a 4-0 Champions' League win over Porto in March 1997.

Stan Ternent's team, reinforced by the triple loan signing of Andy Todd, Delroy Facey and Gareth Farrelly, had already rattled the home side when Bolton midfielder Farrelly's long-range attempt struck a post, and after both Graham Branch and Robbie Blake had touched Farrelly's right-wing corner in the 18th minute, May forced the ball home from close range.

May's career has been blighted by a long spell in the shadows at Old Trafford. The move to Turf Moor could brighten his outlook.

The feeling may well be mutual. In defence, Ternent felt the 33-year-old was "magnificent" alongside Todd. "We have a lot of quality and experience in the side now and I thought this was a good, clean performance that deserved the points," he added.

Ternent's outlook was undeniably rosy when Burnley's lead was doubled on 26 minutes. A well-worked move resulted in Branch playing a one-two with Blake before laying the ball into the path of Luke Chadwick. Ed de Goey made a partial block but the right-winger, May's former Old Trafford team-mate now on a season-long loan at Turf Moor, still registered his first goal in his new colours.

Facey, who like Farrelly has moved temporarily from Bolton, almost added a third soon afterwards, rolling his shot only narrowly wide with De Goey beaten. The former Chelsea goalkeeper denied Blake superbly in first-half stoppage time and it was only two top-class saves from him in time added to the second half that prevented Branch getting on the scoresheet.

The home side, for whom Gifton Noel-Williams wasted two clear first-half chances, regained a foothold eight minutes after the break when Asaba punished poor Burnley defending to nod Clive Clarke's cross past Brian Jensen.

The striker's celebrations were stifled two minutes later, however, when referee Mark Cooper dismissed him after deciding his elbow-led challenge on May warranted a second yellow card.

The contest was certainly good value for a 15,000 crowd, throwing up incidents at both ends throughout. For Burnley, Todd wasted an opportunity to restore his side's two-goal lead when he headed Blake's free-kick over the top. Then, a poor first touch by Noel-Williams denied Stoke an equaliser after Keith Andrews had sent the striker clean through.

Stoke City 1
Asaba 53

Burnley 2
May 18, Chadwick 27

Half-time 0-2 Attendance: 14,876