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We’ve Met Before – Burnley

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Reproduced with permission from Paul Waterhouse, Bygone Chelsea 1905-99

The long history between Chelsea and Burnley in league football is also interspersed with a number of epic encounters in the F.A. Cup

The first ever game to take place between the two sides occurred during Chelsea’s inaugural season in the football league in the 1905-06 season. Although it was a league encounter the F.A.Cup competition would have a huge bearing on what happened on that day, 18th November 1905. As newcomers, Chelsea were obliged to take part in the preliminary rounds of the F.A. Cup and having already dispatched the 1st Grenadiers and Southern United in the first two rounds they were then drawn away to Crystal Palace in the 3rd Preliminary Round……on the same day they were to meet Burnley in the league at Stamford Bridge. In front of an 8,000 gate a single Bob McRoberts goal on 70 minutes was enough to secure victory over Burnley and maintain their early season promotion push. Over at Crystal Palace a second string Chelsea X1 went down to an emphatic 7-1 defeat. They weren’t the only side to fall foul of the fixture confusion and the F.A. eventually brought in a ruling that stated all clubs in future should field a strongest possible line up.  

Chelsea and Burnley first met in the F.A. Cup on 19th February 1927, the 5th Round tie taking place in front of a 63,238 gate at Stamford Bridge. At the time Chelsea were desperately attempting to regain their place in Division 1 whereas Burnley, already in Division 1 were in the upper reaches of the table. Albert Thain put Chelsea ahead in the 38th minute and Harry Wilding doubled the home sides advantage four minutes after the break. Burnley fought back and reduced the deficit on the hour mark when Benny Cross scored. Chelsea withstood tremendous pressure to record a famous giant killing act but the cup run ended in a Quarter-Final Replay defeat at Cardiff City.

Chelsea and Burnley next met in the F.A. Cup during the 1955-56 season and the 4th Round Tie eventually took five games before a winner would emerge. The first game of the saga took place at Turf Moor on 28th January 1956 in front of a 44,897 gate. Peter McKay put the home side ahead as early as the 5th minute and they looked on course for the next round until Eric Parsons snatched an 83rd minute equaliser for Chelsea. The Replay at Stamford Bridge on 1st February drew an attendance of 26,661 spectators, not bad for a 2.15pm kick-off on a Wednesday afternoon. In a tight game the deadlock was finally broken in the 55th minute when Frank Blunstone put Chelsea ahead, but Brian Pilkington levelled for Burnley on 68 minutes. The scores were still level at full time, as indeed they were at the end of the extra thirty minutes so another replay was needed. St Andrews, Birmingham was the venue chosen for the second replay, this time a Monday afternoon 2.15pm kick-off that drew 21,921 spectators on 6th February 1956. Peter McKay gave Burnley the lead in the 18th minute but Chelsea levelled when Peter Sillett converted a 33rd minute penalty. Just after half time Jimmy McIlroy put Burnley ahead once more, only for Roy Bentley to score again for Chelsea. Both sides then had to face extra time again to no avail, so it was off to Highbury for a third replay. Taking place on 13th February 1956, the Monday afternoon 2.15pm kick off drew an excellent gate of 42,757 to Highbury and another epic encounter once again went to extra time without resulting in a winner from a 0-0 draw. The fourth replay in the saga took place two days later on 15th February 1956 at White Hart Lane. The game once again kicked off at 2.15pm and this time there was a positive outcome as Burnley finally ran out of steam. In front of 27,210 spectators Ron Tindall gave Chelsea the lead on 36 minutes and the game was settled when Jim Lewis scored Chelsea’s second goal with nine minutes remaining. Exhaustion seems to have caught up with Chelsea as three days later they lost the 4th Round Tie 1-0 at Everton.

Another pair of momentous encounters between the two sides took place during the 1969-70 F.A. Cup campaign. Chelsea were firing on all cylinders and had already beaten Birmingham City in the previous round. Burnley came to Stamford Bridge on 24th January 1970 as did 42,282 spectators and Chelsea looked on course for the next round when John Hollins and Peter Osgood both scored within a two minute period mid-way through the second half. The visitors fought gallantly and two Martin Dobson goals inside the last ten minutes earned them an unlikely replay. Three days later Chelsea headed to Turf Moor and the 32,000 gate witnessed a dramatic game. Ralph Coates gave the home side a 35th minute lead and for long periods they looked likely to add to it. With time running out Peter Houseman snatched a superb equaliser to take the game into extra time. During the extra thirty minutes it was Chelsea who gained the upper hand, especially after Tommy Baldwin put them ahead two minutes after the re-start and they made sure of the victory when Peter Houseman grabbed his second goal of the night to wrap up a 3-1 win with four minutes remaining. The outcome would of course lead to a first F.A. Cup triumph for Chelsea, again after a replay.

The final game we’ll look at also took place in the F.A. Cup, this time a 4th Round Tie at Stamford Bridge on 31st January 1978. Chelsea were still basking in the glory of knocking out Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in the third round just three weeks earlier. The game against Burnley was scheduled for Saturday, 28th January 1978 but a waterlogged pitch caused the game to be postponed and re-scheduled for the following Tuesday evening. The 32,168 gate was silenced when Paul Fletcher put the Division 2 side ahead in the first minute, but after that it was all Chelsea. Micky Droy restored parity just four minutes later and Steve Wicks put Chelsea ahead on 18 minutes. Just before the half hour Ken Swain converted a penalty and Chelsea led 3-1 at half time. There was no let up after the break as Clive Walker on 55 minutes put the game beyond Burnley. Two quick fire goals by both Tommy Langley and Ray Wilkins in the final quarter put some gloss on the night for Chelsea and the late Steve Kindon goal for Burnley proved to be mere inconvenience as the home side romped home 6-2 victors. Despite two cracking results it all ended in tears and some degree of embarrassment as Chelsea were knocked out by lowly Orient after a 5th Round Replay at Stamford Bridge.

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Nick Stroudley

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