ON a day when Burnley’s James Anderson was part of England’s climb to the top of the World Test rankings at a delirious Edgbaston, Eddie Howe’s Clarets were 130 miles South struggling for form at Selhurst Park.
The 29-year-old pace bowler set Andrew Strauss’s side on the victory trail by removing Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in India’s second innings on the fourth day of the Third Test to usurp the tourists at the summit.
Anderson’s prolific spell in the opening stages orchestrated the Three Lions’ dominance, though it was a sluggish and uninspiring start in the Championship clash against Crystal Palace that sparked the Clarets downfall.
It seemed everything was against Howe’s men even before their arrival in the country’s capital. A depleted squad had lowered expectations from the majority in and around Turf Moor, with Steven Thompson, Kevin McDonald and Remco Van Der Schaaf ending their affiliation with the club during the summer.
Club captain Graham Alexander was released by mutual consent, Clarke Carlisle agreed a season-long loan deal with rivals Preston North End, Chris Iwelumo moved to Watford, and the club accepted a joint bid in the region of £3m from Bolton Wanderers for duo Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears.
And the most recent sale saw Danny Fox join Jack Cork at Southampton in a deal believed to be around £1.8m.
Only Keith Treacy and back-up keeper Jon Stewart had joined on a permanent basis prior to the weekend fixture from Preston and Bournemouth respectively, while defenders Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier joined on loan from Manchester City.
It’s been a summer of big change, but that wasn’t the only factor that suggested the omens weren’t great.
Statistics showed that the Clarets have scored just five times in nine outings away at Palace since the turn of the Millennium, with the last coming in a 2-2 draw five years ago. The last success at the stadium in South Norwood was in a 2-1 victory in December, 2001.
History looked as though it would be repeated in the immediate aftermath of referee Brendan Malone’s first whistle, as Dougie Freedman’s side pressed, forcing an unorganised Burnley unit in to making mistakes.
The Clarets were chasing shadows, but there wasn’t a single Burnley player in close proximity to Norwegian Jonathan Parr’s silhouette as he raced on to Ryan McGivern’s cross, before crashing a 10th minute header past a helpless Lee Grant.
With the deadlock broken, and the Clarets playing catch-up for the second time in as many Championship matches, Howe’s side responded and enjoyed a dominant 20-minute spell of possession. Jay Rodriguez, fresh from a four-goal demolition of Burton Albion in the 6-2 Carling Cup triumph midweek, was thwarted by the excellence of Julian Speroni, who clawed his header off the line following an enticing centre from Trippier.
The visitors continued to spread the ball, with Ross Wallace the desired outlet on the right, but there was little end product to rouse the 767 travelling supporters.
After half-an-hour of the clash had expired skipper Chris McCann glanced Wade Elliott’s corner over the bar, and then Wallace went close to finding the target twice in as many minutes.
First he flashed a set-piece from 20 yards, level with the left angle of the penalty area, narrowly wide of the far post with Speroni rendered a mere spectator, before the Argentine goalkeeper stood tall to tip another free-kick from Wallace, this time in a more central position, over the woodwork.
Eagles’ skipper Patrick McCarthy should have doubled the home side’s advantage in first half stoppage time, but he directed his close range header from Owen Garvan’s corner high and wide. That brought the half to an end and the Clarets trailed 1-0.
It was imperative for the Clarets to continue that momentum as the second half got underway, but their stranglehold on the game was brief.
Elliott should have been awarded a penalty in the 52nd minute after cutting in to the box from the right before being tripped, but Malone waved away the appeals much to Howe’s disgust.
“I thought from my own eyes seeing it live, it was a clear cut penalty,” said the Burnley boss.
“I thought Wade got the other side of his defender and he was in a great position in the box, so I don’t see why he’d go down if he wasn’t pushed.
“That was a tough one to take, but it’s a decision you probably don’t get away from home. It does change the game, but it’s done, it’s finished, the decision’s made and we move on.”
Rodriguez found himself isolated and frustrated playing as the lone striker and not even the introduction of strike partner Charlie Austin could resolve Burnley’s lack of penetration and creativity.
Jermaine Easter went close to doubling the advantage as he latched on to man of the match Sean Scannell’s piercing through ball, but he failed to prod the ball past Andre Amougou on the line twice.
Aleksander Tunchev should have converted Garvan’s free-kick when unmarked at the back post in the 65th minute, but he blazed his header wide of the upright.
But then it was effectively game over when Mee’s lunging challenge sent Scannell crashing to the ground in the 66th minute and a spot kick was awarded. Garvan stepped up and sent Grant the wrong way to make it 2-0.
Amougou had a golden opportunity to reduce the deficit, but he failed to connect with another pin-point cross from Trippier and then Austin, Brian Easton and Wallace all went close.
Marvin Bartley’s raised elbow on Parr in the 93rd minute then saw the Clarets reduced to 10 men, an incident which accurately summed up Burnley’s disappointing afternoon.
“Marvin said it wasn’t, I don’t know, I need to see it again,” said manager Howe.
“He’s an honest lad, Marv, and it’s disappointing that he’s got a red because we’re going to lose him for three games now, which is a big blow.”