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Nationwide Division One, 12/04/04
Good to be back
By Julie MacTaggart

I hadn't been to a match since West Brom away at the end of January, due to the small matter of a poorly gall bladder. So to Turf Moor on Monday. Putting aside the fact that our record there wasn't that great until the 7-4 last year, I went for it. We arrived at the Sparrow Hawk Hotel around 12.30 and checked in (for some reason, we keep going and staying in Burnley each season) and eventually made our way to the ground.

The scary thing when you've been sidelined for a couple of months is that you think you might forget the rituals, but as soon as you arrive you take them all on board again - the nauseous stomach, the pretty good Kenco coffee you get in northern grounds, the memories of 2001 and saying goodbye to a certain GT when every seat was full and the place was buzzing, whereas today there were seats aplenty and the locals just weren't up for it.

I settled down to watch, knees shaking, stomach churning and after a few 'Yellow armies' the realisation that my voice couldn't cope with the enforced rest. The first five minutes were dull - missed passes from both teams, the ball in the air to much and suddenly there was Dyche (of all people) heading into the net and their keeper making a fabulous save to keep him out and the match came to life. Burnley had one chance in the first half (or so it seemed) and they scored from it but despite the shaking knees and aching stomach I just knew it would be our day.

The penalty seemed obvious and I could hardly bear to watch as Devlin literally scraped it into the furthest corner imaginable and oh the joy of jumping up and shouting as we scored - I'd forgotten how good that felt. We closed the half by far the better side and I was thrilled to see that everything that had been awful against West Brom seemed so much better today. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't looking through rose-tinted glasses, it was just so good to see a side playing for each other, knowing where each other were, and obviously so intent on winning. The second half was excellent. Helguson, who a couple of years ago would have fallen, somehow managed to keep his feet and send a superb ball past the keeper, followed by a Cookie show, again keeping his head, and putting a marvellous solo effort in.

I'd listened to Saturday's match against Crewe on Three Counties and marvelled at how it was possible for us to be so jittery in the last few minutes but again we conceded a late goal and for a moment or two seemed to be hanging on. This time, however, a calm descended and I knew we had done it. As we walked out of the stadium, I looked up the results - everyone around us had won - and incredulously I suddenly realised that the gutted Burnley fans could have been us. We've spent the time since the match 'til now working out every possible scenario and I think we can do it. But whatever happens it was so good to be back!