THE world and his wife turned up to crown Ian Wright as king of Turf Moor – but Latics had other ideas.
Wright makes a habit of scoring on his debut for a new club in an eventful career which has taken him to Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Celtic.
However that statistic went out of the window on Saturday as John Benson’s men cast themselves in the role of party poopers.
In the first half, the former England international found his way to goal blocked by the no-nonsense defending of Pat McGibbon, Stuart Balmer and Gareth Griffiths.
After the interval when Wright found more room for himself and began showing flashes of brilliance which have taken him to the very top of theBritish game, Roy Carroll stood in his way.
Three times in the second half, Carroll pulled off top drawer saves – a 70th minute point blank stop to keep out a fierce volley being the pick of the bunch.
This result can certainly be seen as a point won rather than two lost from Latics’ point of view.
The majority of the 20,435 crowd turned up expecting a Wright-inspired Burnley victory, so the visitors can deservedly be pleased with their afternoon’s work.
While they didn’t manage to pick up their first win since January 3, the display was a huge improvement on the shabby show against Colchester seven days earlier.
The hunger and desire was back, the passing generally crisper, and the confidence seemed to return.
More importantly, the 2,500 travelling supporters got right behind the side after last week’s boos and jeers, giving the players a standing ovation at the final whistle.
Indeed they could have been celebrating a win had Simon Haworth not driven a late chance wide of the far post with only Clarets keeper Paul Crichton to beat.
The Latics starting 3-4-3 line-up saw SIX changes as Benson swept a new broom through his squad.
Suspended duo Arjan de Zeeuw and Carl Bradshaw were joined on the sidelines by Alan McLoughlin, Simon Haworth, Stuart Barlow and Kevin Sharp.
Scott Green and Darren Sheridan took over the wing back berths, McGibbon and Griffiths took their places in the centre, while Jeff Peron joined new £450,000 signing Neil Roberts in a revamped forward line.
Roberts can be pleased with his debut considering he’d only had one training session with his new team prior to the game.
Some fairly robust defending from the home side saw him dumped on his backside a few times, but there’s plenty of promise there.
He showed he could dish it out too, earning a booking for a challenge on Wright.
“That’ll be one to tell the kids about,” he smiled later as he prepared to make a quick dash to Manchester Airport to join up with the Welsh squad in London.
Roberts was involved in the action ealry doors, hitting a 20 yard shot into the chest of Crichton after three minutes.
Fellow debutant Wright’s first meaningful touch at the other end came in the sixth minute when Graham Branch’s pass found him in space on the left hand side of the box.
Despite Wright’s presence, it was Latics who generally enjoyed the better of the first half play without carving out too many chances.
Peron, who was afforded plenty of room in a wide attacking role, fired wide in the 22nd minute, while Michael O’Neill curled a 25 yard free kick off target.
Two minutes before the break, a neat through ball from Wright played in John Mullin on goal, but a fine sliding tackle from Sheridan saw the ball whipped off the toes of the Burnley midfielder.
If Latics had shaded the first half play, then the second half belonged to Burnley.
But the visitorsstuck to their task well, determined to get something out of the game.
Wright screwed a shot wide of the far post soon after the re-start, while McGibbon got in a great covering header to prevent the striker connecting with a right wing cross.
In the 61st minute, Carroll got down bravely at Wright’s feet to block a close range effort, and then pulled off two excellent saves in quick succession.
After 70 minutes, a cross from substitute Paul Smith deflected into the path of Wright 12 yards out.
He caught the ball full on the volley but Carroll was equal to it, saving at near point blank range.
Moments later Wright was put through on the left, cut inside, and fired a shot across goal towards the far corner, but the Northern Ireland keeper dived full length to push it away.
As the clock ticked away, both sides came within the narrowest margins of grabbing a winner.
In the 88th minute, Andy Liddell’s pass sent substitute Haworth sprinting clear of the home defence but his low shot from the edge of the area spun agonisingly wide of the post.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Haworth’s knock down landed at McLoughlin’s feet, and his first time 20 yard effort whistled just over the bar.
Burnley broke upfield almost immediately, and Wright’s chip from the left hand corner of the box for once evaded Carroll’s gloves but fortunatley dropped over.
And there was another big scare with five minutes extra played.
Sheridan conceded a free kick wide on the Burnley right, which was played short to Smith 25 yards out.
He smacked a first time drive towards the goal, the ball struck McGibbon and ping-ponged around the box.
It eventually landed at the feet of Mitchell Thomas and his right foot shot struck the bar and bounced to safety.
If Latics can show these kind of battling qualities week in, week out, a win is just around the corner.
There won’t be too many games more difficult than this, and they won’t have to face Mr. Wright every week.
Match Report by Dave Seddon – Wigan Evening Post