Macclesfield Town produced a spirited performance which oozed defiance and determination last night, yet goals either side of half time from Aaron Lennon and Johann Berg Gudmundsson saw Premier League Burnley run out 2 – 0 victors at the Moss Rose.
In his first home game since being unveiled as Macclefield Town Manager last month, Mark Yates entered the dugout to rapturous applause from the home faithful and it was the League Two side who started the match in the ascendancy.
With just three minutes on the clock, Danny Whitaker produced a teasing corner from the right which was seized upon by Harry Smith – yet the former Millwall strike was unlucky to see his glancing header fly marginally wide of the far post.
The opening exchanges were played at a frantic pace, as Macc refused to allow our illustrious visitors to dictate the play.
Goalkeeper Rhys Taylor began his second spell at the club in confident fashion and on 7 minutes he showed his alertness when he stormed off his line to deny Chris Wood a free run at goal.
Sixty seconds later the former Wales U21 international would be tested a little more strenuously, as Charlie Taylor's deep cross from the left broke to Johann Berg Gudmundsson who fired a low drive at goal which was well saved by Taylor.
The hosts then launched a devastating counter-attack, which could easily have yielded the opening goal. Danny Whitaker and Michael Rose surged through the Burnley ranks before the ball was squared to Koby Arthur – whose shot from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection to reside in the thankful arms of Tom Heaton.
By this point it was clear that Macc were in no way overawed by their illustrious visitors and this was exemplified by the intricate, expansive football which they were conjuring up to the delight of the loyal home contingent.
On 14 minutes the Premier League side threatened once more however. This time another deep Charlie Taylor cross from the left saw Taylor bravely come off his line and he managed to ensure that the best that Chris Wood could do was head the ball over the bar from three yards out.
Six minutes later, a visionary Callum Evans ball set Jared Hodgkiss free down the right, yet Heaton would produce a good near post save to deny last year's skipper the opening goal.
Within sixty seconds Jeff Hendrick played Phil Bardsley free down the left hand side and when he unselfishly squared the ball for Chris Wood on the edge of the six yard area everyone held their breath. Fortunately, the New Zealand international was only able to direct his effort onto post as the Macc defence cleared their lines.
Despite having to endure copious amounts of pressure, Macc gallantly looked to attack their Premier League opponents at every opportunity - with midfielders Danny Whitaker and Michael Rose orchestrating play for large periods.
Ashley Westwood them hammered a ferocious drive over the bar on 25 minutes, before Fiacre Kelleher sublimely dispossessed Wood as he threatened to surge through on goal.
The home side then launched a blistering counter as they looked to stun Sean Dyche’s men and this culminated when David Fitzpatrick unleashed a glorious thirty five yard thunderbolt which Heaton phenomenally tipped around the left hand post.
Mark Yates’ side looked comfortable and confident in possession and even at this early stage, their fighting qualities elicit much optimism for the forthcoming EFL season.
Gudmundsson’s corner from the left was then headed over the bar by Kevin Long on 34 minutes, before The Clarets took the lead two minutes later.
Aaron Lennon surged through on goal, before showing his consummate professionalism in slipping the ball powerfully past Taylor to hand the Europa League bound side the lead.
It would have been easy for Macc to have consolidated their position with half time looming, yet they looked for an instant reply when Rose blasted fractionally over from an acute angle sixty second later.
Two minutes before the interval Taylor found Gudmundsson free down the right with an exquisite pass and he forced the Macc ‘keeper into a fine save at the far post. The ball broke for Wood and as he composed himself, it looked like Burnley would double there lead - that was until Jamie Grimes produced a majestic block to deny the Lancastrians and as the half time whistle blew, Macc marched off still very much in the game.
Three minutes after the restart, the visitors were awarded a free kick twenty five yards from goal. Up stepped Icelandic international Gudmundsson who fired an inch perfect drive into the bottom right hand corner which no ‘keeper in the world would have been able to stop.
Despite this, Macc continued to display courage and conviction as they looked to reduce the arrears.
On 51 minutes Callum Evans fizzed a low drive wide of the left hand post after a flowing Silkmen move and eleven minutes later, Jared Hodgkiss’ teasing cross from the right agonisingly evaded the advancing Harry Smith.
Two minutes later the hosts came again, as Whitaker blitzed through the middle of the park before laying the ball off to Koby Arthur. The Ghanian hit a first time cross into the penalty area which was perfectly met by Whitaker - yet he was unlucky to see his header fly just wide of the far post.
Nineteen minutes from time, Smith used his power and pace to break free down the right hand side and only the desperate boot of Jimmy Dunn prevented his powerful drive being tapped in by Scott Wilson at the far post.
Dunn produced heroics once again three minutes later, as the lively Arthur threaded a neat ball through to Wilson - yet the former Manchester United defender was on hand to prevent last year’s leading goalscorer from halving the deficit.
Arthur continued to terrorise the Burnley defence, with his electric pace giving Bardsley a plethora of issues to deal with - yet the Premier League outfit held out to secure victory in a match which provides all Silkmen fans with a great amount of belief ahead of the new season.
You can hear Mark Yates' thoughts on the game here
Macclesfield Town Starting XI: Taylor, Hodgkiss, Fitzpatrick, Keheller, Grimes, Wilson, Smith, Arthur, Evans, Whitaker, Rose.
Subs: Lowe, Marsh, Gray, Welch-Hayes, Pearson, Blissett, McKeown
Burnley Starting XI: Heaton, Bardsley, Dunne, Long, Taylor, Lennon, Westwood, Cork, Gudmundsson, Hendrick, Wood.
Subs: Legzdins, Clarke, Benson, Harker, Koiki