The Burnley Slayer: A fan’s story behind David Dunn’s 95th minute equaliser
Six years on from David Dunn’s 95th minute equaliser against local rivals Burnley, Chris Henderson remembers one of the best live matches of his life…
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Burnley
Ewood Park, 17 March 2013
One of the best live matches I’ve ever been to was a 1-1 draw. When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound too impressive. Although that would miss the point of an offside 95th minute equaliser scored by a local lad to rescue a 34-year unbeaten streak in the fierce East Lancashire derby.
On the morning of 17 March 2013, I set off from a friend’s house in Manchester for the big derby match between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley at Ewood Park.
The morale around the club, and in turn the whole town, was at an all new low
A lifelong supporter, it felt like the first time in a while that there was little to celebrate about being a Blackburn Rovers fan. Since the well-documented takeover of the Venky’s, the club had been quickly disassembled and hollowed out.
In 2013, the morale around the club, and in turn the whole town, was at an all new low.
On the morning of the match, I sat in horrendous traffic on the M61, hopeful the match would provide some respite from the club’s depressingly rapid downward spiral. I was all set to meet my Dad at the ground to have our traditional couple of pints before kick off.
The club, meanwhile, sat teetering on the edge of the Championship relegation zone. A couple of years before this match, a few Burnley fans had dressed up the statue of Jack Walker in a claret and blue Burnley shirt and scarf, which went down as well as you would imagine.
I quickly parked up and ran down Bolton Road past a sea of empty plastic pint glasses outside the Fernhurst pub
To twist the knife more, Rovers’ rivals across Lancashire were improving year-on-year. Burnley had spent my entire life in Blackburn’s shadow, floundering in the lower leagues while having to watch us lift the Premier League and League Cup trophies. As a young kid in the Ewood Park stands, it felt strange listening to our fans chant about a team three leagues below us, but that all made sense over time.
In 2013, Sean Dyche’s side were heading in the opposite direction to Rovers, although hadn’t beaten us since April 1979; a barren spell of over 34 years. This felt like their best chance yet.
I have never, before or since, been late to a football match
As the match kicked off, I still sat in my car on the M61. Police had been called to the scene where a man was threatening to jump from the bridge. Once the situation was sorted, I quickly parked up and ran down Bolton Road past a sea of empty plastic pint glasses outside the Fernhurst pub.
With 11 minutes on the clock, I joined my dad in a cauldron of noise in the Jack Walker Stand. We were stood right along the goal line close to the Burnley fans, who had been given the entire Darwen End allocation. I have never, before or since, been late to a football match.
— Blackburn Rovers (@blackburnrovers) October 23, 2015
Like most derby games, it was a nervy game and chances were rare. Michael Appleton’s Rovers appeared to have no attacking game plan whatsoever. The strategy was frustratingly simple: keep a clean sheet and then hope for the best.
The obvious flaw in that plan is having no plan B if you go a goal down, which we did, as Jason Shackell put the Dingles ahead on 32 minutes. The Burnley fans were obviously going crazy.
The game stumbled on into the second half, with Rovers looking unlikely even to fashion a half-chance. Burnley looked comfortable, even after Ben Mee had been sent off for two bookable offences in the 65th minute.
I can still hear the roar of the crowd, and the split second of silence before Dunn struck the ball
The clock ticked past 90 minutes and the game was fizzling out before our eyes.
Five minutes into injury time, the ball bobbled through to David Dunn – clearly several yards offside – who drilled a left-foot half volley in at the near post. The Burnley fans went silent, Rovers’ fans went ballistic.
I can still hear the roar of the crowd, and the split second of silence before Dunn struck the ball. He mocked the travelling support, rubbing his eyes in a crying gesture.
— Blackburn Rovers (@Rovers) March 17, 2019
It was Bank Holiday Sunday and my dad and I headed to our local for a couple of post-match pints. From the pool room, we watched Appleton’s brilliantly ungracious post-match interview, “I hope it’s damaging to Burnley and I hope it feels like it’s the worst result they have ever had.”
The manager even attempted to claim some credit for keeping Dunn on the pitch until the final whistle, but we all know who the hero was that day.
I’ve seen a host of wins over Burnley down the years, including a 5-0 shelling on Easter Sunday in 2001, as well as a late Morten Gamst Pedersen winner in an FA Cup tie in 2005. But we were always expected to get something from those matches; this one felt more significant.
The differing directions of the two clubs continued for a few years after this, although a recent upturn in Rovers’ fortunes means a return of the East Lancashire derby is not too far away. This match was a rare highlight in the last decade for Blackburn, but things are now looking up. Rovers are on their way back.
As my Dad and I celebrated from the Bee Hive pub, a video appeared on Facebook shortly after the match of Dunny signing autographs outside Ewood Park. A Blackburn fan approaches him from behind, holds him in a tight embrace and whispers in his ear, “I love you, do you know that?”
Every single Rovers fan feels the same.