PHOTOS: Torquay United 1, Burnley FC 3
ON an almost surreal day, given news around the world, and transfer matters closer to home, Burnley rounded off their mini-tour of the south west with a comfortable win at Plainmoor.
It was the Clarets’ first visit to Torquay in just over 20 years, since they were all but condemned to a seventh season in the basement division by a 2-0 play-off semi-final first leg defeat under Frank Casper.
In the intervening years, Burnley have played in all four divisions, returning to the top division in 2009, 33 years since they last played there.
And as Eddie Howe looks to build a side capable of competing for promotion back to the Premier League, the sight of Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears in the stand was a real body blow - the pair having been given permission to speak to, of all clubs, Bolton, over a joint £3m move.
On the pitch, however, things were far more encouraging, with the one player Howe has been able to bring in during a frustrating summer enjoying an impressive afternoon.
On-loan Manchester City centre back Ben Mee gave an assured display, albeit against a Torquay side that rarely looked like causing Burnley many problems.
Mee’s composed defending, astute use of the ball and aerial dominance caught the eye - and one mazy run from the back played a major role in the Clarets’ second goal, crashed in unerringly by Jay Rodriguez from 25 yards.
On the back of the disappointing 2-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night, this was a much-improved performance, as Howe’s men set the tone in the first minute, winning a corner from which Marvin Bartley had a fierce shot blocked.
The Clarets’ passing was crisp and accurate, and they played with a tempo and competitive edge that Torquay had no answer to.
They took an early lead when Ross Wallace found skipper Dean Marney, and his pass set Bartley breaking forward.
He swapped passes with Rodriguez and burst through the heart of the home defence before producing a cool finish.
The goal was typical of Burnley’s early play - an excellent exchange of passes at pace.
The Clarets used the full width of the pitch, looking to get Wallace and Wade Elliott on the ball, and even when the pair came inside to get involved, full backs Brian Easton and David Edgar retained the width and kept providing the ammunition.
Bartley sent a left foot volley just wide after a cross was cleared to him on the edge of box, before Torquay posed their first threat as the burly Rene Howe wriggled through, but his centre was cleared for a corner, which was headed wide of the far post.
Charlie Austin got up well to head over a dangerous Wallace cross as the impressive start continued, while Andre Bikey also nodded over another Wallace centre from the right after a well-worked corner with Elliott.
Wallace - arguably Burnley’s stand out player so far in pre-season - then saw a shot saved by the post, before seeing a free kick clip the top of the bar and bounce over.
Howe side-footed wide under pressure from Easton at the other end, before the Clarets doubled their lead.
Mee skipped past a couple of challenges on halfway and laid the ball out to Easton, who fed Rodriguez.
The England Under 21 international then watched the ball across his body before smashing a daisy cutter inside the post - a stunning strike.
In a rare home attack, Taiwo Atieno rounded Brian Jensen but could only find the side- netting with the goal gaping.
After the break, as is often the case in friendlies as substitutions break up the flow of the game, the chances dried up somewhat.
Austin volleyed over from an Edgar cross, with Wallace also looking to get on end of it, before, just after the hour, Howe was given time and space to wallop a 25-yarder in off bar, giving Jensen no chance.
Austin had a great chance to restore the two-goal advantage after Rodriguez’s header sent him clear, but keeper Martin Rice saved his effort with his legs.
However, substitute Alex MacDonald made the scoreline more reflective of the balance of play late on when he cut in from the right corner of the box, and his left-footer hit the post and cannoned in off Rice for his third goal in four pre-season outings.
BURNLEY: Jensen (Stewart 78); Edgar (Long 78), Mee (Duff 71), Bikey, Easton (Fox 71); Elliott (MacDonald 71), Bartley (McCann 63), Marney, Wallace (Fletcher 78); Austin, Rodriguez (Hewitt 78).
Attendance: 1,759 (390 Burnley)