Date: 10th May 2009 at 7:39pm
Written by:

The Clarets put in a lacklustre performance against Reading at Turf Moor this Saturday in the first leg of the Play-offs Semi-Final. However they still managed to come away with a victory after Alexander scored a vital goal from the penalty spot late in the game. The Clarets now take a 1-0 advantage to the Madejski Stadium. This was quite a mean feat considering how poorly we played and the fact that Reading had not been defeated away since January!

It was also a bad day for Royals defender, Andre Bikey. Not only was he responsible for tugging at Thompson`s shirt in the area that led to the penalty but after stamping on Blake right in front of the referee, he saw red and then the red mist when in a petulant display of anger he took off his shirt and threw it to the ground after being sent-off. The good news for the Clarets is that he will now miss the second leg.

The second leg takes place on Tuesday night (12th May @7:45pm Kick-Off) so we shall soon know whether we have done enough to secure a place in the Play-Offs Final at Wembley on Monday May 25th. The pressure could well be back on Reading now. The Berkshire side have not won on home soil since January 2009 and Burnley now just need to draw the away leg to achieve their Wembley dream.

Hopefully the Clarets though will play their normal attacking game and won`t dwell too much on playing a defensive style; it might come unstuck as well as give Clarets fans some anxious moments. If the Clarets could just get the first goal on Tuesday night and go 2-0 up, Reading could be under significant pressure with their home crowd turning against them.

However all that`s for Tuesday night what about Saturday`s first leg? The first problem for Owen Coyle was that we had to find a replacement for loan right-back Rhys Williams. The Football League would not accept the appeals to extend his loan period to cover the play-offs even though Middlesbrough would have agreed to the extension. Clarke Carlisle however passed a late fitness test allowing Michael Duff to come in at right back, so the back four headaches for Coyle were not as bad as first feared. Wade Elliott though with a calf injury did fail a late fitness test and so Joey Gudjonsson replaced him in the starting eleven. The Clarets lined up as follows in 4-1-4-1:

Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann, Gudjonsson, Blake, Paterson

Subs: Penny, Jordan, McDonald, Rodriguez, Thompson

Despite earlier hints, there was no place in the Reading sixteen for former Clarets winger, Glen Little but he was there to watch the game unfold and must have been having mixed feelings. However, Reading hotshot Kevin Doyle was named in the starting eleven after fully recovering from a niggling knee injury. They lined up 4-5-1 as follows:

Hahnemann, Rosenior, Duberry, Bikey, Harding, Kebe, Matejovsky, Gunnarsson , Tabb, Long, Doyle

Subs: Federici, Stephen Hunt, Karacan, Cisse, Kitson

The atmosphere inside Turf Moor was electric as West Yorkshire referee, Martin Atkinson the game got underway in front of 18,853 fans. A few hours before kick-off gales and horizontal rain threatened to mar the afternoon but by the time of the late afternoon kick off (5:20pm) it was bright and sunny.

In fact so sunny it was in the eyes of the Reading keeper and defenders in the first half although it didn`t seem to give us any obvious advantage as the game progressed.

The Clarets seemed to start the brighter and Royals keeper, Marcus Hahnemann was quickly into action in the first minute turning a Blake free kick behind with Caldwell at the back post ready to pounce.

Both sides though then seemed to struggle and the quality of football was pretty poor as the game became a nervous scrappy affair with little goalmouth action.

As the game progressed it was clear we seemed to be missing Wade Elliott and his mazy runs. Blake and especially Eagles couldn`t seem to get in the game and Paterson looked lost up front alone often being squeezed by the tall powerful centre backs, Bikey and Duberry. We just couldn`t seem to get our passing game right with Reading getting most of the possession and looking the most dangerous.

It wasn`t helped when Gudjonsson was forced to be replaced after just 20 minutes. Gudjonsson had earlier been involved in a hard, heavy tackle with Duberry. He carried on for a bit but picked up a dead leg and had to be substituted with Kevin McDonald coming on to take his place.

Chris McCann found Blake on the edge of the box but the magician could only shoot wide and then about half way through the first half, Reading nearly took the lead.

Jensen had to save one-handed after a shot on target from Jay Tabb but the ball fell to Rosenior who looked certain to score from close range. The Beast though quickly got to his feet and managed to smother the ball much to the relief of the Clarets fans who by this time were having palpitations!

Martin Paterson was next to become a hero but not for his striking ability. With Reading now pressing and looking the most likely to score the first goal, Jensen could only parry away a header from a corner at close range. The ball fell to Duberry but he was denied a goal by the intervention of Paterson who guarding the post cleared off the line.

Eagles attempted a shot in stoppage time but it was well wide and that was it for the first half, a very nervy 45 minutes in which we were lucky not to be behind. Steve Coppell would certainly be the happier of the two managers as he traipsed to the dressing room from his comfy seat in the Bob Lord Stand.

During the half-time interval Rhys Williams came on the field to thank the Burnley fans which was good to see and of course was spending the whole game cheering on the lads. On the evidence of the first half, maybe we were missing his overlaps and attacking flair down the right as well but Duff had been as steady as ever at right back.

With the second half underway, it was the Clarets who nearly broke the deadlock on 51 minutes. Paterson had pounced on a defensive slip just in front of the Royals 18-yard box and shot on target only to bring out a top class save by Hahnemann.

With 60 minutes on the clock, Owen Coyle decided to move to two strikers up front with Thompson coming on to partner Paterson. The unfortunate Chris Eagles was the one to be replaced. He had looked ineffective all day and it turned out he was also suffering from a hip injury which could have explained his lacklustre performance. He spent the rest of the game on the bench with an ice pack so let`s hope he recovers in time for the second leg on Tuesday night.

The game had now been played for 70 minutes and both sides looked to be heading for a stalemate.

The Clarets though finally managed to string a few passes together in the final quarter of the match.

A long range shot by McCann on 77 minutes took a deflection over the bar with Hahnemann relieved.

With ten minutes to go though Reading attacked on the break and Caldwell had to come to the rescue to deny Kebe in the area from scoring

On 83 minutes though it was the Clarets who got the vital breakthrough after Bikey blatantly tugged at Thompson`s shirt whilst the striker was advancing in the area following a nice flick on by Paterson.

The referee despite the protests by Bikey had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and the defender was lucky to get away with only a yellow card (although justice was to follow!)

A penalty can only mean one thing for the Clarets, Mr Cool himself, Graham Alexander. Once more he showed no hesitation in thumping home the ball sending the keeper the wrong way to put the Clarets 1-0 up. That was Grezza`s 10th goal of the season from the spot, a 100% record!

The Clarets were now boosted by their lead. On 88 minutes Christian Kalvenes went inside the defence to shoot but could only fire over.

The last incident of the game was the sending off of Bikey after a red card for the blatant stamping on Blake right in front of the referee, Martin Atkinson. He will not have made his case any better after chucking a tantrum and throwing his shirt on the floor, an incident that could lead him into further trouble with Royals gaffer, Steve Coppell clearly incensed about his behaviour.

‘I have no reservations whatsoever with the red card. There is no place for that in football and he got 100% what he deserved” said Coppell after the game

I said before this game I would take any victory in the first leg and 1-0 does put us in the driving seat but we certainly can`t be too complacent in the second leg at the Madejski.

That said Come on You Clarets, just one game away from the Wembley Dream and we only need to draw!


Burnley: Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson (McDonald 21), Alexander, McCann, Eagles (Thompson 58), Paterson (Rodriguez 87), Blake.

Subs not used: Penny, Jordan.

Goal: Alexander 84 pen.

Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Duberry, Bikey, Harding, Kebe, Matejovsky, Gunnarsson (Cisse 85), Tabb, Long, Doyle (Kitson 40).

Subs not used: Federici, Stephen Hunt, Karacan.

Sent off: Bikey (90).

Booked: Matejovsky, Bikey.

Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).