Date: 22nd January 2009 at 2:32pm
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Burnley 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur (4-6 on aggregate).

BURNLEY came within two minutes of their first Carling Cup Final in their long and proud history after an amazing fightback against Tottenham Hotspur in the Carling Cup Semi Final Second Leg at Turf Moor, only to have their dreams crushed in the closing moments of the game.

Owen Coyle’s men headed into the game three goals down after a 4-1 defeat to the Premier League side at White Hart Lane, meaning that a 3-0 win at the full time whistle would force extra time in East Lancashire and should the Clarets manage to keep a clean sheet throughout the extra 30minutes then they would be into the final with their away goal counting double.

So when Robbie Blake, Chris McCann and homegrown talent Jay Rodriguez handed the Clarets a dream scoreline to take the game into extra time, the clock couldn’t tick down quick enough with everyone keeping an eye on the clock. But as the clock drew into the 118th minute with Burnley in the driving seat, Roman Pavlyuchenko popped up to brake the town’s hearts, and cast a silence over Turf Moor that I have never before experienced as the 19,533 strong crowd saw their Wembley hopes disappear in an instant.

The conditions didn’t suit Harry Redknapp’s side, with strong gusts of wind sweeping heavy rain accross the ground.

And it was Burnley who almost took the lead after just six minutes as Assou-Ekotto’s misjudged back pass almost lobbed debutant keeper Ben Alnwick who replaced the injured Heurelho Gomez. But this is where the incident becomes controversial as the FIFA football rule book states that the goalkeeper may not handle the ball if it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate. Assou-Ekotto clearly meant to pass the ball to his keeper but overhit the ball, leaving the former Sunderland stopper to tip the ball round the post, which is handling the ball and giving his team an advantage. An indirect free-kick is meant to be awarded to the attacking team, to be taken from the place where the ‘keeper handled the ball’ which could also lead to a red card, a decision that Burnley manager Coyle questioned the Fourth Official about.

The came Brian Jensen again showing why he is Burnley’s number one, with a fantastic stop low down as Spurs’ returning Jermaine Defoe couldn’t beat the beast.

Burnley showed a fighting spirit and they weren’t afraid to try and test Alnwick as McCann’s 25-yard effort skidded just wide of the inexperienced keeper’s far post as he looked to use the wet surface to catch the rookie out.

Chris Eagles continued to show why Middlesbrough and West Bromich Albion had been interested in his services as he linked up well with Wade Elliott, who again was looking more than comfortable in his new central midfield role, but his neat one-two move only lead to a deflected shot which headed out for a corner kick.

Spurs were still looking as though they were taking their 4-1 lead for granted, and when the Clarets won a freekick 25-yards from goal, Alnwick opted to construct a two man wall, which is not a good idea when Robbie Blake and his Bad Beat Bob pants are hovering over the ball. Blake stepped up and whipped in a fantastic free kick that suprised Alnwick as it nestled into the top corner when he was expecting a cross into the crowded penalty area.

Stephen Jordan, who has just began to make the left back slot his own in recent months with a string of fine performances, limped out of the game six minutes shy of half-time, but Turf Moor began to feel that a fourth Premiership London club would fall to the Clarets.

The Half-Time whistle came with the Clarets leading 1-0 and looking a real threat, and this time as the player’s re-emerged, there wasn’t to be a repeat of the show at White Hart Lane that saw the whites hit the back of the net four times in 20 crazy second half minutes, and Burnley looked the more likely to go on and get the next.

Luka Modric who had been missing for the opening 45 minutes decided to try and get involved, but after some neat work on the edge of the Clarets penalty area, all he could find was the Upper Tier of the Jimmy McIlroy Stand, and never looked like troubling Jensen.

Welsh International Gareth Bale, fresh on as a half time substitute, raced past captain Graham Alexander but dragged his shot well wide of Jensen’s far post as Tottenham looked threatening for the first time in the Second Leg tie.

Defoe again was thwarted by a superb Brian Jensen who make a fantastic double save, palming away the first powerful effort before racing out to smother the ball away from the former Portsmouth striker as he was about to pull the trigger.

The game was well and truely on in the 72nd minute as the Clarets doubled their lead through McCann, but it was Todmorden News Man of the Match Blake who deserves the majority of the credit as he picked the ball up on the left wing before knocking the ball effortlessly past two waiting Spurs defenders before whipping the ball into the back post where McCann was waiting to sweep the ball home and to give the fantastic Burnley support a glimour of hope.

Pavlyuchenko, who has scored in every game in the Carling Cup so far this season, was introduced as a substitute and really should have put the game out of reach on aggregate for the Clarets on the 77th minute, but somehow ‘Super Pav’ as he is branded by the Tottenham support, put the ball high and wide from six-yards.

Eagles was still looking a threat down the right hand side and when he beat his man to put the ball into the centre with Rodriguez waiting, Michael Dawson had to do everything he could to divert the ball over the crossbar.

But just moments later and 19-year-old Jay Rodriguez had fired the Clarets into absolute shock as the Cup specialist sparked wild celebrations inside Turf Moor with his third cup goal of the season – all in the same net!

Alnwick fumbled a corner kick and it fell straight to the Burnley born striker’s feet, before he volleyed the ball into the net tieing the game 4-4 on aggregate, who would have thought it? I’m still in shock that we managed to pull back the three goal deficit, but it forced an extra 30minutes extra time to settle the game.

Spurs picked themselves up and Tom Huddlestone and Pavlyuchenko both had chances to scare Coyle’s men, but it was Burnley who almost put the game out of Tottenham’s reach when livewire Rodriguez raced through only to be blocked by Didier Zokora when he was about to get his shot off.

Half-Time in Extra Time came and the Clarets were hanging on for their first Carling Cup Final after reaching three previous Semi-Finals.

But Burnley hearts were broken as the clock entered the 118th minute as Russian International Pavlyuchenko drilled home an effort past Jensen and into the bottom corner to hand Spurs an undeserved passage into the Final to face Manchester United, leaving the Clarets players and fans shocked and upset. Just moments later there was another suckerpunch as Defoe who had done nothing in the previous 119 minutes popped up to hit Burnley on the counter attack to double Spurs’ tally.

om Huddlestone came celebrating infront of the Burnley fans when Tottenham scored their first, something I just couldn’t believe. His team are struggling to survive in the Premiership and have just been out played by a Championship side in atleast 180 out of 210 minutes over both legs and he has the audacity to rub it in our faces when his team score?

Harry Redknapp apologised at the full time whistle, as he and his captain Jonathan Woodgate applauded the Burnley support which I thought was a fantastic gesture so thankyou and well done.

Tottenham are into the final but there is only one team that the national and international press are interested in talking about… Burnley Football Club! Let’s get back on track in the league and get to Wembley in the Play-Offs! Come on you Clarets!

Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Duff, Carlisle, Jordan (Kalvenes 38), Elliott, McCann, Gudjonsson (Rodriguez 81), Eagles, Blake, Paterson (Akinbiyi 100).
Subs: Penny, McDonald, Mahon, MacDonald.
Booked: McCann 37, Duff 68

Tottenham Hotspur: Alnwick, Gunter (Taarabt 93), Dawson, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto, Zokora, Bentley, Huddlestone, O’Hara (Bale 63), Modric (Pavlyuchenko 65), Defoe.
Subs: Sanchez, Dos Santos, Campbell, Rocha.
Booked: Bentley 21

Attendance: 19,533.