Date: 13th May 2009 at 7:25pm
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Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be will be, we`re going to Wemberley…and I am still singing it this afternoon after a magnificent display by the Clarets against Reading last night in the play-offs semi-final second leg at the Madejski Stadium. A 2-0 Clarets victory (3-0 on aggregate) thanks to two superb goals in the second half in the space of seven minutes, first by Paterson and then by Thompson saw the Royals condemned to another season in the Championship and later that night looking for another manager after the resignation of Steve Coppell. By the way that was also the first time we had won at the Madejski Stadium since it opened in August 1998 so what a time to do it!

The Clarets are now just one game away from their dream of Premier League football next season, and that game will be at Wembley in the Championship Play-Offs final against Sheffield United on Spring Bank Holiday Monday 25th May.

What a cracker of a game this Wars of the Roses clash promises to be with the Clarets facing a side they have already beaten both home and away this season but let`s not get ahead of ourselves we still have to savour last night`s match in Berkshire.

You could sense the nervousness of both sets of fans before the match last night certainly in the pub I frequented (Swan Inn, Three Mile Cross) and it wasn`t to get any better for Clarets until the 51st minute of the second-half when Paterson unleashed a shot from 32 yards that sweetly sailed into the net to silence the Reading fans. What a time to get a goal of the season! Clarets fans had just seven minutes to catch their breath before Thompson let rip to score an equally exquisite goal, another that could qualify for goal of the season to put the Clarets 2-0 up. Only then really could we fully relax and start to sing Que Sera Sera. The match came to its natural conclusion and as the final whistle went 2200 Clarets fans went wild as Owen Coyle and the players came over to frenzied applause. We are going to Wembley and grown men were stood there crying tears of joy!

Before we provide full details of the match, just a word of respect for Reading and in particular their former manager, Steve Coppell. I think you have to pretend you are a Royals fan for the moment and imagine what they must be going through. They looked odds on for automatic promotion before Christmas and then their home form collapsed. In a remarkable sequence of eight games at the Madejski without a win, they had only scored 3 goals and had not won in on home soil since January. Their away form kept them in the chase though right to the end and only their defeat against Birmingham at home in the last fixture of the season ensured they would miss out on automatic promotion. The Clarets come along and inflict their first away defeat on them in six games in the first leg and then ensure their play-off dreams are shattered by ensuring their poor home form continued last night. They really must be gutted, I know I would! Coppell has been with Reading for five and a half years and he has steered them to the Premier League previously when they finished a remarkable 8th in their first season. Relegation of course followed but isn`t it strange how finishing in the play-offs is not good enough and you have to say goodbye to a manager? Very sad I think for him and he is very well respected, so I wish him well for the future. I have to say I thought the Royals fans showed great dignity in defeat last night and as far as I am aware there was no trouble after the game. I found myself bartering with the heavies on the door of the Madejski Stadium Hotel ostensibly to order and wait for a taxi back to my hotel (the MUCH cheaper Premier Inn!) but they let me in and I managed to sneak into a bar full of Royals fans still with my colours visible. They were wishing Burnley well at Wembley and there was some quality banter.

Thought I just had to say that, but anyway back to the match last night.

Clarets fans all day had awaited news of three injury concerns all in the midfield. Chris Eagles had picked up a hip injury and Gudjonsson a dead leg in the first leg plus Elliott had a calf problem that had kept him sidelined for the match at Turf Moor last Saturday. All three thankfully were named in the sixteen with Elliott recalled to the starting eleven and both Eagles and Gudjonsson named on the bench.

With Eagles on the bench, Coyle had the opportunity to start two strikers and I was delighted to see Paterson and Thompson in the starting eleven, something that would certainly prove to be the correct decision. Paterson had looked lost up front alone in the first leg and was too easily squeezed out by the Royals tall central defenders although at least this time we wouldn`t have to worry about Bikey after he was straight red-carded for a stamping on Blake late in the first leg .That red and the red mist that followed ensured Bikey would get an automatic four match ban starting with the second leg plus a fine by the club for the tantrum after.

The full Clarets line-up was as follows:

Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Elliott, McCann, Blake, Paterson, Thompson

Subs: Penny, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Eagles, Rodriguez

The Clarets in effect lined up with a five-man midfield with Paterson on the right and Elliott on the inside.

Reading could not call on the services of leading goal scorer, Kevin Doyle. He had not recovered from the Achilles injury he had picked up in the first leg so Coppell gave a first start to 20-year-old Welsh U21 striker Simon Church. Former Clarets winger, Glen Little who missed out in the first leg was named on the bench.

Referee, Mike Riley from West Yorkshire got the match underway with the Clarets knowing they only needed a draw to secure their Wembley dream. They may have known that, but they couldn`t really play for one and would have to adopt a try & win attitude. Clarets fans certainly hoped they would play their normal attacking, passing game in an effort to get that crucial first goal. The psychological effects on the Royals being 2-0 down on a ground where they had not won since January could just see the Clarets through so that had to be the target.

Could the Clarets get their passing game going though, in this their 60th match of 2008/9? Only Manchester United had played more games than the Clarets and they had used 34 players compared to the Clarets 23. Tiredness and stamina problems do not appear to be in the equation though this season and I guess all the players need only look at 37 year old Alexander for inspiration, a player that has started in all 60 games and completed most of them too!

Reading knew at the start of this game they had to attack and in the first half the Clarets were certainly under some sustained pressure but coped with it well defensively. Nevertheless our attacks were limited and our passing game could once more have been better

Jensen was again in top form and in the opening minutes of the game prevented Kebe getting in a header from a cross by Long before parrying away an attempt by Long from 12 yards

The Royals battering ram in attack continued with the Clarets needing to get into the game and string some passes together. After 20 minutes of play, debutant Church tried a shot but it went straight to Jensen who saved comfortably.

At long last, five minutes later the Clarets had their first meaningful attack after McCann got in a cross from the left-wing. The resulting volley by Elliott took a deflection and the ball sailed over the bar.

It was the Royals again though who came charging forward. A Gunnarsson low cross from the right dangerously flew across the six yard box but Duff cleared the ball away to safety.

Panic set in for Clarets fans with five minutes to go to the end of the first half. Jensen saving with his legs just outside the box with Long charging in had no chance in avoiding his hand touching the ball! Riley blew for a free-kick and the fear was Jensen would be sent off for what was clearly accidental handball. The Royals were clearly protesting to the referee but at least he kept the cards in his pocket and Jensen survived.

So that was it for the first half and no doubt Steve Coppell would be the happier of the two managers. Coyle would need to gee things up a bit in the second half and get the Clarets in better attacking mode. Nevertheless the defence had held firm and the longer Reading could be denied a goal the better our chances.

No changes by either side for the start of the second half and the night was about to become one of celebration for Clarets fans when on 51 minutes we got that vital opening goal in stunning fashion.

Paterson running down the right wing picked up a ball in midfield from Thompson. The Royals were completely bamboozled by Elliott who was the obvious player on the overlap to pick up a pass. Instead Pato drove inside and the Royals defence seemed to part like the waves. Paterson as the space opened up in front of him charged towards goal letting loose a thunderbolt from 32 yards out. Hahnemann could get nowhere near it as 2200 Clarets fans went wild after seeing the ball thunder into the back of the net.

Steve Coppell just had to do something desperate now to get back into this game needing three goals to ensure victory. He made an immediate triple-substitution bringing on Kitson, S.Hunt and former Clarets favourite, Glen Little. He needn`t have bothered. Clarets fans had hardly had time to catch their breath after that stunning first goal when seven minutes later; the Clarets went 2-0 up in an equally breathtaking fashion. Thompson winning a header on the corner of the box just had time to look up before letting rip with a scorching shot that went over Hahnemann and into the back of the net off the crossbar. Clarets fans were now definitely sure they could sing Que Sera and did!

Reading kept battling on and Long and Kitson had attempts which both went over the bar but it was a lost cause for the Royals. Gudjonsson, Rodriguez and Eagles all got a chance to feature coming on from the bench in the last 20 minutes. Jay Rodriguez had a couple of attempts to try and make the night even more miserable for Steve Coppell`s men but in the end we just waited for the final whistle so we could celebrate our first visit to the new Wembley.Nine long years we had waited for this victory and now it was it time to celebrate into the early hours of the morning!

Now we are all back to reality and the sobering thought that we are just one victory away from reaching nirvana otherwise known as the Premier League, the first time we will have been in the top flight in over 33 years. Can we do it? I hope so, I am not sure I have any more ‘squeak` left in my bum!


Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Pearce, Duberry, Harding, Kebe (Kitson 53), Gunnarsson, Matejovsky (Stephen Hunt 52), Tabb, Church (Little 53), Long.

Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse.

Booked: Duberry, Kitson, Long.

Burnley: Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Elliott (Eagles 84), Alexander, McCann, Paterson (Gudjonsson 71), Thompson (Rodriguez 79), Blake.

Subs Not Used: Penny, McDonald.

Booked: Kalvenes, Elliott.

Goals: Paterson 51, Thompson 58.

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).