Well, it was not the greatest game I’ve ever seen, not even the best I’ve seen this month, but the way Burnley fans celebrated at the end, you’d have thought we’d just knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League semi-final with an injury time winner.
My God, do you remember all the old miseryguts who moaned about the play-offs when they were first invented? I love them.
But there is no doubt the tension got to the players. We have become used this year to seeing fluent, attacking, high tempo football. Our home form has been exceptional in recent weeks. Today, that gave way to something much nervier, with more mistakes and poorer first touch than we’re accustomed to.
Thank God for Brian ‘the Beast’ Jensen. Our Danish goalkeeper, who I am proud to call a Facebook friend, was superb. His first half double save, and the one which prededed Martin Paterson’s line clearance, kept us in the game.
We were better in the second half, captain Stevie Caldwell made a superb block when Reading were through two against one, and we eventually created a bit of panic in the Reading box, and won a penalty. To be fair to the Reading defence, it was our first real chance. And the first rule of football is – Graham Alexander never misses penalties for Burnley.
As we pressed for a second, we were treated to a head-losing stamp on Robbie Blake by Bikey who was sent off, then tore off his shirt and threw a Drogba style tantrum. He will miss the second leg on Tuesday, and a few ore games after that.
The Burnley supporters were good, and kept the faith even when we were not playing well. Fans on two sides were standing and the atmosphere is always better when fans stand. I was disappointed with the Reading turnout. We have a great if antiquated away end, but it was barely half full. The measly 2,000 tickets Reading have allocated to Burnley for the away end on Tuesday went in no time.The ticket office reckon we could have shifted six thousand.
I noted too that Sheffield United had a stack of empty seats in the away end at Preston last night, and there was a smattering of empty home seats too.
Burnley is one of the smallest towns in the country to boast a professional football team. We vie with Middlesbrough for the highest crowds as a proportion of the town’s population. It is the kind of support that definitely deserves a trip to Wembley, and a trip back to the top flight after a 25 year absence.
I am confident that come Tuesday, we will be back on form. The play-off final takes place on my 52nd birthday. Happy days.