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Burnley hit back for win

Posted on 9 May 2010  - 12:00

Season 2009/10 ended with defeat deep in Lancashire, but it will be a season that lingers on longer than most in the memory - one which puts us within one qualifying tie away from Champions League football for next season, playing football to please the purists and not offend the pragmatists.

Burnley hit back for win

Season 2009/10 ended with defeat deep in Lancashire, but it will be a season that lingers on longer than most in the memory - one which puts us within one qualifying tie away from Champions League football for next season, playing football to please the purists and not offend the pragmatists.

The play for the vast majority of the campaign was slick, controlled and effective. It remained that way at Turf Moor as the team cruised into the 2-0 lead before a Burnley response shortly before the break that would alter the course of the second period.

There were no wholesale changes made by Harry Redknapp for the final day collision on a mild day in the North West, just the introduction of Ben Alnwick in place of Heurelho Gomes, who was in considerable discomfort with his groin injury after Wednesday's crucial victory at Eastlands.

You could see that the domestic football season was ending by the fact that a game of cricket was being played out behind the stand occupied by another huge travelling support. The way we started though, there was no way of imagining that we would end up on such a sticky wicket.

We only had to wait three minutes for a further deposit to be made in our goals account. Aaron Lennon sped onto a deep ball through and cut the ball back but behind the first option, which was Jermain Defoe, but nicely into the path of Bale, who made no mistake with an emphatic sidefoot high into the net past Brian Jenson.

Control was exerted on the game with some flowing football against a Burnley side appearing not over-anxious to close down space. The next clear chance came when Peter Crouch headed just over from a Bale corner. Bale then zapped across goal a ball that just evaded the outstretched leg of Crouch.

The home side did work their way into the contest as the clock reached the half hour point, but that was before Luka Modric pulled off his party piece just a few minutes later. Taking a clever infield ball from Bale in his stride, the little Croatian tormented his marker Steven Caldwell and switched from right to left before dispatching a swerving left-footer into the top corner of the net.

There was an intensity and desire showing in the play of the team that proved they wanted to finish the season on a high.

Maybe this was a wish shared by Burnley because three minutes before the break, a smart leave by Steven Fletcher resulted in Wade Elliott being through on goal, the striker's shot not completely evading the efforts of Alnwick, but ended up in the bottom corner all the same.

The opening exchange of the second half saw Defoe run at the home defences before playing right to Lennon who shot across Jensen and struck his right-hand upright. Burnley responded and a David Nugent run was brilliantly de-railed by Ledley King before the loose ball was pounced on by Fletcher and it took a smart save by Alnwick to completely avert the danger.

Martin Paterson then sent over a teasing cross that the extended leg of Fletcher prodded over, but they had greater fortune when a cross from the same source was headed past Alnwick by Jack Cork on 55 minutes. It took a fine interception from King to deny Burnley a likely third after another, this time low centre from Paterson.

This was a different Burnley to the first half, pinging the ball around with confidence and closing down when not in possession. Roman Pavlyuchenko was summoned from the bench to replace Defoe and maybe repeat his scoring exploit at this ground in the Carling Cup last season. The Russian was soon followed by Wilson Palacios, who took the place of Tom Huddlestone.

It did not immediately alter the course of the game, which actually took a turn for the worse. Fletcher found his way inside Younes Kaboul and placed a pass that dissected our defence and fell into the path of the excellent Paterson, who slotted beyond Alnwick with 71 minutes gone.

A Bale free-kick picked out the head of Crouch in front of goal but Jensen was able to gather. Eidur Gudjohnsen was sent on late in the game, but it was Elliott who was to have the next say when he shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

An eighth away win of the season was snatched from our grasp, but the all-important one was on Wednesday.