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1718 burnley turf moor 03 1000x500Jack Cork scored our crucial second goal in the home win against Aberdeen in the last round and last night scored the only goal of the game against İstanbul Başakşehir to take the Clarets into the Europa League play-offs.

On an incredible, and at times tense, night at the Turf, it took us until the seventh minute of extra time to break the deadlock, but when it came it was a very special finish from Cork who fired into the top corner from just outside the box after Jeff Hendrick had laid the ball back.

That left us with around 23 minutes, plus a few more added on, to keep a clean sheet and we did that with thankfully hardly a scare despite them winning a few late corners.

I’d been nervous all day. Having missed the trip to Istanbul a week ago, I was desperate to get at least one trip into mainland Europe. I loved the trip up to Aberdeen but didn’t want that to be my only away game in this competition. Being a match day was good too with the chaos at home that’s left me without Sky for a few days. How will I cope?

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So I was eager to get down to the Turf and it was already busy down Harry Potts Way when I got there. Harry Potts – the only other Burnley manager to take us into Europe. He’d be thrilled to bits at what’s going on at Turf Moor these days. Despite being from the North East, his years at Burnley ensured he was very much claret and blue when it came to his football.

Things have changed since his days. Harry once made ten changes for a league game because we were playing in Europe four days later; Sean Dyche made six changes last night to keep some of his players fresh for the Premier League game against Watford this Sunday.

There were three changes to the back four. That saw Phil Bardsley and Kevin Long come in alongside Ben Gibson who became the third player this season to make a Burnley debut in a European game. Charlie Taylor played on the left of midfield and, returning to 4-4-2, both Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes started.

The Aberdeen fans had been replaced by a handful of what looked like stray Turks, but other than that it was a passionate home crowd that welcomed the teams onto the pitch, led by a Romanian referee who left me confused at times with his lack of signals but overall, I thought, had a good game. He certainly wasn’t Bobby Madley in disguise.

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With no away goal to fall back on, the only way we could go through without scoring would be via another 0-0 draw and a penalty shoot out. A score draw was no good so, basically, we needed to win the game.

We started well enough and really should have got our noses in front. Ashley Barnes, who seemed to be having a running battle with the assistant referee’s decisions against him, got clear on the right but opted to shoot rather than pull the ball back. He fired well wide.

Aaron Lennon had the best chance. It was brilliant work from the winger as he weaved his way into the box and into a shooting position. Just as was the case at Southampton, he saw his effort saved by keeper Mert Günok who also kept out a stinging shot from Phil Bardsley.

It did look as though it might only need a goal, but then things changed and we were thankful to Joe Hart, on his home debut, more than once for keeping us level going into half time. Yes, you would expect him to save most of them, but he did and made one excellent save to deny Edin Višcá.

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So it was 0-0 at the break, something we are getting used to, but the second half didn’t really go to plan. Even so, we had a glorious chance early in the half but Barnes headed over. After that, we had to deal with them having a lot of possession and at times we really did have some defending to do. Having said that, Hart wasn’t particularly busy and so much credit has to be given to the new look back four. I thought Bardsley and Long were outstanding and what a debut performance from Gibson on the left of the defence alongside the impressive Stephen Ward.

There were half chances at both ends in the dying minutes but when that whistle blew it was an Aberdeen report, we were going into extra time again.

We really couldn’t afford to concede a goal now. The tension was mounting but then, seven minutes in, came the moment. Chris Wood, on as a substitute, and Hendrick linked up with the latter getting the ball out to Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, who had also come from the bench. JBG returned the ball to Hendrick who so cleverly laid it back for Cork to shoot from over 20 yards out. It looked a good finish from my vantage point, from behind the goal it looked sensational.

The nerves really kicked in now. They still only needed a goal to win the tie. Could we get a second? Could we risk going for a second? We did have a bit of defending to do and the corners at the end provided a few nail biting moments. James Tarkowski came on deep into stoppage time to head it and kick it but he didn’t need to do either. We cleared that last corner and then the roar went up around Turf Moor as István Kovács blew that final whistle.

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Dyche looked to be fist pumping to the Bob Lord Stand where travel rugs were being thrown up in the air. I stayed long enough to applaud each and every one of our players before rushing off to get my flights booked for Athens.

I made the decision not to go to Istanbul; I didn’t want to miss this next one. I’d already booked a hotel in Athens (I’m going with a Yorkshireman so didn’t commit any payment). Now the flights are booked and I really can’t wait.

I know I keep writing it, but these really are very special times to be a Burnley supporter. What another night it was. And I wakened this morning to learn there has been a new addition to our family. What an incredible 24 hours.

Now it’s Watford and then we are off to Greece.

The teams were;

Burnley: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon (Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson 58), Ashley Westwood (Jack Cork 82), Jeff Hendrick, Charlie Taylor, Sam Vokes (Chris Wood 82), Ashley Barnes (James Tarkowski 120+2). Subs not used: Adam Legzdins, Matt Lowton, Dwight McNeil.
Yellow Cards: Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Stephen Ward

İstanbul Başakşehir: Mert Günok, Júnior Caiçara, Manuel da Costa, Alexandru Epureanu, Gaël Clichy, Mahmut Tekdemir (Gökhan Inler 92), Irfan can Kahveci (Miloš Jojić 109), Emre Belözoĝlu, Edin Višcá, Riad Bajić (Emmanuel Adebayor 66), Kerim Frei (Stefano Napoleoni 102). Subs not used: Volkan Babakan, Joseph Attamah, Uĝur Uçar.
Yellow Cards: Irfan can Kahveci, Gökhan Inler 92.

Referee: István Kovács (Romania).

Attendance: 16,583.

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