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leyland 2 1000x500Burnley fought for over 70 minutes last night against the odds in the Lancashire Senior Cup Final against Blackburn Rovers before succumbing to two late goals that gave our fierce rivals victory at the County Ground in Leyland.

It’s not often you turn up at games at this level to find a police presence and segregation but that’s how it was last night. The only other occasions I can recall it were in the two clashes between the same sides in the Premier Reserve League in 2009/10 where there were more stewards and police than spectators at the games played at Leigh Sports Village and Accrington Stanley.

We went through separate turnstiles, either end of the LFA offices, with Burnley getting the Brian Pilkington End and half of the stand along the side with netting providing the divide between the two sets of supporters and it was clear that neither of the two clubs had sold their allocation of 1,000.

Looking at the Burnley line up was confusing. There were six defenders named but not a solitary midfielder. Mace Goodridge has been out for much of the season having suffered a cruciate ligament injury but none of Josh Benson, Mark Howarth or Christian N’Guessan were passed fit which meant the two central midfield places were taken by defender James Clarke, who was playing his last game for us, and first year scholar Cricky Conn-Clarke. Tunde Bayode was on the right of them with left-back Ali Koiki, who had returned from his loan at Swindon, stepping in on the left hand side of the midfield.

1819 burnley dan agyei 00 500x500Despite that, we started well and were the more productive side for much of the first half and we thought we’d broken the deadlock when Dan Agyei (pictured) got onto a ball and beat the Blackburn goalkeeper to score only to see the assistant’s flag up for offside.

Agyei, in particular, was causing them problems but his game came to an end with less than half an hour gone. Making a run forward, he was fouled but got up as the referee waved an advantage, but they took him down again and this time he won a free kick but also an injury that forced him off, and to hospital,  to be replaced by under-16 Lewis Richardson.

As the teams came off at half time there was disappointment that we hadn’t got the goal that our first half performance had deserved but there was confidence that it would if we could continue to play in the way we had.

The second half was a different story, however, which saw us with a lot of defending to do. Blackburn started the better although we did have a short spell on top before the game very much swung their way and we had some defending to do and we did it so well.

We got past 70 minutes as they put us under pressure and thoughts turned to a potential penalty shoot out, but it wasn’t to be and with 17 minutes remaining they broke the deadlock. Even then we were unfortunate. Aidan Stone made a terrific save to deny them only for the ball to come back off the post and left them with the easiest of chances.

On came Tinashe Chakwana who, like Clarke and Stone, was making his final appearance in claret and blue. We gave it everything without ever quite looking as though we might get an equaliser, and four minutes from end it was all over when they broke to score a second. Stone had no chance with that one but did make another outstanding save right at the end to keep it down to two.

Who knows? Had Agyei not been injured, had we had some central midfielders, it might have been so different. But, sadly, a season which promised much in terms of league position and cups has ended with this final defeat.

Steve Stone was proud of his players when he spoke after the game. He said: “I already knew they are an academy we are trying to get to. What they have brought through over the years, we have to try and match that. It probably just showed tonight, in terms of the quality they had on the ball and what they have done over recent years, but you can’t ask any more of the lads I have put out there today.

“We’ve got a 16-year-old up front, who is just leaving school, a first year scholar, a second year scholar and you have to be immensely proud of what they’ve done. I’m absolutely delighted with them.”

The teams were;

Burnley: Aidan Stone, Jordan Cropper, Bobby Thomas, Scott Wilson, Anthony Glennon, Tunde Bayode, James Clarke, Cricky Conn-Clarke (Tinashe Chakwana 79), Ali Koiki, Rob Harker, Dan Agyei (Lewis Richardson 28). Subs not used: George McMahon, Joel Senior, Ben Woods.

Blackburn: Andrew Fisher, Hayden Carter, Lewis Thompson, Charley Doyle, Tyler Magloire, Lovie Annesley (Samuel Barnes 90+1), Joseph Rankin-Costello, John Buckley, Jack Vale, Daniel Butterworth, Stefan Mols (Whitehall 90+1). Subs not used: Jordan Eastham, Luke Brennan, Daniel Pike.

Referee: Michael Salisbury.

Attendance: 491.

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