A wonderful and special Good Friday promotion night
When referee Darren Bond blew his final whistle last night to signal a 2-1 win for Burnley at Middlesbrough, it sparked scenes that are so special, the sort of scenes that as a Claret you can only dream about at the start of the season.
We’d won promotion; we are heading back to the Premier League that we left just last May and didn’t you just know it as players, staff and supporters came together as one for some time after that final whistle.
The away section at the Riverside remained packed as the rest of the stadium emptied. Players were singled out for individual songs, Michael Obafemi and Josh Brownhill seemed to be leading the dancing down on the pitch and we even had the Icelandic Thunderclap led by Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson.
Ashley Barnes, who had opened the scoring, looked so emotional having confirmed his pending departure after over nine years at Burnley, amidst scenes finally prompted by Connor Roberts’ winning goal midway through the second half.
I was concerned that my fellow Clarets James and Mikey, who I was travelling with, were over confident. They thought we’d just about done it even as we left. I think those of you who have read my match previews and reports will know that I’ve been very confident of promotion for some considerable time but playing away against one of the better teams in the division, this was a tough fixture and I wasn’t totally convinced that this was the day.
A trouble free journey took us to a pub just a short few miles away from Middlesbrough where we were joined by two more Clarets who just happened to be holidaying in the north east of the country, I believe claiming to their wives that they had no idea where Burnley were due to play on Good Friday.
We chatted about the events of the day, delighting in Norwich’s away win and wondering just whether Neil Warnock was going to do the impossible and keep Huddersfield up. We considered whether Chris Wilder might be facing the sack at Watford too, after all, he’s been there for a month. We condemned Blackpool and Wigan to relegation, but never considered that Blackpool boss Mick McCarthy had just endured his final game in charge.
Apart from a couple of concerning moments playing out from the back, something my nerves are still to come to terms with, we started well and got ourselves in front through Barnes. There’s a suspicion of offside about it but it would probably have taken more lines than you find on a tennis court and an approximate five minutes delay had VAR been able to intervene. The goal rightly counted.
Anass Zaroury got the better of Tommy Smith down the flank. He played the ball inside for Josh Cullen who moved it on for Josh Brownhill. His shot looked as though it might be going in but Barnes was in to deflect it past Zack Steffen. In the recent win against Huddersfield, it was believed that Barnes had scored his fiftieth league goal for us only for it to then be accredited to Zaroury. He can now claim this as his fiftieth.
It could so easily have been two almost immediately. Brownhill was clearly pulled back in the box but the referee opted not to give what really looked a clear penalty.
It was still 1-0 at half time and we deserved the lead. Just 45 minutes from promotion I thought, daring to get over confident, but that confidence was hit right at the start of the second half. Middlesbrough went at us from the off and won a penalty in only the second minute for a Cullen foul. It looks soft to me but that didn’t bother Chuba Akpom who’d missed that ridiculous penalty at the Turf in December. This time he made no mistake, it was 1-1 and we had it all to do again.
We didn’t lose our way, but Middlesbrough took the game to us for a while. We weren’t hanging on or anything like that but for the first time in the game we weren’t the better side. But we eventually wrestled back control around the hour.
Then came the winner. Roberts, Cullen and Brownhill were involved on the right after we’d won the ball back with Brownhill playing the ball down the line for Tella. Roberts continued to support the move as he got forward into the box. Tella did brilliantly to get to the line, come in and pull the ball back for Roberts to turn it home.
Back in front, and from then on in, one late scare apart, we were back in control of this game. We got to ninety minutes with no real concerns and then saw the board go up for six extra minutes. We negotiated them well until right at the end, Akpom got up at the far post but could only head the cross from the right wide of the post.
It was won, we were up, we were just awaiting that final whistle, and what a moment when it came. The players were quickly over to the Burnley fans and our remaining time inside the ground was special – very, very special.
You never tire of days like this, it’s what you crave. We were up and we’ve done it quicker than any other club has ever done in the Championship with seven games remaining. Now we just have that title to go for. We lead Sheffield United by eleven points and that’s a big margin with only seven games to go even though we do meet in two days time.
I’m not sure at all what time we got out of there, not as though we were in any rush to, but eventually we did, got on our way back home, stopping for a celebratory drink (coffee I’m afraid) on the way. Eventually home, I felt the need to relive some of it on television before calling it a day.
It really was a wonderful and special day in what’s been a wonderful and special season. Now let’s get that title won.
The teams were;
Middlesbrough: Zack Steffen, Tommy Smith, Paddy McNair, Darragh Lenihan, Ryan Giles, Riley McGree, Hayden Hackney (Marcus Forss 77), Jonny Howson, Aaron Ramsey, Chuba Akpom, Cameron Archer. Subs not used: Liam Roberts, Marc Bola, Dael Fry, Dan Barlaser, Alex Mowatt.
Yellow Card: Hayden Hackney.
Burnley: Arijanet Muric, Connor Roberts, Ameen Al-Dakhil, Jordan Beyer, Ian Maatsen, Josh Cullen, Josh Brownhill, Nathan Tella (Michael Obafemi 86), Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Jack Cork 79), Anass Zaroury (Vitinho 55), Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Hjalmar Ekdal, Manuel Benson, Scott Twine.
Yellow Card: Michael Obafemi.
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire).
Attendance: 30,844 (including 2,065 Clarets).
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Dedication: This week, I lost a good friend of mine Michael Chew, who finally lost his long battle against illness. I’d known him for not much short of forty years, a dedicated Burnley supporter who, over the last twenty years, has helped the club so much financially with sponsorship and more. He was one of the supporters who helped raise the money in 2014 that allowed us to sign Ashley Barnes. Michael would have been delighted with the way the team has played this season and more so with the promotion back to the Premier League. I am dedicating this report to Michael.Follow UpTheClarets:
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