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1920 burnley turf moor 04 1000x500I suppose we should be used to it by now; losing League Cup games against teams from League One and League Two and by the time the final whistle blew last night we’d added Sunderland to Port Vale, Accrington Stanley and Burton Albion who have all beaten us in the last four years in this competition.

Somehow, we allowed Sunderland to come from a goal behind to score three times in fifteen minutes either side of half time and that was just about it as they eased through to the next round with a comfortable 3-1 win against us.

It shouldn’t have been comfortable; we should never, ever have lost this game and could so easily have had it won in the first half an hour, but the game lasts for ninety minutes and we got exactly what we deserved after an appalling second half show.

As expected, Sean Dyche made as many changes as he could. I’m sure it would have been eleven changes but for injuries. As it turned out, Dwight McNeil played alongside a completely different team to the one he’d played with at Wolves.

The line up gave loan signing Danny Drinkwater a Burnley debut and there were places on the bench for defender Jimmy Dunne, who spent the second half of last season on loan with Sunderland, and 16-year-old striker Lewis Richardson. Whether Dyche had intended blooding either of them if things had been going well, we’ll never know, but the pair got the experience of ninety minutes on the bench.

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We’ve got so used to these embarrassing cup defeats but for the first half hour and more of this encounter anything but a win looked very unlikely. Danny Drinkwater and Aaron Lennon, the best player on the pitch by a country mile in the first half, were pulling the strings. Matěj Vydra was looking sharp up front too and we got ourselves in front, could have had more and for all to see it looked as though this was going to be a very simple victory and a place in round three.

McNeil had already had a shot just wide having picked up the ball from Lennon and the opening goal came in just the 11th minute. Drinkwater played a nice ball forward for Vydra who did ever so well before slipping the ball to Jay Rodriguez to his right. Jay just had to hit his shot across the goalkeeper which he did to score his first competitive goal for Burnley since he netted a second minute penalty in a 1-1 home draw against Crystal Palace in March 2012.

We sat back and waited for the second goal. Had it come, this, I am absolutely certain, would have been an easy, easy win for Burnley. The closest we came, and you can’t get much closer, was hitting each post in the same move. Jeff Hendrick played the ball into the box for Vydra who laid it back for Lennon to fire a shot against the left hand post. Out it came for Vydra to find the foot of the other post.

Burnley were so much on top that we were predicting just how many we might win by, but then, ten minutes before half time, Sunderland got a fortunate break that brought them back into the game. A ball in from the left would have caused us no real problem at all but Drinkwater deflected it straight into the path of Will Grigg who was all alone in the penalty box. He made no mistake and incredibly Sunderland were level.

It knocked us back but by half time we’d regained our confidence and as the players went in at the break we were all left looking forward to the second half. In truth, we might as well have gone home.

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With less than five minutes of the second half gone, we’d conceded two simply dreadful goals. Both came from corners, one from the right and one from the left. The first of them was laid back and led to them getting in a shot from the corner of the box. Joe Hart could do no more than parry but, in Lee Grant style, parried it straight forward and made it easy for Tom Flanagan to head home.

Hart wasn’t good on the next goal either but he wasn’t the only one culpable. A left wing corner was knocked in low, close to the line and then played back for George Dobson to shoot from a central position close to the 18-yard line. It seemed as though no defender was really bothered to do too much about preventing him from getting in the shot which went past them and beat the goalkeeper far too easily.

Incredible, in  game we’d dominated, we were 3-1 down and now we had to wait for the reaction for us to get ourselves back into it. Those of us who went to Port Vale, Accrington and Burton were hardly surprised that it just never came other than Kevin Long forcing the goalkeeper into two good saves from headers, the second of them incredibly from a Ben Gibson cross.

That second half performance was appalling, simply appalling and we just basically allowed Sunderland a walk through into the next round. Sean Dyche was more critical than I can ever remember him after a game, but it was justified.

There can be no excuse for that second half performance. Fair enough, many of those players have played no competitive football for quite some time, but we were also playing against a very average looking, much changed Sunderland team.

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The League Cup is over for another season. That’s seven defeats in our last eight ties in this competition with the last six of those defeats coming against teams from lower divisions.

That second half showing last night was just nowhere near good enough and I can’t see many of those players getting close to the starting line up for a league game any time soon.

The teams were;

Burnley: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley (Matt Lowton 78), Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon (Chris Wood 69), Danny Drinkwater, Jeff Hendrick, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Matěj Vydra. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jimmy Dunne, Erik Pieters, Jack Cork, Lewis Richardson.

Sunderland: Lee Burge, Conor McLaughlin, Jack Baldwin, Tom Flanagan, Denver Hume, Lynden Gooch, George Dobson, Dylan McGeouch, Elliot Embleton, Luke O’Nien (Max Power 86), Will Grigg (Charlie Wyke 78). Subs not used: Anthony Patterson, Alim Ozturk, Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka, Ruben Sammut, Jack Diamond.

Referee: Darren England (Barnsley).

Attendance: 7,445 (including 1,093 from Sunderland).

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