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For the fifth time in six years, we’ve got over the first hurdle in the FA Cup to reach the fourth round although it took a penalty shoot out yesterday before we were able to claim victory against League One club MK.

Matěj Vydra was the late hero who kept us in the competition with a stoppage time equaliser before almost becoming the villain when he failed to score with our first kick in the penalty shoot out before debutant goalkeeper Will Norris took the honours with two good saves to see us through by four penalties to three.

It was third tier opposition when I first saw a tie in the FA Cup, the 3rd round 1-0 win against Bournemouth just sixty years ago. Turf Moor hadn’t staged an FA Cup tie since without me having gone through the turnstiles but that has now changed. After Sky, BT Sport, the BBC, Amazon Prime and streaming via the Football League for the League Cup ties, it was the FA Player yesterday. It wasn’t perfect; the stream was lost once, just after the first goal of the game, and the commentator seemed to be lacking in research but at least I was able to watch the game.

The line up was perhaps stronger than some imagined it might be. Both James Tarkowski and Ben Mee lined up in defence; Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes played up front. In all, for this first game of 2021, there were five changes from the team that had beaten Sheffield United. Nick Pope and Matt Lowton both took places on the bench while Charlie Taylor was ruled out with injury. The two central midfielders Josh Brownhill and Ashley Westwood were both missing which gave Sean Dyche the opportunity to give some game time to both Dale Stephens and Jack Cork. For Cork, it was his first appearance in the first team since the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in late June last year.

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FA Cup games quite often don’t go to plan and there can be shocks. Back in the day they called it giant killing, now it is often the case that the higher placed club has made so many changes it opens the door for the lower placed club.

Last season we drew Peterborough, another League One club, and by the 23rd minute we’d gone 3-0 up with goals from Jay Rodriguez, Erik Pieters and Jeff Hendrick and the tie was all over. We’d dominated the first quarter of the game and I would suggest that we repeated that yesterday, probably we were even more in control, goals apart, than we were a year ago.

Unfortunately, it was a first half of missed chances at one end and the opposition scoring with their only attempt at goal at the other end to give them a lead and, astonishingly, still with eleven men on the pitch despite Richard Keogh getting a red card right on half time.

There wasn’t long gone when Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson hooked a ball forward. The defender, right on the half way line, made a right mess of it and that let in Barnes for a clear run on goal. Not for one second did I not think he’d score and I certainly didn’t ever think he wouldn’t even get a shot in. It was a bigger mess than the defenders but he went down while trying to go past goalkeeper Lee Nicholls. Was it a foul by the goalkeeper? No, not at all, it would have been given at Leeds of course, but it was no more than Barnes wasting a good opportunity.

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Nicholls then denied Barnes with a good save after the striker had latched on to a ball in from Phil Bardsley. It was one of a number of good saves he made with all the play directed towards the cricket field end.

There was almost half an hour gone and I don’t think they’d even had an attack. Then they did; then they scored and incredibly we were a goal behind. Stephen Walker crossed the ball from the left, it was flicked on for Cameron Jerome to come in and head the ball into the corner of the net. I was stunned; even the FA Player coverage was stunned and disappeared for a couple of minutes. I was hoping we might have equalised by the time it came back but no, the screen said 0-1.

At no point after that did we ever dominate the play as we’d done prior to the goal but it still takes some believing that we didn’t equalise in the first half. Tarkowski should have scored but hit the post with his second attempt and then Wood missed a sitter with a header.

Wood was involved in the last major incident of the first half too. Stephens played the ball forward with Wood and Keogh going up for it in the air. Now what surely is not open for debate is the fact that Keogh handled the ball so there was no surprise when Jon Moss blew for the free kick and you can clearly see from the pictures that there is no complaint from the former Derby defender, that is until Moss gets out the red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity.

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I have to admit I was not expecting to see the red card come out but Moss had a good view, could see Wood was clear without the handling of the ball. Anthony Taylor was on VAR duty. He suggested Moss go and look at the monitor, the first time it has ever been used at Turf Moor. Having watched it from one angle only for what seemed an age, he withdrew the red card and, astonishingly, awarded MK a free kick.

I’ve still not got my head round this. I am just not accepting that there was any sort of infringement by Wood at all but the real nonsense is the FA’s use of VAR in the FA Cup. Had we been drawn away in this tie, had the game been played at the League One club’s ground, VAR would not have been in operation and the red card would have stood.

As the players trooped off for half time I was very confident that we’d turn things round in the second half but it was a half of nothing other than frustration. MK nearly added a second only for Norris to save well but Robbie Brady hit a volley just over at the other end. That would have been a sensational goal had it gone in. Then Barnes, clear on the right, saw the goalkeeper make a good save to push his shot onto the post.

We made a substitution with Josh Benson coming on for Cork, then we made another when Vydra replaced Wood. Sean Dyche is often accused of not making enough substitutions but he must have then got a bit dizzy because he made two more with the introductions of Anthony Glennon and first team debutant Joel Mumbongo.

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I thought Benson did well when he came on but I’d also like to mention the other two. Glennon caused them some problems down the left hand side while Mumbongo frightened them to death with his pace and he was so close to drawing us level only for Nicholls to deny him.

Up went the board showing three extra minutes. By then I’d just about given it up but I shouldn’t have. We won a free kick on the right hand side taken by Brady’s trusted left foot. Mumbongo got in front of Keogh who was clearly fouling him, but to no avail for the player fortunate to be on the pitch as the ball dropped from Mumbongo for Vydra to come in and expertly slide it home by the post. We’d done it, we’d got level right at the very end to take it into extra time.

We always looked the more likely in the added thirty minutes although Ben Gladwin did smash one effort against the post. Nicholls made a double save to deny Vydra a second while Stephens was probably closest for us with a shot that was destined for the bottom corner until it got a deflection. Neither side scored, it was penalties, only the third time this has happened with us in this competition.

Nicholls had been their man of the match, of that there is no doubt. Would he now become their real hero and make penalty saves to take them through? He definitely made a good start. They went first with Regan Poole taking the first kick and scoring. Vydra then saw Nicholls save his penalty.

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Joe Mason scored for MK and that put Matt Lowton, who had come on as our fifth substitute during extra time, under some pressure. His only Burnley goal was in our 5-0 win at MK five years ago this Tuesday; his second is now against them, his penalty was in the top corner.

We were still behind after two penalties but then Norris stepped in to save from Lasse Sørensen before Stephens drew us level at 2-2. Then Gladwin saw Norris save again before Benson netted and we were now 3-2 in front with one penalty remaining each. Scott Fraser scored (3-3) but Bardsley stepped up to nonchalantly  stroke the ball into the bottom corner and, finally, we’d booked ball number 20 in tomorrow’s fourth round draw.

There were positives to take from the game. Both Guðmundsson and Cork got minutes on the pitch as they step up their fitness, Bardsley and Stephens too. There was also the contributions from the aforementioned three younger players, Benson, Glennon and Mumbongo. If only our two strikers had brought their shooting boots, the game would have been over long before we conceded that goal just before 3:30 p.m.

So a double cup draw tomorrow and a game against Manchester United on Tuesday. As for yesterday, I was so disappointed I couldn’t be there, my long run of being at FA Cup games at an end, but delighted to go through. Going out of the FA Cup I always find tough, but I remember when it was a very big and prestigious competition that the crowds flocked to.

Well done to Chorley, I wouldn’t say no to them visiting in the fourth round.

The teams were;

Burnley: Will Norris, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Joel Mumbongo 83), Dale Stephens, Jack Cork (Josh Benson 72), Robbie Brady (Matt Lowton 99), Chris Wood (Matěj Vydra 77), Ashley Barnes (Anthony Glennon 83). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Richard Nartey, Bobby Thomas, Anthony Gomez Mancini.
Yellow Cards: Erik Pieters, Phil Bardsley.

MK: Lee Nicholls, George Williams (Ethan Laird 62), Richard Keogh, Dean Lewington, Regan Poole, Ben Gladwin, Lasse Sørensen, Daniel Harvie (Matthew Sorinola 68), Stephen Walker (Joe Mason 62), Scott Fraser, Cameron Jerome (Lewis Johnson 81). Subs not used: Andrew Fisher, Jack Davies, Tali Jallow, Joshua Bailey, Charlie Smith.
Yellow Card: Scott Fraser.

Referee: Jon Moss (Horsforth).

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