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For the fourth time since they opened their new stadium back in the late 1990s, we came home from Reading with a 0-0 draw and continue the search for a first league win there.

We won on that superb night in 2009 but we’ve lost two FA Cup ties there and now gone twelve league games without a win and four times we’ve left having witnessed a 0-0 draw, in 1999/2000, 2004/05, 2015/16 and 2022/23 with three of those four seasons ending with a promotion.

This latest 0-0 draw was one we came close to missing. Everything was going well; we were on our way with a scheduled arrival time at not much after 1 p.m. Then, just short of leaving the M6 for the M42, the car hit something on the road and it was quickly evident all was not how it should be. It meant a wait for a recovery vehicle, a transfer to a garage in Sutton Coldfield.

Thankfully, at around 1:20 p.m., we were able to continue our journey and my very helpful co-travellers dropped me off as close as possible while they looked for a parking spot. It was around 3:06 p.m. when I got through the security checks and inside with the rest of our group surfacing just over ten minutes later.

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In all my years of travelling, I’ve only once previously missed kick off, that at Millwall in 1999 and once didn’t get there on the coach to Watford in 2009. This time, advised by such wonderful inventions as Google Maps, we didn’t take the A34 but continued on the M40 to Wycombe and then took the A404 before approaching the stadium on the M4 from the east.

I don’t think we’ve picked up the team news while still so far from our destination but it was a big surprise when 2 p.m. was reached. Vincent Kompany had more than hinted there would be changes but we certainly weren’t expecting six with only Connor Roberts, Jordan Beyer, Josh Cullen, Nathan Tella and Lyle Foster remaining from the line up against Sheffield United.

“It’s like a cup team,” was one comment relating to the number of changes we often make when the two cup competitions come around. What I did note with interest, although there may be absolutely nothing in it, was only Tella of our loan players from English clubs was even in the match day squad. Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Ian Maatsen were definitely there but not on the bench.

I can’t comment on the opening few minutes but as I walked up towards the turnstiles I thought we might have gone in front such was the noise coming from the fans inside. It turned out to be the home fans on an afternoon when, for much of the game, there was precious little atmosphere in the away end that again, and not for the first time this season, saw a lot of empty seats.

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Positioned way back behind the goal, much of the early play I saw was down at the far end with Burnley very much on top. Joe Lumley saved from Manuel Benson early in the game after he’d run onto a ball from Ameen Al-Dakhil. I don’t think any of us would have believed at the time that this was to be the only recognised shot on target from either side.

Soon afterwards, we lost Tella to injury with Darko Churlinov replacing him but we just couldn’t find that breakthrough although Scott Twine was unfortunate after a nicely worked corner that he took himself that led to him forcing another corner from which he saw his shot blocked and that was the last real opportunity of the half.

We’d seen precious little of Reading in that first half in front of us and it was to be no different after the break with us continuing to dominate the play.

But we just couldn’t create the chances to take this game away from Reading who, for the most part, looked content to keep it at 0-0 although they did throw Andy Carroll on just past the hour with us counteracting that with the introduction of Jack Cork.

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Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson and Charlie Taylor both had long range efforts go just wide with our best chance falling to Churlinov whose shot went over the bar.

There have been mixed opinions of Benson’s performance. He was so much of the ball and with space down the right, but he failed to deliver good balls into the box far too often. He’s just coming back from an injury that kept him out for around two months and he’s not carrying the threat he did prior to that injury.

That will come, I’m sure, and our lack of goal threat could also come from the fact that Twine, Foster and Churlinov played extensively in this game. None of them have had that much game time this season and it’s not so easy just to come in and play. For both Twine and Foster it was just a second league start in Burnley colours while for Churlinov, he’d had no league football since the win at Stoke in December.

It ended with us down to ten men too. No red card, but having used all three substitution slots, Benson went down injured and was forced to go off in the 89th minute. We had to negotiate those last few minutes a player short but I don’t think Reading ever had an attack during that time.

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I totally understand the manager’s approach of wanting to give these players some game time as the end of the season approaches and with our promotion having already been confirmed but it has to be expected that things will be different with so many different players coming in at the top end of the pitch.

Against a poor Reading side, we were never really under too much threat and when the final whistle signalled yet another 0-0 draw here, it took our number of clean sheets for the season to nineteen, the joint best in the league alongside Coventry.

That clean sheet total is a real positive. It’s now just one short of equalling the twenty clean sheets in our last promotion season. It’s also another unbeaten game and that’s taken us to 21, and that’s the second best I’ve ever seen as a Burnley fan, going past the twenty in 1981/82 and now just two behind the 23 seven years ago.

We are also one point closer to being crowned champions and that will come sooner rather than later.

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One record we can’t beat is the 106 points Reading won in the 2005/06 season when they won the Championship. Their fans were certainly letting us know about that at the final whistle but if I were them I’d be more concerned about the present. I know they only dropped into the bottom three because of the points deduction but they are going to have to offer more than they did in this game between now and the end of the season.

Thankfully, the car had been left not too far away and we were soon back on the road and on our way to Abingdon. It’s a pub we’ve used before and yet again it didn’t let us down with the food or drink. If the journey down was no fun, if the match wasn’t the best ninety minutes we’ve seen this season, then at least it all finished well here before the journey back which got me home not too much later than midnight.

The teams were;

Reading: Joe Lumley, Andy Yiadom, Tom Holmes, Naby Sarr, Nesta Guinness-Walker (Amadou Mbengue 74), Femi Azeez (Mamadi Camará 73), Jeff Hendrick, Cesare Casadei, Tyrese Fornah (Kelvin Abrefa 67), Lucas João, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan (Andy Carroll 62). Subs not used: Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Scott Dann, Mamadou Loum.
Yellow Cards: Andy Carroll, Amadou Mbengue, Joe Lumley.

Burnley: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Connor Roberts, Ameen Al-Dakhil, Jordan Beyer, Charlie Taylor, Josh Cullen, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Jack Cork 64), Manuel Benson, Scott Twine (Anass Zaroury 81), Nathan Tella (Darko Churlinov 18), Lyle Foster (Ashley Barnes 81). Subs not used: Arijanet Muric, Vitinho, Samuel Bastien.
Yellow Card: Jack Cork.

Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands).

Attendance: 19,476 (including 2,100 Clarets).

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