Three days in Bonnie Scotland
Burnley return to Turf Moor next week for the second leg of the Europa League 2nd round qualifier against Aberdeen with the scores level at 1-1 after last night’s first leg at Pittodrie.
The Europa League and Burnley, it does take time to get your head round it but once the Clarets’ place had been confirmed we decided that we’d have a three day trip for the away leg no matter where the draw sent us.
We thought we might be sent to some exotic place that was hot and sunny. I don’t think we were quite expecting Scotland to be honest but we definitely got it hot and sunny for most of our time away from home which started on Wednesday and ended today, Friday.
It wasn’t a case of straight to Aberdeen. We broke our journey both ways. We spent Wednesday night in Stirling, a place famous for its castle, and last night stayed in Dundee, famous for its cake. We took a look at the football grounds too. That included visit to Dundee’s Dens Park and then I was forced to walk all the way from there to Tannadice Street, the home of Dundee United. It’s all of 100 yards.
The main purpose of the trip though was, of course, to attend our game against Aberdeen at Pittodrie and we arrived in the Granite City during yesterday afternoon to find an already large following of fellow Clarets. It was quite a moment too. When England or some of our big clubs play away in Europe, you often see Sky Sports News interviewing travelling supporters in a big square somewhere. That was us yesterday and it was fantastic to see so many Burnley fans around the place and creating such a good atmosphere.
Eventually it was time to make our way to the ground along with around 2,000 other Burnley fans, leaving behind so many who had no tickets but we able to watch it in some of the bars in the city centre. Meanwhile back at Turf Moor there were an incredible number of fans at the fanzone ready to watch it on the big screen.
The team news was through and the line up was just about as expected other than Nick Pope getting the nod ahead of Tom Heaton in goal. I’d picked up that news on the Tuesday and was surprised before learning that Tom hadn’t travelled because of a calf injury.
I thought we started well even if it was only for the first three or four minutes and I remain convinced that we should have had a penalty in our very first attack when Chris Wood was clearly held back when trying to get to an Aaron Lennon cross.
Lennon was looking our best option but then disaster struck and not once, but twice, in a matter of minutes. We didn’t have the best vantage point but we saw Pope go down after appearing to fumble the ball. He didn’t get up and it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t going to be able to continue. Up stepped Anders Lindegaard, another full international in our fine collection of goalkeepers. It was his debut, thus becoming the first Burnley player ever to debut in a European tie.
Things don’t look good for Pope with the fear that he’s suffered the same injury as Heaton early last season. Ironically, his bad news could ensure Tom gets his place back when he recovers from a minor calf strain; it could also see him very much back in favour with England.
Lindegaard’s first real piece of action was to face a penalty which he was unfortunately unable to do anything about with Gary Mackay-Stevens sending him the wrong way to give Aberdeen the lead. Was it a penalty? If you were a totally biased Aberdonian then I’d suggest you’d think it soft; anyone else would surely see that it was a poor decision by the German referee Daniel Siebert.
The atmosphere had been terrific up to this point and now the home fans lifted the decibel count considerably as they urged their team on. For much of the remainder of the first half we found it a real struggle and had Aberdeen been able to get a second I think we could have been in some serious trouble in this tie.
They didn’t, thankfully, and as the half came to its conclusion we were getting more and more into the game. Even so, we didn’t threaten an equaliser and it was no surprise that we went off for half time a goal behind.
There is no doubting that we were far better in the second half. More than once we came close. Jack Cork saw his header brilliantly saved, someone was very close to getting onto the end of a Lennon pass and then both Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson and Wood went close.
It wasn’t one way traffic by any means. Aberdeen might have been defending deep to protect their lead but more than once they threatened on the break and it took one outstanding Lindegaard save to keep them out.
With around a quarter of the game remaining we made our change. Jeff Hendrick gave way to Sam Vokes as we went 4-4-2 and it paid dividends. Vokes proved a real handful and I’m not sure he missed a header as Burnley started to threaten more and more.
And with ten minutes to go he got us our equaliser. James Tarkowski, who hadn’t had the best of nights along with his defensive partner Ben Mee, finally got the right ball in. He found Wood who in turn found Vokes but there was still much to do, even more so given that Sam was being manhandled.
He brilliantly lifted the ball over himself as he tried to get free. It was perfect, the ball dropped for him and he volleyed home. The away end went absolutely crazy. This was the goal that had put is back in the tie and enabled us to come home from the game with a draw.
Brian Miller was the last Burnley player to score in European competition; he netted both in a 3-2 aggregate defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt. I knew Dusty well and was every bit as big a Claret as any of us. He’d have had a hell of a smile on his face last night when that goal went in.
So, we wait until next Thursday when Aberdeen visit us for the second leg. We’ve got a precious away goal so all we need to do is keep a clean sheet to go through. I’m sure we won’t be banking on that and we’ll be going all out for the win.
And today it was back home on day three of our European tour. You know, I’m pleased it was Scotland. We’ve had a really good three days and been made welcome just about everywhere we’ve been, one eatery in Aberdeen apart who thought they were too good for football fans.
Last night’s game was very special. I think they call them European nights. I hope we can get the Turf rocking next Thursday for the second leg to see us through to a trip to Istanbul.
The teams were;
Aberdeen: Joe Lewis, Shay Logan, Michael Devlin, Scott McKenna, Tommy Hoban, Graeme Ferguson (Stephen Gleeson 57), Dominic Ball, Graeme Shinnie, Niall McGinn (Scott Wright 79), Sam Cosgrove (Stevie May 76), Gary Mackay-Steven. Subs not used: Tomáš Černy, Christopher Forrester, Dean Campbell, Bruce Anderson.
Burnley: Nick Pope (Anders Lindegaard 14), Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Jeff Hendrick (Sam Vokes 67), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Jon Walters, Nahki Wells.
Referee: Daniel Siebert (Berlin).
Attendance: 20,313 (including 1,969 Clarets).
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