Graham Alexander’s last gasp penalty gave the Clarets the tightest of leads in the first leg of the championhip playoffs.
The Scots fourth goal from the penalty spot in three games was enough for Burnley to win the game, despite being second best throughout and never really creating the kinds of chances they have done in previous games.
Owen Coyle had to make two changes to the side that started against Bristol City, after Loanee Rhys Williams went back to Middlesbrough, and Wade Elliot failed a late fitness test. The Burnley manager made two like for like changes, with Micheal Duff coming in for Williams and Joey Gudjohnson replacing the injured Elliot.
In front of an eletric atmosphere at Turf Moor, Burnley started the brightest as they attempted to get an early goal, and Robbie Blakes first minute free kick had to be tipped over the bar by Marcus Hahnemann with Steven Caldwell ready to pounce on the back post.
Burnley then continued to press forward and had several early corners as they put pressure on the Reading defence, but the game soon calmed down as the early part of the game turned into a sparring match.
On the 20 minute mark the Clarets were forced into a change after a challenge from Micheal Duberry left Joey Gudjohnson lying on the deck. The Icelandic was unable to recover and had to be replaced by Kevin McDonald, which heaps more midfield injury worries on the Clarets ahead of the second leg.
Soon after Reading were also forced into a change after Kevin Doyle complained of an injury. The Reading striker was eventually replaced by Dave Kitson.
Nothing much was happening in terms of chances, Robbie Blake was presented with a rare chance, but he fired high and wide, but soon after Reading began to dominate.
Reading began to turn their dominace into chances, and after a set piece Jay Tabb unleashed a hard shot goalbound, but goalkeeper Brian Jensen was alert as he saved strongly, Jensen then had to react quickly as the ball fell to Bikey just yards out who blasted goalbound, but Jensen was alert to save and smother the ball.
Reading continued to create chances and were unlucky not to take the lead. A corner from the left hand side was headed goalbound by Bikey which Jensen parried into the path of Duberry who then volleyed goalbound, but Martin Paterson cleared of the line to keep the score deadlocked as the teams went in for half time.
The second half started quietly as the two teams once again looked nervous, and the opening sequence of the half only saw the one chance which fell to Paterson, but he saw his shot confortably saved by the Reading goalkeeper.
The game continued to be a nervous affair with neither side creating any clearcut chances.
Owen Coyle soon made another change as he took the dissapointing Chris Eagles off and replaced him with Steven Thompson. The change was tactical as the Clarets now had two upfront as they looked to get grab an advantage to take into the second leg.
The changed helped the Clarets pass the ball around and they quickly began to look alot more comfortable on the ball and then started to create chances as McCann hit a deflected shot that whisked over the bar.
With the game opening up it was always inevatable that Reading would create chances. After a long ball upfield Jimmy Kebe found himself on a one-on-one situation with the Burnley goalkeeper, Kitson was unmarked in the box but Kebe decided to go alone and a last ditch tackle from Steven Caldwell prevented him from getting his shot away, whereas a pass to Kitson would have been a certain goal.
The Clarets were now passing the ball around like they had all season and this was opening up the Reading defence for the first time in the game. Soon after, a little dink over the defence from Paterson looked destined for Thompson, but the Burnley forward had his shirt clearly pulled back by Bikey, and the referee awarded the penalty.
Alexander stepped up, pushed away all the nerves, and confidently converted the penalty to grab his 11th goal of the season.
After the goal the Clarets gained a lift and looked alot more confident, and minutes later Christian Kalvenes played a neat one-two with Paterson and then fired over the bar from the edge of the area.
As the game came to a close Bikey made things worse for the visiting side. A cowardly stamp on Robbie Blake right infront of the referee saw him sent for an early bath, but not before he embarrased himself even more after having a temper tamtrum and disrespectfully throwing his Reading shirt to the ground, however the less said about Bikey’s childish and pathetic actions, the better.
The referee then blew his whistle for full time and now the attention turns to the Madjeski Stadium on Tuesday Night.
Burnley 1-0 Reading