Burnley 1-0 Sheff Utd
Burnley 1-0 Sheff Utd
By Paul Fletcher
BBC Sport at Wembley
Wade Elliott’s sensational strike ended Burnley’s 33-year wait for a return to the top flight as they defeated Sheffield United in the Championship play-off final.
Elliott scored with a curling 13th-minute strike into the top corner that was worthy of winning any Wembley occasion.
Indeed, victory for Owen Coyle’s team was fully deserved as their 61st game of a long and successful season culminated in promotion to the Premier League for the first time.
The Clarets, founder members of the Football League, played with freedom and ambition – and should have doubled their lead after the break but Nick Montgomery blocked Joey Gudjonsson’s hooked shot while Kyle Walker made a superb challenge with Robbie Blake poised to strike.
Burnley created a series of chances and went close from distance several times – in stark contrast to their Yorkshire opponents, whose best hope of an equaliser came from two penalty appeals.
The first, for a challenge on Brian Howard, was debatable, but Christian Kalvenes’s crude challenge on Walker after the break was a clear foul.
However referee Mike Dean, whose appointment Blades boss Kevin Blackwell had criticised in the build-up to the match, sided against United on both occasions.
It was a miserable afternoon for the Blades, who saw Jamie Ward red carded late on after he picked up two bookings in four minutes.
But Coyle and his squad, who earlier in the campaign came within minutes of reaching the Carling Cup final, have now ensured their season would not be one of near misses with their Wembley victory.
Elliott’s winning goal was the first incident of any note.
The midfielder’s surging run through the vacant midfield area roused the Clarets supporters and looked full of possibilities but the chance appeared to have gone when Matt Kilgallon blocked Chris McCann’s shot after Elliott laid the ball into his path.
However the clearance ran invitingly to Elliott, who superbly wrapped his foot around the ball and found the top corner of the net beyond the despairing dive of Paddy Kenny.
Blades keeper Paddy Kenny has no chance as Elliott pulls the trigger
United, who like their opponents were unchanged from their semi-final second-leg victory, too readily resorted to a direct option and the Clarets’ central defensive duo of Steven Caldwell and Clarke Carlisle dealt comfortably with high balls into the penalty area.
The Blades mustered no chances of note in the opening half and the nearest they came to an equaliser was the penalty appeal after 15 minutes.
Graham Alexander, a play-off winner at his seventh attempt, did bring down the largely anonymous Howard with a tackle from behind but Dean waved away United’s penalty appeals. In any case it was borderline whether the tackle was made in or outside the area.
Burnley, in stark contrast, seemed unaffected by the occasion and expressed themselves in the manner that has won so many admirers this season.
McCann, who limped out midway through the opening half, headed over from a corner while Martin Paterson went extremely close to a second goal with a curling 20-yard strike after cutting in from the right flank.
And in first-half injury time Clarets substitute Gudjonsson almost connected with a Steven Thompson header back across the face of goal.
The trend continued after the break – a deft Elliott backheel setting Robbie Blake free while Michael Duff came within inches of converting a Thompson header across goal – as the Blades struggled to cope with their opponent’s superior invention.
But for Nick Montgomery’s fortunate goal-line block after 55 minutes the Clarets would have doubled their lead.
Gudjonsson, unmarked inside the six-yard box, seemed certain to score as the impressive Thompson headed the ball back across goal towards him but the midfielder’s hooked shot lacked power and struck Montgomery, who was facing the other way and knew nothing about it.
More misery for the Blades with Jamie Ward’s late sending off
Another glorious chance came their way 10 minutes later when Thompson sprung the offside trap, raced down the right flank and squared the ball to Robbie Blake.
The Burnley forward seemed certain to score but Walker, one of the Blades’ two impressive young full-backs, made a brilliant covering challenge.
The Blades were again frustrated with a penalty appeal after Kalvenes clumsily barged Walker to the floor. It was a clear foul – and definitely took place inside the area. Their ire increased when substitute Ward saw red after picking up his second booking for a handball but there can be no complaints it was the right decision.
The last few minutes were tense but Burnley closed out the final in relative comfort, much to the delight of their delirious supporters.
Burnley: Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Elliott, Alexander, McCann (Gudjonsson 27), Blake (Eagles 69), Thompson (Rodriguez 73), Paterson.
Subs Not Used: Penny, McDonald.
Booked: Carlisle, Kalvenes.
Goals: Elliott 13.
Sheff Utd: Kenny, Walker, Morgan, Kilgallon, Naughton, Montgomery, Howard (Lupoli 82), Cotterill (Ward 58), Stephen Quinn (Hendrie 85), Halford, Beattie.
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Bromby.
Sent Off: Ward (80).
Booked: Ward, Lupoli.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).
BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Burnley’s Wade Elliot with 8.25 (on 90 minutes).
Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport’s Player Rater after the match has finished.