Burnley 1 Argyle 1 (3-2 on pens)Burnley 1
Williams pen 90
Williams (Argyle) – saved
Wallace (Burnley) – saved
Young (Argyle) –saved
Vokes (Burnley) –scored (1-0)
Lecointe (Argyle) – scored (1-1)
Stanislas (Burnley) – missed (1-1)
Hourihane (Argyle – saved (1-1)
Hewitt (Burnley) – scored (2-1)
Blanchard (Argyle) – scored (2-2)
Stock (Burnley) – scored (3-2)
by RICK COWDERY
NOT the tears of 1998, nor the crushing disappointment of 1994 – Argyle went out of the Capital One Cup to an old nemesis with dignity and a huge amount of pride after a real whiff of a 1973-type Turf Moor upset.
Seeking to make progress to the third round of the competition for only the second time in 21 seasons, they pushed Eddie Howe’s Championship side all the way before losing a penalty shoot-out.
A goal from Charlie Austin eight minutes before half-time put the home side into a lead which, right up until the last minute, looked like being enough to shade the tie.
However, the famous never-say-die spirit that has carried Argyle through so many difficult times recently came to the fore once again and they won a late, late penalty which Robbie Williams converted to take the game into extra-time.
They went down after a sudden-death shoot-out in which goalkeepers dominated, to be denied their place alongside the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in Thursday’s draw.
Carl Fletcher’s side, which was missing several key players, was to a man, a credit to the Green.
Alas, it was not to be and, while it might be a cliché, all thoughts can now turn to planning for a first three points of their far more important nPower League 2 season when Northampton visit Home Park on Saturday.
Argyle’s starting line-up showed five changes from the one that had started the previous npower League 2 game at Oxford three days earlier, with one of the influx, teenage forward Jared Sims, not even having been on the bench at the Kassam Stadium.
Both full-backs who were introduced at half-time on the Saturday – Williams and Durrell Berry – kept their places, although Curtis Nelson, one of those deposed positionally, kept his place in the starting line-up, deputising for injured skipper Darren Purse. Onismor Bhasera dropped to the bench.
The captain’s armband passed to Nelson’s centre-back partner, Maxime Blanchard. Paul Wotton might have been under consideration, but he missed the game through injury and was replaced in midfield by Johnny Gorman.
With Sims coming in from the cold for Argentinean Andres Gurrieri, the final change was in attack, where Nick Chadwick came in for the benched Warren Feeney.
Burnley saw Argyle’s five changes and raised it five, keeping only forward pivot Austin from the 11 that had gone on to lose 2-0 in the Championship at Huddersfield the previous Saturday, although seven of their starters were on the bench.
The team included, on the left side of the attack, Alex MacDonald, who spent 15 games at Home Park last season, scoring four goals that were worth their weight in gold.
The Pilgrims opened confidently and were not too far off starting where they had left off at the Kassam, with Williams curling a free-kick around the Clarets’ defensive wall. It had the beating of goalkeeper Brian Jensen, but drifted just wide.
The noise from the small, but enthusiastic, crowd echoed around Turf Moor and, coupled with the slowish tempo of the game and many changes to both sides, contributed to an atmosphere more akin to a pre-season game than a rip-roaring cup-tie.
Burnley’s only threat to Jake Cole’s goal in the opening 15 minutes came when MacDonald sent full-back Luke O’Neill away on the right to deliver a fine cross that Nelson headed out under some pressure from Austin.
MacDonald produced the next moment of anxiety after Berry had been penalised for handball while running back towards his own goal.
The former Pilgrim took the free-kick, curling a powerful right-foot shot that was on target but which Cole, standing up, gathered into his midriff.
Conor Hourihane was booked ten minutes before the interval by referee Andrew Madley, who had shown the same player two yellow cards the last time he officiated an Argyle match.
Shortly afterwards, Burnley went ahead, Marvin Bartley collecting the ball deep inside his own half and driving forward before crossing from deep for Austin to rise high and send a potent downward header past Cole on the bounce.
Having found the weakness in Argyle’s defence, Burnley sought to increase their advantage in similar manner, pumping the ball towards the former Swindon man at every opportunity and testing the Pilgrims’ resolve.
Both sides made changes early in the second half, with Burnley withdrawing goalscorer Austin, possibly in fear of a second yellow card, for Sam Vokes, and Argyle taking off Chadwick in favour of Matt Lecointe.
As the changes were gelling, the Pilgrims mounted an attack which ended with Williams firing a left-foot shot across a stretched Jensen and just wide of the Dane’s far post.
Ore changes saw Bhasera and Joe Lennox introduced as the potential supply lines for Lecointe, and Lennox immediately caused Burnley problems down the Argyle right before his low cross was scrambled away.
It preceded a period of Argyle pressure which Burnley had to be strong to resist, and the game, for the first time, had a sense of a blood and snotters cup-tie about it.
All Burnley’s stout defence could not prevent the Pilgrims from working a dangerous position from which Hourihane fired over.
The home side responded through half-time substitute Ross Wallace’s raid down the right and a cross that Voke’s headed into the well-positioned Cole’s breadbasket.
Then, the last-minute drama. Another period of Argyle pressure saw Burnley panic. Down went Paris Cowan-Hall under challenge from Vokes, and referee Madley pointed straight to the penalty spot.
Williams did not flinch, sending Jensen the wrong way with his trusty left-foot, using guile, rather than power. Take that, indeed.
If the penalty had been nerve-shredding for the Pilgrims and their 159 followers, the five minutes of Clarets pressure in injury-time was sheer torture, but they held out to take the match into the extra half-hour.
Burnley had first dig after the resumption, O’Neill hammering a shot high into the David Fishwick Stand that housed the Pilgrims’ small, but increasingly hopeful, contingent of the Green Army.
Argyle’s best chance in the first additional 15 minutes came when Lennox engineered a break that saw Cowan-Hall pick out Bhasera at the far post for a header that went just wide.
The football was compulsive, but somewhat restrained, as the potential cost of an error increased with the ticking of the clock. Argyle kept possession well when they had to, and Hourihane tested Jensen with another drive.
At the other end, Bhasera headed a cross from the fresh legs of Junior Stanislas out of danger as sinews were stretched to new limits.
It proved too much for MacDonald, who limped off, leaving Burnley with ten men for the last five minutes.
Hourihane, again, tried to beat Jensen from long range, and went closer to his objective with a rising drive that mildly troubled the Dane.
It was the last real effort of the game before referee Madley signalled the start of further torture.
Argyle’s previous shoot-out had ended in a 3-0 defeat by Exeter; Burnley had beaten Chelsea in theirs. Form prevailed.
So, no cup glory for the Pilgrims, but plenty of evidence to suggest that their league campaign could yet be one to celebrate.
Burnley (4-5-1): 12 Brian Jensen; 16 Luke O’Neill, 4 Michael Duff (capt), 36 Ben Mee, 3 Daniel Lafferty; 26 Keith Treacy (7 Ross Wallace half-time), 20 Marvin Bartley (11 Junior Stanislas 98), 22 Brian Stock, 33 Steven Hewitt, 27 Alex MacDonald; 23 Charlie Austin (9 Sam Vokes 54). Substitutes (not used): 1 Lee Grant (gk) 2 Kieran Trippier, 6 Chris McCann, 15 David Edgar.
Booked: Austin 51, Bartley 89.
Argyle (4-5-1): 1 Jake Cole; 2 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 4 Maxime Blanchard (capt), 3 Robbie Williams; 7 Paris Cowan-Hall, 6 Conor Hourihane, 22 Jared Sims (19 Joe Lennox 67), 8 Luke Young, 28 Johnny Gorman (14 Onismor Bhasera 67); 9 Nick Chadwick (21 Matt Lecointe 54). Substitutes (not used): 11 Warren Feeney, 13 Ollie Chenoweth (gk), 23 Jamie Richards, 27 Andres Gurrieri.
Booked: Hourihane 35. Lennox 75, Williams 109.
Referee: Andrew Madley.
Attendance: 4,199 (159 away).