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14:48 30th April 2011


After all the trials and tribulations of a fluctuating campaign, the Clarets' hopes of an instant return to the Premier League were extinguished at an emotion-charged Elland Road.

Having hauled their play-off bid back from the brink by taking ten points from their previous four games, Burnley finally came up short on a day when Leeds were the ones to keep their faint top-six hopes alive.

The 'must-win' game went the way of the Yorkshiremen thanks to a first-half goal from Ross McCormack, who made sure that Nottingham Forest still have a bit to do to nail down the final play-off place.

McCormack had not scored all season but chose the perfect moment to open his account as Burnley's well ran dry.

Brian Jensen produced a heroic performance in goal to stop an impressive Leeds side from adding to their lead and to keep the Clarets fighting to the end.

But ultimately Eddie Howe's men could not do enough to force the result that would have taken the outcome to the final day as they were resigned to another season in the Championship.

Chris Iwelumo is floored in the box but no penalty

With Leeds as desperate for the points as the Clarets, it was almost inevitable that the home side would mount an early assault and they duly pressed for a quick strike to get Burnley on the back foot.

Billy Paynter went closest to satisfying the demands of a sell-out home crowd with a skidding drive from just outside the box as Burnley were forced to show their bottle.

Captain Michael Duff led by example as a rock at the centre of the Clarets' defence, and having seemingly drawn some of the sting from the home side Duff almost gave Burnley an 18th-minute lead.

Chris Iwelumo looked to be flattened in the box as he rose to meet a Tyrone Mears' free-kick but Duff kept going to meet the bouncing ball with a close-range volley which Kasper Schmeichel did well to smother.

Chris Eagles then cut in to fire a 25-yarder over the top as Howe's men looked to play their way into the game.

Michael Duff is denied by Kasper Schmeichel

But a fired-up Leeds never allowed any time on the ball and the Whites were always a threat on the break as Max Gradel tested Jensen from long range before the big keeper was forced into a smart save to keep out a downward header from Paynter.

Paynter and McCormack had been short of goals but the front two, deputising for the injured Luciano Becchio and Davide Somma, were always a handful.

It was a McCormack cross that had given Paynter his chance and 12 minutes before the break McCormack got the goal that left the Clarets with it all to do.

Timing his run to perfection, the former Cardiff City frontman raced onto Bradley Johnson's through-ball and slotted the ball past Jensen to clinch the points.

Andre Bikey appealed in vain for off-side and although the defender almost made amends by heading a Danny Fox corner just wide 60 seconds later, Burnley must have been glad to reach half-time and the chance to re-group with 45 minutes to save their season.

The Clarets could ill afford to concede again but twice within a minute early in the second half, Paynter had the chance to put daylight between the two sides.

Brian Jensen did his best to keep Leeds at bay

The striker firstly steered a tame header straight at Jensen and then went put through by Neil Kilkenny, opted to round Jensen and ran out of room as he shot into the side netting.

With so much at stake, it was never likely to take much for tensions to break through the surface and with an hour gone the game exploded as a high challenge by Chris McCann on Gradel sparked a mass bout of pushing and shoving.

McCann, Kilkenny and Eric Lichaj ended up going into the book and when the free-kick was finally taken after a lengthy delay, Andy O'Brien saw his header well kept out by Jensen.

Jensen was turning into a key figure and superb finger-tip save from the great Dane denied McCormack a second before Burnley finally managed to offer a response as Jack Cork whistled a 25-yarder only inches over the top corner as Howe sent on Nathan Delfouneso to try and find a goal.

Ross Wallace goes close to a leveller

Ross Wallace also came off the bench in place of Duff with Cork dropping into the back four but inevitably there were gaps at the back as Burnley went for broke and it took another top-notch save from Jensen to deny Jonathan Howson as Leeds went for the kill.

McCormack then had a chance to settle it but dragged his shot wide and the Clarets finally built up a head of steam as they battled to force a dramatic late leveller.

Wallace went closest with a dripping free-kick that was brilliant saved by Schmeichel and Leeds survived an almighty goalmouth scramble as Wade Elliott's shot was blocked following a corner.

Over-worked referee Phil Crossley then added on five minutes of stoppage time but that was not enough for the Clarets to stop their season ebbing frustratingly away.

Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Fox, Duff (Wallace 74), Bikey, Cork, McCann (Delfouneso 64), Eagles, Iwelumo (Thompson 79), Rodriguez, Elliott. Subs: Alexander, Carlisle, Bartley, Grant.

Booked: Duff 40, Rodriguez 56, McCann 60, Bikey 79

Leeds: Schmeichel, Naylor, Lichaj, McCartney, O'Brien, Gradel (Watt 89), Kilkenny, Paynter (Snodgrass 76), Howson, Johnson, McCormack (Bromby 90). Subs: Connolly, Bruce, Livermore, Higgs.

Booked: Lichaj 60, Kilkenny 60, Johnson 69, Naylor 88

Referee: Phil Crossley

Attendance: 31,186

What might have been

    Data provided by Press Association