Burnley win playoff final to reach Premier League
Burnley 1 Sheffield United 0
Owen Coyle's Burnley secured promotion to the Barclays Premier League following victory over Sheffield United in today's Coca-Cola Championship play-off final.
The Clarets, among the founder members of the Football League, are back in the top flight for the first time since 1976 courtesy of Wade Elliott's 13th-minute strike.
Burnley, who were so close to reaching Wembley in both cup competitions this season, stepped up when it counted most to land the estimated £60million booty for reaching the promised land.
For United, another season in the Championship beckons, two years after they were relegated amid the controversy of the Carlos Tevez affair.
The Blades maintain they, and not a Tevez-inspired West Ham, should have stayed up in 2007.
No little irony, then, in another claret and blue-clad goalscorer condemning them to a third term outside the top flight.
But there could be no argument about Elliott's goal, the 30-year-old midfielder, formerly of Bashley and Bournemouth, conjuring up a strike which would have graced any Premier League ground - and certainly lit up a packed Wembley.
The Blades will point to two penalty shouts turned down by referee Mike Dean, whose appointment was criticised by manager Kevin Blackwell in the build-up to the game.
And they finished with 10 men when Dean sent off young striker Jamie Ward for handball, his second bookable offence.
Victory sees Burnley become the smallest town to boast a Premier League team - and almost half of their 73,000 inhabitants had travelled down to the capital to watch them triumph.
The Clarets were deserved winners in their 61st game of an arduous season, having knocked out top-flight opposition including Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham during their two epic cup runs.
But they were on the back foot in the opening stages with United, who held hopes of automatic promotion until the final day of the season, testing Brian Jensen with awkward shots from Kyle Naughton and Brian Howard.
But against the run of play, Burnley took the lead thanks to a superb piece of play from Elliott.
The midfielder burst forward, skipping past a couple of Blades tackles before playing in Chris McCann.
Matt Kilgallon got a challenge in but the ball fell perfectly for Elliott to curl a stunning first-time effort past Paddy Kenny from 20 yards.
United were claiming a penalty two minutes later when Howard tumbled in the area under a clumsy challenge from Graham Alexander, but referee Dean was not interested.
McCann's afternoon ended prematurely when he limped off to be replaced by Joey Gudjonsson, but the swap did not knock the Clarets out of their stride and Martin Paterson curled an angled drive inches wide of Kenny's right-hand post.
As the clock ticked into first-half stoppage time Thompson headed Elliot's cross narrowly wide.
Burnley almost doubled their lead moments after the restart when Robbie Blake's corner was flicked on by Steven Thompson and Michael Duff, arriving at the far post, just failed to turn the ball home.
And in the 55th minute they were denied a second by a dramatic goal-line clearance from Nick Montgomery.
Thompson's header back across the six-yard box was turned goalwards by Gudjonsson, and Montgomery knew little about it as the ball hit the heel of his standing foot, a yard from the line, and bounced wide.
United had another huge let-off 10 minutes later when Thompson sprang the offside trap again and this time squared the ball across to Blake, only for young defender Kyle Walker to make a goal-saving challenge.
Burnley's missed chances could have come back to haunt them in the 68th minute when Christian Kalvenes knocked Naughton off the ball in the box but Dean again waved away the appeals.
Paterson was next to try his luck, cutting in from the right and surging into the box only for Walker to block his shot.
And the Blades' task became tougher still in the 78th minute when striker Jamie Ward, who had been booked four minutes earlier, was shown a second yellow card by Dean for handball.
United looked a beaten side as Burnley held on, and the claret and blue half of Wembley erupted on Dean's final whistle, bringing the curtain down on a memorable campaign.
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