Wait is more than worth it as Vokes caps memorable occasion with crucial goal

Sam Vokes single handedly holds off the Aberdeen defence to net a late leveller
Sam Vokes single handedly holds off the Aberdeen defence to net a late leveller
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51 years, three months and eight days.

And the wait was certainly worth it!

It was a day most Burnley fans would never have dreamed would happen again.

But happen it did.

The Clarets returned to European competition, and if this is what it is all about, then more of the same would be most welcome.

There was a wry smile when the draw was made, probably the tie neither set of supporters wanted - a European tour without the need for a passport.

However, this was a quite wonderful introduction to the Europa League.

This was a proper cup tie - two weeks before the season starts for good in the Premier League.

While not one of the citadels of continental football Clarets supporters would love to have experienced, Aberdeen have a proud history.

You only have to wander into the main entrance to see that, with German legend Uli Stielke’s shirt on display next to the Cup Winners’ Cup - the Dons the last team to beat Real Madrid in a European final in 1983.

This is Aberdeen’s 33rd season in Europe, to Burnley’s third.

And they showed they know full well how to host a night of such magnitude.

Pittodrie was rocking from well before kick-off.

And in the city centre, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were abroad.

Burnley fans enjoyed a beer or two in glorious sunshine, playing an impromptu game of football in Castlegate.

It was good natured, the locals all of a friendly disposition.

But come 7-45 p.m., that welcoming nature became raucous home support, and the hosts fed from that energy.

Had Nick Pope not suffered a sickening injury, seemingly to his shoulder, and then the softest of soft penalties been awarded - as Sam Cosgrove went to ground holding his face under little to no contact from James Tarkowski - you fancied Burnley to take control of the game and wear down the Dons.

A lead from the spot, courtesy of Gary Mackay-Stevens, galvanised Aberdeen and gave them something to hold onto, allowing them to play on the break, and be disciplined and hard to break down.

The Clarets were, as you would expect, not fully match-sharp, but their physical fitness can never be questioned, and they kept probing for a way back into the game.

They were hugely improved in the second half, Joe Lewis making a remarkable save to deny Jack Cork from Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s centre, while Tarkowski couldn’t believe a deflection from an Aaron Lennon cross denied him a tap in.

But substitute Sam Vokes - who was unlucky not to start, or, at the very least, come on earlier - created history.

He collected Chris Wood’s header on from Tarkowski’s diagonal ball and flicked it on, before showing remarkable upper body strength to hold off both Aberdeen centre backs and volley into the corner to give Burnley a precious away goal, and put them in the driving seat.

It also made him the Clarets’ first goalscorer in Europe since the late, great Brian Miller netted against Eintracht Frankfurt in 1967.

His celebrations showed just what it meant.

A pulsating game certainly whet the appetite for Thursday’s return, as the sides play for the right to take on Istanbul Başakşehir.

And Burnley fans will hope their tour of Europe is only just beginning.