Clough stays ‘realistic’ after steering Burton into Carabao Cup semi-finals
The Brewers booked themselves a place in the last four with victory on Teesside.
Nigel Clough guided League One’s Burton into the last four in the Carabao Cup – and then admitted he had not even checked when the semi-finals are.
Clough’s side saw off Sky Bet Championship side Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium as Jake Hesketh fired them to victory with the game’s only goal, and then admitted it was “highly unlikely” that they would go any further as they prepare to lock horns with Premier League opposition over two legs next month.
Asked if they could make the final, the manager said: “Highly unlikely, when you look at the teams that are left in.
“That’s just being realistic. It’s highly, highly unlikely, to be in with the teams that are left in.
“We are going to enjoy this one tonight for a couple of days before we got to Luton on Saturday for as hard a game as there will be this season, and then we are going to park it and look forward to it in the New Year whenever it is, the two-legger.
“We didn’t even bother looking. We are going to enjoy this one, certainly.”
Clough, whose parents were born in Middlesbrough, was thrilled to have advanced in a competition his father Brian won four times.
He said: “It’s always special when you come here, always, the association, without a doubt. My mum and my dad, both of them – they met here, married here, so it’s always special to come to the north-east.
“Ninety-two clubs come into the competition and Burton Albion in the last four, it’s absolutely remarkable, remarkable.
“We’ve beaten Villa, Forest, Burnley and now Middlesbrough to get to this stage. You always need a little bit of luck in any cup competition and we got a bit tonight with a couple of chances that were missed.
“But I thought we earned it, I thought we deserved our luck tonight. I thought we played very, very well at times.”
Boro enjoyed the better of the first half, but could not find a way past Brewers keeper Bradley Collins, and they were made to pay within three minutes of the restart when Hesketh, whose loan spell from Southampton is due to expire on January 2, fired home after Jamie Allen’s shot had come back off the post.
Tony Pulis’ men, who have now not won in five games in all competitions, were laboured in their efforts to get themselves back into it, and their night was summed up when defender Aden Flint headed wide from point-blank range as time ran down.
Pulis said: “I’m desperately disappointed and the players are as well.
“They started better than us in the first five minutes and then we got hold of the game, got a good grip of the game and we had four, again, opportunities where we are through with just the goalkeeper in front of us.
“What summed it up was Flinty’s miss in the second half. How he’s missed that, goodness knows.”