Burn­ley al­most back in big time

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

DERBY may have pooped the party but no­body at Bloom­field Road was left in any doubt. As the Burn­ley fans so lustily sang ‘The Clarets are go­ing up’.

Michael Kightly’s sec­ond­half screamer was enough to kill off a com­mit­ted but in­ef­fec­tive Black­pool side and means Burn­ley now need just a sin­gle point from their re­main­ing three games to seal a re­turn to the Pre­mier League.

And in a sea­son when they have shown first class to get there, then fight to stay there, it was fit­ting that pro­mo­tion was all but se­cured with a per­for­mance that show­cased both, the fi­nal ten min­utes a com­posed rear­guard ac­tion that eas­ily re­pelled the hosts’ aerial bom­bard­ment.

The scenes of ju­bi­la­tion in a packed away end said ev­ery­thing about the enor­mity of this vic­tory, al­though Sean Dy­che – as ever – wasn’t about to let a sea­son’s worth of stonewalling slip at the last.

“Right now, we’re a good team with a lot of points and that’s all,” he said. “It’s an­other part of the busi­ness we’ve taken care of, it’s a big win. That’s 11 away un­beaten now, and we had to work hard for it.

“There was great en­ergy as ever, great team frame­work and some very im­por­tant mo­ments – ob­vi­ously a sublime goal from Michael Kightly. And I thought our two cen­tre-halves were out­stand­ing.

“Two points a game is a strong marker and we’ve done that all sea­son. I spoke to Malky Mackay and I think his Cardiff side fin­ished top with 87 last sea­son. So to get 86 with three to go is a pow­er­ful mes­sage about what we’ve done. But it is still only so far.”

Given the prize at stake, it is per­haps no sur­prise that the Clarets started with un­char­ac­ter­is­tic haste and edgi­ness, their usual rapier coun­ter­at­tacks a touch more laboured, their pass­ing less pre­cise.

Yet had Kightly ac­cepted the gift pre­sented to him af­ter five min­utes, their evening may have been far eas­ier.

In­ad­ver­tently sent clean through by Seag­ulls full-back Jack Robin­son, the for­mer Wolves man had eons to pick his spot but ap­peared to think him­self into a cul-de-sac, even­tu­ally thump­ing aim­lessly against the well-spread Matt Gilks. There­after, se­ri­ous chances were hard to come by.

For Black­pool, for­wards David Good­willie and Neal Bishop were re­duced to scrap­ping for a touch and, clearly em­bold­ened by their op­po­nents’ tooth­less­ness, the Clarets emerged for the sec­ond half with re­newed pur­pose.

Within min­utes, they had

their re­ward. Kightly played a one-two with Dean Mar­ney, who laid it del­i­cately back into his path. This time the winger didn’t think for a sec­ond, whip­ping an inch­per­fect 20-yarder into the top cor­ner.

That was the cue for fury in the home end, with a pitch in­vader swiftly fol­lowed by a bar­rage of ten­nis balls and tan­ger­ines – a protest against owner Karl Oys­ton.

Things then got even worse,With Black­pool’s as­sis­tant man­ager Bob Mal­colm sent to the stands af­ter shov­ing sub­sti­tute Stephen Dob­bie in the face as he pre­pared to come on to the pitch.

Credit to Black­pool, though; they didn’t ca­pit­u­late. And for the last ten min­utes, as Burn­ley dug in for the most pre­cious three points of their sea­son, the hosts launched a con­certed bar­rage that had the Clarets scram­bling. But once Barry Fer­gu­son’s goal­bound vol­ley was cleared by Trip­pier, the fight was lost.

“I’ve never shied away from any­thing in my life,” said Fer­gu­son.

“And I’ll stand at the front and I’ll fight on for the last three games. The ef­fort was there for ev­ery­body to see. In the end, it was just a bit of qual­ity that won the game.”

Speak­ing about the protest, Fer­gu­son – who claimed not to have seen the Mal­colm in­ci­dent – added: “The fans pay good money and they have ev­ery right to demon­strate if they don’t like the chair­man.

“I would just rather they did it be­fore or af­ter the game. At that stage we were on top and it caused a de­lay of four or five min­utes.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

UN­STOP­PABLE: Michael Kightly scores Burn­ley’s win­ner

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