ONE POINT TO GO AS KIGHTLY HITS A SCREAMER
Burnley almost back in big time
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.”
UNSTOPPABLE: Michael Kightly scores Burnley’s winner