IT’S ANOTHER WIN TO TAKE ON THE CHIN FOR CLARETS
Lively Trotters suffer a Gray day
WHEN Ian Holloway eulogised over Burnley’s tough chin this week, games like this are exactly what he had in mind.
Beaten senseless for 70 minutes, the punch-drunk Clarets looked certain to topple when Liam Feeney hit a richly-deserved opener 20 minutes from time.
But like Ali in Zaire, they bounced off the ropes and came out swinging, the resilience instilled by Sean Dyche too fierce for a Bolton side who had given their all.
Twenty minutes and two Andre Gray goals later, Burnley had earned an outrageously undeserved victory, extending their unbeaten run to 11 games and replacing Hull at the Championship summit.
“I know Ian’s talked about us a lot recently, but it was actually something he told me in private a couple of years ago,” said Dyche. “He said ‘Your lads have got an unbelievably strong chin – you’ll get a long way with that’.
“You’re still seeing that now. The mentality is so firm here. I’ll admit it doesn’t always guarantee an outcome like that but it gives you a hell of a chance.
“If you watch our reaction to their goal, it’s pretty calm. It’s like ‘Yeah, they’ve scored. Get the ball lads and let’s get on with it’. Straight away, it was gone.We refocused and actually went up a gear.”
This Burnley side has many qualities but none so impressive as its durability. Theirs is indeed a granite chin and it needed to be here.
Buoyed by news of Dean Holdsworth’s imminent takeover and fresh off a run of one defeat in six at home, Neil Lennon’s men played with freedom and verve throughout.
Josh Vela, up from right-back, volleyed wide from six yards. Zach Clough ended a sweeping move by lamping over the bar. Jay Spearing skied a shot, as did veteran Emile Heskey. Crosses rained on the Burnley goalkeeper, Tom Heaton.
At the heart of everything was Feeney, drifting left and right to cause havoc with his darting runs and dangerous deliveries.
“He was great,” said Lennon. “If I had ten Liam Feeneys, we’d be in the top two or three. For some reason, he gets a bit of stick now and again.
“But he plays every week, trains every day. He’s a model pro, incredibly fit. His stats are always the highest after games. His effort and commitment is tremendous and I thought he was brilliant.”
The former Bournemouth man was duly rewarded 20 minutes from time, tapping in at the far post to crown impressive approach work from Darren Pratley and sub Gary Madine, back in the squad after a week on the naughty step.
Victory sealed? Not against Burnley, less still their talismanic striker. Having spent much of a wretched 90 minutes running offside, Gray spun to force a fine reflex stop from Paul Rachubka, then beat the Bolton stopper to the rebound.
If that bobbled finish was fortunate, his winner was sublime. Neatly controlling a ball over the top, Gray held off Rob Holding and, from the edge of the box, lashed an unstoppable left-footed effort beyond Rachubka.
“That goal deserved to win any match,” said Dyche. “Great ball, an awkward take, he gets his shoulder in and what a strike. What I like about Andre is his fearlessness. Left foot, right foot, he hits them. Some weeks they go in, others they don’t. But it doesn’t bother him. He just says ‘Right lads, give me another one’. That’s why I paid £32m for him – or whatever people are saying!”
Bolton did craft one final chance, a corner that clipped Joey Barton and forced a fine save from Heaton. But for Lennon – whose side now sit seven points from safety – there was only frustration.
“I’d have been disappointed with a draw, let alone losing,” he said. “We capitalised when we were in the ascendency and even at 1-1 the game was there for us. But we lose it in a bad area under no pressure and they’re 2-1 up.
“Individual mistakes like that are happening far too often and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s a shame because we were excellent.”
OPENER: The impressive Liam Feeney scores the first goal
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Andre Gray celebrates after scoring his second goal. INSET: The Burnley striker misses an opportunity