Lively Trot­ters suf­fer a Gray day

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

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

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

DOU­BLE TROU­BLE: An­dre Gray cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing his se­cond goal. IN­SET: The Burn­ley striker misses an op­por­tu­nity

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