GRAY IS SPOT ON TO END 38 YEARS OF CLARET HURT

But Lambert fumes over big calls

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

AN­DRE GRAY ended Burn­ley’s 38-year wait for a home vic­tory over bit­ter ri­vals Black­burn – but an­gry Rovers boss Paul Lambert felt his side were robbed.

Striker Gray net­ted his 21st goal of a spec­tac­u­lar sea­son from the spot af­ter Ge­orge Boyd was felled by a clumsy chal­lenge from Shane Duffy.

Rovers’ Hope Ak­pan then tum­bled in the box un­der a shove from Stephen Ward, only for ref­eree Mike Jones to wave the vis­i­tors’ protests aside.

An off-colour Burn­ley then ex­hib­ited their renowned re­silience, re­pelling waves of Black­burn raids and re­ly­ing on the re­ac­tions of keeper Tom Heaton to grind out a vic­tory that se­cured long-awaited brag­ging rights and sent them back to the top of the Cham­pi­onship.

For the home side, it was fur­ther ev­i­dence that their ti­tle bid is bang on track. Lambert, too, can take great con­fi­dence from a dis­play full of guts and guile, though his de­light was tem­pered by frus­tra­tion at an op­por­tu­nity missed.

“We should have won it,” said Lambert, whose side beat Mid­dles­brough 2-0 in mid­week. “We were bril­liant against Boro and we were out­stand­ing here.

“They’ve kept a lot of Premier League play­ers. They’ve got more money than us, all the usual ad­van­tages you have when you come down

from the top flight. But you couldn’t see the dif­fer­ence.

“Un­for­tu­nately the ref­eree missed two big calls. Jordi Gomez was fouled in the box at the end. It was no dif­fer­ent to Shane Duffy’s.

“And Hope Ak­pan had the ball safe side when Ward comes in. Even though it’s only a slight touch, you can’t tackle when the ball is safe side. It’s im­pos­si­ble to win it.

“I’ve spo­ken to Mike who I think had a re­ally good game. He gave me his ex­pla­na­tion. That’s fair enough but I think he missed a ma­jor call and it cost us.”

Lambert had no is­sue with the penalty his own side con­ceded and with good rea­son. Duffy’s in­stinc­tive swipe at Boyd’s heels was as bla­tant as it was need­less and Gray, the divi­sion’s top scorer, pun­ished the er­ror with ruth­less calm.

Yet Ward’s shove in the back of Ak­pan was no less idi­otic; had the col­li­sion oc­curred out­side the box, you can bet your mort­gage Jones would have given a free-kick.

If the de­fender was lucky to es­cape cen­sure, there was noth­ing for­tu­nate about his side’s con­tin­ued re­sis­tance. For the re­main­ing 65 min­utes Rovers were ram­pant, in­spired by the in­tel­li­gence of Gomez and driven for­ward by the en­ergy of Ak­pan and El­liott Ben­nett.

But Burn­ley’s shape and struc­ture never cracked. Joey Bar­ton and David Jones did more miles than a long-dis­tance lorry driver. Michael Keane and Ben Mee blocked and tack­led, forc­ing their op­po­nents to shoot from range.

Even when one did sneak through, Rovers found Heaton in im­pe­ri­ous form. The Eng­land man tipped over from Ben­nett, de­nied the same player low to his left and shov­elled an Ak­pan ef­fort round his post.

“Big keep­ers make big saves,” said Clarets boss Sean Dy­che, whose side ex­tended their un­beaten Cham­pi­onship run to 12 matches. “He’s had very quiet pe­ri­ods.We’ve had 15 clean sheets, which sug­gests that the team have pro­tected him.

“But what good keep­ers do is re­spond when they’re needed. Some­times that’s not a save. It’s clean hands, good dis­tri­bu­tion, all man­ner of things.”

Dy­che also praised his play­ers for deal­ing with the hype and hulla- baloo that pre­ceded the 112th meet­ing of th­ese an­cient ri­vals.

“Play­ers know,” he added. “It’s easy for me. I don’t do Twit­ter and all that. They do. And they’ve been get­ting ‘You’ve got to win be­cause of this, be­cause of that, it’s been 38 years and all of that stuff’. That does af­fect you and we looked a bit edgy. But the play­ers dealt with it and de­liv­ered.”

Lambert added: “I’ve only been here a short time, but that’s the level I want to get to and that’s the level I want to see ev­ery week. I’m con­fi­dent we’ll get there.”

WATT’S UP: Black­burn Rovers’ Tony Watt fires in a shot at the Burn­ley goal

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

SPOT THE DIF­FER­ENCE: An­dre Gray scores the only goal of the game af­ter Shane Duffy felled Ge­orge Boyd and, in­set, wheels away in cel­e­bra­tion

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