Burnley looking for much needed win against Leeds
When Burnley won at Huddersfield four weeks ago tomorrow there were some believing that we were home and dry, that promotion was in need of nothing more than rubber stamping. It seems to be those fans who are now suggesting that we’ll be nothing more than play-off contenders.
There does seem to have been a big effort since Tuesday to get out the message that we’ve gone 17 games without defeat, beating a two year old record which stood at 16 and ended with a 2-0 home loss to Leicester, but it is the three draws since Huddersfield that has seen our lead at the top of the league come down to just one point against a Middlesbrough side who have a game in hand, and a home game at that.
Crucially Brighton are only two points behind us in third place and four weeks ago they trailed by nine points with a game in hand. We quite simply could have lost two out of the last three and been no worse off had we won the other.
“We need to win just five more,” someone said to me as we left Huddersfield. In effect, with the draws, we’ve won one so that would assume we need to now win four of the last six and that is something we are more than capable of. That would take our points total to 89 and I’m not sure we would need that many for a top two finish.
Leeds it is tomorrow, the team we kicked off the season against. For one reason or another the line up won’t the same for the return game. Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Michael Kightly, Jelle Vossen and Lukas Jutkiewicz all started that afternoon but when a late goal was needed for a draw it came from substitute Sam Vokes.
It was Sam’s first league goal since he’d converted a penalty in a 2-0 win against Doncaster in March 2014 and his first in open play since he got what looked like a winner at Birmingham a couple of weeks earlier.
Sam won’t be a substitute tomorrow. He’ll step out onto the pitch as the Championship’s Player of the Month for March and in the sort of goalscoring form he showed alongside Danny Ings two seasons ago prior to the injury.
He hasn’t missed a game since the 2-2 draw at Cardiff back in November and is going to be a key player in these last six games, kicking off with this game against one of the clubs he’s spent time with on loan.
Vokes will certainly be hoping to complete this season and win promotion from the pitch rather than watching the last few games from the stands, and that’s important given he’s likely to be in the Wales squad for the Euros, and he’ll hope to add to his goal tally.
“As a striker you’re always looking to score goals and help the team as that’s what it’s all about. As a team we’ll look to stay strong as we have done on this massive run we’re on and look to go again.
“We’re top of the pack at the minute and that’s where everyone else wants to be. It’s down to us to stay there and we’ve got six games to prove we deserve to be up there.”
He also had a word for the Burnley supporters. He said: “The fans are massive too because our crowd have been brilliant. In the knife edge games it makes a difference and we need to make Turf Moor a fortress. When the crowd get behind us it gives you that extra edge so that can be crucial in the run in.”
There has been no news of any new injuries. We know Chris Long, who hasn’t featured for some time, is ruled out with a hamstring injury but there has been no update on Rouwen Hennings who has been out for the last two games.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sean Dyche name an unchanged team and that would be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Dean Marney, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly, Ashley Barnes.
Leeds were talking about stability and promotion back in August. Owner Massimo Cellino reckoned he’d got the right man in Uwe Rösler to manage the team. He didn’t last long and by October he’d gone, the fifth manager to be sacked by the Italian owner in just over 16 months.
Steve Evans, just sacked at Rotherham, was the surprise replacement and, so far, he’s held onto his job although with every defeat comes speculation that he could be out of the door very soon and the sign writers will be preparing a new name to go on the manager’s office door.
Evans has currently got his Leeds side in mid-table. Their 48 points from 39 games keeps them well clear of the relegation positions but likewise they are a long way from the top six too.
They’ve had good runs and not so good runs under Evans. When he first went in and more recently, after a heavy defeat at Brighton, they fired back with three successive wins. The first of them was a home win against bottom club Bolton but they followed it up with away victories at Cardiff and Blackburn.
Then came another four against, this time Huddersfield beating them 4-1 at Elland Road and since they’ve lost at Evans’ old club Rotherham and drawn at home against QPR.
Their leading goalscorers in the Championship this season are Mirco Antenucci and Chris Wood who have both scored nine times but no other player has netted more than three.
Evans could have Sol Bamba available after illness and will certainly be able to recall goalkeeper Marco Silvestri who was serving a one match ban in midweek. They could, however, be without loan midfielder Liam Bridcutt who has a thigh injury.
The Leeds team last time out was: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Gaetano Berardi, Giuseppe Bellusci, Liam Cooper, Charlie Taylor, Liam Bridcutt, Luke Murphy, Lewis Cook, Stuart Dallas, Mustapha Carayol, Chris Wood. Subs: Eric Grimes, Sol Bamba, Tom Adeyemi, Mirco Antenucci, Toumani Diagouraga, Lewis Coyle, Alex Mowatt.
LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE
We go back just over two years to the last time Leeds played at Turf Moor. We had returned home from two away games in a week in which we’d collected four points. Six days prior to the Leeds game we had won 2-1 against Blackburn at Ewood Park and followed that up with a 3-3 draw at Birmingham.
Burnley went into the game having won 2-1 at Elland Road earlier in the season and a win would give us the double over them for only the second time; we’d previously achieved it in the 1926/27 season.
Danny Ings had suffered an injury in the Birmingham draw and, although it had been confirmed that the injury wasn’t serious, it did keep him out of this fixture with Ashley Barnes, who had signed from Brighton in January, getting his first start, and Ross Wallace was preferred to Michael Kightly.
We didn’t make the best of starts and Ross McCormack, who makes a habit of scoring against us, was gifted a golden opportunity when he latched on to a bad back pass from David Jones. He dinked the ball over Tom Heaton and we all waited for it to drop in but, thankfully, it found the foot of the post and we’d had an escape with Jason Shackell getting back to prevent McCormack getting on to the loose ball.
But Leeds did go in front. Connor Wickham, on loan from Sunderland, took a throw on the left and we missed out in the air with the mis-match of the decade as Matt Smith, the towering striker now at Fulham, getting the better of Kieran Trippier to flick on a header. This time McCormack wasn’t going to miss his chance and headed Leeds in front.
They might have had another too, but we got level with around seven minutes of the first half still to play. Dean Marney played the ball to Trippier and his cross was met by Jason Pearce, the Leeds central defender we had tried so hard to sign in the summer of 2012, under pressure from Sam Vokes. He could do no more than turn it past Jack Butland into his own net.
The second half performance was much better and we scored the crucial winner with 23 minutes remaining. Junior Stanislas, on for Wallace, received the ball from a throw taken by the impressive Ben Mee.
He held it up before playing a return pass. Mee’s cross was met by Scott Arfield who saw his left foot shot blocked. Arfield reacted quickly, got onto the ball again and this time made no mistake with a right footer.
The win took us ten points clear of Derby, who were third, and eleven points ahead of QPR although they had two games in hand.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Ross Wallace (Junior Stanislas 60), Dean Marney, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes (Keith Treacy 90+3). Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Kevin Long, Danny Lafferty, David Edgar, Michael Kightly.
Leeds: Jack Butland, Sam Byram, Tom Lees, Jason Pearce, Danny Pugh, Luke Murphy, Rodolph Austin, Alex Mowatt (Dominic Poleon 66), Connor Wickham, Matt Smith, Ross McCormack. Subs not used: Cairns, Scott Wootton, Michael Brown, Stephen Warnock, Cameron Stewart, Noel Hunt.
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