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stoke-1000x500Burnley’s away record this season remains a major talking point as we prepare to visit Stoke City at their newly named bet365 Stadium. We got a point in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United but have conceded thirteen goals in the other four games on the road with only one goal scored, and that a penalty when the game was already out of reach at Southampton.

The home form has been more than good enough so far and we could so easily have won points in each of the three defeats but things have to change on the road if we are to maintain our position away from the relegation places.

It’s always going to be tough for newly promoted clubs away from home. If you look back to the 2009/10 season the point won in a 3-3 draw at Manchester City was the only away point won in the first 16 games in which we conceded a ridiculous 47 points. It was better in 2014/15 but even then there was only one win, at Stoke, until the last two games when we got 1-0 victories at Hull and Aston Villa.

I think we are stronger this time and believe we have a much better chance of staying up than we did on either of those two previous occasions, but we are going to have to start winning points on the road, and soon.

Sean Dyche has hinted at changes and one player itching to be back in the starting eleven is Scott Arfield. Two seasons ago this was the only fixture he missed. Injured in the 1-0 home win against Hull, Michael Kightly deputising for him.

This season he’s not been quite such a regular starter. He’s been on the pitch from kick off in eight of the games and last week against Manchester City came on as a substitute for Dean Marney just before half time.

Arfield said of the situation: “Two years ago it was quite well documented that we probably never had that depth in the squad. Certainly this year we’ve got that. This time we’ve got different players for different positions and two for every position, so we can play different formations.

“It means sometimes you’re going to miss out if you’re not doing it on the training field and on the pitch. We know that and within the camp that’s a big factor, which I think bodes well for us. If you get the ump about you should be playing or you should be doing this or that, you aren’t going to play.”

Arfield did add, given where we are playing: “It’s one of the stadiums I’ve never played at so it’s when I want to be out there and play. If selected I’ll be ready to go.”

Sean Dyche has hinted at changes to try and find a winning formula away from home. It could be personnel, it could be formation and system or it could be both. Whichever it is, it will have to be without the Up the Clarets November Player of the Month Johann Berg Gudmundsson. It’s now been confirmed that he suffered a hamstring injury just before half time last week. He’s been ruled out and I expect him to be out for a few weeks.

Tom Heaton was rated as touch and go. That report is actually worse than the niggle which needs monitoring from last week and I don’t think he’ll be ready so I would think Paul Robinson is more likely to be in goal.

Dean Marney, thankfully, came off with a nerve problem and Dyche suggested he would have a good chance of playing, and I expect him to be in the team.

Last week we played with just the one striker in Sam Vokes but pushed Jeff Hendrick almost alongside him in a 4-4-1-1 formation, I suspect it might be closer to a 4-5-1 tomorrow and, should Marney be fit, the only change could see Arfield return for Gudmundsson.

We could line up: Paul Robinson, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes. Subs from: Nick Pope, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Aiden O’Neill, Michael Kightly, Ashley Barnes, Patrick Bamford, Andre Gray.

What a surprise start to the season it was for Stoke. Having ended last season in ninth place with 51 points, a return of one point from the first five games expected. Not only that, they conceded four goals in three of the four defeats at home against Manchester City and Tottenham and then on the road at Crystal Palace.

They found themselves bottom of the league and, needless to say, the press were talking about an early exit for manager Mark Hughes and who a potential replacement could be.

Two draws followed, at home to West Brom and then at Manchester United where most visiting teams seem to be coming away with a point. Then, things turned round with three successive wins. That they came against the current bottom three was irrelevant, it lifted Stoke away from the bottom and their 1-0 win at Watford last Saturday has taken them above us in the table for the first time this season.

Since that awful run they’ve only lost once, that at home to Bournemouth, and we are perhaps going there at just the wrong time tomorrow as the influential Joe Allen returns from suspension while Glenn Whelan, a target for Burnley almost nine years ago when he was at Sheffield Wednesday, is expected to have recovered from a calf injury.

One player Stoke could still be without is Ryan Shawcross who, like Whelan, has been missing with a calf injury. He’s missed the last two games and looks likely to miss out again while all of Geoff Cameron, Phil Bardsley, who made his Burnley debut at Stoke in 2006, Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay are unavailable.

Goalkeeper Jack Butland is on his way back and will play for their under-23 team this weekend. That means there will be a familiar figure in the Stoke goal in Lee Grant who is currently on loan from Derby. He replaced Shay Given back in October after the last of the big defeats and has kept his place since. It’s been reported that him coming into the side has been a major factor in the improvement. He’s twice played against us since moving back to Derby from Turf Moor, both games in 2013/14 which ended in wins for Burnley.

Stoke’s line up at Watford last week was: Lee Grant, Glen Johnson, Bruno Martins Indi, Marc Muniesa, Erik Pieters, Charlie Adam, Giannelli Imbula, Mame Biram Diouf, Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic, Jonathan Walters. Subs: Shay Given, Bojan Krkic, Wilfried Bony, Peter Crouch, Ramadan Sobhi, Julien Ngoy, Thibaud Verlinden.

Ahead of tomorrow’s game, a minute’s silence will be observed in memory of those who died in the Columbian air crash this week.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Burnley had finally got a first win of the season at the eleventh attempt, an Ashley Barnes goal giving us a 1-0 home win against Hull. Now it was a trip to the Potteries where our first ever Premier League season had kicked off in 2009 with a 2-0 defeat.

Mark Hughes had said that this was the game that would shape their season but I wondered what he was thinking just thirteen minutes in when Burnley went into a 2-0 lead.

We started well enough, not allowing Stoke to get on top for sure, but then we went in front on 12 minutes and doubled the advantage not much more than a minute later.

George Boyd won the ball on the right hand side and fed Dean Marney who in turn got it out to Ashley Barnes on the left. Barnes crossed low and Michael Kightly’s near post run forced Asmir Begovic to parry the ball into the path of Danny Ings who made no mistake from close range.

Almost immediately from the restart we won a thrown on the left taken by Stephen Ward. Barnes brilliantly flicked it on for Kightly to make a run down the flank. He skipped past Phil Bardsley and his low cross left Ings with the simplest of tasks to turn it in for number two.

Strangely there was no immediate reaction from Stoke. We looked comfortable and the more likely but they did pull on back through Jonathan Walters who got in front of Jason Shackell to head home.

Hearts were in mouths when Victor Moses went down untouched in the box but thankfully referee Martin Atkinson saw it for what it was and we got to half time with a 2-1 lead.

The second half was, shall we say, something of a defensive rearguard. They put us under some tremendous pressure but we stood firm, none more so than Ward who was absolutely magnificent. We lost Michael Duff with twenty minutes to go but Michael Keane, still to make a start for Burnley, came on and was outstanding.

By the end they’d run out of ideas and even Hughes admitted that we deserved the points. Suddenly things were looking a little bit better and we’d lifted ourselves two places off the bottom.

The teams were;

Stoke: Asmir Begovic, Phil Bardsley, Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron, Marc Muniesa, Steven N’Zonzi, Steve Sidwell (Charlie Adam 78), Jonathan Walters, Krkic Bojan, Victor Moses (Marko Arnautovic 56), Mame Biram Diouf (Peter Crouch 60). Subs not used: Thomas Sorensen, Oussama Assaidi, Glenn Whelan, Stephen Ireland.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff (Michael Keane 76), Jason Shackell, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney, David Jones, Michael Kightly (Lukas Jutkiewicz 60), Danny Ings (Steven Reid 86), Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Ben Mee, Ross Wallace, Marvin Sordell.

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