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Having beaten our local, and fierce, rivals Blackburn Rovers 1-0 at Ewood Park with a Scott Arfield goal, we face them again tomorrow looking for a home win that will give us the double against them and fire us back to the top of the table.

We lost that number one position tonight when Middlesbrough beat Wolves at the Riverside. It might have come sooner had Boro got a draw or win at Blackburn last Tuesday or Hull similar last night Birmingham.

It really is tight at the top now, certainly where the top four are concerned. Right now, for the first time in weeks, we’ve all played the same number of games with Middlesbrough two points clear of us with Hull a further point behind and Brighton another point behind Hull.

Matt Lowton says we'll just concentrate on playing well

Matt Lowton says we’ll just concentrate on playing well

Right now you would suggest that the top two at the end of the season will come from that top four. For any other side to get there, and Derby are the closest with eight points less than us, they would need to pass at least three of that top four.

We’ve had all our games staggered this weekend with Brighton’s fixture at Preston tomorrow afternoon the only one not being televised. It’s all quite simple; if we win the derby we will go back to the top, any other result and Middlesbrough will stay in front.

The Bolton game last Saturday certainly didn’t see us at our best. We went behind and in doing so conceded for the first time in five games, but those two Andre Gray goals left us celebrating at the cash strapped Macron as we went to the top.

Amazingly, it was the first time we’d come from behind to win a league game since we beat Leeds 2-1 at home in March 2014, then a Jason Pearce own goal and a Scott Arfield winner turning things in our favour after Ross McCormack had given them the lead.

We are up there because we can find different ways of winning games, something that Sean Dyche stresses is so important, and eight wins in the last eleven league games have lifted us right back into this promotion race.

For Matt Lowton, this will be a first big derby in Burnley colours. He was in the squad at Ewood but an unused sub, the game coming just four days after he’d made his league debut for us at Nottingham Forest as a substitute.

He won his place for the game before Christmas and has retained it since and he’s looking forward to tomorrow’s game. He said: “Of course, the day is a big occasion for the fans, but we are just concentrated on playing well, pressing hard and doing our utmost to get the win.

“We are top of the table, flying high, so I see no reason we can’t get another valuable three points on Saturday.

“We were far from our best last weekend, but we showed a lot of grit and determination, and when we went a goal down we didn’t crumble, we hung in there and our hard work on the training ground meant that our fitness and quality prevailed in the end.”

Lowton will certainly start tomorrow in a team that I can’t see showing too many changes from the one that beat Bolton.

Dean Marney, Michael Duff and Lloyd Dyer, who has been working with the squad since signing to get his fitness levels up, are all close to being available.

Marney played for an hour in the development squad game earlier in the week and Sean Dyche said of him: “It’ll be touch and go for Dean. He’s fine, but we have to add to his games programme because what was a niggly injury turned into a five or six weeker, so we have to be sensible with that.

“Michael Duff also came through, and Lloyd got a game too, but he’s still a little bit short, although he’s getting his sharpness back.”

One player definitely available is Michael Keane. Having suffered a head injury and being forced off in the Rotherham game, he missed the next two games against Nottingham Forest and Bolton with James Tarkowski coming in, but Dyche brought good news.

“Michael is certainly up for selection. He’s had a good week with us and is feeling well, so he’s joined in training as normal. It does give me a decision because I’ve been delighted with how James has come in and performed.

“I was a centre half once and it can be a difficult position to come into, and he’s delivered really good performances, but Keano has done well for a longer period and he’s back fit, so it’s down to me now to decide.”

I might be wrong but those words suggest to me that Keane will return so I expect our team to 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, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly, Rouwen Hennings.

Things have quietened down somewhat at Ewood Park in the last couple of years. It was pure farce in the 2012/13 season when managers were coming and going quicker than they could sell pies, but that was back when Shebby Singh was becoming a hero for all Burnley fans, turning our local rivals into a laughing stock.

In the two local derbies that season they were managed by Henning Berg and Michael Appleton but in the following season it was Gary Bowyer in charge for both games and he was still in charge when we pitched up at Ewood in October.

Bowyer replaced Appleton just a couple of days after our visit there in March 2013 and was in charge until November of last year. His sacking paved the way for Paul Lambert who had been out of management since leaving Aston Villa.

They were 16th when Bowyer left; they remain 16th now although there has certainly been an improvement in terms of points per game since Lambert arrived. He got off to a good start, winning three of his first four games in charge, but that was followed by a less successful run that saw them fail to win any of the next nine games.

They’ve now come out of that run and will arrive at the Turf tomorrow having won three of the last four with the only defeat coming at Derby where they were, according to all reports, the better side. And, of course, last time out they beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at Ewood to do us a favour.

Lambert has said he’ll wait as long as possible for Corry Evans who will face a test on an injured ankle. Other than that, he has a fully fit squad and their team could be the same as the one that beat Middlesbrough.

It was: Jason Steele, Ben Marshall, Shane Duffy, Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr, Jordi Gomez, Darragh Lenihan, Hope Akpan, Matt Grimes, Tony Watt, Danny Graham. Subs: David Raya, Adam Henley, Chris Brown, Elliott Ward, Elliott Bennett, Craig Conway, Simeon Jackson.




The last time Blackburn played at Burley was in September 2013. We’d made a good start to the season with ten points from the first five games, the last three of those points coming in the previous game, a superb 3-0 win against Derby at Pride Park.

Blackburn too had started reasonably well, they had seven points and were in 11th place, eight places behind ourselves who trailed only QPR and Blackpool.

Junior Stanislas opens the scoring

Junior Stanislas opens the scoring

Searching for a first win against them in years, we didn’t get it, but we once again showed that we were now the club in the ascendancy with only a fluke equaliser late in the game enabling them to take a point home.

Sean Dyche made one change for the game, bringing in Michael Kightly for his debut after signing a season long loan deal from Stoke. Kightly became the third Burnley player in post-war football to make a league debut against Blackburn, following on from Mick Buxton in 1963 and Mike Walsh in 1983.

The first half was all Burnley. We did everything but score and, one Tom Cairney shot apart, Blackburn must have been very relieved to go in at half time with the score still at 0-0.

Blackburn went for a more direct style in the second half and they did put us under some pressure. They won a succession of corners but we defended them brilliantly with captain Jason Shackell, who had scored in the 1-1 Ewood Park draw in the previous season, leading by example at the back.

Kightly played for 68 minutes on his debut before Sean Dyche made his only change of the afternoon, bringing on Junior Stanislas. Just under eight minutes later he almost secured a place in Burnley folklore.

Shackell and Dean Marney combined to get the ball out to Kieran Trippier on the right touchline. He came off the line and found David Jones who in turn moved it forward to Stanislas. The substitute twice played one-twos, the first with Trippier and then with Danny Ings as he looked to find some space.

Lee Williamson about to be sent off

Lee Williamson about to be sent off

He found it, and when Ings played it back he hit a first time left foot shot that arrowed into the bottom  left hand corner of the net. It was an outstanding goal from him and he would have been right up there in folklore had it been the winner.

Unfortunately, with five minutes to go, Scott Arfield, who had had such a good game, got a back pass very wrong. Jordan Rhodes got to the ball and turned inside Shackell. Michael Duff did well to get back but as he tried to play the ball out for a corner it deflected off Rhodes and looped over Tom Heaton and they were level.

Blackburn, desperate to hang on, brought on Lee Williamson for Corry Evans in stoppage time. He broke the Ade Akinbiyi record, getting sent off in well under two minutes for bringing down Ings. He’d done his job for the team and a wait for a win against them went on. It didn’t go on for much longer, as we now all know.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, David Jones, Michael Kightly (Junior Stanislas 68), Danny Ings, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Kevin Long, Danny Lafferty, David Edgar, Brian Stock, Keith Treacy.

Blackburn: Jake Kean, Todd Kane, Scott Dann, Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr, Ben Marshall (Chris Taylor 79), Jason Lowe (Alan Judge 79), Corry Evans (Lee Williamson 90), Josh King, Tom Cairney, Jordan Rhodes. Subs not used: Simon Eastwood, Matt Kilgallon, Alex Marrow, Josh Morris.

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