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1516 burnley turf moor 02 1000Burnley remain seventh in the Premier League following Saturday’s win over Watford, but a win tonight against Stoke City will see us move up into fourth place, for 24 hours at least in what really is dream time for Burnley supporters.

While a third successive season in the Premier League is not yet guaranteed, to be on 28 points at this stage of the season makes it highly unlikely that we will be in any relegation fight come May and we are even doing it now with players losing their place through injury.

Tom Heaton has been out for much of the season, but in recent weeks we’ve lost Matt Lowton, Robbie Brady and Ben Mee. All of them were missing three days ago when we beat Watford and left their manager ranting like a madman having clearly lost the plot.

Tonight it is Stoke at Turf Moor for the only scheduled midweek home game of the season although we did play Newcastle on a Monday night when that was moved for live screening by Sky.

Nick Pope came in for Heaton earlier in the season. Lowton has been replaced by Phil Bardsley for the last three games while Scott Arfield and Kevin Long were the players drafted in for the Watford win with Mee and Brady out of the reckoning.

Mee could return tonight but Long took his opportunity in what was only his fifth Premier League appearances. The first, briefly, came at Newcastle on New Year’s Day when he came on for Jason Shackell but was stretchered off twenty minutes later. He had to wait until the last three games of last season to get a recall to the first team.

He’s won caps for the Republic of Ireland since and was delighted to get the opportunity alongside James Tarkowski, helping Burnley to keep a clean sheet. “It was nice to get a run out, it’s been a while, to shake a few cobwebs off and get out there,” he said.

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He added: “All I can do is keep working hard on the training ground and keep myself fit. The lads have been outstanding, as you would gather with flying high up in the league, so I can’t complain.

“When someone comes out, someone else is coming in and we are still performing at a high level. When you’re on a good run like we are, you just want to keep on going, keep playing and keep getting positive results.”

Heaton and Brady are some way away from playing again while both Dean Marney and Jon Walters are heading back towards full fitness. Mee could well be fit to return tonight while Lowton will miss out again although he’s getting close to a return to full fitness.

Bardsley will stand in for Lowton again at right-back for what will be his 250th Premier League appearance. The first 249 have come for Manchester United (8), Aston Villa (13), Sunderland (174), Stoke (51) and Burnley (3). It often happens in football but he will get his 250th game against his previous club.

His first appearance was for Manchester United against Blackburn at Old Trafford in September 2005. He came on that day as a substitute during the second half for John O’Shea. His first start was three weeks later at Sunderland when he played the whole game.

I would imagine we’ll be unchanged if Mee isn’t fit, otherwise he is likely to come back in for Long in the following line up: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood. Subs from: Anders Lindegaard, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Fredrik Ulvestad, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes.

I don’t think the Stoke team will be travelling by train tonight. On returning by rail from their 5-1 defeat at Spurs on Saturday, they were confronted by angry supporters at Stoke station. That anger boiled over when they were locked on the train until the Stoke players had been allowed to leave first.

“You’re not fit to wear the shirt,” could be heard on the station platform, and manager Mark Hughes thinks it will act as a motivation tool for them tonight as they look to move themselves away from the relegation positions.

They are currently 15th in the table but only three points above West Ham who are third from bottom.

They’ve won once on the road. That came at Watford at the end of October. They’ve also picked up points away from home at West Brom and Crystal Palace. Alongside those results, they’ve also taken a couple of hammerings, losing 7-2 at Manchester City and 5-1 at Spurs.

The goals against column, home and away, this season is 35 and that’s more than any other club. West Ham, with 32, are the only other team to have conceded thirty goals or more. They have, however, scored 19 times which is four more than us, with both Xherdan Shaqiri and Mame Biram Diouf having scored four times each.

There have been suggestions that Hughes will ring the changes with such as Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch returning to the starting line up. There have also been suggestions that he could field the same team to give those players a chance to redeem themselves.

They will again be without the injured Glen Johnson and Jese who is on compassionate leave with his baby son currently ill.

Their team at Wembley for the Spurs game was: Jack Butland, Kurt Zouma, Ryan Shawcross, Kevin Wimmer, Thomas Edwards, Darren Fletcher, Joe Allen, Erik Pieters, Mame Biram Diouf, Maxim Choupo-Moting, Xherdan Shaqiri. Subs: Lee Grant, Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam, Ibrahim Afellay, Ramadan Sobhi, Saido Berahino, Peter Crouch.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

The home game against Stoke last season provided us with our tenth and final Turf Moor win of the season.

It was a 1-0 win, courtesy of a George Boyd goal, and I think everyone inside Turf Moor, other than Mark Hughes, accepted that we were probably deserving of the points.

George Boyd scored the only goal of the night just before the hour. It was Boyd’s last Burnley goal. Robbie Brady played a ball to Jeff Hendrick that was always short, but he did really well to block off Joe Allen to allow Hendrick to get onto it.

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Superb play from Hendrick saw him beat a couple of defenders, get into the box on the left hand side. From there he played a low ball across for Boyd who had made a run to get in front of the defenders and fire home left footed.

“Could this be the goal that keeps Burnley in the Premier League?” Andy Hinchcliffe said on Sky. With eight games to go, that was a strange comment. But it did take us on to 34 points, beating our previous best of 33 two seasons earlier.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Joey Barton, Steven Defour (Robbie Brady 57), Sam Vokes (James Tarkowski 85), Andre Gray (Ashley Barnes 78). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield, Dan Agyei.

Stoke: Lee Grant, Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Marc Muniesa, Mame Biram Diouf, Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam, Erik Pieters, Joe Allen (Ibrahim Afellay 85), Saido Berahino (Peter Crouch 71), Marko Arnautovic. Subs not used: Shay Given, Glen Johnson, Glenn Whelan, Giannelli Imbula, Ramadan Sobhi.

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