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brighton prog bannerBy the time the season ends we will have made three visits to the south coast in the Premier League and tomorrow brings the first of them when we face Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.

It will be a very early start for those Burnley fans travelling down from East Lancashire, much earlier than last season when, with transport disruptions galore, they moved our game to a tea time kick off for BT Sport.

Seasons are very much a stop, start affair in the first few months with three international breaks thrown in. We’d just got going with the first four games and then came last week’s first enforced break before we kick off another set of four games at Brighton.

I think we deserved better than four points from the first four games. We could so easily have got a point at Arsenal and only a ridiculously soft penalty, and I’m being kind to referee Craig Pawson with that, denied us a victory at Wolves. At home, it’s been a 3-0 win and a 3-0 defeat and by the time the whistle blew in our last game I don’t think we could have had much complaint at getting nothing against Liverpool.

Disappointingly, the margin of the defeat means we now have a negative goal difference with us having scored five goals and conceded six. Four of our five have come from the Ashley Barnes collection with our third in the 3-0 win against Southampton on the opening day of the season scored by Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson.

It’s been a reverse of pre-season for the front two. Chris Wood couldn’t stop scoring but Barnes failed to find the net once. Now it is Wood who is looking to get off the mark having not scored a competitive goal since he bagged a brace in the 2-0 win against Cardiff back in April.

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The lack of goals isn’t concerning the striker too much though. “I know it will come,” he said. “It’s the old cliché that once one comes, they all come. It’s like buses. They will drop to me. At the moment they’re dropping to Barnesy and he’s putting them away fantastically. That’s brilliant for us as a team and as long as we continue to work hard, as we have done in these last four games, we will continue to create chances and the goals will come for everybody.”

Wood added: “We’ve got a great ratio together,” and that is very much the case. Wood joined the Clarets in August 2017 but he and Barnes didn’t start  a game together until the end of March. That was at West Brom when both scored in a 2-1 win but the pair had plundered four goals between them in the two previous games once both were on the pitch together.

Since the Liverpool game in December last year, Barnes and Wood have started every Premier League game for us. Neither of them scored in the first three games but have since scored 23 goals between them in 25 league games, 14 of those for Barnes and nine for Wood.

That’s some record and the pair, who first played alongside each other for Brighton, are almost certain to be in the team tomorrow against their former club.

There have been doubts with both Barnes and Dwight McNeil but manager Sean Dyche confirmed both were now ok and he also said Robbie Brady is now fit although Guðmundsson is unlikely to have recovered in time from the calf injury that forced him off at Wolves three weeks ago.

Since the Liverpool game we have lost to central midfielders, one of them permanently and the other for the next few weeks. Almost immediately after that last game we confirmed the departure of Steven Defour while that night an incident in Manchester has led to loan player Danny Drinkwater being ruled out for the next batch of games at least.

With Brady fit again, I would expect him to take Drinkwater’s place on the bench and I expect us to line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs from: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, Jay Rodriguez, Matěj Vydra.

Brighton have the under new management sign up this season. Chris Hughton joined the club on New Year’s Eve 2014. They were just outside the bottom three when he took over and they finished the season in the same 21st position although by then they’d pulled six points clear of the relegated clubs.

A play-off miss followed in 2016 which was followed by promotion the following year since when he kept them in the Premier League for two seasons. Last season they looked in trouble and survived only by two points. That cost him his job with Graham Potter coming in from Swansea where he’d been in charge for just one season.

Like us, they kicked off the season with a 3-0 win. Theirs came at Watford with Florin Andone and new signing Neal Maupay (both pictured below) scoring after they’d gone in front with an own goal. Like us, they’ve since picked up just the one point when Leandro Trossard scored their only other goal in a 1-1 home draw against West Ham.

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They’ve since been beaten 2-0 at home by Southampton and in their last game suffered as so many do at the hands of Manchester City. They were beaten 4-0 at the Etihad and that’s left them as one of five clubs currently with four points.

Two of their goalscorers so far won’t be involved tomorrow. Since scoring on the opening day, Andone, once a target for Burnley, has gone on loan to Galatasaray. Trossard has been ruled out tomorrow with a groin injury that he picked up on international duty with Belgium. He’s not expected to be fit until after the next international break. Other than that, there are no other reported injuries and they could also welcome back defender Ezequiel Schelotto who has had a knee injury.

Last time out against Manchester City, they lined up: Matt Ryan, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster, Dan Burn, Dale Stephens, Martín Montoya, Davy Pröpper, Bernardo, Neal Maupay, Leandro Trossard, Solly March. Subs: David Button, Shane Duffy, Pascal Groß, Aaron Mooy, Alireza, Jahanbakhsh, Glenn Murray, Aaron Connolly.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Last season’s visit to the Amex came in February on the back of three successive draws that had followed three successive wins. Two of those draws, with correct stoppage time decision, would have ended in wins at Watford and Manchester United but there was no stopping us recording a third away win of the season at Brighton with all our goals in a 3-1 win coming from the two strikers who had both won promotion from League One with Brighton.

Resources were stretched and Sean Dyche had to name four defenders on the bench alongside goalkeeper Joe Hart and two strikers. There was neither a midfielder nor a wide player in sight because of injuries.

Brighton started the better and forced Tom Heaton into two good saves but midway through the first half we took the lead when Lewis Dunk slipped trying to cut out a ball forward from Ashley Barnes. That allowed Chris Wood a run on goal and he simply hammered the ball home past a helpless Mat Ryan.

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Heaton did well again just before half time as did Phil Bardsley with a miraculous goal line clearance and that enabled us to go into the break with a one goal lead.

Having dealt with some early pressure in the second half, Wood got his second after superb work from Dwight McNeil. That was just past the hour and with not much over a quarter of an hour remaining we won a penalty which Barnes converted.

Shane Duffy did pull one back almost immediately following a free kick but there was no comeback for Brighton. The points were ours, we moved up two places in the table and were now behind Brighton only on goal difference.

Brighton: Mat Ryan, Martín Montaya, Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk, Gaëtan Bong, , Pascal Groß (Yves Bissouma 66) , Davy Pröpper, Dale Stephens, Solly March (Anthony Knockaert 48), Glenn Murray, Jürgen Locadia (Alireza Jahanbakhsh 66). Subs not used: David Button, Dan Burn, Beram Kayal, Bernardo.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Stephen Ward, Matěj Vydra, Peter Crouch.

 

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