Scruffy but three more points for Clarets
Burnley took advantage of Brighton’s defeat at Cardiff and Middlesbrough having no game to move up to second place in the Championship with a 2-0 win over Rotherham United at Turf Moor yesterday.
A Sam Vokes penalty midway through the first half and a late second from Scott Arfield secured the fully deserved points against an over physical Rotherham side who came more to spoil than anything else yet could have gone home with a point had they not missed a sitter with just over ten minutes to go.
It was a Burnley home game so the weather came out to greet it as it has done for virtually every Turf Moor game in the last couple of months. We had pouring rain and strong winds again making just getting to the game and trying to keep dry a difficult task.
I had a few concerns to be honest. We don’t have the best of records against Rotherham, either home or away, Neil Warnock was back in the dug out alongside his regular disciples Kevin Blackwell, Ronnie Jepson and Paddy Kenny, and I sensed it might just be a difficult afternoon for us.
Dodging the rain as best as possible I wasn’t too wet by the time I’d got inside with the news that Burnley would again be unchanged with the same seven substitutes who had been on duty at Reading a week earlier.
Warnock did make changes. The now oversized Kenny was on the bench along with Jerome Thomas but there was a starting place for Lloyd Doyley who was to make a major contribution. Former Blackburn strike pair Leon Best and Matt Derbyshire were both named on the bench as was Grant Ward, the Spurs loanee who scored their spectacular goal against us at the New York back at the beginning of October.
We’d won our previous two home games against promotion rivals Derby and Hull and we had relegation scrappers whose main plan at times looked to be allowing Greg Halford to hurl long throws into our box.
Tony Pulis, who used Rory Delap in that capacity for years at Stoke, would have loved it, as he would Rotherham’s approach in both boxes, particularly with arms and elbows flying around.
We didn’t get going for a while but then had a period of sustained pressure when we won a good number of corners. Stephen Ward was close to getting on to one ball in the box after it had been headed down by Ben Mee and, following another ball in, Michael Keane went down with a head injury.
David Jones fired a volley wide after a good ball in from Matt Lowton was knocked out. You sensed a goal might be on the way and it duly came courtesy of Mr Doyley and referee Tim Robinson who pointed to the spot after the Rotherham debutant had caught George Boyd. Robinson may well have guessed, as Warnock said after the match, but he got this decision spot on in what was a shocking ninety minutes from the referee, as incompetent official as I’ve seen in a long time.
Doyley gave the game away by trying to claim he’d committed the foul outside the box; the white line was a guide, it was clearly inside and a penalty was the correct decision.
With Andre Gray not the player fouled, spot kick duties were in the capable hands of Sam Vokes who sent Lee Camp the wrong way and Burnley were in front.
Both full backs, and I have to say I thought both had very good games again, were involved when we came ever so close to doubling that lead. An excellent Ward cross evaded everyone before it was returned from the right by Lowton for Gray to head against the bar.
That came just after Keane, still suffering from the head injury sustained earlier, went down again. This time the decision was taken for him to come off and that gave James Tarkowski his Burnley debut, coming on to play alongside the once again hugely impressive Ben Mee.
For the stattos reading; Tarkowski became the 50th player to play league football for Burnley since the appointment of Sean Dyche as manager. Dyche has brought 26 of them to the club.
And soon after the aforementioned Grant Ward replaced the injured Danny Ward and he had Rotherham’s best effort of the half. A long ball up the pitch was headed down and he fired a shot just over from distance.
But there was no doubting our deserving of the half time lead and I always felt an early second goal would lead to us beating this lot by a similar margin to the wins against Charlton and Bristol City.
Undoubtedly we were still the better side and we created enough opportunities to have won more convincingly, but it was one of those afternoons when the chances weren’t taken. Gray had a couple of them and Vokes was so close to getting a second after a ball in from Gray who had been put clear down the right by Tarkowski.
Vokes might have had a goal of the season contender had he just been able to turn in a brilliant ball from Joey Barton. It was sublime from the Burnley midfielder but the stretching Vokes could only hit the ball high over the bar.
Joey Barton – what can be said of our midfielder? He was, I thought, simply outstanding from first whistle to last.
I know questions were asked when we signed him but surely every one of them has now been answered. He picks up yellow cards just for being Joey Barton, of that I’m certain, but he’s been provoked time and time again in games, and yesterday had to deal with a nasty elbow that presumably went unseen by Robinson who ridiculously restarted the game with a dropped ball when the Rotherham player must have been thankful he wasn’t seeing red.
Last night, on the Bee Hole End message board, agreenwood posted: “I’d go as far as to say he’s the best central midfielder we’ve had in all the years I’ve been watching Burnley (since the late 80s). He’s better than anything we had during two seasons in the Premier League.”
The way Joey is playing right now, I doubt you’ll find many dissenters to that statement, and I reckon Burnley fans are just waiting for the news that he’s going to extend his stay at Turf Moor beyond the end of this season.
When the lead is just one goal there is always that doubt that one mistake might cost you, and with eleven minutes to go it should have done. Joe Newell got ahead of Lowton on the edge of the box that left him with the simplest of chances. All he had to do was get his shot on target; his shot went narrowly wide of the right hand post and Turf Moor breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Even then we missed another opportunity. George Boyd saw his effort saved with Vokes being blocked as he tried to hit home the rebound, but eventually goal number two did come.
We won a throw on the left, taken by Ward. It found its way to Gray who slipped the ball to his right for Arfield. The midfielder took one touch before hitting the ball home past the despairing Camp and the game was won.
Another collective sigh of relief; the home fans knew were going home in second place in the table and not even Warnock could deny we deserved the points even though they had come in a scruffy game of football.
Sean Dyche said after the game: “Sometimes the hardest fight to win is the one you are expected to and we took care of business well today.”
I couldn’t agree more. Apart from that one missed gilt edged chance, Rotherham didn’t trouble us. They had only one effort on target all afternoon and that was nothing more than a routine catch from Tom Heaton.
We weren’t at our best against a team who came more to spoil than anything else and with Robinson wandering round totally unaware of what was happening it made things even more difficult.
Scruffy yes, but three more points and second place in the table. There is plenty to enjoy at Burnley right now.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane (James Tarkowski 32), Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Matt Taylor 90), Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Rouwen Hennings 90). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, Fredrik Ulvestad, Michael Kightly.
Yellow Cards: Andre Gray, Ben Mee.
Rotherham: Lee Camp, Greg Halford, Lloyd Doyley (Leon Best 72), Kirk Broadfoot, Frazer Richardson, Chris Burke (Andrew Shinnie ht), Paul Green, Richard Smallwood, Joe Newell, Danny Ward (Grant Ward 38), Johnson Clarke-Harris. Subs not used: Paddy Kenny, Collins, Jerome Thomas, Matt Derbyshire.
Yellow Cards: Chris Burke, Richard Smallwood.
Referee: Tim Robinson (Bognor).
Attendance: 15,849 (including 644 from Rotherham).
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