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1718 burnley turf moor 01 1000x500Burnley welcome Huddersfield Town to Turf Moor tomorrow. It’s less than two years since they were last here but this is the first time the teams have met in the Premier League (for those who believe football started in 1992) and, for those of us who understand the game, it is their first top flight visit since November 1970.

On that occasion both Alan West and Steve Kindon scored for us but we lost the game 3-2 although later in the season we beat them 1-0 at Leeds Road with a goal from Colin Waldron. We went down that season; they departed a year later and that seemed to be it. I don’t think, even a couple of years ago, anyone could have expected us to be meeting at the top table at any time in the near future.

But we went up as champions in 2016 and a year later Huddersfield copied our achievement of 2009 by winning the play-offs having, like us, finished the season in fifth place. They defeated Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final and Reading in the Wembley final, both victories coming in penalty shoot outs.

That makes us the more experienced Premier League team tomorrow and that’s not happened very often in our three years and a bit in this league. It’s a season that, so far, has been a bit of a surprise with the away results, picking up five points from three games while at home it’s not been quite so good with one win and one defeat although both games probably should have gone the other way.

James Tarkowski, captain in the two League Cup ties, missed the vital penalty in Tuesday’s shoot out against Leeds, but the players have lifted him. According to Matt Lowton they were at first very sympathetic. “He was down in the dressing room and felt as though he had let the lads down,” the right-back, who had a watching brief, said. “But people got around him and said he had shown courage to step up and take a penalty.”

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“But he was alright on Thursday and I think he’ll be fine,” Lowton added. I think by Thursday he’d become the butt of the dressing room jokes, but that’s how footballers and football teams deal with these things.

Lowton spoke of how well Tarkowski had done in filling Michael Keane’s shoes and how Nick Pope is now having to do likewise. “It shows the depth we’ve got in the squad.

“We said after the second half of the Crystal Palace game that we wanted to keep the ball a little bit more, rather than defend for 45 minutes, but we have got lads who want to defend and enjoy blocking shots because it gets the team what they need. It’s a key part of anything, so for us to block a shot or stop a massive chance is just like the lads at the other end scoring.”

Since winning his place in the team in December 2015, Lowton has missed just two league games. Jon Flanagan was preferred last season at Stoke while he missed the Boxing Day game against Middlesbrough through suspension.

He’s got a new challenger now in Phil Bardsley and he had an excellent game in the cup, but Lowton will return tomorrow in a team that will show little change to the one that drew at Liverpool. I think there could be one change; I’d expect Jeff Hendrick to return after coming through the first 90 minutes on Tuesday, and that would likely mean either Scott Arfield, who would love the chance to play against his former club, or Johann Berg Gudmundsson would miss out.

We know that Tom Heaton and Dean Marney are out long term. Jon Walters is also missing. He was on the bench last Saturday but a knee injury ruled him out in midweek and it could be a while before he’s fit to return. The one other player out is newest signing Nahki Wells. He’s getting closer to fitness but the game against his former club has come just too soon for him.

We could line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Scott Arfield, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood. Subs from: Adam Legzdins, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes.

When we travelled to Huddersfield last year and won 3-1 I thought, wrongly as it happened, that we were all but promoted and also thought, very wrongly, that Huddersfield were going to have a tough time under David Wagner.

We’d played so well that day to make it six wins out of six at a time when Middlesbrough were imploding with the disappearing Aitor Karanka, but Huddersfield looked a million miles away and I wondered whether the Wagner experiment would end in abject failure even though he’d been there for no more than about three months.

They ended that 2015/16 season in 19th place in the table, that in a season when the bottom three were so far behind there was never a threat of relegation, but I didn’t see the Wagner revolution coming, one that saw them only once drop out of the top six all season to reach the play-offs and promotion.

It’s not ended there either. We have made a good start to the season but Huddersfield are above us, albeit on goal difference, after a good start themselves. Like us they’ve won two, drawn two and lost just once.

The defeat came in front of the television cameras at West Ham but the wins were at Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season and against Newcastle in their first home game. Not only that, they didn’t concede a goal prior to Pedro Obiang netting in the 72nd minute for West Ham in their fourth game and the Hammers remain the only team to have scored against them in open play.

Their first Premier League goal was an own goal from Palace’s Joel Ward but they won that game 3-0 with Benin international Steve Mounié scoring the other two on his debut after moving from Montpellier.

Mounié is a doubt for tomorrow for a Huddersfield side who have one or two injury problems of their own. Danny Williams has a fractured foot while Collin Quaner, Kasey Palmer and Jon Gorenc Stankovic are all doubts as are Laurent Depoitre and Rajiv van La Parra.

Last time out saw Huddersfield return to Palace, this time in the League Cup. Their team was: Joel Coleman, Scott Malone, Martin Cranie, Michael Hefele, Florent Hadergjonaj, Philip Billing, Jonathan Hogg, Rajiv van La Parra, Joe Lolley, Tom Ince, Elias Kachunga. Subs: Jonas Lössl, Tommy Smith, Dean Whitehead, Mathias Zanka, Aaron Mooy, Chris Löwe, Abdelhamid Sabiri.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

Burnley had moved up to third in the Championship with a win against Blackburn at Ewood Park, something that’s become a regular occurrence again when fixtures allow; Huddersfield were 16th and just days away from sacking Chris Powell.

The game went with form with Burnley winning 2-1 courtesy of two Andre Gray goals, the first of them from the penalty spot. Huddersfield got a late consolation via a Michael Duff own goal.

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For much of the game it looked as though it could be nothing other than a Burnley win once Gray had converted a 12th penalty that he’d won for himself. It was a vital goal against a Huddersfield team who had opted for a fleet of double deckers in a ‘park the bus’ attempt at getting something from the game.

Just before half time that lead was doubled and how deserving that Joey Barton and David Jones, who had run the first half show, should be involved. Barton started it by finding Jones who played the ball to Sam Vokes. The striker’s ball to Gray was exquisite and Gray’s second goal was a powerful first time effort.

We should have put it to bed in the second half, so much on top were we, but Huddersfield then gave it a right go with new Burnley boy Nahki Wells, on as a substitute, having a big say. But by the time they got the goal it was too late and Burnley were deserving winners although with neither team moving up or down in the table.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Chris Long 87). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Matt Lowton, Stephen Ward, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly, Rouwen Hennings.

Huddersfield: Jed Steer, Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson, Martin Cranie, Harry Bunn, Emyr Huws, Dean Whitehead (Flo Bojaj 90), Mustapha Carayol (Kyle Dempsey 72), Jamie Paterson, Ishmael Miller (Nahki Wells 59). Subs not used: Joe Murphy, Duane Holmes, Philip Billing, William Boyle.

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