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Burnley won a fifth successive away league win yesterday against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road but it took an Ashley Barnes penalty some twelve minutes from the end to win this one for us and for Luton to become the eighteenth team we’ve recorded a victory against this season.

This wasn’t a classic by any means and we had some defending to do at times, particularly in the first half, but our battling qualities came through to give us three more points towards our aim of winning promotion back to the Premier League.

It was good to be back having missed the two home games last week although I could probably have done with a shorter trip. This trip was by car from Halifax so a walk to the railway station and a train journey first before we were away around 9 a.m. by road with destination Luton.

Not for the first time recently, I’m able to report a trouble free journey down. I don’t think there was a hold up at all and we were parked up in good time around a twenty minute walk from the ground, and the walk was an interesting one, alongside the Luton to Dunstable Busway which I’ve learned this morning is the longest guided urban busway in the world.

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Some of our group had not experienced Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road before and I don’t think any description of it can explain fully just what it’s like. It really is a throw back to how grounds used to be although I think this is the only one I’ve ever visited where you virtually walk through someone’s house to get in.

It’s unreserved seating (or standing areas) too and we took our place three rows from the back in a position that at least we didn’t have an obstructed view of either goal. Our players were warming up when we got in there and the line up was showing two changes from that which had kicked off against Watford. In were Charlie Taylor and Jack Cork; they were replacing the injured Jordan Beyer and Anass Zaroury who was on the bench.

Kenilworth Road is a tight ground and it didn’t look to have the best of playing surfaces either. Given they are a somewhat big, strong and direct side, I thought this might not be quite a QPR or Norwich away type performance and I wasn’t to be proved to be wrong.

While not always looking to have too many problems in the first half, we did have a lot of defending to do while struggling to create too much at the other end. Fit and well again Arijanet Muric was in the goal right in front of us. He did make one very good save down to his right to deny Elijah Adebayo, and he did have the benefit of seeing the same player miss the easiest chance of the half when he somehow shot way over the bar.

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Our one big moment came from a free kick, who for a foul on Nathan Tella. Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson got the ball round the wall and it looked to be heading into the corner of the net only for home goalkeeper Ethan Horvath to get across and push the ball away.

Luton did put us under some pressure in the closing minutes of the half and we were probably the more relieved of the two teams when referee Jeremy Simpson brought it to an end with the score still 0-0.

Without ever looking at our best, we improved in the second half. Zaroury replaced Guðmundsson with Vitinho coming on for the injured Tella soon afterwards. Both had an influence with Vitinho seemingly involved in most things. The Brazilian almost got on the end of a Barnes through ball, then got to a Zaroury cross only to see his shot blocked. Barnes then played him in again only for him to get the ball caught between his feet before shooting wide.

His moment was to come though. Hjalmar Ekdal played a free kick forward down the right. Josh Cullen did so well to hook it back into the box and this time Vitinho got it past one defender before being stopped in his tracks by a clear handball by Gabriel Osho. Even I saw the handball from my position; thankfully so did the referee and he pointed to the spot.

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As is always the case, the team who have conceded choose to argue their case and it led to their captain Tom Lockyer, who had the best possible view of it, receiving a yellow card. While all that was going on, Barnes patiently awaited his chance. You have to have nerves of steel these days taking a penalty, so long do you have to wait. This one was just short of one minute, forty seconds before he stroked his right foot shot into the left hand corner before celebrating with team mates in front of the travelling Clarets.

Before the game could restart, I saw Lockyer departing; he’d received a second yellow for continuing to argue on a decision that his own manager Rob Edwards admitted after the game was a clear penalty. Watching the highlights on that wretched ITV programme, Jamie Mackie suggested he shouldn’t receive two yellows for the same incident. Does Mackie think a yellow for dissenting a decision should then give him licence to say just what he wants to a referee? I’ve obviously no idea what was said but again Edwards had no complaints at that decision.

Around eleven minutes to go by the time we restarted and that was to be extended by another seven. We knew what would come and it did. Luton pushed forward down at the far end. Every time Muric dropped on the ball was greeted with roars from the Burnley fans, likewise every time we saw the ball fly over the bar at the far end.

The one big chance came our way when we broke three on one. That should have given us a second goal but we got it all wrong and Cullen blazed over having also managed to run offside.

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Vincent Kompany brought on Lyle Foster for Zaroury and when he held up a ball played forward, the referee blew his final whistle and we’d won it. We’d had a real battle in those closing minutes but come through it to win three more points just a short time after we’d learned that Sheffield United had again been beaten.

Not for the first time recently, I want to mention another excellent performance from Barnes; even the manager singled him out after the game. But, when looking for a man of the match, I’m looking no further than the centre of our defence. Without Taylor Harwood-Bellis, without Jordan Beyer, I thought Ekdal turned in another really outstanding and assured performance alongside Taylor who I thought stood out like a beacon, so well he played.

But this was another team performance. This was the sort of win that wins you titles. It’s brilliant when you can win easily and beat teams by three and four, but nothing counts more than coming through a tough, tough encounter with three points. “They are good at what they do,” Kompany said of Luton. They are, undoubtedly, and we saw that yesterday from start to finish.

This might be a quickly forgettable game for those of us there, but the result won’t be forgotten.

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Outside of the ground, we found our route blocked by a barrier. Was that to try and keep home and away fans apart? If so, it doesn’t work. We spent over ten minutes walking round to get back to exactly where we started but right behind the barrier. During that walk, we’d found ourselves alongside some of the more ungracious and concerning home fans we’ve seen for some considerable time.

So, eventually we got alongside the Busway again and back to the car for the journey home, broken by a stop at one of our favoured establishments close to Leicester. It made it a long day, and it was some time after midnight when the key went in the door at home.

But it had been another really good day out, even though, still not fully fit, it’s left me somewhat tired today. I can cope with that. Five successive away wins have taken us past seventy points and with fourteen games still to play. Sheffield United are not out of sight, not by any means, but they aren’t looking at us any longer; they have turned around to keep a watch on Middlesbrough.

Swansea, Bournemouth, Ipswich, Norwich and Luton, that’s where we’ve been on our travels in 2023 and it’s Millwall next. I’m looking forward to what, I’m sure, is going to be another really tough game.

The teams were;

Luton: Ethan Horvath, Reece Burke, Tom Lockyer, Gabriel Osho, Cody Drameh (Alfie Doughty 32), Marvelous Nakamba (Allan Campbell 68), Pelly Ruddock Mpanza, Amari’i Bell, Jordan Clark, Carlton Morris (Cauley Woodrow 57), Elijah Adebayo. Subs not used: James Shea, Dan Potts, Luke Berry, Joe Taylor.
Yellow Cards: Tom Lockyer, Elijah Adebayo.
Red Card: Tom Lockyer.

Burnley: Arijanet Muric, Connor Roberts, Hjalmar Ekdal, Charlie Taylor, Ian Maatsen, Josh Cullen, Jack Cork, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Anass Zaroury 54, Lyle Foster 90+2), Josh Brownhill, Nathan Tella (Vitinho 61), Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Ameen Al-Dakhil, Scott Twine, Michael Obafemi.
Yellow Card: Josh Brownhill.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (North Lancashire).

Attendance: 10,066 (including 1,026 Clarets).

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