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When the final whistle blew at St. Andrew’s yesterday, after a 2-1 win against Birmingham City, Sean Dyche strode across to the Burnley fans more animated than I think I’ve ever seen him before. It was a real show of passion from the manager who was pointing to his jaw, a jaw that was as strong as anyone’s in the ground I would imagine.

The players had come over celebrating with over 2,300 Clarets and such was the emotion that suddenly a huge roar erupted from the away end, a roar of defiance from our fans, the like of which I can’t ever previously remember.

We’d been put through it again, I felt years older at the final whistle than I did when I left Burnley mid-morning, and at my age that has to be a concern, but it was the best way to end the Championship week after yet another stoppage time goal had hit us even before we kicked off.

Bolton were, miraculously I thought, beating Middlesbrough when we parked up. Boro equalised as we walked to the ground and just after we’d arrived they scored that winner to move five points clear of us.

Willie Irvine at the Holte End at Villa where he scored the record breaking goal fifty years ago to the day
Willie Irvine back at the Holte End at Villa yesterday on his way to St. Andrew’s

The whole place seemed flat ahead of kick off. You got the feeling that no matter what we did, the Gods would turn it on its head and hit us where it hurts with more stoppage time goals. But this was to be our day in the second City, it was a day when the support just grew and grew to a magnificent level and we left that ground knowing that everyone involved with our club was going to give it everything they’ve got for the rest of the season.

The players were warming up when I got to my seat. There was no Sam Vokes who had been ruled out and David Jones, recovering from illness, was on the bench. That meant Ashley Barnes was getting his first start since the game three miles down the road at Villa last May and it was another start for Dean Marney. Rouwen Hennings was back on the bench for the Clarets.

On the subject of Villa. Yesterday I wrote of Willie Irvine’s record breaking goal there fifty years ago. Willie made a nostalgic return there yesterday before making his way to St. Andrew’s to see if our current goalscorer could get one goal closer to that record.

I don’t think we started particularly well. Birmingham looked the more productive of the two sides and they did have a couple of half chances. Our only effort was a long ranger from Scott Arfield that missed the target.

The best chance fell to the home side and they should have done better. A ball came across from the right which nicely set up Jacques Maghoma but he shot wide and soon after it was  Burnley who took the lead.

Marney linked up with Matt Lowton down the right. The full back got past a defender before crossing low into the box. Birmingham didn’t deal well with it and the half clearance dropped nicely for George Boyd who stroked the ball home into the corner of the net to signal pandemonium in the Gil Merrick Stand at the other end of the ground.

What a game Boyd had too. I referred in the match preview to the criticism he’s received this season but this, for me, was by far his best performance this season.

Birmingham did force Tom Heaton into two saves one of which was routine and the other a very good one when he pushed a David Cotterill effort wide. The ball came back in, Ben Mee was mauled but the referee Mark Heywood waved play on. Heaton had heated words with him as the players left for the half time break with Burnley fans already singing: “You don’t know what you’re doing,” at this most incompetent of officials.

What I certainly didn’t know is that we should have had a penalty just a few minutes before the break. It was apparently clear to such an extent that even Tony Cottee was telling Sky viewers that it was.

Jones was on for Joey Barton at the start of the second half. Forget all the nonsense from Birmingham manager Gary Rowett, the simple fact is that Birmingham, like so many other clubs, had target Joey. The foul from Jon Toral, which got him a fully warranted yellow card, was one example.

In the first ten minutes of the second half we could, with a bit of good fortune, have wrapped it all up. Gray saw an effort from a tight angle blocked by goalkeeper Adam Legzdins, Jones shot just wide and Barnes found the side netting from a tight angle after a good move.

It just needed that second but then things went against us. A Toral shot was parried by Heaton. He didn’t get the ball away and Maghoma was the first onto the rebound to convert. They’d drawn level and we had to start all over again.

Dyche’s reaction was one that surprised us all. He brought on Lloyd Dyer with half an hour to go for the once again disappointing Arfield. I don’t think we knew quite what to expect but he was to be a major influence as we went searching for a winner.

On at least three occasions he got quality balls into the box from which we might have scored and he was involved in the build up to the winner too. Jones found Barnes who had to evade two lunges from Birmingham players before playing a one-two with Dyer. Barnes then pushed the ball into the box for Boyd.

Man of the match George Boyd scored the first and set up the second
Man of the match George Boyd scored the first and set up the second

As Boyd got into position to the left of the box I was screaming to him to lay it off for Dyer, but he turned, chipped the ball across and there was the waiting Gray to volley home from close range. We were back in front with 13 minutes to go.

My word it was a long time. The 13 became 17 with the added minutes which went on to 18 because of an incident involving Toral and Dyer. By then we’d brought on James Tarkowski and I think he was trying to break all records for distance with headers. More than once he won positive headers to get the ball away and it was he who headed out for Dyer who went down under a challenge from Toral.

Immediately Heywood got the yellow card out again and Toral had to go. When rent-a-gob tells us that Dyer said there was no contact, I’m not inclined to believe him, but I am aware that Heywood got very little right all afternoon in what was a nightmare performance from the referee.

But by then, no matter what words Rowett uses to try to con the Birmingham fans, they were a beaten side and they really cannot have any argument at all with the result.

At least Clayton Donaldson didn’t go diving around in the box this time and I’m not even aware of Kyle Lafferty having asked for any telephone numbers.

What a win and what a wonderful moment at the end when that roar went up. I’ve been a Claret for over 55 years now and I’ve always been proud of my club. That pride just swelled at that emotional moment.

Sean – we really are all in this together. I’ve not known a Burnley team in years that has given us this. I know you told us it’s not a forever thing but the longer it stays like this, the better it is.

We’re right in there. It’s two from three to go up. It’s our big one on Tuesday against leaders Middlesbrough.


The teams were;

Birmingham: Adam Legzdins, Paul Caddis, Michael Morrison, Ryan Shotton, Jonathan Grounds, Mikael Kieftenbeld, David Davis, David Cotterill (Diego Fabbrini 79), Jon Toral, Jacques Maghoma (Kyle Lafferty 79), Clayton Donaldson. Subs not used: Tomasz Kuszczak, Jonathan Spector, Viv Solomon-Otabor, Stephen Gleeson, James Vaughan.
Yellow Card: Jon Toral.
Red Card: Jon Toral.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney, Joey Barton (David Jones ht), Scott Arfield (Lloyd Dyer 60), Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray (James Tarkowski 89). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, Matt Taylor, Rouwen Hennings.
Yellow Cards: Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney.

Referee: Mark Heywood (Northwich).

Attendance: 19,151 (including 2,322 Clarets).

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