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southampton 2 1000x500Burnley came home from Southampton yesterday with all three points from a 1-0 win after Sam Vokes came off the bench to score the only goal of the game nine minutes from time.

Going back just over six months, we brought all three points back from Crystal Palace. That was our only away win last season. At the time I wrote: “There was huge relief at finally getting that win on the road but, more so, a very strong belief that no matter what happens now we can surely be preparing for Premier League Football again next season.”

I couldn’t possibly, at the time, have even considered that I’d be reporting on us winning a third away Premier League win of the season by the time the bonfires were being lit, but that’s exactly what’s happened with this victory following up those at Chelsea and Everton. Add to that the draws at Spurs and Liverpool, along with the eight points won at home from five games, and we can currently find ourselves seventh in the Premier League with only one point less than half of our final total last season when we stayed up with relative ease.

It’s astonishing, and while yesterday’s performance was not free flowing, and while we had a lot of defending to do at times with goalkeeper Nick Pope again having an excellent afternoon, there could be no denying us after we kept yet another clean sheet and scored with a superb headed goal from Southampton fan Vokes to record only our second ever win at St. Mary’s.

After a run of away games in virtually our own region, it was back to relying on the alarm clock for this one, the first of them awaking me at 6:15 a.m. ahead of a long day out via the X43 bus to Manchester and then car.

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Thankfully, it was all trouble free. The M6 had reached car park levels again on the previous day but we got through all the road works and trouble spots comfortably and rolled into Southampton in good time to get parked up and make our way to the ground.

There was a big shock on arrival at the stadium. They were just announcing the line ups and substitutes with Burnley, according to the announcer, including West Brom’s Claudio Yacob as one of our seven substitutes. Other than West Brom being their last home opponents, I’m not sure where that came from but if he was on the bench then he looked remarkably like Ashley Barnes.

In the only change to the team from Monday’s win against Newcastle, fit again Chris Wood replaced Barnes who replaced Nahki Wells, who had scored a hat trick for the under-23s on Thursday night, on the bench.

With the teams out, it was announced that there would be a period of silence following the playing of The Last Post ahead of next week’s Remembrance Day, but unfortunately it didn’t work as planned and while the players of both team stood in silence, there was confusion in the stands as supporters started chanting, clapping and singing.

As for the clapping, I’m sad to have to report that Southampton have become one of the latest clubs to hand out happy clappies to their supporters making the place almost as bad as Leicester has become since they introduced them.

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West Brom apart, this fixture last season was probably as poor as any we turned in all season on the road. It’s not actually been that bad a ground for us overall. Prior to yesterday, since our first visit in 2005, we’d lost three of seven although we had won just once, that when Steven Caldwell scored to give us a 1-0 win in April 2008.

Southampton have, apparently, been playing better than their results might suggest, and they certainly gave us plenty to think about during the first half. We had quite a lot of defending to do but very rarely did they look as though they might get the better of us although Nick Pope did make two very good saves, one of them, close to half time, an outstanding save as he got down to his right to save on the ground.

But we had our chances and had a little spell in the middle of the half when we looked the more likely with a couple of half chances falling to Johann Berg Gudmundsson.

However, as we came off at half time it was still 0-0 and we were more than worthy of that scoreline with a real belief from the Burnley fans that we could certainly get something from this game.

Nothing changed for a while in the second half. Again they had most of the play yet again they didn’t create very much and when Pope was forced into action to tip over a shot it had presented itself only because he’d probably made his only mistake in the game, failing to hold a cross.

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With twenty minutes gone in the second half, three strikers made their way to the touchline ready to come on as substitutes. Two of them were Barnes and Vokes and they replaced Jeff Hendrick and Wood as the Clarets went to a 4-4-2 formation.

I wasn’t so sure whether this was a good move but the man on the touchline certainly knows far better than I do and he considered that was the right thing to do. The third striker worried me; Southampton were bringing on Charlie Austin, surely the best natural goalscorer in either of the two squads. And, he does have a habit of scoring against us.

The game changed, and it was us who got it right with our two really giving Southampton something to think about. Twice, soon after coming on, Vokes got into good positions to pull the ball back but failed to find the right pass both times. But Southampton were now having more problems against us than they’d had all game.

There seemed less of a threat from the home side, although Steven Davis fired a shot just over, but we were really taking the game to them and with just over nine minutes remaining we got the all important goal.

We worked the ball so well and eventually got it out to Gudmundsson on the right. His left footed cross was met by Vokes whose superb header found the corner with Fraser Forster unable to get across.

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Those nine minutes always seem longer when you’ve a lead to hang on to but they never really threatened other than one occasion when we got in a couple of blocks to prevent them getting close to testing Pope and long before referee Lee Probert blew his final whistle, around 15 seconds early, Southampton looked a beaten team.

We’ve played more expansive football this season but this was always going to be a tough away game against a very good side who are very difficult to play against. Sean Dyche delightedly said the game plan had worked almost to perfection.

It’s a long way home from Southampton, but it doesn’t seem anything like as long a journey when you start talking about the 11 points we’ve already picked up from the first six away games. Yes, that’s 11 from three wins and two draws with only the one defeat at Manchester City.

We were sixth in the table and we couldn’t even be disappointed when Liverpool went back above us in the tea time game that seems to have brought Slaven Bilic’s time at West Ham to an end.

We’re seventh going into an international break and we are now four points clear of eighth. I can’t wait for the games to start again. It’s two home games now before the south coast tour kicks off again with a midweek trip to Bournemouth.

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Needless to say there will be more speculation regarding our manager and various job vacancies. I’d much prefer it wasn’t happening but if that was the case it would mean we are not doing quite as well as we are. I just hope Sean Dyche remains our manager beyond this break and for some considerable time into the future.

Do you remember not so long ago when, if in front away from home, we sang ‘How s*** must you be? We’re winning away.’ at the home fans. It’s not the case now. Southampton were good but they weren’t good enough to stop this Burnley team from coming home with all three points.

The teams were;

Southampton: Fraser Forster, Cédric, Virgil van Dijk, Maya Yoshida, Ryan Bertrand, Sofiane Boufal (James Ward-Prowse 90), Steven Davis, Dušan Tadić (Shane Long 76), Oriol Romeu, Nathan Redmond, Manolo Gabbiadini (Charlie Austin 65). Subs not used: Alex McCarthy, Wesley Hoedt, Sam McQueen, Pierre-Emile Højberg.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick (Ashley Barnes 65), Chris Wood (Sam Vokes 65). Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield.

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 30,491.

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