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Having beaten Rotherham 2-0 last Saturday, Burnley are at home again tonight with Nottingham Forest our visitors on this occasion.

We go into the game in second place in the Championship. With Middlesbrough having no game, we knew we’d move up one place with a win but Cardiff’s destruction of Brighton in the early kick off ensured they’d also be passed and, although we’ve played more games than Hull above us and Middlesbrough directly below us, it’s good to be in those automatic positions for only the second time this season.

The win over Rotherham was a third successive home win and a fifth in six games since the Preston defeat in December and we go into the game full of confidence from an unbeaten run home and away in the league that stretches back into 2015, the last loss coming at Hull on Boxing Day.

Tom Heaton - a will and desire to keep things moving forward
Tom Heaton – a will and desire to keep things moving forward

Captain Tom Heaton has been discussing that run and the improvement in the side. He said: “One thing that’s always present here is the constant will and demand to keep things moving forward.

“That sort of determination and desire that is set by the manager and staff, people are always looking to get better and you’ve seen it come together recently. As a squad there is a great culture around the place and we’re constantly producing those top level performances at the moment as well as finding different ways to win.”

Looking forward to tonight’s game, Heaton added: “We’re in a good place at the minute. We’ll give them the respect they’re due but as ever the focus will be on us and how we go about it. We need to make sure we do our jobs properly and there are no guarantees, but hopefully it’ll bring the right result.”

It’s a long time since Heaton wasn’t in goal for a Burnley league game. He’s started all of them since signing for us in the summer of 2013 which has taken his total to 116 although that is still some way behind the record held by our first post-war goalkeeper Jimmy Strong who played in the first 203 league games following the resumption of league football in 1946.

As for the team news tonight, Michael Keane will be missing from the starting line up for the first time in a Championship game this season. He was forced off after suffering a head injury in the Rotherham game and will sit this one out because of the rules on such injuries. He’s fine though and should be ready for the Bolton game on Saturday.

His replacement a substitute on Saturday was James Tarkowski and the former Oldham and Brentford defender is now set to make his first start for the Clarets in the centre of defence alongside Ben Mee who yet again was in outstanding form in the last game.

That means a vacancy on the bench and with Michael Duff still likely to be ruled out, that could mean a return to the match day squad for Kevin Long. He hasn’t featured in the first team since New Year’s Day 2015 at Newcastle when he suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury.

He’s been on the bench once previously this season, at Wolves, but has since been out on loan at Barnsley, returning at the end of last week having made a total of thirteen appearances that brought him two goals and a penalty shoot out success against Fleetwood.

Latest signing Lloyd Dyer will again sit the game out as he gets his fitness levels up to the levels required. We’ll have to wait and see whether he makes the bench at Bolton.

I’d expect us to line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, Kevin Long, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly, Rouwen Hennings.

Nottingham Forest, two years ago, were pushing us hard when they came to Turf Moor, a game referred to below. They eventually fell away and ended the season in 11th place and last season were even lower, finishing 14th.

They arrive at the Turf tonight in 11th place having just ended a long run without defeat. They were beaten 2-0 by Huddersfield in their last game a week last Saturday but that was their first defeat since losing at Brentford in November. Between those defeats they won six and drew seven games.

Prior to that run they were just two points clear of the drop zone but there is now renewed hope that they can push all the way to the play-offs as they look for a return to the Premier League. It is now 17 years since they were in the top flight and they’ve also played down in League One for three of those seasons between 2005 and 2008.

Things do seem to have settled down there and manager Dougie Freedman has now been in the job for just over a year. Prior to his arrival, the current owners of the club had sacked no fewer than five managers in two and a half years.

Given what happened again in the summer with our attempts to sign Henri Lansbury, it was always likely that he would play an influential part in these fixtures. He did just that at the City Ground, receiving a red card from referee Stuart Attwell two minutes after Forest had taken the lead in an eventual 1-1 draw.

He won’t play any part tonight. He suffered an injury in their FA Cup 3rd round tie against QPR last month and hasn’t played since. Only last week he said that he hoped to play again this season.

Last time out against Huddersfield, they lined up: Dorus De Vries, Eric Lichaj, Matt Mills, Michael Mancienne, Bojan Jokic, David Vaughan, Gary Gardner, Robert Tesche, Jamie Ward, Ben Osborn, Nelson Oliveira. Subs: Dimitar Evtimov, Chris Cohen, Jack Hobbs, Chris O’Grady, Jorge Grant, Dexter Blackstock, Oliver Burke.




Some games are easily forgotten, some you can recall and there are others you just don’t want to forget. That was certainly the case when Forest last came to Burnley two years ago yesterday.

Sam Vokes gets his first and our second
Sam Vokes gets his first and our second

They’d drawn in midweek against Leicester. They led with Leicester down to ten men. Had they won they would have arrived at Turf Moor just three points behind knowing a win would take them above us. The late Leicester goal kept them five points behind and by the time they set off home our lead over them was eight points and they were out of the automatic promotion race.

I don’t think it would have mattered how well or how badly Forest played that day, we were just simply brilliant in the first half, blowing them away with three goals in the first 35 minutes.

This was a Burnley team who had already turned in some outstanding performances in the season. Home wins against Reading and QPR come readily to mind as does the brilliant 3-0 win at Derby, but this was at another level, this was as good as anything we’d seen and better.

In my report of the game I asked to be excused if anyone thought I was going over the top with my reporting; no one did. That’s how good it was and poor former Claret Danny Fox had arguably the worst afternoon of his career as we tormented him down our right time and time again, not as though it was all coming down one side, we were equally effective down the left.

and he completes the scoring
and he completes the scoring

With just 12 minutes gone, David Jones found Scott Arfield. He nut-megged Fox with some swag before unleashing a shot so powerful that goalkeeper Karl Darlow could do no more than deflect it in.

Sam Vokes headed home a Kieran Trippier cross with just 25 minutes on the clock and ten minutes later it was 3-0 when Ben Mee and Michael Kightly linked up brilliantly down the left to set up Vokes for his second.

Forest did pull a goal back late in the game. They were awarded a soft penalty. Tom Heaton saved it but they scored the rebound.

Even so, they were a well beaten side by a brilliant Burnley performance with Vokes receiving all the plaudits. I said then that it was as good a centre forward performance as I’d seen since Paul Fletcher.

That’s how well Sam played. Would love to see him do that again tonight. Play it again Sam.

We had another promotion contender visiting a week later in Derby before a trip to Ewood Park. Could we win another two massive games?

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, David Jones, Michael Kightly (Keith Treacy 61), Danny Ings, Sam Vokes (Ashley Barnes 76). Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Kevin Long, David Edgar, Ross Wallace, Junior Stanislas.

Nottingham Forest: Karl Darlow, Greg Halford, Jamaal Lascelles, Danny Collins, Danny Fox, Gonzalo Jara Reyes (Darius Henderson 82), Guy Moussi (Jonathan Greening 75), Jamie Mackie, Jamie Paterson, Djamal Abdoun, Raffik Djebbour (Simon Cox 75). Subs not used: Dorus De Vries, Eric Lichaj, Dan Harding, Matt Derbyshire.

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