Derby Day Delight
Having lost first place in the table a day earlier, Burnley returned to the top ahead of the World Cup break with the most emphatic of 3-0 victories against local rivals Blackburn Rovers.
All the goals came in a memorable second half with Ashley Barnes scoring the first and last with Anass Zaroury getting the second after Blackburn goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski had saved from Barnes.
I’m not a fan of derby day; there’s always too much at stake, and I’m not one of those supporters who are chanting to bring them on almost from the time the fixtures are released. I wasn’t too nervous either yesterday morning but that probably was due to having the events in Melbourne to concentrate on as England went on to lift the T20 World Cup.
Then, it was trying to keep things as normal as possible although I did go to the Remembrance Service just before 11 a.m. to pay my respects and then my route to the Turf had to be changed because of the block on Harry Potts Way.
Admission was easier than expected. There was no sign of the enhanced searching of supporters that the club had confirmed would be in place, definitely not in the Longside where you would have struggled to even see a steward outside ahead of kick off.
Burnley and Blackburn fans side by side, well almost, in that stand. I’ve seen it written that only the great Keith Newton could ever bring them together but just ahead of kick off yesterday, both sets of fans were impeccable in showing their respect during the short silence and the playing of The Last Post. It shouldn’t really need to be said, but supporters of both teams were an absolute credit during that period.
It was so close to being a glorious start for the Clarets in only the third minute. Vitinho did well and played a lovely ball down the right for Josh Brownhill. His first time cross was met by Barnes and only a deflection to the ball wide of goal.
While everyone is looking for a potential spot kick, Barnes and Taylor Harwood-Bellis all but combine to head for goal with Kaminski making an outstanding save. He was at it again moments later, tipping a Barnes header over the bar, but when referee David Coote blew his half time whistle it was still 0-0 but we had enjoyed the better of things by some distance. The half time stats showed that our visitors hadn’t had a single shot at goal, on or off target.
It had been a half of promise but we needed more and we were soon to get it although Arijanet Muric made the first save of the second half, denying Brereton at the near post in what proved to our visitors’ only attempt at goal all afternoon.
Burnley just took over after that. They didn’t have a clue how to stop us although Dominic Hyam thought the best method was to push Zaroury into the advertising hoardings. He and Blackburn paid for that; the next time Zaroury got possession, receiving the ball on the left, he crossed early. It was as good a cross as you could have hoped for and there was Barnes to head home before pushing Kaminski into the net for good measure.
I was less relaxed now. At 0-0 I was reasonably calm but now we had something to hold on to. We all know that in Blackburn games this season there hasn’t been an equaliser scored. With a 1-0 lead, I didn’t really want to be reminded but I was. Talk about tempting fate.
It didn’t happen, thankfully, and around a quarter of an hour after the goal we made our first change with Tella replacing Benson. He hadn’t been on the pitch long when he made a telling contribution. Blackburn tried to play the ball out from the back, something they are clearly not very good at. Eventually, Jack Cork headed it forward for Tella who flicked it on for Barnes. The striker was denied a second goal when Kaminski saved his right foot volley. We weren’t be denied. Zaroury was there to stroke the ball home into the corner to double the advantage.
The home fans had been noisy up to this point. That changed, the decibel level increased significantly for the rest of the game. All I was concerned about now was not letting them back into the game, which we didn’t.
That was all thrown out of the window minutes later when we scored again and what a wonderful goal it was. Josh Cullen, who I thought had his best game yet for us, found Cork who flicked the ball to Tella on the right touchline. Tella cleverly allowed the ball to come off his back to Brownhill who cleverly beat his man before pulling the ball back to Barnes. What a superb piece of skill from Barnes to sidestep the defender before scoring with a left foot shot. It got a deflection but it was going in anyway.
These were Ashley’s first Championship goals since he scored to complete that stunning move against Wigan to clinch promotion nine seasons ago. This was, undoubtedly, his day.
I really was enjoying it now. My only concern was ensuring we kept a clean sheet, but I knew I’d be going home happy. The home sections of the Turf were triumphant; we knew we’d won and we were taking it all in. “Can we play you every week?” we taunted their fans with. I’m not sure I could cope with that but if it was like this every week then bring it on.
He had one more task to fulfil and that was to blow the final whistle. It was greeted with an incredible roar from the Burnley fans and I’m sure all of those unable to be at the ground and watching on television. They got the benefit of seeing a desperately disappointed David Dunn.
That’s five successive wins against them now, each one as special as the other. Last time, when we won 2-0 at Ewood in the League Cup, their manager Tony Mowbray said: “It’s hard to take for the Rovers fans to see Burnley that far in front of us at the moment.”
At the time, they were two divisions below us. We kicked off yesterday knowing that we’d be behind them in the league if they beat us. To be honest, we looked every bit as much in front of them yesterday as we did when Mowbray gave us that wonderful quote.
A three goal win. I referred to the last time we were two ahead of them in a league game. I was able to work that out but I had to look it up for the last occasion we held a three goal lead against them. It was at Ewood in February 1965. We led 2-0 at half time with goals from Willie Irvine and Alex Elder. With ten minutes to go, Brian O’Neil made it 3-0 although Mick McGrath did pull one back. Irvine got his second and our fourth right at the end for a 4-1 victory.
How do I feel today? I’m still walking on air and I’ve got four weeks to savour this before we play again. I know that, in the grand scheme of things, it is no more than any other win against any other team, it counts for no more, it’s just three points.
BUT IT MEANS A HELL OF A LOT MORE – WHAT A DERBY DAY DELIGHT
The teams were;
Burnley: Arijanet Muric, Vitinho, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jordan Beyer, Ian Maatsen (Charlie Taylor 83), Jack Cork, Josh Cullen, Manuel Benson (Nathan Tella 71), Josh Brownhill, Anass Zaroury (Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson 88), Ashley Barnes (Halil Dervişoğlu 88). Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Connor Roberts, Samuel Bastien.
Yellow Card: Jack Cork.
Blackburn: Thomas Kaminski, Dominic Hyam, Daniel Ayala, Clinton Mola, Ryan Hedges, Jake Garrett (John Buckley 69), Tyler Morton, Lewis Travis (Bradley Dack 76), Callum Brittain, Sam Gallagher (Jack Vale 53), Ben Brereton. Subs not used: Aynsley Pears, Harry Pickering, Scott Wharton.
Yellow Cards: Lewis Travis, Daniel Ayala.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).
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