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Burnley beat Norwich City 1-0 last night at the Turf to move back to the top of the Championship, two points clear of previous leaders Queens Park Rangers.

It was an 82nd minute penalty given for handball against Grant Hanley. Jay Rodriguez converted to notch his eighth goal of the season and it was enough to give us the three points that probably should have been secured in the first half.

Norwich were one of the two teams relegated with us at the end of last season. Watford, the other to go down, are the one team to have beaten us this season. History didn’t suggest that we would lose last night; Norwich have won just once at Burnley and that was in April 2004 when we led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before succumbing to a 5-3 defeat in a season that would see Norwich promoted and us survive relegation a week before the end.

We can’t rely on history as was seen just a few days earlier at Sunderland when we came from behind to win there for the first time in almost fifty years in the league. We could take nothing for granted against a Norwich side who have already shown how strong they are with a run of six wins and a draw in seven games from mid-August although they have struggled for points since that run came to an end and arrived at the Turf with just one point from their last four games, that coming from a 2-2 draw at Sheffield United last Saturday, Norwich losing a two goal lead just as we were recovering from going 2-0 down.

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With the clocks due to go back this Sunday, highlighting the fact that winter is on its way, it was a surprisingly warm evening for late October in Burnley and thankfully dry until we’d all got inside where were about to see a team that showed four changes from that which started at Sunderland. I think we could have confidently expected both Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez to return; they did, for Josh Cullen and Ashley Barnes with Cullen missing his first game of the season with a hamstring problem. There were two more changes, less expected, with both Jordan Beyer and Ian Maatsen returning from injury and replacing Charlie Taylor and Connor Roberts.

I could probably describe the first half in one sentence, that it was as well as we’ve played this season but lacking in shots at goal, resulting in a half time score of 0-0.

Right from the off, we took the game to Norwich and they had no answer to our play. We passed and moved, we did it at pace and all it needed was an opening goal. Nathan Tella fired one shot just wide, Anass Zaroury was equally just wide when he attempted another Sunderland effort and Tella saw a shot deflected for a corner.

It really was wonderful stuff to watch. Zaroury was heavily involved again. We were constantly finding him in space down the left but whatever we did, Norwich kept us at bay, not always by fair means either.

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When referee Paul Tierney, who was refereeing in the Football League for the first time since the 2020/21 season, blew for half time, we’d had just one shot on target and Norwich hadn’t had a shot at all. It was still 0-0 with the team winning a superb roar of approval from the home crowd despite there being no goals.

We were never likely to be so dominant again in the second half and so it proved and it was Norwich who came close to breaking the deadlock when Todd Cantwell got to Teemu Pukki’s ball in from the right. Somehow Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson got back to block the effort.

Overall though, we were still in control and the more likely. Josh Brownhill fired wide after taking an extra touch and then Vincent Kompany started to make changes, the first of which was Benson coming on for Guðmundsson. Soon afterwards, Connor Roberts and Halil Dervişoğlu (apparently pronounced Dervy-Show-Loo) were introduced.

The game was approaching eighty minutes when Maatsen collected the ball in his own half and surged forward before laying it off to Benson to the right. Benson’s shot was blocked but he got back onto the ball and crossed. The ball made contact with a Norwich player’s arm, the Jimmy Mac went up for hand ball, Tierney agreed and it was a penalty. If I could have had a wish granted, the guilty party would have been former Blackburn defender Grant Hanley. My wish was granted and I suspect that of every Burnley fan watching on.

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Jay Rod stepped up, appropriately at the Jimmy Mac end of the ground given that yesterday would have been the great man’s 91st birthday. Jay smashed it down the middle with some force. Angus Gunn was beaten and we were finally in the lead.

We’ve given so many leads away this season, this is when the nerves kick in although we could have had a second when Dervişoğlu set up Benson with a pull back but the wide man couldn’t find the target.

Then, with around ninety second or so of normal time remaining, Norwich got their big chance and it fell to Pukki who turned a Burnley defender to go clear in the box. I feared the worst, I thought the equaliser was coming but Arijanet Muric, who had been a virtual spectator for most of the game made the save. Maybe Pukki did hit the ball at the best height for the keeper but this was a damn good save. It kept us in front and that’s where we stayed, winning the game 1-0 and deservedly so.

In the end, it had been a great night for us with probably the only negative coming when Cork picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, ruling him out this Saturday against Reading. But it was a great night, some of the football we played was a joy to watch and if only we could just have added the goals to the quality of the play.

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The one goal we did get was Jay’s 50th league goal for the club and has taken our total of league goals this season to thirty. That’s a good total. I’ve looked back over the past forty years and only three times have we bettered that in the first seventeen games. In 1983/84, the John Bond season, we had scored 34 and in both the 1991/92 Fourth Division Championship season, and 2001/02 we’d scored 35.

Equally, the fifteen we’ve conceded has only been bettered three times in the same period. In 2013/14, the first promotion season under Sean Dyche, we’d conceded thirteen, in 2017/18, the season we qualified for Europe, it was twelve and in Stan’s 1999/2000 promotion season only eleven goals had gone into our net.

That means, right now, it’s working at both ends of the pitch. We’ve stepped things up recently too with four wins in the last five games. A decent run of results in the next four games and it will take us into the World Cup break in a very good position.

The teams were;

Burnley: Arijanet Muric, Vitinho (Connor Roberts 72), Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jordan Beyer, Ian Maatsen, Josh Brownhill, Jack Cork, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Manuel Benson 64), Nathan Tella (Halil Dervişoğlu 73), Anass Zaroury (Samuel Bastien 87), Jay Rodriguez (Charlie Taylor 87). Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Ashley Barnes:
Yellow Cards: Jay Rodriguez, Nathan Tella, Jack Cork.

Norwich: Angus Gunn, Max Aarons (Liam Gibbs 74), Jonathan Tomkinson, Grant Hanley, Sam McCallum, Gabriel Sara, Isaac Hayden, Marcelino Núñez (Jordan Hugill 85), Josh Sargent, Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell (Onel Hernández). Subs not used: Tim Krul, Aaron Ramsey, Tony Springett, Brad Hills.
Yellow Cards: Max Aarons, Isaac Hayden, Grant Hanley.

Referee: Paul Tierney (Wigan).

Attendance: 18,931 (including 791 from Norwich).

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