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Burnley’s second highest away following of the season will make their way along the M61 to Horwich and the Macron Stadium tomorrow as we look to go top of the Championship for the first time since Christmas 2013.

Hull have been held to a 0-0 draw at home tonight by Sheffield Wednesday and that has taken the current leaders two points clear of us, giving us this opportunity to go top although we will have played a game more.

We’ve played Hull twice in the last couple of months. We fell to a 3-0 defeat at the KC on Boxing Day, our heaviest Championship defeat under Sean Dyche, but our form since has been outstanding and just three weeks ago a Sam Vokes goal gave us a 1-0 win against them.

We conceded three goals that afternoon at Hull in not much more than half an hour, but we’ve conceded only three more since from Alan Judge (Brentford), Jacob Butterfield (Derby) and Kieran Lee (Sheffield Wednesday) and two of those came in big wins.

David Jones - thoughts focused on the next game
David Jones – thoughts focused on the next game

What this run has done is put us right back in there fighting for a place back in the Premier League when that Boxing Day game suggested the best we were likely to get was a play-off place having completed half of the fixtures with just 38 points.

The goals have been flying in too during that spell with 21 in the ten games including that five at MK and the four against Derby. Our two strikers have scored eleven of them, six for Andre Gray and five for Vokes with Scott Arfield chipping in with four alongside three other scorers.

We go into tomorrow’s game on the back of the two home games in the last week against Rotherham and Nottingham Forest which, apart from the six points, brought two more clean sheets.

Midfielder David Jones, the only player outside of the back four not to have scored in this run, said ahead of the game: “We’re still chasing a team above us and there are a few with games in hand on us so we’re not looking at being shot at.

“We have our thoughts focused on the next game, we’ll keep going hard, keep progressing and get the points we need on the board. We’re looking up and up and up.

“I think the environment that we’re in, that the manager has built over the years, means we’re used to not getting carried away or too low. The atmosphere remains the same win, lose or draw which is sometimes difficult to do but the manager has got that here and we just focus on the next game.”

That next game is Bolton and, as Jones added, it is not an easy game despite their position. He added: “It’s been a difficult period for Bolton but they’ve got good players and a good manager so I’m sure they’ll get some good results in the coming weeks”, adding: “It’ll be business as usual on Saturday and we’ll be looking to put in the performance to get the result we want.”

Michael Keane missed the game on Tuesday but the manager has said he will make a decision on whether he returns. “We’re monitoring Michael Keane closely to make sure he is well,” Dyche said. “He is feeling fine at the moment so we will see with him and make a judgement call.”

If considered fit enough to play then I think Keane will come back in for James Tarkowski who had a good full debut on Tuesday. On the subject of debuts, maybe Lloyd Dyer’s is getting closer with news that he could feature tomorrow.

I wouldn’t expect him to start but he could be on the bench with Dyche admitting: “He is getting close now. He’s had a good week of good top up work and he’s close.”

Michael Duff and Dean Marney are both back in training but won’t be considered and there’s also been good news this week with a return to training for Ashley Barnes. he could feature in a development squad game very soon.

If Keane is available, I expect the team to be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly, Lloyd Dyer, Rouwen Hennings.

Should Keane not be available then Tarkowski will certainly play with Kevin Long likely to be on the bench.

It’s been a traumatic time for Bolton this season. In the last season of parachute money their financial crisis has been widely reported and they could so easily have been wound up this week. Owner Eddie Davies had withdrawn from funding them and, to add to that, chairman Phil Gartside recently passed away.

On the field they are currently off the bottom only on goal difference but, Burnley beware, their home form is not anything like as bad as their away form and they’ve only lost three times at the Macron all season against Birmingham, Cardiff and Huddersfield. It’s away from home where they have the worst record in the Championship by far.

Gary Madine is their leading goalscorer and he is expected to come back into the side tomorrow after being left out at Birmingham in midweek for disciplinary reasons. He’s since apologised to manager Neil Lennon and that has brought him back into the squad.

However, they will be without central defender Dorian Dervite who has been ruled out with a knee injury sustained at Birmingham and he joins both Liam Trotter and David Wheater who are out with hamstring problems.

Emile Heskey, who has had a hip injury, could feature but two more who won’t are Max Clayton (hamstring) and goalkeeper Ben Amos who is going to be out for some time with an ankle injury. A request to the Football League to be permitted to sign a keeper on an emergency loan was refused because of their current transfer embargo.

That embargo could be lifted soon once Sports Shield, the new owners, have been ratified by the Football League. Former player Dean Holdsworth is likely to be the new chairman and, once accounts have been properly filed, they should be permitted to bring in some loan players to boost the squad.

Neil Lennon admitted: “Getting new players in is vital, injuries are starting to stack up a little bit and they are important players as well. The fact that we can’t bring anyone in has really hampered us, so the sooner the embargo is lifted, the better.”

What their team is going to be is hard to determine but they will have to replace Dervite from the team that lost at Birmingham. Neil Danns replaced him after just over half an hour.

The team for that Birmingham game was: Paul Rachubka, Derik Osede, Dorian Dervite, Robert Holding, Dean Moxey, Jay Spearing, Liam Feeney, Josh Vela, Darren Pratley, Mark Davies, Zach Clough. Subs: Lawrie Wilson, Kaiyne Woolery, Tom Walker, Harry Campbell, Neil Danns, Wellington Silva, Stephen Dobbie.




It’s just over two years since we last faced Bolton away at the then named Reebok Stadium. At the time we were, as we are now, second in the table whilst Bolton were 19th and with a reasonably comfortable advantage over the bottom three clubs.

It wasn’t the easiest of games to watch from one end of the ground under the floodlights. The advertising hoardings made it very difficult to determine what was going on at the far end and it was only when I got home that I learned they’d hit the bar early in the game.

Sam Vokes turns in Scott Arfield's cross for the winner
Sam Vokes turns in Scott Arfield’s cross for the winner

It was a fairly even first half and I don’t think either side could argue with the 0-0 scoreline when they went in at half time, but we upped our game from the start of the second half and only a good save from Adam Bogdan, and that’s a rare event, prevented David Jones from giving us a lead right at the start of the half.

Just as we’d done there in the previous season, we took the lead just before the hour. This time Sam Vokes got on the end of a Scott Arfield cross to turn the ball in left footed at the far post. Bolton boss Dougie Freedman responded just as he’d done a year earlier with a double substitution. Then it worked but this time it didn’t, in fact one of those two subs Andre Moritz only lasted twelve minutes before being substituted himself.

Bolton tried to get back into it with Chris Eagles perhaps trying too hard. His wild shooting was met with hilarity from the Burnley fans as each effort went higher and wider than the previous one.

A week and a half later we murdered Nottingham Forest at home. Sean Dyche has often said that you need to find different ways to win a game. This was one of those games where we just closed the game down and ensured we would have few problems in the closing stages.

Freedman had said that his plan was to stop Ings from scoring. He succeeded in doing that but had been unable to stop the other half of the partnership.

The teams were;

Bolton: Adam Bogdan, Alex Baptiste, Matt Mills, David Wheater, Tim Ream, Jay Spearing, Medo Kamara (Mark Davies 60), Chris Eagles, Liam Trotter (Andre Moritz 60, Neil Danns 72), Chung-Yong Lee, Lukas Jutkiewicz. Subs not used: Andy Lonergan, Zat Knight, Darren Pratley, Hayden White.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, David Jones, Michael Kightly (Ashley Barnes 86), Danny Ings, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Kevin Long, Danny Lafferty, David Edgar, Ross Wallace, Junior Stanislas.

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