Burnley are going goal crazy and there were another four last night against Derby County as we ran out 4-1 winners at the Turf on a Monday night in front of the Sky television cameras.
This was a night when our former captain Jason Shackell wanted to stroll into Turf Moor and show just how good he is. It didn’t quite work out like that for him or his central defensive partner Richard Keogh, also once a Claret if for only 24 hours, as they made major contributions to all our four goals.
We’ve learned new words since Sean Dyche came into Burnley. There’s mantra, relentless and framework for three, and it is the third of them that was so evident in this game. When, in the first half, we were at times second best to Derby, our framework, our defending, was of the very highest order and limited Derby to nothing but a few scraps.
This was another four goal haul, our third in the last four home games, but one that owed so much to our ability to defend. Matt Lowton, a newcomer to the team, had his best game yet, Stephen Ward was excellent on the left and Michael Keane had another superb game in the centre alongside Ben Mee who was in imperious form.
I was quietly confident during the day yesterday. Derby were a bogey team for years. We failed to win any of the first 15 league games I saw us play against them and when we did finally beat them in April 1995 it was our first success since 1953.
I think it is fair to say that things have changed somewhat since. They haven’t won at Burnley since October 2004 when goals from Marcus Tudgay and Marco Reich gave them a 2-0 lead in front of the Sky cameras, and with last night’s result we’ve now won nine and drawn three of the last twelve league games against them.
It was very definitely a typical Burnley night. There was a strong wind and the rain decided to come down in the hour or so before kick off as the team news came in. There was no surprise to see Sean Dyche name an unchanged team but Paul Clement made three changes to the Derby team that had lost 3-0 at home to Birmingham. Out went former Burnley goalkeeper Lee Grant, Jeff Hendrick and Jonny Russell with Scott Carson, Jacob Butterfield and Chris Martin replacing them.
Ahead of the game an impeccably observed minute’s silence took place for those involved with Burnley, supporters, former players and staff, who had passed away in 2015. The Derby fans showed great respect in standing in silence for which we are very thankful.
Derby kicked off this game with a one point lead over us but it a lead that has reduced significantly in the last month. It was nine points after we’d lost at Hull on Boxing Day.
There’s no doubt that they were the better of the two sides for much of the first half. They got a grip in midfield with George Thorne behind the pair of Bradley Johnson and Jacob Butterfield and we couldn’t really get much of a foothold in the game.
Having said that, apart from one save close to the foot of his left hand post and one shot straight at him that was parried, Tom Heaton didn’t have too much to do. We defended superbly and restricted Derby to very little in the way of chances.
And, just before the half hour, and out of the blue, we took the lead. George Boyd and Lowton linked up well down the right and Lowton’s excellent cross was met by Derby central defender Richard Keogh and turned into his own net. It owed much to the quality of the ball in and the run by Andre Gray that forced Keogh into the error.
Unfortunately the lead didn’t last too long. Within seconds of the restart they were level with a stunning strike from Butterfield after Martin had fortuitously found him with a flicked ball. I’m sure we won’t see too many better strikes than that all season.
By half time it was all square. Derby will probably believe they should have been in front. They were the better side, but they hadn’t created too much and their inability to get the better of us in terms of chances was very similar to the game at Pride Park earlier in the season.
I wrote recently after one game that I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the dressing room at half time. I’d love it; just to have a listening role whether the first half had gone well or not so well.
The second half saw a transformation and we saw that Derby, for all their riches, can’t defend as well as we can. In the space of around twelve second half minutes, we took hold of the game again and this time took it so far out of Derby’s reach that it was over as a contest with not much short of half an hour still remaining.
They will point to the performances of their two central defenders; I’ll say we put them under pressure and forced them into errors with some outstanding football.
Just nine minutes into the second half and we were in front again when Gray converted a penalty he’d won himself. He got the ball down in the box and got past Shackell before being brought down by the hapless Keogh. Carson played games on the line but Gray got the better of him and stroked the ball into the net as Carson went the wrong way.
Shackell looked far from happy with his partner who had now scored and own goal and given away a penalty, but Shackell, who was to perform just as well, might have taken a longer look at his contribution.
Not long after, some good passing down the right eventually led to Lowton playing the ball in. As Gray went for it, Shackell got there with right hand and left hand. Michael Oliver again pointed to the spot.
The former Burnley captain can argue as much as he likes, it was a clear penalty. I believe the ball is being auctioned off today for charity as a Jason Shackell autographed ball, so clear was it.
Just when you think you know what we are going to do, we do something different. Sam Vokes stepped up this time and hit it down the middle to give us a 3-1 lead.
That two goal advantage only lasted a few minutes. Some more good play down the right released Scott Arfield who had a terrific second half. He drove forward in a way reminiscent of Wade Elliott, before firing in a shot. It was on target but might not have troubled the goalkeeper but for Shackell’s deft touch which took it over Carson.
As the celebrations died down, the Burnley fans were unsure what to sing. Should they sing about Arfield putting the ball in the net at Ewood or Shackell putting the ball in the Derby net? Both were enjoyable as he surely wanted the ground to open up.
Maybe any Derby fans would want me to write that they gave it a right go to get back into it, but it wasn’t the case. They huffed and puffed a bit but we were, as we’d been all night, too good for them defensively.
Instead we got a lovely quarter of an hour cameo from Rouwen Hennings. The more I see of him the more impressed I am. Technically he’s outstanding; he’s strong and his control is excellent. I really do think there is much more to come from him. And we then got a few minutes at the end from Dean Marney.
By then Derby were a well beaten side as Burnley moved up into third place with a fourth league win in five. It was a fantastic result to kick off what is a really testing run of fixtures which now sees us go to both Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday before the visit of leaders Hull.
We’ve also one past fifty points and we know what that means. It’s time to crack on and see where it takes us.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes (Dean Marney 89), Andre Gray (Rouwen Hennings 79). Subs not used: Danijel Nizic, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly.
Derby: Scott Carson, Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Jason Shackell, Stephen Warnock, Jacob Butterfield, George Thorne, Bradley Johnson (Camara 69), Tom Ince (Jonny Russell 79), Chris Martin, Nick Blackman (Craig Bryson 86). Subs not used: Lee Grant, Ryan Shotton, Chris Baird, Jeff Hendrick.
Yellow Cards: Jason Shackell, Bradley Johnson.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).
Attendance: 15,214 (including 579 from Derby).
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