The East Lancs Double
Burnley recorded a third successive victory against local rivals Blackburn Rovers yesterday and in doing so ended that long run without a league win against them at Turf Moor.
A 16th minute penalty, converted by Andre Gray, proved enough for the Clarets to take all three points in this 1-0 win and go back to the top of the league.
We didn’t play anything like as well as we can do, but right now, against any team, the result is of the utmost importance. Against Blackburn that is magnified and I can confirm that I made my way home with the biggest and widest of smiles on my face.
I don’t go in for all this hatred at all. I’ve worked with Blackburn fans, I’ve friends who support them, and only last week I enjoyed the company of one such fan when I was out. In recent years I’ve attended meetings ahead of the games and this season alone, my match day trip to the away game was my fifth visit of the season to Ewood Park.
Having said that, this is still a game I want to win probably more than any other. It’s not just bragging rights, that comes with wins against other Lancashire teams; this one, I admit, is more than that, more intense and one of such importance to Burnley supporters.
When I was younger, the desire to beat them was still the same, but there was no question of a bus operation at a time when segregation inside grounds had never been considered.
But losing against them has always hurt more than any other defeat so the delight in being able to start my report with: “Burnley recorded a third successive victory against local rivals Blackburn Rovers,” is, I can confirm, very special.
The first time I was ever required to report a game against Blackburn was in December 2000, or first league meeting since 1983. Undefeated at home, I was confident we’d take the points.
We lost the game 2-0; they even moved above us in the table with that result and went on to win promotion while we missed out on the play-offs. I returned home with absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever to write a report and it remains the only one I’ve written that I can recall word for word. I wrote: “Burnley were beaten 2-0 at home today.”
That was for the Clarets Independent Supporters Association web site; I was days into writing on my next site when we were beaten 5-0 at Ewood, on the day Stan Ternent referred to Ferraris and Minis to outline the difference between the two clubs.
Things have changed for the those clubs now even though we are both back in the same league. We are fighting for promotion whilst Blackburn are much further down the table. Three wins in four games prior to yesterday I would suggest have ensured they won’t be embroiled in a relegation battle at the end of the season.
In just over three weeks it will be six years since they last beat us, when they cheated their way to a Turf Moor win in the Premier League. Since, and all played since the arrival of Sean Dyche as manager, we have had three 1-1 draws against them followed by these three victories, the previous two coming at Ewood Park.
Last time Paul Lambert brought a side to Burnley for a league game was back in 2011 with Norwich. We beat them 2-1 in what was Eddie Howe’s first home league game in charge. Lambert said his side had been relentless, were the better side, but pointed to the performance of the referee as a major factor in them not winning.
Yesterday he said just about the same. Both times he was wrong, clearly wrong. His team lost yesterday to a penalty decision that even Shane Duffy, and mentioning him and Howe in the same report is quite amusing, later admitted was a correct decision. The two penalty claims Lambert talked about were correctly not awarded by referee Mike Jones, who turned in another performance all round that left you in wonderment as to how he continues to retain his place in the select group.
It’s never really a game to eagerly look forward to and it started somewhat scrappily, this after we nearly scored in the first minute when Gray fired over. Burnley, with Michael Keane returning at the expense of James Tarkowski, were trying to get themselves into the game but neither side could get the upper hand.
It needed something to settle it and it came with the penalty. Good work down the left saw Stephen Ward get a ball into the box; Duffy went to clear but George Boyd got in front of him. Duffy caught Boyd, who I thought had a decent game, and there was no doubt whatsoever that the decision was a correct one.
I’ve got our penalty taking rules wrong. The club’s commentary team told us recently that penalty taking duties are Gray’s if he is fouled, otherwise it is Sam Vokes who will take it. I expected Vokes; it was Gray who had failed to score with his previous spot kick. A few calming words from Joey Barton and he made no mistake, seeing Jason Steele move to his left before hitting the shot low right down the middle.
If anyone thought that was the prelude to a free flowing performance and a big win they were to be very disappointed. Apart from one fantastic move down the right that almost led to an own goal, we struggled to get our free flowing game together.
I think, to a large extent, it could have been due to our midfield pair being hampered. David Jones appeared to be struggling with what we now know is an achilles problem and Joey Barton, looking his usual self, had been doubtful and was restricted by a groin injury.
Soon after the goal, attention turned to the big screen as supporters of both sides took a minute to offer support to the family of Dan Redman, a 20-year-old Claret who passed away suddenly two weeks ago.
Dan, from Shrewsbury, was a member of a very strong family of Clarets. He’d used the message board, as does his dad Pete and his brother Ben who has, more than once, written guest reports for us. It would be nice if, in time when he feels ready, he could again write a report.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but in today’s football often does need to be, that the Blackburn fans joined in the show of support for Dan whose photograph appeared on the big screen throughout the minute.
In a poignant response on our message board, dad Pete wrote: “To see 20,000 people put their differences aside to honour Daniel like that was something that will stay with us forever.”
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one inside Turf Moor who felt tears rolling down his cheeks.
Blackburn might well have equalised on a couple of occasions but Tom Heaton made two terrific stops. Many will talk about the first that he somehow tipped over, but the second was equally as impressive as he got down to save by his post from a shot that took a deflection.
Our visitors went up for a penalty as half time approached. It was against Ward but in truth it would have been a very soft award. I’m sure very few, if any, other than Lambert were quite so sure.
Any hopes of an improvement in the second half were dashed. We never seemed to get out of the traps as we spent much of the second half having to contend with a bombardment of long balls into our box.
At times it forced us to go long but we nearly snatched that all important second goal when Fredrik Ulvestad, on as a replacement for the injured Jones, saw his shot reach Gray. The striker just couldn’t quite get anything on his effort as Duffy, the defender playing him onside, appealed in vain for an offside flag.
We certainly had some defending to do and I thought we did it so, so well. The two central defenders Keane and Ben Mee were again outstanding. Lambert threw on Tony Watt (no jokes on the name please) and for the last few minutes he added former Sunderland film star Chris Brown. Despite all this, I can’t recall Tom Heaton having too much to do in terms of saves in the entire second half.
When we beat Sheffield United 1-0 at home close to the end of the 2008/09 season, Clarke Carlisle likened it to the Land of the Giants. It was no different here, but we survived it right until the last, right until Lambert’s even more ridiculous penalty claim at the end. Jones blew as Blackburn appealed, but it was the final whistle.
Burnley had won the East Lancs derby yet again, a third successive win, a first at home in the league since Boxing Day 1978, when Paul Fletcher and Peter Noble scored for us in a 2-1 win, and a first double against them since 1979.
I’m sure if we play like that for the rest of the season then we are probably not going to finish at the top of the league, but I don’t expect us to play like that. We came up against a very big, physical, uncompromising team yesterday in a tense local derby. Even then, with all that, we came through it with the points. And for Mr Lambert’s benefit, Blackburn got as many points as Katie Boyle used to tell us the worst songs totalled in the Eurovision Song Contest which always sounded better in French – ‘Nil Points’.
Right now, we are back at the top and they are talking about the next transfer window so they can spend money. I know which club I think are on the right lines.
I’ll never hate them but those people who know me, and are connected with Blackburn in some way, will know how much that win means to me. For so many of my fellow Clarets it was a first time experience at Turf Moor. Savour it, it’s very special.
Outside the Macron last week, we spoke to Matt Taylor and Stephen Ward and asked them to ensure a victory in the next game. I know Matt didn’t feature on the pitch, but thanks to you both for helping make it happen.
It’s back on the road now to Fulham and Huddersfield. Let’s hope we are still right up there in the league once we’ve got home from those two games, because, the priority this season is going back up, not doing the double over Blackburn. That’s just a wonderful little bonus.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones (Fredrik Ulvestad 59), Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Rouwen Hennings 75). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly.
Yellow Cards: Matt Lowton, Fredrik Ulvestad.
Blackburn: Jason Steele, Ben Marshall, Shane Duffy, Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr, Jordi Gomez, Darragh Lenihan, Hope Akpan (Chris Brown 85), Matt Grimes (Tony Watt 63), Elliott Bennett, Danny Graham. Subs not used: Raya, Adam Henley, Ward, Craig Conway, Chris Brown, Tony Watt, Simeon Jackson.
Yellow Cards: Jordi Gomez, Darragh Lenihan, Elliott Bennett, Tony Watt.
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester).
Attendance: 20,478 (including 2,409 from Blackburn).
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