Burnley defeat Leeds and defy all odds to go 2nd
Saturday 21st September 2013 @3pm Kick-Off
Burnley`s stunning start to the season continued away to Leeds on Saturday. A 2-1 victory saw the Clarets move up to second-place with seventeen points from eight games just three points behind league leaders, QPR. The Clarets had not beaten Leeds United in their last five visits to Elland Road. You would have to go back to November 2004 for our last win on this ground. It is always good to beat our Yorkshire rivals but this victory was particularly sweet in view of our now lofty position in the league table. The fact we are in the top six at this stage let alone in the automatic promotion spots is a remarkable achievement! Nobody was giving us any chance this season with many suggesting we could be at the opposite end of the table fighting for survival. Blind faith by some was evident as it always is but there was nothing really to suggest we could have a season fighting for promotion. The loss of Austin, the lack of activity in the transfer window, the bare bones squad, the £8 million debt and our falling gates all contributed to gloomy forecasts by many fans, pundits and betting organisations. The fact we are where we are is down to the efforts of the manager, Sean Dyche and the response by his players. Despite all the odds, he has moulded the squad into a tight, highly-motivated group. The players he has brought in, notably Heaton, Jones, Kightly and in particular Scott Arfield have been a revelation and slotted in so well. Of course it is still early days and testing times lie ahead up to Christmas and through the January transfer window but nobody could have wished for a better start. I was wrong in many respects about our chances and now believe this squad or at least the current eighteen does have what it takes on the basis of results and performance so far. The concerns though about the depth in the squad remain and it would be almost criminal now if the Board do not support the manager and pull out all the stops in the January window to try and retain our key players and hopefully supplement the squad in the key areas required. If we are still in the top six by Christmas that show of ambition would be particularly important and nothing should be allowed to scupper our promotion chances when just one season in the top flight is estimated to be worth about £100 million. The loss of Danny Ings, now reportedly catching the attention of Premier League clubs and/or Kieran Trippier in January without similar quality replacements would be too much for many fans to bear following the departure of Charlie Austin in the summer. That`s for the future though! For the moment all fans are basking in the warm glow of success and it is certainly comforting in our lofty position to look down on our Lancashire rivals including the likes of Blackpool (4th), Blackburn (14th), Owen Coyle`s Wigan (15th) and poor, old Bolton (24th) who have hit rock-bottom!
Saturday`s result against Leeds also thwarted the Yorkshire club`s own attempts to get back in the promotion chase and they now remain on eleven points dropping one place to 12th. Burnley`s narrow victory was some achievement and at times Leeds battled hard to get back in the game. The Clarets defence though held firm despite a number of bum squeaky moments and in the end this was a very satisfying and fully deserved victory. A goal by Scott Arfield in the 17th minute gave the Clarets the lead and how satisfying that must have been for the former Huddersfield winger! His goals in the last two games including the one against Birmingham last Tuesday night have fully made up for his costly blunder in the Rovers game and I for one am delighted for him. I was doubtful that Arfield, in effect a Huddersfield reject would impress this season but how wrong could I have been? He is playing so well and looks a superb addition to the squad. Burnley continued to impress in the game and just three minutes before the break they doubled their advantage. Sam Vokes first attempt, a header was saved by Kenny but he followed up to make it 2-0 to the Clarets at half-time.
Clarets fans of course can never rest on their laurels and 2-0 never feels a comfortable score-line, especially where Leeds are concerned. Leeds tried relentlessly to get back into the match in the second-half only to be thwarted by an in-form Heaton and a determined back four up. One downer for the Clarets during the match was the loss of Jones in the 70th minute. He had to be stretchered-off in what looked like a serious injury. We await official confirmation from the club on the extent of the injury but his loss seemed to disturb our rhythm for a time and in the 78th minute, our defences were finally breached when substitute Matt Smith popped up to head home and make the last fifteen minutes of the match a nervous time for the Clarets. With the Burnley goal now under siege, Leeds chucked everything at the Clarets in an effort to get an equaliser. The Jones injury had also ensured the visiting fans would have to endure another six minutes of added-time pain before relief from hearing the final whistle finally came. Burnley fans have not made many recent journeys coming back from Leeds along the M62 celebrating victory but now at long last they could in style!
With Ben Mee having recovered from his bout of sickness, team selection was a no-brainer for Sean Dyche. The gaffer simply opted for the same eighteen for the third game running. That meant we lined-up as follows :
Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee, Kightly, Jones, Marney, Arfield, Vokes, Ings
Subs: Cisak, Long, Lafferty, Stanislas, Treacy, Stock, Edgar
Full Match Report
Experienced, Premier League Wiltshire referee, Lee Probert got the match underway and it was the Clarets who started the brighter, immediately taking the game to the hosts. Leeds keeper, Paddy Kenny was soon being tested. Sam Vokes found room on the edge of the box to unleash a shot that brought out a superb save from the former Sheffield United stopper. Michael Kightly then caused more panic in the Leeds defence after putting over a testing cross that was turned behind at the far post with Vokes ready to pounce. Leeds were playing three up front in 4-3-3 formation with Varney, Diouf & McCormack looking to test the Burnley defence. Their first real attempt however did not come until just over 15 minutes but it nearly broke the deadlock against the run of play. Luke Murphy put over a diagonal cross to find the ever dangerous, Ross McCormack. He spotted Luke Varney in an unmarked position and found him with a cross but just six yards out the striker could only head over the bar. Immediately from the goal kick though Burnley got the breakthrough they deserved taking a 1-0 lead. A deep, low cross by Trippier from the right flank was first dummied by Ings before Vokes turned to shoot only to see his attempt blocked. The ball though fell kindly for Arfield but his first attempt was blocked by Sam Byram but undeterred he picked up the loose ball and from the narrowest of angles at the near post got the ball over the line to score his second goal in two consecutive games. Leeds now came back strongly and were clearly fired-up desperate to get the equaliser. A period of pressure on the Burnley goal followed and the Clarets began to lose the initiative. Midway through the half, Heaton came to the rescue to deny Varney after parrying away his shot. After 30 minutes play, McCormack then got on the end of a cross but put the ball just wide of the far post. The Clarets though having soaked up the pressure shocked the home fans by making it 2-0 with five minute of the first half remaining. A superb cross from Kightly found Vokes whose initial header was saved by Kenny but the Wales international striker pounced again to pick up the loose ball. This time from a tight angle he made no mistake drilling the ball home to double the Clarets lead and send the visiting fans wild with delight. Leeds were now desperate to get something back before half-time and were trying all sorts of dubious tactics including a laughable dive in the box by Aidan White on the stroke of half time. Experienced referee Lee Probert though was having none of it and Burnley went into the break on top leading 2-0.
Neither side made any changes for the start of the second-half and certainly Burnley had no need to! The Clarets again were soon putting pressure on the Leeds goal looking to increase their lead even further. Vokes flashed a Marney cross wide of target. Kenny then kept Leeds in the game after pulling off a great save to deny Ings. His well-hit shot looked to be rising into the top of the net until Kenny managed to turn the ball over in style. Kenny came to Leeds rescue again after getting his fingertips to a deflected low shot from Marney on the edge of box. Burnley looked in control at this stage but Leeds never gave up and sent a warning shot across the bows when McCormack put a header wide. Leeds were now looking more dangerous after making a double substitution in the 57th minute to bring on Green and Poleon for Byram and Murphy. A Leeds free-kick was met by Diouf at the far post and his thumping header looked certain to reduce the deficit for the home side until Heaton pulled off a superb one-handed save on the goal line to deny the controversial striker. A terrible late challenge by Poleon on Jones looked to have serious consequences when after a lengthy stoppage for treatment the midfielder was worryingly stretchered off in the 70th minute with Edgar coming on to replace him. Burnley seemed to lose their flow and attacking effectiveness after the substitution and Leeds began to sense there could still be something in the game for them. Heaton was again alert denying Poleon after his rather hopeful effort from the left side of the box. Jason Shackell could also breathe a sigh of relief after seeing a shot on target from Tonge hit the defender and deflect just wide of the post. The Leeds pressure though was finally rewarded when they got a lifeline in the 79th minute. Substitute Matt Smith, who had only been on the pitch three minutes rose the highest to head home and give Leeds fans some hope. The game was now a pot-boiler and it would be Burnley fans who would be the most eager for the final whistle to go with all the pressure now on the Clarets goal. It was time for Burnley to shore up and protect the defence so on came Brian Stock to replace Kightly in the 83rd minute. Six minutes of added time was announced much to the distress of Burnley fans but the only real chance for Leeds came when Austin on the edge of the box could only fire his volley over the bar. Three very well deserved points then for the Clarets and up to second spot in what is turning out despite the odds to be a remarkable season so far for all the right reasons. All we have to do now is keep it up and survive any injuries, suspensions and player transfers that this small squad may still have to endure up until the end of the January transfer window and beyond.
Leeds United: Kenny, Pearce, Murphy (Poleon-57), Austin, White, Tonge, Wootton, Byram (Green-57), Varney (Smith-75), Diouf, McCormack
Subs Not Used: Cairns, Hunt, Brown, Mowatt
Goals: Smith 78
Booked: Yellow Cards for Poleon (66) and Tonge (89)
Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee, Kightly (Stock-83), Jones (Edgar-70), Marney, Arfield, Vokes, Ings
Subs Not Used: Cisak, Long, Lafferty, Stanislas, Treacy
Goals: Arfield 17, Vokes 42
Booked: Yellow Card for Jones (52)
Possession: 63% Leeds, 37% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)