Wigan Wopped, Burnley Are Going Up!
Saturday 19th April 2014 @3pm Kick-Off
At long last the agony and wait is over, Burnley will be playing in the Premier League next season after beating play-offs hopefuls, Wigan Athletic 2-0 on Easter Monday. The Clarets needed just three points from this game to ensure automatic promotion and make the result of Derby`s game immaterial. They did it in style and now even have an outside chance of catching Leicester City who play Bolton away tonight. If the Foxes win they will be crowned Champions and Burnley will have to settle for the runners-up spot! If they lose or draw though, Burnley although unlikely could still catch them with two games and six points at stake. At the moment, Leicester with a game in hand are just four points clear of the Clarets. Burnley have an amazing 89 points from 44 games already and if they can win their last two games at home to Ipswich on Saturday and then away to Reading a week later, they will finish on 95 points! Let`s be honest, it is a remarkable achievement already even if we don`t pick up another single point. We have suffered just five league defeats all season so far and have conceded the fewest number of goals in the Championship. Not bad for the smallest squad in the league with one of the tightest budgets! Many including your editor were predicting a mid-table scrap at best at the start of the season especially after losing Charlie Austin with no obvious replacements coming in. Indeed many Burnley fans were worried we could have been in a dogfight at the wrong end of the table. We were all wrong, and I for one certainly don`t mind being wrong at this precise moment in time and I am still devouring the sweetest humble pie imaginable!!
I keep pinching myself and can`t stop singing 'We are Premier League, say We Are Premier League`. It has just been one unbelievable season, one I wouldn`t have thought possible. There were many glass half full types some who may even have been wearing rose-tinted spectacles who showed more faith and they have been proved right. Did any of those though seriously believe at the start of the season we could achieve automatic promotion? I have learnt a lot and concede now that it certainly is possible for a small squad to achieve automatic promotion under the right conditions. The biggest factor must surely be the way the squad have been managed by Sean Dyche. There has to be something special about our Ginger Mourinho! His mantra all season about one game at a time and the way he has galvanised all the players to show such spirit and determination is remarkable. You could argue that we have been lucky all season until recently with injuries and suspensions and you do wonder if we had lost the likes of Trippier, Ings and Vokes earlier in the season whether we would be celebrating to this degree now! There is little point in such analysis though, we have achieved the impossible anyway and done it in style! A typical example of our season was on display against Wigan on Easter Monday. The in-form Latics came to Turf Moor with high hopes that they could spoil the party and enhance their own play-offs chances. In effect they were brushed aside by a confident Burnley team despite the nerves most Burnley fans were experiencing before kick-off. We should have had more faith in them once again because in the end they delivered in style. A well-taken goal from close range by Ashley Barnes following a Dean Marney cross opened the scoring for the Clarets in the 22nd minute. Burnley hit lucky when Wigan striker Marc Antoine Fortune headed against the bar but they doubled their advantage three minutes before the break when Michael Kightly`s free kick flew into the back of the net after taking a slight deflection. Wigan looked a lot sharper in the second-half but Burnley`s defence coped well with the threat to hold onto all three points without any major scares. It was a great day at Turf Moor bringing to an end the collywobbles most fans had been feeling these past few weeks with Derby breathing down our necks! How nice it is to go into the last two games of the season knowing that whatever happens now Burnley will be playing the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs next season!! Up the Clarets and we certainly are 'Up`!!
With only Sam Vokes sidelined, Sean Dyche once again named an unchanged eighteen so we lined up for the third game running as follows:
Heaton, Tripper, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Kightly, Marney, Jones, Arfield, Barnes, Ings
Subs: Cisak, Long, Baird, Edgar, Treacy, Wallace, Stanislas
Full Match Report
Hampshire referee, Keith Stroud got this crucial game for both sides underway with the visitors lining up 4-3-3. It was the Clarets who got out of the blocks first although to be honest neither side created any real chances in the first quarter of the game. Burnley though were playing with belief and determination and with the full-to-capacity home crowd cheering them on the hosts always looked the most likely to break the deadlock. A James Perch clearance denied Burnley in their first real attack of the half on 16 minutes after Kightly had managed to charge into the Wigan box before putting his ball across the face of goal. Moments later and a cross from Scott Arfield to the far post looked threatening before Crainey conceded a corner. The corner taken by Jones found Marney at the near post but his shot was off-target. On 22 minutes though the home fans went delirious after the Clarets got their noses in front from a superbly taken goal with the build-up starting from the back. Ings set Marney free and with a first-time pass the midfielder found Barnes. The former Brighton striker made no mistake smashing the ball home from close range to put the Clarets a deserved 1-0 up. Burnley`s spirits were now raised even more and they started playing with yet more confidence and belief. A cheeky left-foot volley from Arfield almost doubled the Clarets advantage soon after but flew inches wide of target. Tom Heaton was having a quiet afternoon but he stayed alert to make his first save after 30 minutes after comfortably holding on to a flicked-on header from the edge of the penalty area. There was a scare shortly after when the woodwork came to the Clarets rescue. A Marc-Antoine Fortuné header from a Jordi Gómez outswinging free-kick looked to be on target until the post got in the way much to the relief of the home contingent. Burnley fans now sensed this could be our day and certainly the Clarets were looking increasingly likely to double their lead. Wigan keeper, Ali Al-Habsi was alert to the danger when in the 38th minute David Jones tried his luck from a well-taken free-kick. The keeper though got down to push the ball away for a corner. Four minutes later though the Burnley pressure and possession paid off in style from another free-kick this time taken by Michael Kightly. Was it a cross or was it a shot? Who cares, it took a slight deflection after Crainey`s head got in the way but still sailed into the far corner of the net to put the Clarets 2-0 up and in total control. Turf Moor had now erupted but Burnley fans are well aware a two goal lead is often not enough so the nerves still remained. Ben Mee tried to ease the pressure on the stroke of half-time with a shot that looked to be on target until the ball was turned over by Al-Habsi. So 2-0 to Burnley it was at half-time and the dream was now just 45 minutes away!
Sean Dyche had no reason to make any changes for the start of the second half so didn`t but Wigan gaffer Uwe Rösler clearly rattled by his team`s first half-performance wrung the changes. Making two substitutions, he replaced Crainey and Gómez bringing on Rob Kiernan and Callum McManaman whilst also changing formation to a more fluid, variable fluid 3-4-3/5-2-3 system. Burnley carried on undeterred though when just after the re-start Kightly tried a long-range effort that flew just wide of the post. Wigan did look somewhat sharper now though and began to threaten to pull a goal back. A defensive misunderstanding between Heaton and Duff in the 58th minute nearly let in Fortuné but the Burnley keeper managed to smother his shot. Ings got the better of Emmerson Boyce a few moments later but the angle was too tight and his shot came back off the post. It was a pretty open game now and end-to-end! McManaman chased down the other end and was just about to pull the trigger in the penalty area before being closed down by three Burnley players. A header from Boyce on 64 minutes was off-target and apart from the odd scare Burnley were now defending well and beginning to look very comfortable. Midway through the second-half Al-Habsi had no problem saving a pretty weak free-kick from Jones before Barnes attempted a first-time volley which again tested the keeper with just 15 minutes left to play. Wigan had just one final attempt to try and reduce the arrears and put the Clarets under pressure in the final seven minutes of the game. McManaman from close range then saw the impressive Mee get in a last ditch block and that was it! Burnley were back in the top flight for the first time in four years and only the second time in 39 years! Clarets fans of course went wild and invaded the pitch in sheer joy and ecstasy! Who can blame them!
Burnley: Heaton, Tripper (Baird-78), Duff, Shackell, Mee, Kightly, Marney, Jones, Arfield, Barnes, Ings
Subs Not Used: Cisak, Long, Edgar, Treacy, Wallace, Stanislas
Goals: Barnes 22, Kightly 42
Booked: Yellow Cards for Barnes (34) and Mee (78)
Wigan: Al Habsi, Perch, Boyce, Barnett, Crainey (Kiernan-45), McArthur, Collison, Beausejour, Gomez (McManaman-45), McClean (Maynard-77), Fortuné
Subs Not Used: Carson, Caldwell, Maloney, Powell
Booked: Yellow Cards for Fortuné (39), Perch (45), Boyce (60) and Collison (66)
Possession: 48% Burnley, 52% Wigan (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)