Burnley just keep winning: Five in a row for Dyche's table-toppers
WHO would have predicted this two months ago?
When the season kicked off you would probably have got shorter odds for the Clarets to be in the bottom three than for them to be top of the table – particularly after star man Charlie Austin was sold just before that opening game against Bolton.
A 1-1 draw in that first game at Turf Moor was not a disaster, but not entirely a sign of things to come.
But seven wins and a draw later – culminating in last night’s victory at Doncaster Rovers, thanks to Sam Vokes’ penalty and a late Rob Jones own goal – the Clarets sit top of the Championship.
Supporters are enjoying every minute of it.
They had not led the second tier since 2006 – and even then it was only on the opening day, after a 2-0 home win over QPR in their first match.
This lofty position far from guarantees them promotion at the end of the season. There are 36 games still to play, after all.
But to even have reached this point is a fine achievement, given the club’s restricted budget and the departure of Austin.
Their performance at Doncaster may not have been free-flowing for the most part, but they are getting the basics right. Resilient in defence, and capable of nicking a goal when they go forward.
As a result, this is now Burnley’s best start to a season in 52 years.
It surpassed their flyer in 2001, and you have to go back to the 1961/62 campaign – the golden era of Jimmy McIlroy, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson et al – to find a more impressive opening to a campaign.
The Clarets made only one enforced change to the side that won 3-0 at home to Charlton on Saturday – with David Edgar coming into central midfield to replace Dean Marney, who was serving a one-match ban for five bookings.
Former Doncaster star Brian Stock had to be content with a place on the bench.
The home side started the brighter and the first chance came their way in the eighth minute as Paul Quinn found on-loan Manchester United striker Federico Macheda.
The Italian, who effectively won the title for United with a pivotal goal against Aston Villa in 2009, ended a two-year scoring drought with three goals in his first two games for Doncaster and beat Michael Duff on this occasion before his angled shot was saved by Tom Heaton.
Doncaster, the champions of League One last season, sat 17th in the table at kick-off but Burnley began to work their way into the game.
Ings was starting to make an impact and his bright play led to Burnley winning a penalty on the stroke of half time.
Ings played in David Jones on the right and the midfielder played the ball back inside for Vokes, who was tripped by Doncaster defender Rob Jones just inside the penalty area.
The Welshman got up to send Ross Turnbull the wrong way from the spot for his seventh goal of the season.
‘We are top of the league!’ the jubilant Burnley fans sung.
The confidence flowing through their veins, the Clarets started the second half firmly on top and Ings saw a header saved from a Kightly cross.
Vokes then brilliantly turned his man inside the box but sliced his angled shot wide from a fine position.
Doncaster looked for an equaliser but Macheda wastefully blasted over from eight yards from a set piece.
But Burnley were still having chances for a second, with Turnbull saving Ings’ effort after Vokes had headed Trippier’s cross back into the six-yard box.
Heaton was called upon again to save from Macheda, before Rob Jones put a header over the bar from a corner with the hosts starting to put Burnley under pressure.
The Clarets were trying to threaten on the counter attack and a strong run from Scott Arfield ended with his effort being tipped around the post by keeper Turnbull.
And a second goal did arrive when Arfield played in Trippier on the right and the full back squared the ball across goal.
The ball took a deflection and beat Turnbull, in off the near post.
Vokes appeared to claim his second of the match but it was Doncaster defender Jones, who suffered the pain of deflecting the cross into his own net having given up the penalty that led to the opener.
In reality, it did not really matter who scored it – or that Turnbull made fine saves to deny Vokes and substitute Keith Treacy from making it 3-0 in the final seconds of the game.
All that matters is that Burnley are top of the league.
Now all they have to do is stay there.
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