Clarets have a huge opportunity to boost promotion hopes
THE games keep getting bigger and bigger. Tomorrow’s is massive.
With Derby County just a place and two points behind Burnley it is a huge opportunity for the Clarets to increase the distance between the automatic and play-off places.
At this stage of the season, a difference of five points would be significant, and another real boost before next weekend’s derby against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
I know Nottingham Forest were not at full strength last week, but even so, the way Burnley started against them told me they are not only up for this promotion challenge, but that the belief they can do it is there.
They don’t fear it, they are embracing it.
I’ve seen and heard plenty of comments suggesting that the first half against Forest was the best performance from a Clarets team in recent years, and I would go along with that.
Everything clicked in all departments and the goals went in.
It was amazing how Danny Ings didn’t with the chances he had, but it was good to see Scott Arfield get among them again.
He has chipped in with a few from midfield this season and it’s great that we are getting goals from other parts of the field. It makes such a difference.
To be 3-0 up at half-time, what more can you want?
Forest started the second half better than us and had us under the collar for about 10-15 minutes until we readjusted and got on top again.
It could be an interesting battle of the goalkeepers tomorrow, as Lee Grant returns to Turf Moor with Derby. For me there is no comparison. Tom Heaton is a very good goalkeeper and to get him on a free transfer when Grant left in the summer really was terrific business.
He hasn’t had vast amounts to do this season but he has produced some terrific saves when required, he’s vocal and generally very commanding of his area. He is a top notch goalkeeper.
But hopefully he will not be required to prove how good he is tomorrow, and instead let Ings and Sam Vokes sign off before international duty in style.
We are without a number of players for a few days next week, which isn’t ideal leading up to the big derby or – indeed – for the run-in.
It is out of the club’s hands when players go away to represent their country.
But it’s impossible to wrap them in cotton wool, and you would not want to deny them the honour of earning caps.
We just have to hope that they all come back fit and ready for the run-in.
Finally, a word of congratulations to Burnley-born Jay Rodriguez, who will once more be flying the flag for the town with England after retaining his place in Roy Hodgson’s squad for next week’s friendly with Denmark at Wembley.
He’s kicked on since his international debut, and I’m glad that’s been recognised with another call-up.