PHOTOS: Derby County 1, Burnley 2
“HE used to build walls... and now he scores goals”, goes the Burnley fans’ chant for Charlie Austin.
The former builder’s brace, from the only two sights of goal he had all afternoon, earned the Clarets a third successive win at Pride Park, and ended the away duck at the fourth attempt.
It also took the Championship’s top-scorer to nine for the season, from eight appearances so far.
Austin, oozing confidence at present, is rapidly becoming one of the hottest properties outside the Premier League with his clinical finishing.
And his double blast – adding to his hat-trick in his last outing against Peterborough – could prove the first building block in a climb away from the wrong end of the table.
It’s also at the other end where Austin’s former profession could come in handy, building a defensive wall to provide the platform for the side’s attacking efforts to profit.
While the former Swindon frontman’s goals denied the hosts the point they deserved, this win was based as much on a gritty performance at the other end.
After a tricky opening quarter, during which the hosts scored and squandered a couple of other opportunities, Eddie Howe’s men put their bodies on the line for the cause, and proved a more formidable barrier to breach.
They looked like grinding out a battling point until Austin’s last-gasp header turned it into a win, as Howe said: “It’s probably our first ugly win, in terms of the second part of the second half. It was backs against the wall, and we defended our goal fantastically well, which is something we haven’t done this season.”
If they can combine a new-found solidity with the killer instinct given to them by Austin, Burnley will continue to climb the table.
It’s a big if, after shipping two goals a game going into Saturday.
And a habit of conceding sloppy goals continued here.
However, the second half showing was a huge encouragement, with Ben Mee and keeper Lee Grant pivotal.
Mee earned his first league start, after a frustrating couple of months, at left-back, while Grant, one of Burnley’s most consistent performers this season, was again assured.
Mee, a centre-back by trade, enjoyed his best run in the side at left-back last season, and, after a tricky opening quarter to the game, where Derby enjoyed much joy down the right through John Brayford and Paul Coutts, he emerged as a steadying influence, while being involved in both Burnley goals and hitting the bar himself with a thumping header.
The day started with a Burnley success on the pitch, as Jonathan Clare, from the production line at the Clarets’ next door neighbours Burnley Cricket Club, took the applause of the crowd along with his Derbyshire team-mates for claiming the LV Second Division championship.
The 26-year-old saluted the away end, and settled down to watch what he hoped would be a first away win of the season.
And the Clarets started brightly, with Junior Stanislas seeing a left-foot shot blocked by Craig Bryson.
However, Derby assumed control, and Will Hughes forced the first save from Grant with an angled drive.
Bryson then headed at Grant from Coutts’ centre, before Stanislas nicked the ball off Brayford’s toes from a Jamie Ward pull-back, with County demanding a penalty. From Coutts’ corner, however, the ball was worked to Ward, who turned and scuffed a shot inside the far corner.
Moments later, Burnley produced a response as Martin Paterson collected Ross Wallace’s pass and forced a save from Frank Fielding.
Derby looked like adding to their lead, however, and Ward had a free-kick comfortably saved, while Bryson slipped the hard-working Sammon through, only for the former Wigan man to drag his shot wide when he really should have scored.
The Clarets made Derby pay just after the half-hour when a Wallace free-kick was blocked, and Mee closed down Ward, with the ball bouncing kindly for Austin, who didn’t need a second invitation to lash home past Fielding.
And Burnley could have gone in ahead, when from Kieran Trippier’s cross, Mee connected powerfully with a header, only for it to smack against the bar.
Come the second half, Derby forced the issue, and Sammon went close, while Ward smashed a cross-shot wide of the far post.
Sammon again showed his lack of finishing prowess when played in by Ward, only to take too long to steady himself and tamely poke a shot that barely reached Grant.
Moments later, Sammon presented Bryson with the best chance of the half, but Grant was quick off his line and blocked superbly.
That proved a key moment, as, with a minute remaining, Mee and Cameron Stewart combined to find McCann on the edge of the area, and he dug out a cross to the far post, which Austin headed home.
It was a smash and grab job, but after the manner of some of Burnley’s setbacks on the road so far this season, they were more than due a stroke of fortune.
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Weather for Burnley
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 8 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North east