BEFORE the Championship clash with Wolves, Burnley Football Club paid tribute to a number of heroes.
A minute’s silence was impeccably observed by both sets of fans prior to kick-off in memory of Clarets and England legend John Connelly, who recently died aged 74, as well as the country’s fallen troops.
And new boss Sean Dyche, in his first game in charge, took the opportunity to etch himself in to a similar category at Turf Moor as guided the Clarets to a 2-0 triumph.
Martin Paterson broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, racing on to Ben Mee’s gloriously threaded pass in behind Kevin Foley before slotting the ball coolly through the legs of Carl Ikeme.
When the former Watford boss was appointed Eddie Howe’s successor he told the media: “First things first, we want to instil a culture that suggests minimum requirement is maximum effort, honesty, integrity, pride,
“The team will sweat in the shirt.”
That was certainly the case in the opening stages as the Clarets were disciplined and hard-working without possession, closing their opponents down, restricting the space for them to work in, and nulifying any threat they
Dyche was vocal on the sidelines, animated at times, almost like a conductor as he encouraged his 11-man orchestra forward. Ross Wallace had the first chance of the fixture, floating an attempt wide of the far post after
trading passes with David Edgar on the angle of the penalty area.
The opener, after Wallace was booked for cynically hacking down Kevin Doyle as Wolves broke, was simplistic but effective. Skipper Jason Shackell rolled a pass in to Mee from the back, and the full-back, who was
sorely missed at the Cardiff City Stadium, bent a pass down the touchline for Paterson who finished neatly left-footed.
A burst of pace from Edgar down the right flank provided the makeshift midfielder with the aperture to clip a cross towards the back post, but with Ikeme scrambling the ball narrowly evaded the head of Paterson.
Moments later the Clarets should have doubled the advantage. Dean Marney robbed Roger Johnson of possession outside his own box, closed in on goal, Ikeme narrowed the angle, and with Paterson square screaming for
the pass, the midfielder fired in to the goalkeeper’s chest.
Dyche’s men were almost punished for that missed opportunity when Bakary Sako cut past Shackell at the by-line and unleashed a ferocious drive across Lee Grant that flashed past the far post with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
agonisingly close to applying the touch to turn it home.
But that was the only sight of goal the away side had in the opening 45 minutes as the Clarets led at the interval.
The hosts started brightly again after the break and Austin went close after latching on to Brian Stock’s precise pass down the right and driving in to the area, forcing Christophe Berra on to the back foot, but lashing a vicious effort just wide of the upright.
Soon after Stock once again supplied Austin, poking the ball in to his path after dispossessing Johnson, and the striker twisted and turned in the box but his attempt, with Ikeme committed, was blocked by Berra. However, from Wallace’s resulting corner, the country’s most prolific marksman nodded in to the corner unmarked for his 19th of the campaign.
Wolves could have been down to 10 when Johnson kicked out at Austin in an off-the-ball incident though, after conferring with his assistant, referee Mark Haywood produced a yellow card.
Unable to break down a resilient Clarets rearguard, lacking the invention or endeavour to penetrate the hosts, Wolves were limited to unimaginative long balls in to the box and efforts from distance. The only danger throughout the afternoon was the athleticism of Sako, and it was his spectacular piledriver that almost reduced the arrears but, with Grant beaten, it crashed back off the post. Ebanks-Blake was first to the rebound but the striker lost his footing and as the ball broke Doyle forced Grant in to a save.
Dyche’s men seemed happy for Wolves to have possession, before stepping up the pressure as they advanced, breaking up the play, and catching them on the break. And on one such occasion, as the Clarets cleared their lines, Johnson’s poor clearance was headed in to Austin by Marney but the striker casually stroked the ball in to the arms of Ikeme after composing himself with time and space on his side.
Wallace was later replaced by Danny Ings after being stretchered off by paramedics, equipped with an oxygen mask, following a collision with Jermaine Pennant - the contributing factor to the seven minutes of time added on that would later be indicated by the fourth official.
But in truth an extra 90 minutes could have been added on, and Wolves still wouldn’t have scored. Ebanks-Blake should have done better when Sako’s clever clipped cross caught the Clarets defence off-guard, but the striker’s header, from the edge of the six-yard box, was incredibly tame.
For all Wolves’ time on the ball, it was the Clarets who continued to create the better chances. Paterson almost added his second of the fixture when cutting past Stephen Ward in the box, though he was denied by Ikeme at the near post.
Sako drilled wide from distance before substitute Sam Vokes, who replaced Paterson in injury time, moved goal-side of his marker to take down Grant’s clearance on his chest before rifling a half-volley from the edge of the box across Ikeme that flashed past the far post.
The result, which moved the Clarets within three points of the play-offs, marked the best possible baptism for Dyche, and he’ll be hoping for more of the same when Leeds United arrive at Turf Moor on Tuesday evening.