The Clarets cemented the Christmas number one slot in the Championship after Scott Arfield’s sublime second half strike earned a Lancashire derby victory over Blackpool.
Sean Dyche’s side usurped leaders QPR once again after Harry Redknapp’s side lost to rivals Leicester City at Loftus Road in the day’s early kick-off.
The Tangerines hadn’t won at Turf Moor since April 1998, when Chris Waddle was in charge of the Clarets, and the omens weren’t good for the visitors once Danny Ings opened the scoring in the seventh minute.
Burnley’s leading scorer grabbed his 17th of the campaign after Arfield’s back post volley was blocked by full-back Jack Robinson. From the resulting set-piece, David Jones’s low, driven corner was met by a composed
finish from Ings who swept the ball unmarked past Matt Gilks.
Moments later full-back Chris Basham recovered well to hook clear deep inside his own penalty area after his slip had gifted Michael Kightly possession. However, the visitors started to impose themselves on the fixture after the opening quarter-of-an-hour, utilising the craft of star man Tom Ince.
Ince, who has been targeted by a host of Premier League and European clubs, was first denied by a last ditch challenge from Clarets skipper Jason Shackell after trading passes with Basham on the angle of the box. After being found by Stephen Dobbie’s sweeping pass, the son of Blackpool boss Paul then eased past Ben Mee and cut the ball back to an unmarked Barry Ferguson but the Scot pulled his effort wide from the penalty spot.
The away side’s momentum was building, with speculative passes over the top of the Clarets defence pinning the home side back, and it was Kieran Trippier who gave Blackpool the invitation to get back in to the game after felling Neal Bishop on the edge of the box after the winger had coasted goal side of his marker. That free-kick, cleared by Mee at the expense of a corner, led to a succession of set-pieces and at the third attempt Ince’s cross was powered past Tom Heaton by the head of Cathcart.
And the Clarets were fortunate not to fall further behind after that 24th minute equaliser. Dobbie and Ince combined on the right to tee up Dan Gosling who, when afforded space, forced an outstanding save from Heaton who flew to his left to turn the midfielder’s measured effort around the post. Heaton then made a similar save with his fingertips to deny striker Steven Davies from distance.
As the half closed, the Clarets grew back in to the game with Ings going close to adding to his tally on two occasions. Firstly he pulled a shot inches wide of the post after skipping past Kirk Broadfoot and Cathcart on the edge of the box, before forcing a fine save from Gilks who plunged to his right to turn the striker’s header around the post from Kightly’s inviting delivery.
The second half proved just as entertaining as the first, but Blackpool barely had chance to breath after the restart when Arfield restored the home side’s lead in spectacular fashion.
With Kightly pinned in to the corner, the ball was eventually worked in to the feet of the former Terriers midfielder via Mee, and from the angle of the box he picked his spot with a beautifully executed attempt that floated beyond Gilks before nestling in the far corner.
That moment of magic engineered a positive period of pressure for the Clarets, though Ince interrupted intermittently when flashing an effort across Heaton and wide of the post after Shackell had ignored his goalkeeper’s shout.
Once Arfield’s cross pinged back off the crossbar, much to the relief of Gilks, Blackpool boss Ince rung the changes with Michael Chopra and Marvin Zeegelaar introduced at the expense of Davies and Dobbie respectively.
Though the away side had a brief reprieve, with Basham blazing over following a scramble inside the area, it was the Clarets who were in command. The home side’s movement down the flanks was impeccable at times and successfully crafted space in behind the full-backs while the nous of Ings and Vokes caused problems for defensive pairing Cathcart and Broadfoot.
Arfield and Marney combined well down the right to get in behind Robinson and the former’s centre was nodded agonisingly wide by Ings who had stole in-between his markers. And as the Clarets broke again, Gilks palmed Vokes’s bending effort from the edge of the box to safety.
Dyche withdrew Kightly and introduced Keith Treacy as the fourth official indicated a minimum of four minutes of added on time, and it was during that period that Dean Marney, who pressed exceptionally throughout the afternoon, robbed Broadfoot of possession and fed the ball to Ings who was denied by the outstretched boot of Cathcart as the effort looped over the bar.
The Clarets now travel to the Riverside Stadium to take on Middlesbrough on Boxing Day.