A Danny Ings double provided the perfect start to 2014 as the Clarets climbed back to second in the Championship with a 3-1 triumph over Huddersfield Town.
The striker netted his 18th of the term as early as the sixth minute when timing his run to perfection to latch on to David Jones’s lofted pass before confidently slotting in to the back of the net via a deflection off the legs of goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
The Clarets, who had failed to score in previous outings against Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic, were much brighter on their return to Turf Moor, constantly opening up the visitors who adopted a daring 3-5-2 formation.
Sean Dyche’s men were energetic and pressed well and that combination led to the next opening when Scott Arfield, facing his former employers, robbed Joel Lynch of possession and fed Ings who in turn lifted a pass around Murray Wallace to striker partner Sam Vokes who fired over from inside the box.
Arfield was far enough upfield to benefit from Wallace’s slip on the edge of the box moments later following a crisp Clarets move from left to right, but the midfielder drilled wide of the near post.
Though the home side were in complete command, the visitors found an equaliser and it was former Claret Martin Paterson who pounced to grab it. Adam Hammill’s corner
was touched in to the path of Paterson by Wallace and the striker guided his header in to the roof of the net from close range in the 20th minute.
But Burnley responded immediately and almost restored the advantage when Jones’s effort looked destined for the corner, but Smithies plunged to his right to turn the effort round the post.
At times the Terriers looked like rabbits in headlights, struggling to adapt to the home side’s tempo, and once again the pressure forced Jonathan Hogg to concede possession to Ings who danced past substitute Anthony Gerrard before being upended by Wallace. And from the resulting set-piece, Jones struck the bar for a second game in succession while Keith Treacy’s rebound was blocked.
But the pressure eventually paid off just four minutes before half-time when Dean Marney’s exceptional sweeping pass found Kieran Trippier in space and the full-back’s centre was met by Ings who took a touch before squeezing a shot between Wallace and Gerrard and in to the corner to make it 2-1.
Very little changed after the break as the hosts dominated. Vokes tested Smithies when spinning Gerrard on the angle of the penalty area, while Burnley-born Oliver Norwood blazed over from Hammill’s corner.
As has been a familiar occurrence from the Clarets this term, they allowed the opposition possession in non-threatening areas before stepping up, intercepting the ball and springing attacks at speed. Vokes prompted penalty appeals when upended by Gerrard after Treacy and Trippier had combined on the break, while Arfield’s pass couldn’t find Treacy unmarked on the far side after Ings broke away down the left.
Marney went close when slicing wide at full stretch when picked out well on the edge of the box by Vokes, while Ings almost completed his hat-trick in spectacular fashion when lifting the ball over Wallace’s head from Arfield’s flick on but rifling a half-volley in to the lower tier of the Jimmy McIlroy Stand.
After Ings fired in to the side-netting from Trippier’s pass, the full-back grabbed his first goal since being credited with Burnley’s second away at Doncaster Rovers in October.
The Clarets seemed comfortable, but they were awakened from complacency when Paul Dixon cut inside from the left and fired across Heaton, but the keeper did well to push the attempt to safety.
Ings has never scored a professional treble, and he probably won’t go any closer when cushioning a header agonisingly wide of Smithies’s post from another Trippier centre.
After a double change from Dyche that saw Brian Stock and Junior Stanislas replace Marney and Treacy respectively, while Sean Scannell replaced Hammill for the away side, Paterson struck again with a minute of normal time remaining to set up a nervy conclusion to the fixture.
Dixon’s cross sailed through the Clarets rearguard and Paterson accepted the invitation by touching the ball in to the corner to make it 3-2. Things almost got much worse when Tommy Smith somehow failed to convert Dixon’s cross at the back post while skipper Jason Shackell blocked Adam Clayton’s effort from deep inside the area to spark huge sighs of relief from the home crowd.
It’s now 17 league games unbeaten now for the Clarets at Turf Moor, with attention switching to the FA Cup as they face Southampton and Jay Rodriguez at St Mary’s on Saturday in the third round of the competition.