The Clarets made a huge statement in their push for the Premier League, defeating promotion rivals Nottingham Forest 3-1 at Turf Moor.
Scott Arfield opened the scoring and Sam Vokes netted twice as Sean Dyche’s men extended their unbeaten league run on home soil to 20 games.
The hosts issued an early warning when Jamaal Lascelles cleared off the line from Vokes with goalkeeper Karl Darlow taking the sting out of the Welshman’s effort once the ball broke kindly for him deep inside the box from Arfield’s driving run.
However, Forest failed to heed that warning and within minutes the Clarets had the lead. Arfield had visiting skipper Danny Collins and Fox to contend with when in possession, but a delicate touch between the legs of the full-back opened up the space for the midfielder to smash an effort beneath Darlow.
The away side, much to manager Billy Davies’s dismay, didn’t respond and couldn’t remedy Burnley’s energetic pressing. That formula forced the next opening as Vokes and Michael Kightly pressurised Greg Halford before Danny Ings was gifted possession but the Clarets’ leading scorer sliced wide.
Davies’s tactics were baffling to say the least, employing Rafik Djebbour as a lone striker despite harbouring the likes of Simon Cox and Darius Henderson on the bench. Either of the latter would’ve given the visitors something to play off, but the Algerian forward failed to impact on the fixture and was forced in to isolation.
That style, coupled with a lack of fight or aggression, saw the game bypass the likes of Djamel Abdoun, Jamie Paterson and Jamie Mackie, though the latter fizzed a centre across the face of goal in a rare moment of pressure midway through the half.
That moment of reprieve proved shortlived though, as the Clarets made it 2-0 in the 25th minute. Kieran Trippier, a clinical outlet for the Clarets this term, once again provided the assist with a delightful, improvised piece of skill to beat Paterson at the byeline, and the cross for Vokes was equally as impressive, allowing the striker to head past Darlow at the far post.
Davies credited Forest’s lack of invention and craft to the absences of Andy Reid, who picked up a calf injury 24 hours before the fixture, and Radoslaw Majewski, who was forced to fly back to Poland for family matters. But their plight owed to more than that.
The Clarets won every individual battle, and simply wanted it more. Dean Marney and David Jones was again excelled in the centre of the park, and it was the former who prompted the next attack when responding to Halford’s misplaced pass and finding Vokes who forced a stunning save from Darlow from 20 yards out.
After Guy Moussi felled Ben Mee, the linesman’s flag denied Michael Duff from extending the advantage as the defender nodded Jones’s set-piece in to the corner.
But Vokes made it 3-0 in the 35th minute. Kightly found Mee on the overlap and the full-back’s cut back was met by Vokes who looped an effort in to the far corner via a wicked deflection off Lascelles to register his 18th of the season.
Dyche claimed the first half performance was “exceptional”, but as expected there was a response from Forest after the break.
Davies utilised Abdoun and Paterson in more advanced positions, with Fox and Halford pressing higher on the flanks, while Moussi and Mackie took it in turns to push in to the hole behind Djebbour.
The away side threatened early when Lascelles touched Abdoun’s corner on to the bar from Marney’s sliced clearance at the front post, and the defender went close again as his towering header, from another set-piece, was cleared off the line by Trippier.
With the game opening up, and Forest committing more men forward, chances were always going to fall for the hosts. Ings, who hasn’t scored since his double against Millwall, flashed an effort wide when Mee’s centre was cushioned in to his path by strike partner Vokes.
Duff then clipped an attempt just wide when pulling away from his marker to meet Marney’s flick on from Jones’s corner, while the latter fired in to the side-netting after Trippier had dropped a delightful pass over the top and in to the path of Ings.
Ings’s next effort, which saw his angled volley whistle wide of the far post, prompted a change from Davies with Jonathan Greening and Cox introduced at the expense of Moussi and Djebbour respectively, while Dyche opted to withdraw match-winner Vokes and provide Ashley Barnes with some game time.
The win seemed done and dusted, but with 10 minutes remaining Forest forced a route back in to the fixture. Paterson’s run and pass worked holes in the Clarets defence, and as Cox steadied himself to shoot, Duff stuck a leg out and brought the forward down. Referee Andy D’Urso had no option but to point to the spot, though the defender escaped any further punishment.
Abdoun took on the responsibility from 12 yards out, but had to reduce the deficit from the rebound as Tom Heaton plunged to his right to save the penalty.
Henderson then replaced Gonzalo Jara as Forest threw caution to the wind, and they almost set up a nervy final five minutes when Paterson’s drilled shot from the angle flew across Heaton and inches wide of the upright.
Last weekend’s goalscorer Keith Treacy, who had replaced Kightly earlier in the half, tested Darlow with a low effort from the angle of the penalty area, while Ings sliced wide after robbing Fox, though the ball sat up awkwardly for the striker as he pulled the trigger.
Burnley’s final task was to command the aerial battle, as Forest pumped percentage passes and long throws in to the box, though Collins should’ve done better than steering wide after Marney stabbed Fox’s free-kick in to his path.
It’s now 10 games unbeaten in the Championship for the Clarets, and with Derby scoring late at home to Bournemouth, it sets up an enticing fixture at Turf Moor next weekend as Steve McClaren’s side are the visitors.