An unbeaten derby decade: Blackburn Rovers 0, Burnley 1, October 24th, 2015
If you listen to some recent barbs aimed in Burnley’s direction, you would think money was behind their current status as Championship promotion challengers. Don’t believe a word of it. This group of players, the manager and his staff, have what money simply can’t buy.
Last week, Bolton Wanderers boss Neil Lennon pointed out after defeat to two Andre Gray goals at Turf Moor: “The difference was a £7/8m player."
And before the East Lancashire derby, Blackburn Rovers manager Gary Bowyer offered up this viewpoint, unprompted: “This club of ours has had a long tradition of being in the Premier League and spending money and, since the last meeting, the tables have turned. We’re under an embargo and Burnley have been promoted and relegated out of the Premier League, and as a result of that they are financially stronger now.
“If you look at the summer, Sean has spent more in the Championship than he did when he was in the Premier League. So the fortunes for both clubs since then have changed dramatically - and personnel as well. “You go and watch Burnley on Tuesday night at (Nottingham) Forest and they’ve got a £1m rightback (Matt Lowton) on the bench. So it just shows you how much the tables have turned.”
He ignored that, having lost three key players, Burnley will - once the money for Danny Ings is decided - be well in profit this summer.
But, aside from that, Burnley’s strength in the division isn’t measured by doubling their transfer record on Gray.
The Clarets under Dyche are worth far more than the sum of their parts. Time after time they are asked questions, but they continue to find ways to win football matches.
And they did again against the old enemy. That togetherness, that relentless nature, the ability to dig deep when their backs are against the wall, and produce moments of quality when required - it’s priceless.
Yes, they fell short of staying in the Premier League when the odds were stacked massively against them, but it wasn’t for a lack of will and desire.
The bleating about Burnley’s financial clout is a bit rich, however. Rovers, like Bolton, have lived far beyond their means for as long as I can care to remember. Blackburn have an £8m striker they could have sold for £12 or 14m, depending on reports, whose wages you would imagine would cover those of three or four Burnley players.
Listening to Bowyer, you would think it was a case of big-spending Burnley against plucky Blackburn.
Maybe he was getting his excuses in early. Dyche rightly pointed out afterwards that he didn’t spend a penny in his first 18 months in charge - promoted with just a £400k outlay on Ashley Barnes, after having to sell Charlie Austin to balance the books.
If they have money to spend after a season in the Premier League, they earned it.
They didn’t get there by spending the most money, or having the biggest wage bill, they did it the old fashioned way with fitter, better organised players, with strong mentalities and damn good habits.
There wasn’t much to choose from between the sides on Saturday - if anything, Burnley were second best to Rovers.
However, that ability to stay in games, and be clinical and clear-minded in the key moments meant it was the 4,700 or so in the away end who went home deliriously happy.
I’d imagine many had a couple of shandies when they got back to town to celebrate, and probably forgot the clocks went back on Sunday morning.
And how Rovers wish they could turn back time to when they were the dominant force in this oldest of English football rivalries.
As it was, this was a second-successive win after 11 games without a victory in the derby, and a fifth game without defeat against Blackburn, all under Dyche. The next time they meet, it will be six years since Rovers last tasted success.
Considering the time Burnley played second fiddle to that lot down the road, in times of their moneyed existence, these are heady days for long-suffering Clarets fans.
Come the return at Turf Moor, Burnley can draw level in the all-time wins table between these famous old rivals, should they claim their first home win over Rovers since 1978, and extend Blackburn’s worst run of form in the derby since going six without a win between 1962-65.
Burnley struggled to get out of first gear on Saturday, and Jordan Rhodes served an early warning when he got ahead of Michael Keane and flicked the ball just over the angle from a ball fed in to the near post.
But there was little fire and brimstone in the game, with the first controversy on 25 minutes when Joey Barton’s standing leg was knocked by Grant Hanley in the box. Barton wanted a penalty, referee Keith Stroud said no, and off the ball, Hanley nudged then tripped Barton, again in the area.
Had the offence been seen, Stroud would have had an interesting couple of decisions to make, with a penalty again a possibility, with Hanley potentially facing a red card for violent conduct.
Tom Lawrence cut across a 20-yard strike which Tom Heaton held well, before, just after the half hour, Burnley began to enjoy their best spell.
A pumped up Sam Vokes dragged a shot wide, before George Boyd and Barton combined to free Scott Arfield, whose measured sidefooter was palmed away by Jason Steele, beyond Andre Gray
At the other end, Tom Lawrence went to ground rather easily under pressure from Barton, with Stroud again unmoved, while Rhodes had two sights of goal before the break, heading wide, before firing over after being granted time and space.
Rovers again pressed at the start of the second half, and Lawrence produced the miss of the game after a one-two with Rhodes, putting his laces through the ball when clean through, when he could have passed the ball inside the far corner.
Rhodes then tamely shot left-footed at Heaton after Keane allowed a punt forward to bounce, but a minute later Burnley got their noses in front, and this season, that means victory.
The ill-disciplined Hanley conceded another free kick, David Jones pinged the ball into the box, and after Vokes won a header, a poor clearance from Corry Evans found Ben Mee. Mee slashed at the ball, but had the presence of mind to tee up Arfield, who produced a sumptuous side-foot strike beyond Jason Steele into the Blackburn End net.
Arfield ran further than anyone else in the Premier League last season - I doubt he ran quicker at any stage than to sprint to the Darwen End to celebrate with the Burnley fans.
A classic derby moment. Rovers tried in vain to produce an equaliser, having conceded at home for the first time in five games, and Craig Conway hit the angle with a fierce strike, though, had it been any lower, you could argue Heaton would have stopped it anyway.
He produced a save for the cameras at the death to deny Shane Duffy, but it wasn’t going to be Rovers’ day - it was Burnley who celebrated an eighth win in 14 visits to Ewood.