An unbeaten derby decade: Blackburn Rovers 1, Burnley 2, March 9th, 2014
Who would have thought then that the Clarets, after seven wins in eight at the home of the old enemy, would have to wait the best part of 35 years to celebrate another victory in the derby that goes back 125 seasons to the dawn of the Football League?
Frank Casper, Stan Ternent, Steve Cotterill, Owen Coyle and Brian Laws have since tried to end that unwanted statistic.
But it was the man the fans have nicknamed the “Ginger Mourinho”, Sean Dyche, who finally ended the hurt.
Typically, Dyche deflected all the credit to his players, who, yet again, produced when it matters.
Ice in their heads and fire in their bellies, Burnley refused to panic, even when it looked like Groundhog Day.
They maintained their composure, and, aided by their superior fitness, their quality told in the end.
The excellent Mike Dean’s final whistle signalled a mass outpouring from the 4,500 Burnley fans housed in Darwen End, sparking celebrations which went on long after the game, the delirious support seemingly not wanting to leave a ground where they’ve endured so much agony – over the last 13 years in particular.
A banner was unfurled, saying, simply: “Thank you for ending 34 years of hurt”.
So much has happened in that time, as Burnley endured the worst period of their 132-year existence, almost slipping into oblivion, while Blackburn caught the Premier League gravy train, armed with Jack Walker’s millions.
As things are panning out, however, the Clarets could be in a higher league than Rovers for the first time since 1980, which, bearing in mind the disparity in the money spent by both clubs over the last 20- odd years, would be a remarkable achievement.
This victory saw Burnley installed as 1/4 favourites for automatic promotion, as they moved eight points clear of Derby County in third place - and 23 clear of their old enemy.
Five wins in six games, and a 12-match unbeaten run, means Dyche’s men already have momentum, but a victory of this magnitude, coming from behind to take the points, could be a big watershed moment in the season.
It is what you do over a season which defines teams, not one game, but this could be a red letter day in an already remarkable campaign.
The game was barely a minute old when play was stopped after a chicken was thrown onto the pitch – almost a cliche in the derby nowadays – but when the action resumed, Tom Heaton was required to make a save from a header from Jordan Rhodes from David Dunn’s cross, gathering the ball at the second attempt.
Burnley had the ball in the net on six minutes, Sam Vokes sliding in to finish at the far post after great work from Scott Arfield, but the goal was chalked off for off-side,with replays showing the Championship player of the month to be marginally off.
After the equaliser Dunn scored here last season, it would have been nice to get the benefit of the doubt, but the Clarets continued to press well and show good ball retention in the heat of battle.
Danny Ings pulled a cross just behind strike partner Vokes, before heading Kieran Trippier’s centre wide. Arfield then headed over at the far post from another pinpoint Trippier delivery
Rovers began to emerge as an attacking threat, with Luke Varney sending a right foot shot over, before Michael Duff – in his seventh derby – made a great block to deny Rhodes.
Ings then dragged a shot across goal after Michael Kightly robbed Tommy Spurr, and at the other end, Rhodes sent a snap shot wide.
Midway through the half, Rovers broke from their own half, and Craig Conway fed Jason Low,e whose ball into the box saw Rhodes with far too much time and space.
He turned and drilled a shot into the corner, and celebrated breaking a scoring duck that went back to New Year’s Day – a fourth goal in five games against Burnley
Ings had a good chance to level matters after a loose back pass from Conway, but Paul Robinson narrowed the angle and made a save.
And just before the break, Ben Mee cleared off the line to deny Dunn another derby goal.
Four minutes after the restart, Ings stole a march on Grant Hanley, who appeared to bring the striker down.
It looked like a red card and a penalty from certain angles, and other shots proved inconclusive. Dean’s view was “play on”.
Then came the turning point. Former Rovers loanee David Jones gave the ball away, and Dunn’s perfectly-weighted pass gave Rhodes a clear sight of goal.
He dragged the ball against the base of the post, however, beating the turf in frustration.
That was the break the Clarets needed, and boy did they capitalise. Just after the hour, Ross Wallace and Ashley Barnes were introduced for Kightly and Vokes, and within six minutes, Wallace’s superbly-flighted free kick was headed in by Jason Shackell, bravely beating the flapping Robinson to the punch.
After his goal in the same fixture last season, Shackell clearly has the taste for the derby occasion!
You sensed Burnley could go on and win the game after that strike. And six minutes later, Wallace retrieved a cross at the far post and showed great desire to flick the ball back to Barnes, who teed up Ings to pass the ball past Robinson and Spurr, and send the away fans wild.
Rovers tried to produce another heart-breaking late strike, but the Clarets were not to be denied.
Heaton made a fine save to turn over a fierce strike from Lowe, before gathering a header from former Cardiff teammate Rudy Gestede.
Five years ago, Dean’s whistle signalled Burnley’s promotion to the Premier League. If the Clarets return to English football’s top table, this win could have almost as much significance.