An unbeaten derby decade: Burnley 1, Blackburn Rovers 0, March 5th, 2016
That sentence was little more than a pipe dreamfor more than three decades, as the Clarets plumbed the deepest depths in their history, while Rovers hit the highest highs
For years, simply beating the old enemy would have been enough for long-suffering Burnley fans,who went 11 games, or almost 35 years, without the bragging rights.
They have now seen their side go six games without defeat against Blackburn, stretching back six years, while completing a first East Lancashire derby double since 1978/79.
But read the second part again.
Remarkably, while for Rovers,Saturday was something of a cup final-they had nothing to lose at Turf Moor as they will neither be dragged into a relegation battle nor trouble the top six - the bigger picture for Burnley in the El Lanclasico was not local pride, but staying on track for a return to the Premier League.
To Sean Dyche and his players,it was just another game along the road towards their goal. Joey Barton put it best pre-match: “For us,while we’re aware of what’s at stake locally, they’re just another team in the way.
And Rovers,to their credit, represented an awkward obstacle. While they may be 28 points adrift of the Clarets after two derby defeats this season, there are signs of progress under Paul Lambert,who has previously plotted a route to the Premier League with Norwich City. Like at Ewood Park, Rovers could be a touch aggrieved not to have taken a result of some form.
And like at Ewood Park, Burnley showed an organisation, resilience, game management and sheer bloody-mindedness to emerge with the points. I’m sure there were more than a few fans in the away end muttering “lucky Burnley”under their breath. But they couldn’t be further from the truth. A record of 47 wins and just 10 defeats intheir last 84 Championship games isn’t luck - it’s damn good management, good planning and good execution of ideas and an ethos clearly defined and delivered bya boss who will go downas one of the best of the last half century or so at this club.
As Dyche rightly noted after the game, any grievances Rovers feel were felt as keenly by Burnley in his first three derby games, all draws, where Burnley could and should have won all three, but were denied by an England goalkeeper, agoal so offside it was almost in Darwen, and one of the freakiest goals you’ll ever see. Swings and roundabouts... Of all the Rovers hoodoos over Burnley,this was the last surviving item to strike off the list-beating them at Turf Moor. The Clarets hadn't done that in six games, back to 1978, but the Turf is a stronghold this season - they have now won seven of their last eight games here, conceding only one goal.
And the only unbeaten Championship side in 2016 started well. Within a minute,George Boyd blocked a Grant Hanley clearance and the ball bounced over the top for Andre Gray, who lashed a shot over, but was off-side in any case.
Barton, nursing a groin problem,had a shot delected wide, before Hanley got in the way of his effort after Gray teed up a flick on from SamVokes. Boyd then got on the end of Stephen Ward's cross at the back post, but couldn't get any purchase on his header.
After the game,Dyche bemoaned the lack of protection for Barton, and Jordi Gomez found his way into the book for a late and high challenge on the midielder.
Shortly after, former Clarets loan man Shane Duffy, unaware of Boyd's presence, caught his heel as he looked to clear Ward's pullback,and referee Mike Jones had little option other than to point to the spot.
Gray, who missed his last penalty at Reading, faced up to the baying away end and showed nerves of steel, sending Jason Steele the wrong way. Burnley continued to look the more composed side,and Ben Mee found himself on the edge of the area, forcing a save with a left-foot volley, before Hope Akpan just about diverted a Boyd centre wide of the post after delightful one-touch build-up play.
However, after half an hour, Rovers began to impose themselves. From Elliot Bennett's corner, Akpan headed wide of the far post,and, with the home stands growing anxious, Tom Heaton produced a smart stop to tip over a deflected Bennett effort.
Heaton again had to change direction to stop Akpan's low drive, deflected off Mee, and Rovers were up in arms just before the break when Darragh Lenihan robbed Barton and Gomez slipped a pass through to Akpan, who went down rather easily under a slight nudge from Ward, who had got the wrong side.
Was the nudge the cause of the fall,or did Akpan feel a nudge and try and take advantage?
I'd err on the latter...
In the second half, Burnley couldn't reproduce their football of the first half hour, but drew on their resilience.
Rovers have scored more goals from set plays than anyone else in the Championship this season,and that looked their most likely route to goal. The game became more andmore bitty, as Lenihan was booked for a poor challenge on Barton, while Matt Lowton followed suit after catching Bennett. David Jones, feeling an Achilles problem, was replaced by Fredrik Ulvestad, and Burnley had to defend the ball being slung in from all angles. Ben Marshall dragged a shot wide of the near post, and, from a Bennett corner, the right back sent an effort at Heaton.
Ulvestad's shot lacked power, but almostallowed Gray to profit, while Bennett had a low strike deflected wide of the near post.
Late on, Rovers had four forwards and a centre back up front as they looked to extend their record of scoring at least once on each of their last 10 league visits to Turf Moor, but Heaton wasn't extended.
Bennett was booked for a cynical foul in injury time, and substitute Tony Watt talked himself into a yellow card after Ulvestad kicked the ball away, and was also booked.
At the death, Watt mysteriously avoided a second yellow after preventing sub Rouwen Hennings breaking away, while Gomez wanted a penalty with the last action of the game, going down under a challenge from Ulvestad.
Jones blew his whistle for full time instead,and Burnley could enjoy the derby spoils,again. Who knows, Rovers may well have to wait a while for revenge, if the Clarets go on and achieve promotion again.