Duff hails impact of Heaton after replacing Grant

Team mates: Clarets defender Michael Duff and keeper Lee Grant in action at Leicester in April 2012
Team mates: Clarets defender Michael Duff and keeper Lee Grant in action at Leicester in April 2012
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Former Clarets keeper Lee Grant makes his first return to Turf Moor tomorrow.

But Michael Duff, a teammate of the Derby County number one for three years, admits his replacement Tom Heaton has more than filled his gloves.

Grant was crowned supporters’ player of the year last season ahead of Charlie Austin after an impressive campaign which saw him record 11 clean sheets and make two penalty saves.

However, after Grant rejoined his first club Derby at the end of his contract, Sean Dyche secured the services of Heaton on a free transfer from Bristol City, and it has proved a shrewd piece of business.

Heaton also has two penalty saves to his name - but has 14 shut outs, with Burnley the second most miserly defence in the Championship.

Duff is looking forward to see his mate, and said: “Granty sometimes got a bit of stick, but people sometimes forgot that we were set up to score lots of goals, and obviously we conceded a few as a byproduct of that.

“But he is a good goalkeeper, he’s played in the Championship all his career, which says a lot.

“He’s a good lad and a good pro, and I still speak to him regularly.

“To say he’s not been missed would be harsh, but that’s football, however.

“Tom Heaton has been brilliant.

“People come and people go, and Tom has been commanding.

“There are no rushes of blood with him, he is what he is, you know what you are going to get.

“As a back five, and as a three, with myself and Shacks, we have a good understanding.

“It’s a sign of how we have gone as a team that the lads who have come in have done so well, we haven’t missed the lads that left.

“And everyone here already has raised their game due to the manager getting the best out of people.”

Grant was forced to pick the ball out of his net three times earlier in the season as Burnley recorded a fourth-successive win at Pride Park.

There have been several changes since August at Derby however, not least Pride Park being renamed the iPro Stadium.

Steve McClaren took over from Nigel Clough and has guided the Rams into promotion contention, and Duff anticipates a tougher task tomorrow: “They have scored the most goals in the Championship and are quite a fluid, attacking side.

“We beat them 3-0 at their place, but they are a different team now, with the new manager, the way they play, and the players he has brought in.

“It will be a good game of football. We’d obviously love to win the game, because it’s a big game, as second v third is at this stage of the season.

“We should both go into the game with confidence.”

While Burnley boast Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, with 42 goals between them, Derby have 15-goal Chris Martin, and 20-year-old on-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford, who has five goals in eight appearances for the Rams, after 18 in 37 for MK Dons.

Duff has first-hand knowledge of Bamford: “A lot of people are talking about Bamford, and I went to watch him as part of my UEFA Pro Licence when I spent time watching MK Dons, and saw him against Carlisle.

“He’s very highly thought of, but I’ve never played against him.”

Burnley will hope to keep him and Martin out tomorrow, as the Clarets aim for another clean sheet: “That’s what we strive for as a back five, to keep as many as we can.

“It’s pleasing when people start talking about us - usually it’s the centre forwards who get the headlines, and rightly so, scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in football.

“That’s why they go for the most money.

“Defending sometimes gets lost in the scheme of things, but we’re quite happy just getting on with what we’re doing.”