First Premier League start at Selhurst Park was the making of Clarets defender Tarkowski

James Tarkowski challenges former Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk
James Tarkowski challenges former Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk
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Victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last season may have been the making of James Tarkowski as the defender made his first Premier League start for the Clarets.

The former Brentford centre back, who recently committed his long term future to club, had made 19 appearances from the bench that term in the top flight but, with Ben Mee struggling with a knock, he was given the chance to partner Michael Keane at the heart of the Burnley defence.

The 25-year-old recalls overcoming a frantic start to the fixture - having been struck by a lighter and losing a handful of aerial battles to Christian Benteke - and coming out of it with a lot of credit as Sean Dyche's side registered their first away win on the road.

And, aside from the three-game suspension he was hit with last month, he hasn't looked back having started every league game since.

"I think I had a bit of a sticky start to be honest," he said. "I lost a couple of headers and I remember Heats just telling me to calm down.

"I don't get nervous anymore but I think when it's your first start for a club and in that situation I think I was maybe a bit nervous.

"I grew in to the game and I thought that it was quite a good performance from myself in the end. I ended up getting hit with a lighter and it was quite a frantic 15/20 minutes to the game but overall I was pleased."

Burnley have lost just three games on their travels since - against AFC Bournemouth, Manchester City and Leicester City - while taking 17 points from the other nine outings.

Tarkowski acknowledges the impact that those goals from Ashley Barnes and Andre Gray have had on the side.

He said: "The fans had waited a while for those points on the board, that big win away from home, and the timing was perfect. It was a great day out.

"The points at the time were quite crucial in terms of staying up. And that put a nice gap between us and the teams below us at the time and it secured that position a little bit so it was really good timing.

"I think we were just pleased that we got three points away from home and made it (our position) a bit more secure in the league. It was happiness in that whole performance and the way the game went."

Tarkowski was required to have surgery on his hand during the ban that saw him sit out games against Spurs, Manchester United and Huddersfield Town but he's ready and raring to do battle with Benteke once more.

"It's fine. I've just got a cast to play in to protect it from any kind of whack or anything like that," he confirmed. "It's recovering really well. In terms of playing it's fine, there aren't any restrictions on me.

"It [the ban] was frustrating but it probably worked out quite well because it did need surgery.

"I would've had to try and play without having the surgery which wouldn't have been ideal so the ban kind of forced me to get the surgery done. You've just got to take it with a pinch of salt and move on."

Tarkowski added: "It's a difficult place to go at any point of the season. I know they had a difficult start but they've got the players and the atmosphere there.

"It's quite strange, it's loud, small and quite cramped. It's a difficult place to go, they've picked up some good points over the last few months. We're expecting quite a tough challenge but it's something that we relish as a team.

"Benteke has been around the Premier League for a while now and everybody knows his strength so you've just got to find a way of dealing with that. Overall I was quite pleased with how I did last time so hopefully it will be the same again this weekend."