Dan Black's verdict as Burnley's summer transfer strategy shines through in Reading victory at Turf Moor
"It's always easier to make good subs when you have good players!"
Burnley have certainly benefitted from the wealth of talent on the bench in recent weeks.
But boss Vincent Kompany was reluctant to take any of the credit for his game-changing decisions.
The club's summer transfer strategy is starting to pay off with the matchday squad being utilised to full effect.
Manuel Benson is a shining example of that; the Belgian winger has made divine interventions many-a-time in games gone by.
The 25-year-old former Royal Antwerp star helped turned the tables against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light when replacing Ashley Barnes at the interval.
He won the penalty in the 1-0 win at home to Norwich City as his cross was handled by former Blackburn Rovers defender Grant Hanley.
"We are nowhere yet, we haven't achieved anything, so I'm not proving a point, but we went through these discussions together at the very beginning of the season, you sell one player and you get four, that's why we did it so that in these moments we have a squad.
"You sell somebody for £10m and we got four or five players in for that amount of money. That's the way I felt we wanted to manage this season, to ensure that we've got enough depth. It's good to see that it's coming together."
Johann Berg Gudmundsson was the "super sub" in Birmingham earlier in the month when his first goal since February 2021, just four minutes after his introduction at St Andrews, put the visitors ahead against the Blues.
The Icelander's replacement against the Royals needed a similar amount of time to make his presence felt, beating goalkeeper Joe Lumley with a 66th minute volley from the edge of the area after Andy Yiadom had partially cleared a Josh Brownhill delivery.
Benson wasn't finished there, however. Shortly after the home side had survived a penalty shot, with protestations still on going once Ian Maatsen had tripped Tom Ince, he laid on the winner at the death.
There seemed very little on when he collected a Taylor Harwood-Bellis pass with his back to goal, but a sudden turn of speed took him away from Baba Rahman, then Mamadou Loum, before an exquisite assist, with the outside of his left boot, put the ball on a plate for Zaroury to convert.
The execution of the finish might not have matched the one which stole the show on Wearside, but it was just as important as the Clarets preserved the two-point advantage over their rivals from down he road.
Talk had previously surrounded the 12 points dropped from winning positions this term, but they've now pocketed four points from losing positions in their last three Championship fixtures.
Kompany said: "I keep saying to wingers, every winger I have ever come across, you can score the screamer like at Sunderland but you might get five a season if you are a top player.
"But the tap ins at the back post, that could be 15-20 a season and I have never known a good winger not to score these goals. It is good that he [Zaroury] does score those goals because they are the ones that will give him numbers.
"It [another comeback] gives belief, which is key. On paper, when we made the squad in the summer, I could've written it down that I thought these kinds of players can do that.
"I know [Manuel] Benson can do what he did, I've seen him do it at his previous club. [Anass] Zaroury, Nathan Tella, and all the other players we've got, they are all capable of doing that, but for it to come together it gives you belief.
"I think once you've done it you should never doubt whether you can do it, and then you can take that into every game. With the season being that long, with that many games, the proof is there so now they have to continue doing it and working hard at getting better."
Tella, Benson and Zaroury had combined in the moments leading up to the away side's penalty shout, with the latter drawing the save from Lumley. It was a far cry from the uneventful half that had preceded it.
The hosts, who were missing the control and composure of midfield pair Josh Cullen and skipper Jack Cork, had shown signs of promise when getting their creative sparks on the ball in the pockets beyond Amadou Mbengue and Baba, and alongside Yiadom and Tom McIntyre.
But the 45 minutes concluded without a shot on target, for both sides. Connor Roberts headed wide from Zaroury's delivery, Samuel Bastien fired into space from Gudmundsson's set-piece and leading scorer Jay Rodriguez scooped the ball over the bar from Tella's pull back.
Burnley continued to huff and puff in the second half, as Paul Ince’s powerful Royals imposed their physicality on their opponents, and it took their opener, and a double change after the hour, to awaken them from their uninventive slumber.
It took just two touches from Lumley’s lumped clearance for the visitors to go ahead. Yakou Meite won the flick on from Bastien, Ince nipped goal-side of Taylor Harwood-Bellis and the “Guvnor’s” son finished first time past Arijanet Muric.
Asked about his displeasure in the goal his side conceded, Kompany said: “You could say that [I am disappointed], I know what a lot of teams in this league will be looking at for our next game. We will review, make sure we learn from it and we have young centre backs and that is what happens.”
Vitinho joined Benson — when Roberts and Gudmundsson were replaced respectively — and that seemed to do the trick, though they did get a lucky break when referee Jeremy Simpson ignored Maatsen’s swipe on Ince.
That came in the 92nd minute, which would have presented the Royals with the opportunity to reverse the placings of the division’s East Lancashire rivals at the top end of the table.
It wasn’t awarded, though, much to Ince’s disbelief. “The referee's a joke, an absolute, total joke. That's why we've come away with nothing. I don't like having a go at referees because I know it's a tough job, but the penalty on Thomas (Ince) is a blatant penalty.
"When it comes to the 92nd minute, Thomas is running into the box and (Ian) Maatsen fouls him, the AR is 15 yards from the right hand side and has got a great view of it, and the referee is 20 yards behind him, and they haven't got the balls to make the decision for us to go and win the game, if we score the penalty. Then a minute later they go up and get the winner.
"That's what makes me angry. I feel like I've been robbed by the officials and I think if that had been the other way round, he probably couldn't wait to give it. The AR can see it perfectly and he hasn't got the balls to make the right decision. That makes me angry. I feel like I've been conned by the referees."
Burnley are now finding different ways of winning games and, having gone 15 league games unbeaten, they could be tough to stop!