PHOTOS: Altrincham 1, Burnley 4
TWO goals from Charlie Austin, a strike from birthday boy Chris McCann and a superb solo effort from Danny Ings gave the Clarets a 4-1 win in their first pre-season friendly of the campaign against Altrincham.
It's been all change since the Clarets faced the Blue Square North outfit at Moss Lane 12 months ago.
When Eddie Howe's side last visited Moss Lane both Chris Eagles and Chris Iwelumo scored in a 4-2 victory.
The squad that played that day, on July 9th, 2011, included the likes of Danny Fox, Tyrone Mears, Andre Amougou, Wade Elliott and the recently departed Jay Rodriguez.
But Howe has successfully managed to rejuvenate the squad, inheriting Luke O'Neill, George Porter, Jason Shackell and Joseph Mills over the summer.
And a trio of those new faces, Porter the one to miss out, were utilised in the first half of today's friendly. Shackell, incidentally, led the team out equipped with the captain's armband.
Expectedly the opening 45 minutes were played out at a training ground tempo, though the Clarets were dominant.
Minus Duncan Watmore's thunderous effort which cannoned off the inside of the post, with Lee Grant well beaten, in the latter stages of the half, Burnley were well in control.
And it was a chance for the youngsters to gain some necessary experience as well. Kev Long appeared confident, though unexposed at the back, alongside Shackell, Stevie Hewitt was industrious and heavily involved in the middle of the park with Chris McCann while Joe Jackson worked Altrincham's rearguard when partnered by Martin Paterson.
Hewitt was the first player to get a sight of Adam Reid's goal, but his effort from inside the penalty area was blocked en route. The Clarets were confident in possession, retaining the ball for long periods, but Reid had to be alert a quarter-of-an-hour in when Junior Stanislas stung the keeper's palms from 25 yards out.
Howe's side were predominantly building down the right, O'Neill impressing with his composure at one end and his tenacity to get forward at the other. And that would be rewarded when the ball was worked to Jackson, who found McCann on the edge of the box, via a clever Stanislas stepover, and the Dubliner, celebrating his 25th birthday, swept the ball left-footed inside the near post.
The Clarets continued to push but the hosts, to their credit, frustrated by thwarting any attempts of a second goal. Reid turned Paterson's sliding effort around the post after Jackson's bending pass fell in to the striker's path, and Jackson later struck a post when profitting from Scott Leather's wayward back pass.
O'Neill's floated pass found Paterson on the angle of the area but his snap shot whistled beyond the far post with Reid forced to spectate. Watmore's effort, from a rare break from the home side, went agonisingly close to levelling the fixture but the Clarets went in to the interval with a 1-0 lead.
Howe made wholesale changes for the second half, though it made little impact on the complexion of the game.
Again the Clarets signalled their attacking intent, working forward from the full-backs and infiltrating the flanks. And early in the half Howe's side scored twice, with Kieran Trippier and Danny Lafferty claiming the respective assists.
First Trippier fed Danny Ings and the lively striker's speed and agility saw him burst in to the box, while evading the attention of several defenders, before slotting nonchalantly beyond a stranded Reid. Almost immediately the scoreline became 3-0 as Lafferty squared the ball in to Austin who lashed the ball past Reid from 12 yards.
The pace of the game was pedestrian, which benefitted the Clarets who had time on the ball and exploited the opposition with precision. James McCartan pulled a goal back for the hosts when profitting from Jon Stewart's error when failing to claim a corner but that aside there was plenty of positives to take.
Simon Richman had a close range effort ruled out for offside, James Lawrie flashed an effort wide from distance, Reid turned Porter's effort, which looked destined for the top corner, around the angle and Austin flashed a header wide of the post as the half progressed.
But in the 90th minute Austin arrived at the double to head the Clarets in to a 4-1 lead from Keith Treacy's precise centre. It was a positive performance, a routine win, and the Clarets now head to Gigg Lane to face Bury in the next fixture on Tuesday evening.