Photos: Barnsley 0, Burnley 1
Ashley Barnes scored the only goal of the game as the Clarets moved closer to cementing a Premier League return with victory over Barnsley.
The former Seagulls striker, who made the move to Turf Moor in the January transfer window, stooped to flick Michael Kightly’s centre in to the roof of the net in the seventh minute to notch his second goal for the club.
That winner ushered the Clarets closer to promotion, with the gap 11 points over Derby County with five fixtures remaining after the Rams beat Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. Meanwhile, QPR slipped further away from top two contention as they lost 2-0 against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Sean Dyche’s side were boosted by the news that leading scorer Danny Ings was available for selection at Oakwell, and he joined Dean Marney in the starting XI after the midfielder served a two-match ban for accumulating 10 yellow cards. Defender Kieran Trippier made the bench.
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The Clarets have made a habit of obliterating hoodoos this term - beating rivals Rovers for the first time in 35 years, winning at Portman Road versus Ipswich Town for the first time in over 43 years, and collecting only a second win at Elland Road against Leeds United since 1974.
And they faced a similar situation in the trans-Pennine derby against the Tykes with the Clarets winning just once in 18 visits, stretching back to 1932, which came under Brian Laws in a 2-1 triumph on Boxing Day 2010.
But, once again, the Clarets refused to be intimated by history or statistics and took an early lead when Danny Wilson’s side presented their opponent’s with too much time and space to ply their trade. First free agent Chris Baird fed the ball infield to Ings and the forward was able to lift his head, have a look, and knock a simple pass to Ben Mee; the full-back then found Kightly who beat Lewin Nyatanga and whipped in a near post cross to Barnes who headed over goalkeeper Luke Steele.
That set the tone, and the Clarets forced the initiative against a tepid Barnsley side that never looked up for the fight to retain their SkyBet Championship status.
Moments later, the visitors infiltrated the Barnsley backline once more as Marney traded passes with Scott Arfield and, after Jean-Yves M’Voto blocked the midfielder’s pass, Barnes turned the ball in to the net only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
The hosts saw plenty of the ball, and probably bossed the possession statistics overall, but they rarely threatened Tom Heaton who was a spectator for the majority. One-time Bayern Munich winger Dale Jennings did find space inside the box from Chris O’Grady’s cutting pass but Mee covered well to block the shot at the expense of a corner. Soon after Jacob Mellis blazed over the bar from the edge of the box after having his options limited by the Clarets’ defence.
Barnes should’ve had his second of the game midway through the half when Ings latched on to Arfield’s clever pass but as the Skybet Championship Player of the Year sat the ball up to the far post, his strike partner somehow touched wide from close range.
The home side were desperate for a moment of inspiration, and that almost came through the enterprise of Tomasz Cywka who robbed Mee down the left and found Jennings in space on the opposite angle of the penalty box - after Mellis ducked the pass - but the winger swung desperately at the ball and found the stands.
But it was Dyche’s men that finished the half as they started and David Jones lifted an arrowing volley just over the bar after Arfield cushioned Kightly’s cross in to his path.
The second half was a relatively uneventful affair, with the Clarets comfortably draining any threat from the hosts.
After Ings charged down Steele’s attempted clearance, the Tykes keeper responded superbly by plunging to his left and turning Kightly’s measured effort around the upright with his fingertips once Mee’s piercing pass manufactured the space.
Kightly fired in to the arms of Steele from Ings’s assist as the Clarets pressed to wrap up the points while an Ings attempt shortly after lacked pace or conviction and was blocked by M’Voto. However, once Steele gathered Barnes’s header with ease there was little action at either end as the Clarets secured a vital three points.
Promotion is a possibility now on Saturday, providing the Clarets beat Middlesbrough at Turf Moor and Derby fail to beat Huddersfield Town on home soil.