Photos: Blackburn Rovers 1, Burnley 2
Skipper Jason Shackell and leading scorer Danny Ings struck to end 35 years of misery in the East Lancashire derby against Blackburn Rovers.
Tony Morley and Brian Hall both netted in Burnley’s last win against their fiercest rivals in a 2-1 win at Ewood Park in April 1979, and that scoreline was repeated over three decades on to really boost the club’s automatic promotion credentials.
Rovers had won seven of 11 in that sequence - since Harry Potts last led the Clarets to victory - and Jordan Rhodes gave the hosts the opportunity to extend those bragging rights when netting a first half opener.
But Burnley responded with two goals in six second half minutes to send the travelling fans, housed in the Bryan Douglas Darwen End, in to raptures.
For generations of Clarets it was an occasion many doubted they would witness - with Martin Olsson’s dive, David Dunn’s contentious equaliser last term and Rhodes’s fortuitous leveller earlier this season scuppering any hope. Finally, that day has arrived for all to enjoy, admire and savour.
The Clarets characteristically set about the derby on the front foot, pressing hard and energetically, though it was the home side who forced the first opportunity when Tom Heaton plunged to his post to keep out Rhodes’s header from Dunn’s centre.
Burnley’s misfortune in these fixtures then came to the fore again when Sam Vokes - who scored for Wales in midweek - slid home at the back post to convert Scott Arfield’s cutting cross. However, celebrations were quickly muted as the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
For the first 20 minutes, Ings’s movement off the shoulder of Michael Keane proved too clever for the Manchester United loanee with Kieran Trippier’s passes dropping in to the pocket of space as the Clarets had most joy down the right.
The first saw Ings pull the ball across the face of goal, just behind Vokes, though there were no Claret shirts in the vicinity at the back post.
Ings then span off his marker once more to nod Trippier’s centre wide of the angle, while the full-back provided another expert assist to tee up Arfield who saw his looping header sit on the roof of the net.
However, Rovers were dangerous on the break and it took a perfectly timed challenge from Shackell on the edge of the box to thwart Dunn’s attempts to break through before Luke Varney bent an effort wide of the upright.
Burnley continued to exploit the apertures courtesy of their up-tempo approach and Ings dragged an effort wide of the far post from deep inside the area once Michael Kightly had applied the pressure and forced an error from Tommy Spurr.
Rhodes hadn’t scored since New Year’s Day, but he gave the visitors a warning of his capability when lashing a shot wide of the near post when Michael Duff’s unconvincing clearance had fallen kindly in to his path.
And then, in the 24th minute, Rhodes netted. Rovers’s leading marksman was afforded way too much space inside the box from Craig Conway’s pass, and as both Duff and Shackell sat off the striker he pulled a right-footed effort across Heaton and in to the corner.
The moment took some of the sting out of the visitor’s display, but they still had a superb opportunity to equalise when Conway, in an attempt to play the ball back to Paul Robinson, slipped in Ings who forced the goalkeeper to save with his legs before slicing the rebound wide when off-balance.
Gary Bowyer’s side immediately went for the jugular, in a mission to punish that missed chance, and Ben Mee’s clearance off the line from Jason Lowe’s close range effort denied the hosts from extending their advantage.
The Clarets were a goal down at the break, but everyone associated with the club knew the fixture was far from over.
The game could’ve been concluding early in the second half, though, as the Clarets were caught over-playing in their own half, and Jones’s wayward pass found Dunn who in turn slipped in a pass for Rhodes with the striker finding the foot of the post with only Heaton to beat. That, Sean Dyche later admitted, was the turning point.
After Jones watched his free-kick deflected over the bar after Vokes was felled o0n the edge of the box, Dyche made a double change with Kightly and Vokes replaced by Ross Wallace and Ashley Barnes respectively.
Bowyer then dragged off Dunn, who had clouded the doubts over his fitness through sheer adrenaline, and introduced Millwall loanee Liam Feeney.
And just minutes after those substitutions, Burnley pulled themselves level. Keane and Varney were at fault as they sandwiched Barnes in an aerial battle, and Wallace’s free-kick dropped expertly in to the hinterland between goalkeeper and defence where Shackell raced away from Spurr to notch his second of the season.
Then, six minutes later, three sides of Ewood Park was in disbelief as Burnley took the lead in front of 4,500 ardent Burnley fanatics.
Robinson flapped at Trippier’s initial cross, Arfield and Mee worked the ball together to craft an opening, the former then crossed, Wallace stabbed the ball back in to the box at the second attempt, and Ings threaded through the legs of Robinson from Barnes’s assist on the penalty spot.
The noise from the travelling fans became cacophonous.
Rudy Gestede replaced Varney as Rovers bolstered their attack, with Lowe going close with a thunderous strike from 20 yards that Heaton turned over the bar.
The home side pumped percentage passes in to the box, with Gestede twice testing Heaton with headed attempts and Hanley spurning an excellent chance on the half-volley, but the Clarets held on for a historic win to open up an eight-point gap over third place Derby County.