Photos: Burnley 1, Barnsley 0
Burnley returned to the top of the Championship after Michael Kightly’s second half strike was enough to earn victory over Barnsley at Turf Moor.
With rivals Rovers holding QPR at Loftus Road, and Brighton beating Leicester City at the Amex Stadium, Sean Dyche’s side secured a first win in six league games to regain top spot.
Kightly’s spectacular 65th minute goal was worthy of winning any fixture, but it was a rare highlight in a relatively insipid display on home soil.
After starting on the front foot, Sam Vokes should’ve done better when racing past Tykes defender Peter Ramage to latch on to skipper Jason Shackell’s clearance, but with the returning Danny Ings unmarked inside the six yard box, awaiting the pull back, the Welsh striker scuffed an effort wide of the near post.
Vokes then struck a first time effort over the bar from 25 yards after profiting from Jack Butland’s less than convincing clearance moments later.
However, from that point the away side took command as the Clarets failed to find a rhythm in a performance that lacked zip, purpose or precision.
In contrast, the Tykes, led by former Claret Micky Mellon, had a creative spark with Paddy McCourt orchestrating the fixture from the centre of the field.
The Derry Pele demonstrated his wonderous footwork when skipping in-between two markers before driving towards the edge of the box and blazing over.
The hosts had a brief reprieve when David Jones’s thunderous drive from the angle of the penalty area was beaten away by Butland before a superb flowing move resulted in Trippier cutting infield past Cywka and floated a cross in to the box which was glanced just wide by Ings.
But McCourt took centre stage again, proving unplayable with the ball at his feet, and again he crafted space with ease before slotting an exceptional piercing pass behind Trippier and in to the path of Cywka who forced Tom Heaton to save.
McCourt was now attracting more attention from his markers, and with one touch he took Shackell and Jones out of the game to send Scott Wiseman clear and his pull back in to the box was missed by Marcus Tudgay and then drilled over the bar by Cywka. Ings headed in to the arms of Butland as the half came to a close.
The second half was a marginal improvement, but failed to lift the enthusiasm of 11,462 fans inside the stadium.
The Clarets managed the game better, allowing Barnsley less time on the ball and effectively restricting the likes of McCourt, Mellis and Cywka from working their magic.
Ings flicked a header over the bar from Kightly’s centre after Stock had beaten Perkins to the ball on the edge of the box, while Ings was denied from an excellent block from Tom Kennedy deep inside the area after Vokes had helped on Ben Mee’s throw-in.
The Clarets continued to press and went even closer when Kightly shared a one-two with Trippier and drove past Cywka to the byeline before drilling an effort across the face of goal that Wiseman poked wide.
The breakthrough came just after the hour; Trippier marauded upfield down the right and fed Kightly who stepped past Perkins, opened up his body, and bent a superb left-footed effort across Butland and in to the top corner.
Either side of a fizzing Cywka free-kick from distance - which Heaton was forced to turn over - the visitors introduced Jason Scotland and Jim O’Brien at the expense of Kelvin Etuhu and Cywka, while Brian Stock was withdrawn and replaced by David Edgar for the Clarets.
The change failed to alter the momentum in Barnsley’s favour and like the first half, they failed to craft any genuine openings. Instead the Clarets searched for a second, and they were unfortunate not to have it when Vokes’s fortuitous effort was ruled out as the linesman, questionably, raised his flag for offside.
Vokes flashed wide of the post soon after when collecting Jones’s flick, though Wiseman did well to stand the striker up on the edge of the box and limit his sight of the target.
Arfield, who once again showed an exceptional work-rate, did incredibly well to forge a route beyond Tudgay and Wiseman when penned in on the touchline, and after driving in to the penalty area he fired straight at Butland.
Marcus Pedersen replaced McCourt and Junior Stanislas replaced goalscorer Kightly for the Clarets as the game marched to a close, before Scotland forced a final save from Heaton who turned his low effort around the near post.
The Clarets now move on to a top-of-the table clash away at Leicester City next weekend.