PHOTOS: Burnley 1, Blackpool 0
WHILE the chairmen and board of directors seek Burnley's 31st manager to replace Eddie Howe, the club's fifth caretaker boss Terry Pashley guided the Clarets to victory over rivals Blackpool.
Prior to kick-off John Banaszkiewicz claimed the number of candidates for the Turf Moor hotseat has been cut down to 'three or four', but until that appointment is made the temporary man in charge got off to the best possible start against his former club.
And it was Howe's signature signing, Charlie Austin, that continued his rich vein of form as the country's leading marksman, whose form last season sparked an interest from Tangerines boss Ian Holloway, pounced in the 19th minute to nod Ross Wallace's tantalising, inswinging cross past Matthew Gilks at the back post for his 16th of the campaign.
Up until that point the Championship's televised fixture, in what was Terry Pashley's first game in charge as caretaker boss since Eddie Howe's departure, lacked rhythm or tempo, both sides seemingly laboured in possession.
But Pashley, facing his former club, had added a backbone to the Clarets, a solidity that the away side struggled to penetrate. With Brian Stock and Dean Marney holding, providing a resolute, protective guard ahead of the back four, the Clarets were compact, giving the likes of Chris McCann, Wallace and Junior Stanislas the freedom to surge forward.
The first opportunity arrived courtesy of Stanislas who shrugged off the attentions of Neal Eardley down the left, cut in to the box, but his angled, right-footed drive was blocked en route to goal. Austin could have broken the debut earlier when Stanislas found the striker in space but, having beaten the offside trap, his volley ricocheted off Gilks and out for a corner. However, moments after Matt Phillips dragged a shot harmlessly wide as the visitors resorted to desperate measures, Burnley took the lead as Austin headed in to the ground from six yards out, becoming the first player since Willie Irvine in 1965 to score in seven consecutive matches.
Ince drilled over again after cutting inside from the right as Blackpool failed to find the threat they've posed for much of the season. It was the Clarets who continued to set the tone in the final third and they almost had a second when Stanislas latched on to a neat one-two with Austin, out-paced the Tangerines rearguard, but Gilks thwarted his delicate, chipped attempt. And as the half came to a close Wallace flashed a free-kick in to the side-netting as Gilks scrambled to his near post.
After the break the game turned in Blackpool's favour as they gathered momentum, forcing the Clarets to sit deep. After recent results against Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace, spectators could be forgiven for their, at times, pesimistic outlook, as the visitors picked up the pace, found an urgency that was absent from the opening 45 minutes, and carved holes by finding pockets of space.
But despite Ince's, Baptiste's and Phillips' threats the Clarets held firm, and rendered former loan man Nathan Delfouneso anonymous in the meantime. But for Blackpool's second half dominance it was the Clarets who almost doubled the advantage when Austin stung the palms of Gilks after being teed up by Kieran Trippier.
Ince, with his dad Paul watching in the stands, could and maybe should have levelled when Eardley threaded a pass to his right but the forward, with time on his hands, drilled his effort in to the side-netting. As the pendulum swung once more, a misunderstanding between Austin and McCann saw a great chance go begging as the pair latched on to Mee's clearance, leaving the ball for each other, before Blackpool cleared.
And soon after Delfouneso was replaced by Ludovic Silvestre the away side pressed once more. Skipper Jason Shackell hooked the ball from underneath his own bar after Ince rolled an effort across the six yard box from an acute angle, and soon after the key moment arrived courtesy of a sensational double save from Lee Grant. Having had little to do for most of the derby, the Clarets keeper leapt in to life to touch Baptiste's header on to the post before springing to his feet to turn Taylor-Fletcher's rebound for a corner from point blank range with a sublime reflex stop.
Taylor-Fletcher went close to equalising again when his speculative strike took a wicked deflection that whistled past the post with Grant troubled. With fatigue creeping in, and the Clarets looking to find a foot back in the game, Pashley wihdrew Stock and Stanislas for the electricity of Marvin Bartley and Martin Paterson respectively before goalscorer Austin was replaced by Sam Vokes late on.
And the changes almost paid off when Vokes raced past Blackpool's rearguard only to be denied by Gilks once more. It was a much more organised and determined display from the Clarets who recorded their first clean sheet since the opening day of the season against Bolton Wanderers.