Photos: Burnley 2, Reading 1
Danny Ings celebrated his England Under 21 call-up with the opener while Sam Vokes added another in the second half. Skipper Jason Shackell put in to his own net with less than 10 minutes remaining but the Clarets held firm to go in to the international break as Championship leaders.
Neither side took the initiative in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, but the Clarets were galvanised in to action when referee Mike Jones naively fell for Jordan Obita’s dive just outside the Clarets box.
The winger had already committed himself to the turf when midfielder Dean Marney slid in to block his route, though Michael Kightly stormed to the edge of the penalty area to block Wayne Bridge’s cross from the resulting set-piece.
Just three minutes later, with Burnley sprung in to life, the breakthrough arrived when Trippier’s vision enabled him to pick out an impeccably penetrative pass that cut through the Royals defence, glided goalside of Alex Pearce, and fell in to the path of Ings who simply side-footed in to the net at the far post.
Both David Jones and Scott Arfield could’ve added to that lead with the former stinging the palms of Alex McCarthy from the edge of the area, with the keeper claiming at the second attempt with Sam Vokes on the scene, while Arfield cushioned a header narrowly wide of the far post from Marney’s clipped centre.
While the Clarets once again stood firm in defence, the visitors did pierce the rearguard once when Danny Guthrie slipped a pass in behind skipper Jason Shackell but team-mate Michael Duff reacted well to cover and make a block as Pavel Pogrebnyak prepared to pull the trigger.
The Royals forward went close soon after when climbing above his marker to head goalwards, but goalkeeper Tom Heaton reacted superbly to turn the effort over the bar.
Obita tried a speculative attempt which fizzed in to the arms of Heaton as Reading sought the leveller, but it was the Clarets who went close just before the half drew to a close when Ings fired wide of the post from Kightly’s assist.
After the break, the Clarets were exquisite in both character and performance, and threatened the visitors with most sweeping moves forward. Marney pulled a volley wide early in the half as an indicator of what was to come.
Dyche set his stall expertly once more, with his players quick to dispossess their opponents and spring attacks. When Kightly won the ball in midfield, Ings picked up the loose ball and drove at Sean Morrison before distributing to Arfield and the midfielder took the chance first time, forcing McCarthy to fingertip the effort around the post.
The Royals keeper would be in fine form throughout the afternoon, a sign of Burnley’s command, and in the home side’s next attack Ings forced a smart save from the 23-year-old stopper with a half-volley before Jones was denied by McCarthy’s feet with the follow up.
From Kightly’s corner, Duff then headed back across goal to find an unmarked Ings who was thwarted by a stunning save by McCarthy with a close range header. That sequence of events forced Nigel Adkins to make a triple change with Nick Blackman, Jake Taylor and Adam Le Fondre all introduced in a bid to sharpen the Royals front line. Hal Robson-Kanu, Chris Baird and captain Jobi McAnuff were those withdrawn as Adkins re-shuffled his pack.
But it was the hosts who continued to threaten and the advantage should’ve been doubled when Vokes lifted a pass over the head of Morrison to free strike partner Ings but with just McCarthy to beat, the striker fired at the keeper’s legs. Moments later, Ings rifled a volley over the bar from inside the area after Vokes had nodded Ben Mee’s diagonal cross in to his path.
Reading dominated the ball but without threatening the home side with just substitute Blackman’s effort, which skimmed well wide of the target, all they had to show for their endeavours.
Then, in the 80th minute, the stadium erupted as the movement and understanding of Vokes and Ings forced the Royals rearguard to step up and separate, before the latter slipped in his team-mate and the Welshman confidently slotted beyond McCarthy for his eighth goal of the campaign.
However, the away side set up a tense finish to the fixture when Pogrebnyak beat Mee in the air at the back post and his header flashed across Heaton and cannoned in to the net via Shackell. Heaton was called in to action on one more occasion when stooping low to collect Chris Gunter’s header but it was a deserving fifth league win on the bounce for the Clarets.