Photos: Sheffield Wednesday 1, Burnley 2
Strike duo Danny Ings and Sam Vokes combined to give the Clarets maximum points against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
The pairing helped ease the recent disappointment of Charlie Austin’s departure to Championship rivals QPR as they struck within five minutes of each other after the half-hour mark.
And it was a lead the Clarets fully validated after creating the more genuine openings. The hosts had early sight of goal but neither Jeremy Helan or Jacques Maghoma were able to test Tom Heaton. The former dragged an effort wide from the edge of the box after Michail Antonio outmuscled skipper Jason Shackell down the right and clipped a ball towards the imposing Atdhe Nuhiu, though the cross was too high, while the one-time Burton Albion winger fluffed his lines at the near post after full-back Liam Palmer pulled a ball back from the bye line.
But after that Sean Dyche’s side closed the ball well, forcing errors from the home side, before infiltrating Wednesday’s weakness down the flanks. Vokes should’ve done better when beating the offside trap from Kieran Trippier’s clipped pass but he blazed over on the turn after confidently pulling the ball down on his chest inside the area.
Moments later, with Palmer struggling to stick with Junior Stanislas, midfielder David Prutton was forced to double up on the former Hammer and conceded a free-kick once the winger threatened to cut inside. Stanislas duly dusted himself off and floated the set-piece wide of the post as Kirkland plunged to his right.
The next wave was once again orchestrated by Stanislas who drove at Wednesday’s rearguard before slipping a pass in to Dean Marney and once his shot was deflected, Kirkland was forced to spread himself and pull off a superb save to deny Vokes.
David Jones’s men looked dangerous on the break with the pace of Antonio, Maghoma and Helan causing issues, and as men were committed forward on one such attack, the latter fired across Heaton from 20 yards but his effort flashed by the far post.
That prompted a period of pressure from the Owls and after Ings illegally halted Jose Semedo’s break, Heaton beat Maghoma’s free-kick to safety. Then Prutton found the side-netting when Antonio’s low centre had seeped through to him. Lady Luck then made an appearance in the home side’s next foray forward as Lafferty’s touch from Maghoma’s dangerous cross somehow missed the target, spinning wide of the upright.
However, that would be the final time the Clarets would be tested in the opening period and in the next breath they took the lead. Trippier fed Wallace, who benefitted from Wednesday’s deep defensive line, and the winger took his time to pick out Ings on the edge of the six-yard box and the striker headed past Kirkland to score in his seventh consecutive outing.
That lead - after the injured Stanislas was replaced by Scott Arfield - was then doubled in the 38th minute as Vokes opened his account for the season with a delightful header across goal that looped in to the far corner after Trippier had applied the perfect cross.
At the start of the second half, Jones introduced Chris Maguire at the expense of Rafael Floro and the striker went close to breaking the seal immediately as he skipped in-between two defenders before rifling a right-footed effort that Heaton did well to keep out before a desperate goalmouth scramble kept the away side’s advantage intact.
At the other end goalscorer Ings fired over on the half-volley once Vokes and Wallace had combined in the build-up but the home side were building the pressure on the back of percentage balls in to the final third - this time Atdhe Nuhiu’s header brushed the post as he met Maghoma’s centre.
But Wednesday’s pressure couldn’t dissolve Burnley’s battling spirit with the visitors almost adding a third. Marney did exceptionally well to shrug off the attentions of Helan at the bye line and once he pulled a pass back for Wallace the winger’s drilled attempt whistled past the post with Kirkland rooted to the spot.
Shackell became the first of four yellow cards awarded in a heated, competitive and, at times, over exuberant second half, which also saw Maghoma avoid a red with a scandalous challenge on Trippier.
Heaton was once again proving a spectacularly astute free summer transfer with another expert and assured display and it took a smart double save to keep the Owls out when he clawed Nuhiu’s header off the line before combining with Danny Lafferty to thwart Anthony Gardner’s rebound at the foot of the post.
However, with 20 minutes remaining, the deficit was halved when Prutton powered a header beyond Heaton from Palmer’s superbly executed cross to energise the hosts and send the 20,000-plus home faithful in to raptures.
The hosts pushed, continuing to fling crosses in to the box, hoping to jump on the scraps, but the Clarets held firm. Vokes forced Kirkland in to a smart save at his near post after fending off Zayatte and from the resulting corner substitute David Edgar - on for Wallace - glanced a header wide of the angle.
It was a superb, professional display from the Clarets to retain their lead, particularly in the six minutes of time added on by the fourth official. They now go in to Saturday’s game with Championship newcomers Yeovil Town with four points from two fixtures.