Monday, 24 August 2009

Burnley: flying start is totally unexpected

Our excellent home form might have been the main reason we were promoted last season, but never in our wildest dreams would we have expected to beat Manchester United and then Everton in our first two matches at Turf Moor.

It was another deserved victory. We started brilliantly and could have led 2-0 ten minutes in, but Everton got back into it and when Elliott put us ahead with a finish reminiscent of his Wembley winner, it was against the run of play.

But as we did against United, we defended resolutely and in truth Everton never looked like carving out a golden opportunity. They did of course win a penalty after Hibbert conned Dowd into giving a spot kick by diving over Chris McCann’s leg, but justice was done as Saha missed it and Jensen looked to have it covered anyway.

There’s been some odd talk around BFC forums about goals being an issue. We may have only scored two goals in our first three games but the trio of attackers Martin Paterson, Robbie Blake and £3m man Steven Fletcher have all looked bright and capable. And if one goal is enough to beat United and Everton, surely it will be enough to beat lesser teams when they come to Burnley.

But on the road will be a different proposition. Up next we have trips to Chelsea and Liverpool to round off our horror opening five matches. Chances are we’ll lose them both and six points won’t look like such a glorious start. But it’s six points more than many of us were expecting and we’ve already won one more Premier League game this season than Derby did in their infamous record-breaking campaign.

Even if we don’t win on the road all season we might stay up. We’ve won our last eight at Turf Moor, not conceding at home since March. We’ve looked comfortable, against teams with players twice as expensive than our entire squad. And these two opening wins fire a warning shot to the league: Turf Moor will not be an easy place to come to. Points will not be surrendered easily.

We had to make Turf Moor a fortress if we were to stay up. We’ve made a cracking start.

Meanwhile, we kick off our Carling Cup campaign with a trip to Hartlepool on Tuesday night. Having got heart-breakingly close to the final last season we know the boost a cup run can give everyone, and the competition is a vital way to keep confidence high. And although it’s a long way away, it is a route into Europe, something we could only dream of a few months ago.

Owen Coyle will probably pick a strong side but I expect him to rest some vital players and give starts to players that haven’t got game time yet this season. We could see a first start for Ecuadorian winger Fernando Guerrero, although whether Coyle thinks a night in Hartlepool is ideal for a debut remains to be seen, and I expect the likes of Chris Eagles and Kevin McDonald to be given a chance to shine.

This article was written for the Fanzone section of the Times' website.

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