Ashley Barnes scored his second league goal in a Burnley shirt to register a vital victory over Barnsley at Oakwell.
A first half header from the striker was enough to take all three points as the promotion race reaches it’s final bend, with the Clarets now 11 points clear in second place with just a handful of games remaining.
Sean Dyche made two changes from last weekend’s draw with Watford, reverting back to a 4-4-2 formation, with Danny Ings making his long waited comeback in place of Keith Treacy, and Dean Marney coming in for David Edgar after completing a two match suspension.
There was also a place on the bench for Kieran Trippier after recovering from a hamstring injury that had kept him out over recent weeks.
Likewise, opponents Barnsley made two changes from their home draw with Brighton on Saturday; as Jacob Mellis replaced the suspended Kelvin Etuhu, and Martin Woods came in for Liam Lawrence.
With much to play for both sides, the game started brightly with the home side testing the Burnley backline with a couple of early crosses; all though were comfortably dealt with.
The Clarets moved forward with promise on five minutes; great hold up play by Barnes on the edge of the box allowed him to play the ball to Michael Kightly out wide. The winger sent a teasing cross to the back post, but was collected by Tykes keeper Luke Steele.
The great link up play between Kightly and Barnes was just a taste of what was to come, however, as two minutes later they combined beautifully to give Burnley the lead.
Kightly found himself some space on the left-hand side to whip a ball to the near post and Barnes stole a march on his marker to connect with his head to nod the Clarets one up!
The away side thought it had got even better on 10 minutes, as the ball was in the back of Barnsley’s net once again, though they were denied by the offside flag.
Superb work by Scott Arfield on the right allowed him to play a low ball to Barnes. The striker appeared to move a step too quickly, and the flag was raised before the ball made it’s way to Ings, who smashed it in.
After that let off Barnsley rallied. Dale Jennings played a nice one two with Chris O’Grady to make his way in to the box. Clarets Skipper Jason Shackell was quick to read the danger and cleared for a corner.
Jennings was involved again on 21 minutes, cutting inside on the left to shoot wide of Tom Heaton’s goal.
A minute later Mellis fashioned an effort from 20 yards out. The attempt did not test the Clarets stopper as the ball went well over.
Burnley had a golden opportunity to double their advantage as a magnificent ball from David Jones sent Ings bounding in on goal on 25 minutes.
The Clarets top scorer teed a looping cross on the bounce to Barnes at the back post and the striker fired wide with a tentative toe-poke with the goal at his mercy.
As the home fans grew restless, Barnsley still hadn’t produced a shot on goal. Tomasz Cywka played the ball to Jennings at the back post on 32 minutes, though the former Bayern Munich man could only hit over.
The link up play from the Clarets was nothing short of sensational; Kightly played a cross to the back post which was knocked down by Arfield for the oncoming Jones. The midfielder hit the ball first time over the bar on 36 minutes.
At the other end it appeared Jennings was instrumental in creating any opening for the Tykes.
On 38’ the midfielder got to the by-line after catching the Burnley defence napping. The player could not find a Barnsley shirt however, and the ball was cleared to keep the Clarets ahead at half time.
Half-Time: Barnsley 0-1 Burnley
Six minutes after the restart, Marney broke well, carrying the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the box before laying the ball to Arfield. The winger’s cross was cut out for a corner ball.
From the loose ends of the half cleared corner, Barnes appeared to be brought down just inside the box, though referee Neil Swarbrick, waived away the appeals.
The persistence and determination of Ings nearly proved dividends for the Clarets as the striker was quick to close down a pass back to Steele.
The keeper’s clearance smashed off the player, and could have gone anywhere, this time though the ball went wide.
Burnley continued to press for an elusive second, and on 58’ Kightly showed pace and power to advance in to the box. The winger with options to his right, drew Steele in to the save, flicking the ball past the post.
Barnsley took that as a wake up call, and started gradually imposing themselves in to the game. Martin Woods came forward before hitting a shot wide from outside the area.
It was the away side who continued to create clear cut chances however. Kightly again went close on 68 minutes, though this time his shot was straight at Steele.
On the other flank, Arfield battled well to get the by-line to lay the ball back to Ings. The striker shot looked to heading on target before being bravely blocked.
The scot then zipped in a cross in the direction of Barnes on 73’. The earlier goalscorer met the ball well, though his header was comfortably saved.
Kightly, enjoying a great performance for the Clarets glided across the edge of the box on 81 minutes, hitting just over Steele’s bar.
On 87 minutes Ings recieved the warmest of ovations from the travelling supporters as he left the field to be replaced by Keith Treacy.
Barnsley struggled to threaten though and the midfielder helped the team see out the match and put the Clarets closer and closer!
Burnley: Heaton, Baird, Shackell, Duff, Mee, Kightly, Marney, Jones, Arfield, Ings, Barnes.
Subs not used: Cisak, Stock, Wallace, Edgar, Treacy, Long, Trippier.
Booked: Marney (84’).
Barnsley: Steele, Kennedy, Nyatanga, M’voto, Dawson, Mellis (Noble-Lazarus,60), Woods (McCourt, 81), McLaughlin, Cywka, O’Grady, Jennings.
Subs not used: Turner, Proschwitz, Hassell, Hunt, Frimpong.
Booked: O’Grady (48’).