Bristol City 3 Burnley 4
Charlie Austin wrote his name into the Clarets’ record books by scoring for the eighth successive game as Burnley grabbed a remarkable last-gasp victory at Ashton Gate.
Austin equalled the club-best run of striking legend Ray Pointer, set in the 1958/59 season as Burnley approached their finest hour as future League champions.
The current Clarets may not be of quite the same vintage but Austin proved he is up there with the best of them by surpassing Pointer’s total from that scoring streak by making it 14 goals in his last eight games.
Pointer went on to finish that season with 27 goals and two more from Austin took his tally for the campaign to 18 before he gave away centre stage to Chris McCann.
Austin’s goals, including one from the penalty spot, had given Burnley a 2-1 lead and when Martin Paterson then made it 3-1 with half an hour to go the Clarets looked to be cruising to back-to-back Championship wins for the first time this season.
Struggling City hadn’t read the script, though, as they hit back from nowhere through a controversial Sam Baldock penalty and a Paul Anderson goal to level in the 90th-minute.
Terry Pashley’s temporary reign as caretaker manager looked as though it may end on a low note if this proves to be his last game in charge.
But the popular Pashley has got the best out of ‘his’ players over the past week and they managed to stir up one last effort which bought a 95th-minute winner from McCann, who headed in to give the Clarets a deserved, if scarcely, believable victory.
Charlie Austin makes it eight in a row
Pashley’s plan to name an unchanged side went out of the window during the warm-up when Ross Wallace pulled out injured.
Paterson was promoted from bench duty in his place, with the fit-again Danny Ings earning an unscheduled but a welcome return among the substitutes and a late run-out as the drama unfolded.
City were also forced into a late re-shuffle with Jody Morris replacing Stephen Pearson, who also pulled up lame.
But one thing that doesn’t change is Austin’s ability to score.
The striker hadn’t had a kick until the tenth minute when Chris McCann bisected the City defence with a pass which left Austin with a clear run on goal.
His first touch was a little heavy, but with Tom Heaton drawn towards him his second took him around the City keeper for a side-foot finish which beat covering defender Liam Fontaine who couldn’t keep the ball out as he slid into the back of the net.
It was the perfect start for a Burnley side looking to build on its first clean sheet of the season in last Saturday’s derby win.
But despite their position just above the bottom three, City’s home scoring record is the best in the division and just eight minutes later they were level.
Michael Duff was furious with the decision to penalise him for a foul on Steven Davies 25 yards from goal and his mood didn’t improve when Davies, who looked to have over-run the ball before going to ground, picked himself to rifle the free-kick past Lee Grant with a sumptuous strike.
Davies remained City’s greatest threat as he looked to shoot every time he loaded up his left foot and the Clarets must have been grateful the ball dropped to Fontaine and not the former Derby County man following another free-kick ten minutes before half time as Fontaine blasted over.
Another one goes in for Austin
But City were kept largely at arm’s length and even though Junior Stanislas lifted a free-kick just over at the other end and scuffed another effort wide, the Clarets had few chances themselves to go back in front - Paterson spared a missed heading opportunity by a linesman’s flag - until first-half stoppage time when Jason Shackell met a corner from Stanislas with an effort that had Heaton moving smartly to his right to save.
With Pashley doubtless telling his troops that the game was still there to be won, Burnley started the second half in positive mood.
And two goals in the space of three minutes just before the hour mark bore out that theory as the Clarets looked set to make it two out of two in rather more straight-forward fashion for the stand-in boss.
Both followed well-crafted breaks from midfield and on each occasion the delivery from out wide, which had previously been lacking, was spot-on.
Firstly Dean Marney was freed down the right and crossed deep for McCann, whose header was blocked by the arm of Mark Wilson.
Austin currently doesn’t miss from anywhere and so from 12 yards there was no doubt as he sent Heaton the wrong way with his penalty.
Austin then played a creative role as Burnley went 3-1 up, releasing McCann to race clear and cross from the left.
This time the ball by-passed Austin but Paterson arrived on cue just inside the penalty area to drive in a low right-footed shot which was deflected into the bottom corner to give him his second goal in three games.
The celebrations from the travelling supporters suggested it was job done but it proved to be anything but as a thrilling finish then unfolded in the final 20 minutes.
City had barely landed a punch in the second half but with 77 minutes gone they were handed a route back into the game via the penalty spot.
Referee Lee Collins is unlikely to be on Duff’s Christmas card list after following up his decision for the opening goal by penalising the defender again, this time for an apparent push on McManus which gave Baldock the chance to beat Grant and give fresh hope to the Robins.
That was seemingly realised in the final minute of normal time when substitute Anderson followed up to score after Albert Adomah’s free-kick, again protested by the Clarets’ defence, had come back off the bar.
But with five minutes off added time there was still enough on the clock for the Clarets to swallow their disappointment and grab back maximum points.
McCann wins it!
Sam Vokes, on for Austin, was denied by Heaton but with only seconds to go Kieran Trippier swung over a free-kick which McCann met majestically beyond the far post to loop a header back over the City keeper and into the far corner of the net to seal a memorable victory.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Mee, Duff, Shackell, Stock, Marney, McCann, Austin (Vokes 90), Paterson (Ings 78), Stanislas (Stewart 86). Subs: Jensen, Edgar, O’Neill, Mills, Jensen.
Booked: Duff 22, McCann, Stock 35, Mee 80
Bristol City: Heaton, M Wilson, Fontaine (Carey 55), McManus, Foster, Skuse, Davies (Taylor 64), Morris, Adomah, Baldock, Bryan (Anderson 64). Subs: Woolford, Pitman, J Wilson, Gerken.
Referee: Lee Collins
Attendance: 11,836 (361 Burnley)