Burnley 2 Reading 1
BRILLIANT Burnley passed their toughest test yet with flying colours to go into the international break sitting proudly in top spot.
The prolific partnership of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes was again on target as Sean Dyche’s men chalked up a remarkable sixth straight victory.
Ings celebrated his midweek England U21 call-up with the opener in the 21st minute, slotting home Kieran Trippier’s trademark cross for his 11th of the campaign.
And after Royals keeper Alex McCarthy kept his side in the contest with a succession of magnificent saves, strike partner Vokes doubled the lead 11 minutes from time.
A Jason Shackell own-goal, as he unwittingly turned home Pavel Pogrebnyak’s far post header following a deflection off the near post, made it a nervy finale.
But the Clarets held firm to stretch their amazing unbeaten sequence to EIGHT wins in NINE league and cup games.
Dyche made one change to the side that won at Doncaster in midweek.
Midfielder Dean Marney returned from suspension to replace David Edgar, who dropped to the bench.
Ings opens the scoring
And it was a bright start from the Clarets, with Marney driving forwards from midfield.
Cautious Reading were sitting deep out of possession in the early exchanges, giving the Clarets plenty of room to build patiently.
And it was a magnificent cross from Trippier in behind the two centre halves that forced the opener and put the Royals’ even further on the back foot.
The right back thundered a cross past two defenders that was inch perfect for Ings to pounce and tap past the exposed Alex McCarthy for his 11th of the season.
Burnley were suddenly rampant and from Kightly’s blocked shot, David Jones’ follow-up was spilled by McCarthy and grabbed at the second attempt as Vokes lurked.
And soon after Marney hung up a perfect cross to the far post that Scott Arfield nodded back across goal and just wide of the post.
Reading were rocking, but they finally composed themselves to create their first opening on the half hour, as Pogrebnyak forced Heaton into an acrobatic tip over from his looping header.
And Heaton was also equal to Jordan Obita’s long-range snapshot with six minutes of a whirlwind half remaining.
But Burnley’s attacking threat was a constant menace to the Royals backline all day long.
And when Kightly robbed Bridge on the stroke of half time and Jones pounced to feed Ings, the in-form striker was inches off target as he drove in a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
The Clarets started the second half as they ended the first - firmly in the ascendancy.
And when Ings robbed Alex Pearce of possession, they had a two-on-one situation.
However, Ings’ ball to Arfield lacked the necessary pace to send the wide man clear and, after checking his run, the Scot's right-foot effort forced McCarthy into a fine save low to his left.
And as the Clarets pressed, Reading were thankful to McCarthy for single-handedly keeping his side in the game.
First, Ings’ drive from distance was parried by the former England U21 international, who then saved well with his legs after Arfield teed-up Jones from the follow-up.
And from the resulting corner, McCarthy made his best save to date, somehow finger-tipping Ings’ close-range header round the post after Shackell rose highest to nod the flag kick back into the danger zone.
Reading boss Nigel Adkins had seen enough and immediately made a triple substitution.
But even that could not hold back the claret tide - and Ings was again presented with a glorious opportunity to double the lead just after the hour mark.
Vokes’ clever flick sent his strike partner clear on goal, but McCarthy made yet another vital save with his legs.
It was now a succession of chances falling Burnley’s way and the two strikers combined again moments later as Vokes nodded down into the path of Ings, who blasted over from 12 yards to his frustration.
Of greater annoyance, however, was quite how Burnley were not two goals clear and comfortable as the game entered the final quarter.
However, we didn’t have long to wait as the crucial goal duly arrived with 11 minutes remaining.
Kightly did magnificently to win back possession in the final third and Ings took over, threading a pass in behind a square back line for Vokes, who slotted past McCarthy.
Vokes seals the win
However, the cheers had barely died in the throat before Reading had a lifeline, as Pogrebnyak’s far post header back across goal struck Shackell on the knee and flew into the roof of the net.
But when Gunter headed into Heaton’s arms in the dying seconds, Reading’s last chance of snatching an unlikely point went with it.
Burnley went marching on. Curse? What curse!
BURNLEY: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee, Arfield, Marney, Jones, Kightly, Vokes, Ings.
Subs: Cisak, Edgar, Lafferty, Stock, Stanislas, Long, Treacy.
READING: McCarthy, Morrison, Pearce, Gunter, Bridge, Baird (Taylor 58), McAnuff (Le Fondre 58), Guthrie, Robson-Kanu (Blackman 58), Pogrebnyak, Obita.
Subs: Federici, Kelly, Akpan, Gorkss
Booked: McAnuff 40, Blackman 66
Ref: M Jones