Burnley 1 Blackburn 0Andre Gray’s 16th minute penalty fired Burnley back to the top of the Championship!
Gray’s cool spot kick, drilled down the middle, proved the difference as the Clarets celebrated the league double over their old rivals for the first time since 1978.
In the process, Sean Dyche’s men also extended their unbeaten league run in 2016 to 12 games as the race at the top hots up.
Sean Dyche had said he had a big decision to make in defence ahead of kick off.
As it was, defender Michael Keane replaced James Tarkowski to return to the starting line-up for the first time since sustaining a head injury against Rotherham United a fortnight ago.
And a 15th clean sheet of the season justified the decision, as Burnley rode increasing second half pressure from the visitors to grind out a ninth victory in 12.
Following a high tempo start to the derby, the Clarets forced an early save from Jason Steele.
Stephen Ward’s deep cross from the left found George Boyd, who rose above Tommy Spurr at the far post, but the winger’s header was gathered at his near post.
However in the 15th minute the Clarets were awarded a penalty and a chance to take an early lead.
Ward’s pull back from the by-line found Boyd, whose ankle was clipped as Shane Duffy went to clear first time.
Referee Mike Jones had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Gray, who missed his last penalty in a stalemate at Reading last month, coolly stepped up to put the Clarets ahead.
Five minutes later all four stands rose to pay their respects to 20-year old Clarets fan Daniel Redman, who sadly passed away last week.
Back on the pitch Burnley countered in look of their second, with defender Ben Mee making a rare surging run forward.
The centre-half played a one-two with goalscorer Gray, before firing a 25-yard drive that was comfortable for Steele.
Rovers’ Hope Akpan almost doubled Burnley’s advantage soon after!
Matt Lowton’s one-two, again with Gray, was played out to Boyd on the right flank and from his fizzing low cross across goal, Akpan sliced his clearance inches past his own post.
On the half hour mark Akpan had a chance to bring the game level!
The midfielder rose the highest for an Elliott Bennett’s in swinging corner, but his glancing header flashed past the far post.
The Clarets were then thankful for a stunning Heaton save to keep the Clarets ahead, as Bennett’s strike from the penalty spot was destined for the top left corner, only for a fingertip save from the Burnley captain to deny Rovers’ new recruit.
And as the visitors ended the half in the ascendancy, they had an appeal for a penalty waved away.
Danny Graham’s reverse pass superbly found Akpan inside the box, and despite Ward’s nudge the visitors’ appeals were waved away.
Following a quiet opening to the second half, Duffy’s header well wide was the only chance before Fredrik Ulvestad replaced David Jones on the hour.
But the second half kicked into life five minutes later, as both sides came close.
Ben Marshall’s 25-yard strike from a Bennett corner flew towards the top left corner, where it was expertly gathered by Heaton.
Ulvestad, who set up the winner at Bolton last week with his first touch, then again almost made an instant impact.
The midfielder gathered at the edge of the box and went for the bottom right corner, where Gray stuck out a leg to deflect the ball into Steele’s midriff.
The visitors gained momentum as the half wore on, but could only fashion half chances; the best coming when Bennett forced Heaton to turn his daisy-cutter for corner at his near post.
And despite four nervy minutes of added-on time, Burnley kept Rovers at bay to extend their unbeaten sequence against their rivals to six games.
BURNLEY: Heaton, Ward, Mee, Keane, Lowton, Arfield, Jones (Ulvestad 60), Barton, Boyd, Vokes, Gray (Hennings 75).
Subs: Robinson, Darikwa, Tarkowski, Kightly, Taylor.
Yellow: Lowton 63’, Ulvestad 90’
ROVERS: Steele, Marshall, Duffy, Hanley (c), Spurr, Lenihan, Grimes (Watt 63), Akpan (Brown 85), J. Gomez, Bennett, Graham,
Subs: Raya (GK), Henley, Ward, Conway, Jackson.
Yellow: Gomez 13’, Lenihan 52’, Bennett 90’, Watt 90’
Ref: M Jones
Att: 20,478 (2,409)