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Match Reports

Burnley 2 West Ham 0

McNeil scores first senior goal as brilliant Burnley bounce back

30 December 2018

It might not have felt like it recently, but 2018 was a famous year for the Clarets.

And thanks to a magnificent and desperately needed win, Sean Dyche’s men ended it in fitting style.

Finishing seventh in the Premier League and qualifying for Europe was beginning to feel like a fading memory on the back of a run of nine defeats in 11 games which had dragged the Clarets into the relegation places.

The fight is far from over, but a second home win since September featuring a first senior goal from 19-year-old Dwight McNeil and the return in goal of club captain Tom Heaton wound back the clock and restored the feel-good factor.

McNeil, an Academy product at Burnley since the age of 14 whose senior bow had come in the Europa League, was superb among a clutch of outstanding performances as he followed up Chris Wood’s opening goal to earn the Clarets only a fourth league win of the season which moved them level on points with 17th-placed Southampton.

Heaton was never-overworked on his first Premier League appearance since September, 2017 – bar a magnificent late save to deny Andy Carroll – as Burnley kept a third clean sheet in 14 top-flight attempts.

But his presence only added to the sense of well-being as the Clarets headed into 2019 and the second half of their season with renewed belief and momentum from a victory that could and should have been even more emphatic.

With the mood lifted around Turf Moor from the moment the teams came out, that was reflected in a performance that also started on a high as the Clarets looked to make amends for a Boxing Day beating by Everton.

The inclusion of McNeil and Johann Berg Gudmundsson in a switch back to 4-4-2 paid immediate dividends as the widemen got on the front foot straight away.

And they were both involved in creating a chance for Ashley Barnes after just two minutes which was to set the tone for what was to come.

McNeil, always willing to look forward and play the ball into dangerous areas, picked out Barnes for an effort he steered just wide.

That was the first sign Burnley would make opportunities against an in-form West Ham side looking for a fourth successive away win in the Premier League for the first time in over a decade.

Jack Cork was next to go close as he almost got on the end of the kind of pass from Ashley Westwood which would be a feature of an outstanding first half.

Heaton’s only meaningful action was to cleanly gather a header from Angelo Ogobonna as the Clarets nullified any attempt from the visitors to build up any momentum.

And with a quarter of an hour gone Burnley went in front through Wood, as the striker justified his re-call as one of five changes from the side that had lost 5-1 to Everton as he continued to plague the Hammers.

Wood’s only Premier League goal this season had come in the Clarets’ 4-2 defeat at West Ham in November and he struck again to make it five goals in four appearances against the Londoners.

Again, Westwood played the decisive ball forward – following a move started by Heaton’s headed clearance – to pick out Barnes.

Barnes nodded down to Wood and the New Zealand international did the rest, taking a touch before lashing a shot past Lukasz Fabianski’s right hand.

Ben Mee then headed over the top before Gudmundsson and Barnes combined to tee up McNeil for a shooting chance that was blocked.

But the teenager’s big moment wasn’t far away as the Clarets doubled their lead 12 minutes before the break.

An initial effort skidded across the face of goal but when Westwood had an opportunity to whip in another cross, McNeil timed his arrival perfectly to connect beyond the far post with a volley which Fabianski was unable to keep out.

Turf Moor erupted and five minutes later McNeil almost did it again, this time clipping a shot just wide after Barnes had run clear and pulled the ball back into the youngster's path.

Barnes continued to cause problems by creating another chance Wood should have taken two minutes into the second half as the Clarets’ flow remained uninterrupted.

And had Fabianksi not denied Barnes moments later, Burnley would have claimed one of the finest goals scored here for a long time as McNeil and Wood carved open the Hammers’ back line.

The visitors had brought on Carroll and Grady Diangana at the break to try and pep up their attack.

But it was the Clarets who continued to rack up the chances with Phil Bardsley – who barely gave dangerman Felipe Anderson a kick – and the equally impressive pair of Barnes and Westwood opening up the way to play in Wood who should have done better with just Fabianski to beat.

The nagging fear those missed opportunities might prove costly never materialised as Burnley stood firm at the back and continued to carry a threat at the other end, the tireless Barnes forcing Fabianski into another save.

But just to round off the near perfect afternoon, there was still time for Heaton to stamp his mark on the occasion with a brilliant finger-tip stop to touch Carroll’s header onto the bar a spare a potentially nervy finish.

Burnley: Heaton, Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Cork, Westwood, Berg Gudmundsson, McNeil, Barnes, Wood (Vokes 90). Substitutes: Hart, Hendrick, Gibson, Vydra, Long, Koiki.

Booked: Barnes

West Ham: Fabianski, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Anderson, Snodgrass (Diangana HT), Noble, Rice, Antonio, Perez (Carroll HT), Arnautovic (Silva 74). Substitutes: Adrian, Obiang, Masuaku, Coventry.

Booked: Snodgrass, Noble, Carroll, Rice

Referee: David Coote

Attendance: 20,993

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