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Season Review Part III: Time For Take-Off

Clarets bounce back from Boxing Day blow to launch surge to safety

22 May 2019

Among all the big results the Clarets dug out at crucial points of the 2018/19 season, fewer were more important than a 1-0 win over Brighton to lift the gloom of mid-winter.

A first victory in nine games in early December briefly took Burnley out of the bottom three.

And although there were three more defeats to follow from a tough fixture list around Christmas, Sean Dyche’s men stopped the rot in setting up the first leg a win double over a Brighton side that would end the season fighting for their lives.

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A scrappy goal from James Tarkowski was enough to secure just a third league win of the season as Joe Hart ensured a clean sheet on his 400th appearance in English football with a superb late save from substitute Glenn Murray.

Back-to-back trips to London were to follow ahead of Christmas with the Clarets unable to add to their points’ tally at Tottenham or Arsenal.

Signs of a revival were on the cards, though, as only an injury-time winner from Christian Eriksen at Wembley punctured Burnley’s back five following a change of formation which almost paid dividends.

Arsenal were also pushed all the way before a late Alex Iwobi goal finally killed off a Clarets’ comeback launched by another Ashley Barnes goal against top-six opposition.

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But it was back to square one on Boxing Day when a 5-1 thumping by Everton at Turf Moor saw Dyche’s side hit their lowest ebb, with just 12 points from the first half of the season leaving the Clarets in the relegation places  and three points adrift of Cardiff City in 17th-place.

Something needed to be done and Dyche responded by making five changes to his starting line-up – including a re-call in goal for club captain Tom Heaton and a second Premier League start for teenage winger Dwight McNeil.

An on an up-lifting afternoon at Turf Moor, a corner was turned with a 2-0 win over West Ham which lit the blue touch paper for the Clarets’ surge to safety.

After Chris Wood’s opening goal, McNeil slid in his first senior goal as he announced his arrival in style and cemented his place in the team as another catalyst for Burnley’s resurgence.

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A magnificent late save from Heaton to deny Andy Carroll was the perfect finish and Burnley were back.

Crucially, they followed it up with two more wins, holding their nerve to come from behind at the John Smith's Stadium to beat Huddersfield Town 2-1 with goals from the deadly duo of Wood and Barnes to make it the perfect start to 2019.

Bar a couple of hours in early February, Dyche’s men wouldn’t be in the bottom three again, with another 2-1 victory over Fulham completing the hat-trick as another side heading for the drop were given no respite.

Andre Schurrle’s stunning strike put the Cottagers ahead but the Clarets made their own-luck to take the points with a deflected Jeff Hendrick strike and a Denis Odoi-own goal completing another comeback and a move up to 15th place in the table.

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An FA Cup third-round victory over Barnsley followed before fortune deserted the Clarets at Vicarage Road, where Wood was denied what would have been a late winner against Watford by an errant assistant referee’s flag.

The unbeaten run was intact, though, and a 5-0 FA Cup exit at Manchester City would not disrupt the Clarets’ momentum – or City’s march towards an unprecedented domestic treble.

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