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Season Review Part V: Mission Accomplished

Safety assured as the Clarets hit 40 points in another landmark season

24 May 2019

A fourth successive defeat had left the Clarets just one place and two points above the Premier League relegation places as they headed into the final international break of the season in mid-March.

With a daunting run-in over the final four games hovering on the horizon, it was arguably a case of now or never for Sean Dyche’s men.

And, not the first time, they responded in just the right way, re-grouping during the impasse to come flying back out of the blocks and launch a run that secured 10 points from four games and their top-flight safety.

Wolves – trying to inherit seventh spot from the Clarets and earn a route into Europe – were first up at Turf Moor.

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By a quirk of fate, the opponents for Dyche’s 300th game as Burnley manager were the same as the first back in November, 2012.

And, crucially, the result was the same as Burnley ground out a priceless 2-0 win.

An early own-goal from Conor Coady – bundling the ball over the line after Chris Wood had hit a post – calmed the nerves.

And the Clarets then dug deep to keep Wolves at bay before securing a first top-flight win over the Midlanders at Turf Moor since 1963 with Dwight McNeil’s brilliant solo effort 13 minutes from the end.

Burnley then hit the road for Bournemouth for another reunion with former boss Eddie Howe.

And one of the Clarets’ best away performances of the season earned extra breathing space thanks to a magnificent 3-1 win.

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Going behind in a Premier League fixture was now no longer the unsurmountable obstacle it had once been and again Dyche’s side again staged a successful fightback.

Ashley Barnes headed into his own net early on, but that only inspired the Clarets’ striker to produce a masterful performance which had the Cherries’ defenders on the ropes.

No side outside the top six had previously won at the Vitality Stadium during the 2018/19 campaign.

But Howe’s men were overpowered as Chris Wood nodded in the equaliser before Player-of-the-Year Ashley Westwood underlined his value to the team with his first goal from open play as a Claret.

A deserved goal for Barnes early in the second half then completed the demolition job and put Burnley eight points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff City ahead of their summit meeting at Turf Moor.

This fixture had long looked the one that may guarantee the Clarets’ Premier League status and another 2-0 home win all but did it.

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It was nervy and, understandably, tense stuff at times as the importance of the outcome was not lost on either side.

But it was Burnley who responded best and chiselled out a seventh and final home win of the season thanks to a headed double from Wood, who made it into double figures for a top-tier campaign for the second season running.

That result left Cardiff and Brighton to battle it out for the one remaining relegation place, but the Clarets made sure with one final show of strength at Chelsea where a memorable 2-2 draw took them to the 40-point mark.

Twenty-eight of those had come in a magnificent second half of the season – more at the time than Chelsea whose top-four hopes looked to have been hit on a steamy Easter Monday evening in the capital.

In a frenetic start, Jeff Hendrick superbly volleyed in the Clarets’ goal of the season to put the visitors in front.

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A quick-fire double from the Europa League finalists seemingly restored the natural order.

But Burnley wouldn’t be beaten and the predatory Barnes volleyed home an equaliser to cap a breathless for first 25 minuts and a set up a second-half stalemate that left Chelsea rattled and the Clarets celebrating their great escape following a goalless second half.

It wasn’t quite time to knock off and reflect on a job well done as Manchester City were then pushed all the way at Turf Moor as the title race went to the wire.

Sergio Aguero’s winning goal was shown to be 29.51 millimetres over the line as City literally inched their way to retaining their crown.

And while the Clarets fell flat at Everton, they did bow out with all guns blazing in a feisty final-day encounter with Arsenal which the Gunners finally won 3-1 as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earned a share of the league’s golden boot and Barnes a share of the Clarets’ top scorer prize.

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After 47 games and nine-and-a-half months it was all over with Dyche’s side finishing 15th in the table – their second highest Premier League placing.

A journey that begun in Aberdeen and ended at Turf Moor had produced a myriad of memories and a host of highs and lows.

And ultimately, the Clarets could reflect with pride on giving it a go in Europe and making sure that top-flight football would remain at Turf Moor for a fourth successive season – something Burnley last managed going into the 1970/71 season.

These are still heady days, and we go again in August.

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