2016-17 – A Season To Remember: Part IV

The Clarets’ 2016/17 campaign will go down as one of their best in recent times, as Sean Dyche’s squad successfully maintained their Premier League status.

At times they had to do it the hard way, though, as a daunting run of away games tested the resolve.

February

Having built up a healthy cushion above the relegation scrap, the Clarets were about to hit the road, with five of their next six Premier League games all away from home.

Given their existing run away from Turf Moor this was always going to be a testing time for Sean Dyche’s men, and so it proved.

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But there were some important points gathered along the way as the Clarets stayed in touch with the middle of the table and kept the strugglers at arm’s length.

The sequence didn’t start well with Jeff Hendrick receiving Burnley’s first red card of the season just six minutes into a 2-1 defeat at Watford.

The dismissal for the midfielder’s late challenge on Jose Hobelas might have brought few complaints but the appropriateness of the mandatory three-match ban was subsequently queried by Dyche, whose January acquisition of Ashley Westwood suddenly seemed even more timely.

Two goals before half time left the Clarets facing an uphill struggle and although Ashley Barnes pulled one back from the penalty spot, a late fightback with 10 men came up just short.

The one home league fixture during the near two-month long road trip brought champions-elect Chelsea to Turf Moor and another season’s highlight.

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Robbie Brady’s free-kick against Chelsea had Turf Moor jumping

The Londoners were proving a near unstoppable force in opening up a 10-point gap at the top of the table and when they took an early lead through Pedro’s early goal, most outside observers would have had this down for another routine victory.

But the Clarets proved all season long that they would not meekly bow to the super-powers and responded with a superb performance which earned them a 1-1 draw and the point that took them to the 30-mark.

Robbie Brady was making his home debut and the record buy made an immediate mark with a brilliant equaliser as he curled in a peach of a 25-yard free-kick.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had never previously been beaten direct from a set-piece as a Chelsea player but the big Belgian had no answer to Brady’s brilliance as the Irishman superbly located the top corner.

And but for a Courtois save to deny Matt Lowton only his second Burnley goal, the Clarets could have gone on to celebrate a famous victory.

No-one would have expected the Clarets’ remarkable home form to be under-mined by Lincoln City in the FA Cup.

But that’s what happened in a fifth-round disappointment as the National League leaders – who would go on to seal their Football League return – struck late to claim a notable scalp and set up a quarter-final trip to Arsenal.

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You can’t win them all………..

That was a blip on the graph for Dyche’s men but equilibrium was restored next up at Hull City, where the Tigers’ revival was put on hold.

Hull had won all their home games since Marco Silva had replaced ex-Claret Mike Phelan as boss in January.

But despite taking a 72nd-minute lead through Tom Huddlestone’s penalty, they couldn’t kill off the Clarets who battled back to end their seven-game losing run away from home.

Michael Keane had been penalised for handball to concede the spot-kick but swiftly made amends by volleying in an equaliser just four minutes later with his second goal of the season.

And even though Barnes was sent off for a second booking in stoppage time, the Clarets had done enough to earn the result that lifted them to 11th place and prevented the Tigers scrambling out of the bottom three.

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Michael Keane had a season to remember for club and country

March

Swansea City were one of those looking anxiously over their shoulders at the relegation places following two changes of manager during the season.

And even though it didn’t prove a platform for take-off, their 3-2 victory over the Clarets bore the hallmark of a side that shouldn’t have been battling against the drop.

Burnley weren’t at their best and there was plenty of controversy about the Swans’ late winner.

But still Dyche’s men couldn’t crack the code away from home – despite taking a second-half lead.

The luck went Burnley’s way when referee Anthony Taylor awarded a spot-kick after the ball had struck Sam Vokes’ arm, Andre Gray converting from 12 yards to make it 1-1.

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Ashley Barnes became Burnley’s first goalscorer at Anfield since Ian Brennan

And Gray then put the Clarets in front with a smart finish after an hour but the Swans hit back to level and in stoppage time striker Fernando Llorente powered home his second header of the afternoon to win it, with a hefty shove on defender Ben Mee going undetected.

Next up was a trip to Liverpool where the Clarets hadn’t won for 43 years.

And despite a goal from Ashley Barnes – Burnley’s first at Anfield since 1975 – that record continued as the Reds hit back to win 2-1.

An equaliser from Giorginio Wijnaldum in first-half stoppage time proved pivotal as Liverpool then went on to avenge their Turf Moor defeat thanks to Emre Can’s long-range winner.

It was, though, a day never to forget for teenage Burnley strike Dan Agyei, who came off the bench late on to make his Premier League debut.

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The Clarets moved into their new training base in March

There was still one more away-day to come before Turf Moor beckoned again.

And while a 0-0 draw at Sunderland didn’t live too long in the memory it was another piece in the jigsaw.

After Barnes and George Boyd had missed first-half chances to win it at the Stadium of Light, the Black Cats wasted openings of their own after the break to finish with a result that did little for their doomed survival chances but kept Burnley a comforting eight point clear of the drop-zone as the final straight came into view.

There was, though, one last chance to draw breath through the final international break of the season, notable for the Clarets’ move into their new Barnfield Training Centre and Keane’s first two England caps.

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