Second half goals from comeback kid Keith Treacy and Ross Wallace via the penalty spot were more than enough to beat a spirited Sheffield Wednesday to delight the Burnley fans who provided a superb atmosphere with a collection of new songs including a reference to a Ginger Mourinho.
It was a nice short journey to Sheffield to start the year following the celebrations of the night before. One of our group turned up looking a little bit worse for wear and, somewhat surprisingly, not the one we expected it to be.
It was our first visit to Hillsborough since the report was published regarding the 1989 FA Cup semi-final. It was a talking point on the way over and, as is always the case with me, a visit to the ground is never without a poignant thought for what happened that day.
|The new Keith Treacy opened the scoring|
We, of course, were in the Leppins Lane End of the ground yesterday although the lower tier seating in front of us was not in use.
There seemed to be a lack of confidence amongst our fans ahead of the game. Much of that, I think, was due to us going into the game without Charlie Austin. When you lose the player who has scored over half of your goals his absence is always going to be considered crucial.
Junior Stanislas is also currently ruled out and when the team news arrived there was also no Dean Marney named; he too had picked up an injury.
Brian Stock came in for Marney and Sam Vokes got his first start since the August defeat at Huddersfield as Austin's replacement. The only other change in personnel saw Martin Paterson back in for Treacy.
The line up was almost as expected but Danny Ings and Ross Wallace swapped positions with Ings going on the right and Wallace taking a central role.
As the teams warmed up, at what proved to be a very subdued Hillsborough on the three other sides of the ground, we, appropriately, were treated to a blasting of U2's New Year's Day although there was no sign of a blood red sky, nor were the crowd gathering in black and white.
Wednesday pushed forward in the opening exchanges and in only the fourth minute a poor mistake by Jason Shackell hung Danny Lafferty out to dry. The left back had no option but to foul Kieran Lee and take the booking.
The free kick came to nothing and that was the only danger to our goal in the opening quarter of an hour during which we could so easily have gone in front. Chris Kirkland saved from Paterson, Vokes had a shot blocked and then Kieran Trippier hammered a long range effort against the bar.
From the far end I wasn't sure whether Kirkland had got a touch to it, but given his injury record he'd probably have broken a finger or two if he'd got a touch to it such was the power in the shot.
We knew Wednesday would come back at us and they put us under some pressure in a five minute spell from a series of corners. They've got some seriously big men in there for set pieces, the likes of Anthony Gardner. Mamady Sidibe and the bloke with the hat on for starters, and they tried the old Stoke routine of putting a player on the goalkeeper.
In truth, we dealt with it all well. We defended each and every one of those set pieces without any real scare and, although we didn't know it then, they'd just had their best spell of the game.
Most of the action was soon down at the other end again. Shackell volleyed over, Vokes missed a golden opportunity and Chris McCann, who would be forced off with an injury just past the hour, saw a shot late in the half saved by Kirkland. That had been set up by Treacy with his first touch after coming on for the injured Paterson four minutes before the break.
It remained goalless at half time and that was probably the only real disappointment. "No Austin, no goals," someone said behind me. I think it might have been the 'fan' who had spent the entire first half berating Wallace before turning his attentions towards Treacy once he came on.
There was a bit of a flurry from the home side at the start of the second half but they never really threatened to get their noses in front, apart from one attack when we got two brilliant blocks in to deny them, nor did they ever look as though they were going to get on top in the game.
The game soon changed back in our favour but we just needed that goal. Wallace was first to come close with a well struck shot from some way out. That forced Kirkland into another save, possibly his best of the match, but he could do nothing a few minutes later when we did finally go in front.
Treacy got it after taking the ball from Wallace but we can't forget the contribution here of Lafferty or referee David Webb. Lafferty did so well as he came forward but the ball ran loose as he was fouled.
Webb, who had an excellent game, was in a good position and looked to see if there was an advantage. There was and he played it (take note Mr Ilderton). Wallace picked up the ball, Treacy took it from him and hit his shot into the bottom right hand corner with Kirkland unable to move for it.
This is a new Treacy. He celebrated the goal as if it were his first and after the game he heaped praise on his manager, whilst admitting he's not yet where he needs to be. "Me and the gaffer have been working closely since he came in," the winger said.
"He ironed out what problems I had and how I felt about the club and how I felt I was being treated. He has put a lot of things right and he has been different class for me and he will be the first to tell you that I have put the hard yards in and done everything I needed to do."
Within a minute it was almost 2-0 as Wallace forced Kirkland into action again but with quarter of an hour remaining the two former Preston players linked up again to take the game out of the reach of Wednesday.
Wallace, down the left wing close to the corner, back heeled the ball to Treacy. He took a touch and tried to cross only for home full back Lewis Buxton to block it.
Sometimes penalty decisions are not clear, even when the so called experts look at it from different angles and in slow motion. This one was as clear a handball from Buxton as you are ever likely to see. Webb, again very well positioned, really had no option and didn't hesitate. Hardly surprisingly there were no complaints from Wednesday.
With no Austin who would take it? Treacy took a look, Ings came forward and Trippier definitely wanted it. Then, up stepped Wallace, the senior player pulling rank.
He was one of two players who missed in the shoot out against Plymouth. This time he hit it straight down the middle before celebrating in front of the Burnley fans.
This game was won. Wednesday didn't look as though they had anything to get back at us with, and so it proved, and it could so easily have been three.
Right at the end, Marvin Bartley, on as a substitute, made a powerful run forward and set up Treacy who smashed his shot against the post with Bartley unable to get onto the rebound.
In the end, this was an easy win, albeit against a team that, on this performance, might still have a real battle to stay in the division. But we have to remember they went into this game full of confidence from recent results and we just didn't let them play.
It was three points, no more, and a good start to 2013, but there were certainly a lot of positives for the fans and the Ginger Mourinho to take out of this performance and victory.
The teams were;
Sheffield Wednesday: Chris Kirkland, Lewis Buxton, Miguel Llera, Anthony Gardner, Joe Mattock, David Prutton (Jermaine Johnson 72), Ross McCabe, Kieran Lee, Jeremy Helan, Michail Antonio, Mamady Sidibe (Chris O'Grady 59). Subs not used: Stephen Bywater, Taylor, Jones, Corry, Gary Madine.
Burnley: Lee Grant, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Danny Lafferty, Brian Stock (Marvin Bartley 90+1), Chris McCann (David Edgar 61), Danny Ings, Ross Wallace, Martin Paterson (Keith Treacy 41), Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Brian Jensen, Luke O'Neill, Kevin Long, Cameron Stewart.
Yellow Card: Danny Lafferty.
Referee: David Webb (Sunderland).