Retribution at the Reebok

A poisonous night at the Reebok followed within the month as Chung-Yong Lee scored the only goal in a galling night for thousands of embittered Clarets.

The script suggested it would be a long time before Bolton and Burnley were back on a level playing field.

A sense of retribution almost arrived this time last season when David Edgar took a second half lead in front of a huge Burnley following.

On that day, Coyle’s replacement, Dougie Freedman, made a double substitution that turned the game in Bolton’s favour, as our play-off challenge hit the buffers.

Scott Arfield delivered a superb second half performance

But, like so often in football, things have a habit of leveling out, and last night the Clarets put their Reebok misery – and any associated inferiority complex – behind them, leaving Horwich with all three points and the travelling supporters in fine voice.

They achieved it with a dogged ‘Dyche-inspired’ display that is becoming the hallmark of this admirable Burnley side.  This wasn’t the prettiest night of football, nor did it need to be, but it was a performance that reflected this team’s unquenchable qualities of teamwork, passion and resilience. The essential ‘framework’ which Dyche has harped on about since the first day he walked through the Gawthorpe doors, was there for all to see.

The three points not only strengthened Burnley’s improbable case for a return to the top tier, but plunged Bolton, and a vacuous Reebok Stadium, towards the gloomy prospect of League One football next season. 

If Dyche’s men carried some of the momentum of the QPR performance into the home game with Millwall on Saturday, there was little evidence of this continuing in the first 10 minutes.  Freedman’s pre-match insistence that Bolton would take the game to Burnley appeared to be the case.

There was a heart-in-mouth moment in the second minute when Tom Heaton slipped as he went to deal with a underhit Jason Shackell backpass but thankfully Kieran Trippier cleared the danger.

Freedman had clearly identified the danger man Danny Ings ahead of the match – even explaining how he nearly signed him a few times.  David Wheater wasted no time in trying to curb his progress, receiving the first yellow card of the game for a late challenge on the Burnley striker in the fifth minute.

Bolton were a threat down the left with Chris Eagles looking determined to put in a good performance against his former employers.  From one such raid he worked the ball back to that man Lee again, but thankfully his shot deflected off Ben Mee and hit the Burnley crossbar. 

The home side looked menacing.  Jay Spearing was pulling strings in midfield and recent signing Liam Trotter looked to impose himself. 

Kicking into the amassed away following, Burnley’s first chance of note came in the 14yh minute when Ings headed a long ball onto Arfield on the edge of the box but he directed a half volley wide of Bogdan’s right hand post.

Heaton was called upon at the other end when a flurry of three corners finally saw Trotter win a header at the far post and the Burnley keeper made a smart diving save.

Trippier had a testing time in the first period, first from Eagles and even the rangy Jutkiewicz got past him at one point but every cross was smothered as Burnley’s defensive shape held firm.

Shackell was guilty of one misjudgement as Bolton threatened but when the referee played the advantage, Michael Duff saved his captain’s bacon with a perfect recovering tackle on Jutkiewicz.  It was a typical example of one of Burnley’s many partnerships working in tandem.  Shackell, meanwhile, was booked for his indiscretion when the ball finally went out of play.

I was happy to hear the half-time whistle, safe in the knowledge that Bolton’s early bluster had been contained and although we hardly troubled Bogdan’s goal, one can always sense that this Burnley team will improve after a Dyche teamtalk.

And so it proved, in fact it took about 30 seconds for the Clarets to create their best chance of the game so far.  Ings laid the ball back for David Jones and his excellent goalbound shot from the edge of the box was parried away by Bogdan, the ball only narrowly eluding Kightly with the follow-up.

Spearing took a knock after a clash with Ings early in the second half and the former Liverpool man became an increasingly peripheral figure.  Marney, Jones and the irrepressible Arfield – who grew into the game to deliver a superb second half performance - really began to dominate the midfield.  Ben Mee had a rare sight of goal after a one-two with Arfield but his low shot was easily saved. 

Burnley’s increasing pressure told in the 58th minute when a slick passage of play saw Marney play a incisive ball for Arfield into the inside right channel.  The perky Scot cut across Ream and played a deadly ball across the six-yard line.  At first it looked as though it might just evade everyone but then there was Vokes at the far post to fire home, sending the Burnley fans at the other end of the ground into raptures.  

E-I E-I E-I O resounded from the away end.  Freedman panicked, making an immediate double substitution of Mark Davies and Andre Moritz for the hapless Medo Kamara and Trotter. 

Eagles had turned from a threat into a liability.  One terrible attempted cross was met with ironic jeers as a growing belief engulfed the away end.

“You’re not Danny Ings” was the chant of the night. 

The comparison with last year’s match was typified when the injured substitute Moritz was himself replaced 12 minutes after coming on.  Nothing was going right for Bolton, confidence was sapped and the natives were heading for the exits.

A good Burnley counter saw Ings and Vokes combine well with a one-two but the former over-ran the ball. It was as near as Burnley came to extending their lead. 

My mind cast to Bolton's recent comeback at home to Forest when they clawed a goal back to draw 1-1. But in truth, they never came close.  An Eagles free-kick into the wall about all they could muster. 

We have become very good at seeing games out and Dyche’s ability to eke out wins at teams who have held the Indian sign over us in recent years – see Leeds, Ipswich and now Bolton (we last beat Wanderers at Burnden Park in 1985) – is a hugely positive sign. 

Hopefully this trait will continue with a certain game on March 9th, but not looking beyond the next one - Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth on Saturday – is a policy that has served us well so far this season. 

Bolton: Bogdan, Baptiste, Wheater, Mills, Ream, Lee, Spearing, Kamara (Davies 60), Trotter (Moritz 60), Eagles; Jutkiewicz. Subs (not used) Lonergan Knight, Pratley, Moritz (Danns 72). 

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee; Arfield, Jones, Marney, Kightly (Barnes); Vokes, Ings. Subs (not used) Cisak, Lafferty, Wallace, Stanislas, Edgar, Long. 

Attendance: 16, 439