Midfielder David Jones struck his first league goal for the Clarets in spectacular fashion in a 2-0 win against 10 man Derby County at Turf Moor.
Jones looped an exquisite volley over former Clarets stopper Lee Grant just before the half-hour to open the scoring against the Rams, who had Chris Martin dismissed in relatively controversial circumstances, before Dean Marney tapped home from close range in the second half to seal maximum points.
The three points, which extended Burnley’s unbeaten home record to 21, saw Sean Dyche’s side open up a five point gap over their promotion rivals, while QPR, Forest and Reading all dropped points.
Derby boss Steve McClaren sent his players in to the fixture with the clear instruction of bullying the hosts in to submission. And it took the Clarets some time to adapt to the visitor’s physicality, though their insistence on committing infringements took away from their own potential threat.
Leading scorer Danny Ings, without a goal since the 3-1 home win against Millwall, almost replicated his strike in the victory at Pride Park, when forcing County skipper Richard Keogh on the back foot before pulling his left-footed effort wide from the edge of the box.
The striker was then integral in the Clarets’s next attack when slipping the ball through the legs of Craig Forsyth to beat the full-back at the bye-line and squaring for Sam Vokes who saw his effort blocked by Keogh.
After Martin picked up his first yellow for persistent fouling - with a swinging arm in the face of Kieran Trippier - Marney’s drilled effort was deflected over the angle by Forsyth after Will Hughes failed to cut out Ings’s penetrative pass.
As the home side limited County’s attacking threat, the Clarets started to spring from deep and it was Ings’s drive and cutting pass behind Andre Wisdom that manufactured space for Michael Kightly but the loanee’s cross was swept away by Jake Buxton under pressure from Vokes. Ings, incidentally, was screaming for the return pass when in acres of space inside the area.
Eventually, Burnley’s patience and perseverence was rewarded and it was a goal befitting any game at any level. Kightly’s endeavour, when grounded by Wisdom, saw the winger regain possession as the full-back lost his footing, and his pass was helped on with a nonchalantly scooped pass from Ings, and from 18 yards out Jones cushioned the ball on his thigh before lifting a perfect volley over Grant that crashed over the line via the underside of the bar.
The Clarets were ahead and comfortable, but referee Robert Madley’s next decision questionably made the home side’s task that little bit easier.
Madley, who was the villain of the Carling Cup Fourth Round tie against West Ham when awarding the Hammers a couple of contentious penalty decisions, opted to show Martin a second yellow and consequent red card when the striker was deemed to have dived under the challenge of Trippier. Jeff Hendrick tucked the ball in to the corner as the ball broke for him, but Madley seemed adamant on his view of the incident and pulled play back as he sent Martin packing.
After the interval, McClaren withdrew Johnny Russell and introduced Conor Sammon to neccessitate County’s need for a target man. And, once Hughes was booked for pulling back Marney, the striker went within inches of putting Derby level.
When his cross was returned to him on the angle of the area, the striker’s stinging left-footed drive took a hazardous touch off Jason Shackell and almost slipped beneath Tom Heaton but, having fallen on the attempt, the keeper was able to recover and pull the ball back off the line.
To Derby’s credit, they came at the Clarets in the second half despite their disadvantage and crafted space between the hosts’s rearguard and midfield.
Firstly Simon Dawkins took a touch to orchestrate space on the angle of the penalty area before thumping an effort in to the arms of Heaton at his near post, while Hendrick dragged a shot wide as the Clarets failed to close the midfielder down.
But the away side struggled to get inbehind the Clarets, despite ample possession ahead of Burnley’s backline, which afforded the Clarets the licence to pick them off when the occasion arose.
That happened when Kightly broke from his own half, combined with Vokes on the edge of the box, before Arfield fired wide from the edge of the box.
Dawkins was then replaced by Patrick Bamford as Forsyth lay grounded from Ings’s strike that struck the defender in the face and the former MK Dons man was involved immediately as he pounced on Ben Mee’s mistake and fizzed an effort just over the bar.
However, any realistic chance the Rams had of salvaging anything from the game evaporated in the 68th minute as the Clarets extended their advantage.
After Ross Wallace replaced Kightly, the hosts prospered from a training ground corner routine. Jones delivered, Michael Duff dummied, and once Ings’s shot cannoned off Eustace, Marney coolly touched the ball past Grant.
Sammon pulled an attempt wide of the far post from an acute angle when profiting from Shackell’s slip before Craig Bryson was introduced at the expense of Eustace.
Bryson, believed to have a slight knock, had a positive effect on the fixture, with many of a Derby persuasion questioning his omission from McClaren’s starting XI, as he looked assured on the ball, was economical in possession and had the vision to orchestrate much of the away side’s play. He just didn’t have enough time to make the necessary impact needed.
Ings was replaced by Ashley Barnes and Arfield was withdrawn to make way for Junior Stanislas as time ran down, though Vokes still forced a couple of chances when scooping over from Wallace’s centre and glancing a header just wide.
The win, coupled with Blackburn’s 4-0 defeat to Bolton at the Reebok Stadium, sets the Clarets up nicely for next Sunday’s highly anticipated East Lancashire derby at Ewood Park.