Prior to the Premier League clash with QPR at Turf Moor, Clarets midfielder Scott Arfield articulated his desire to add more goals to his game.
“Goals are the hardest thing to come by as a midfield player but you can’t put all the demand on the strikers,” he said. “It’s up to me to try and get the goals.”
And he did exactly that just 12 minutes in to the fixture. From Ben Mee’s throw the Scotsman found an aperture between Joey Barton and full back Mauricio Isla, skipped past Richard Dunne inside the area and shaped a beautiful effort around Robert Green that nestled in the far corner.
The 26-year-old, who netted nine times in all competitions last term, hadn’t scored in 20 outings. However, his first strike since his opener against Chelsea in August, gave the hosts the start they craved.
Sean Dyche’s side had started with great energy and fluidity, forcing the initiative. Striker Danny Ings was adjudged to have strayed marginally offside when threaded through by Trippier while referee Andre Marriner ignored appeals when Clint Hill seemingly handled Kieran Trippier’s cross just outside the box.
The home side continued to press and George Boyd manufactured space ahead from Dean Marney’s pass but, after side-stepping Dunne, his left-footed attempt failed to test Green.
Burnley’s perseverance paid off moments later when Arfield notched his second of the season, bending beautifully in to the corner with Steven Caulker obstructing Green’s view.
Barton’s drive cleared the bar as QPR sought an immediate response before Charlie Austin, who scored in the corresponding fixture against his former club last month at Loftus Road, rattled the outside of the post following Eduardo Vargas’s pull back.
It took an exceptional save from Green to prevent the Clarets doubling their advantage; the one-time England international falling to his right to thwart David Jones despite being unsighted from the midfielder’s deceptive set-piece.
After Hill touched Adel Taarabt’s corner wide, the visitors were gifted a way back in to the game when a combination of Austin’s heavy touch and Marney’s outstretched leg resulted in the striker hitting the turf and Marriner pointing to the spot.
Austin stepped up and kept his nerve when firing to his left hand side to find the corner, registering his 13th Premier League goal of the campaign.
For a moment the pendulum swung in the away side’s favour and only a stunning save from Heaton prevented Vargas’s marvellous control and volley from finding the top corner.
Burnley, though, hit back and restored their lead in the 37th minute. Ings, who replaced Austin on his Clarets debut against Barnsley on home soil on Valentine’s Day in 2012, cushioned Ashley Barnes’s expertly executed pass, took the ball beyond Caulker and Dunne before slotting past Green. Defender Hill did his past to stop the striker netting his sixth goal of the term when racing to the goal line, but to no avail.
The beginning of the second half replicated the momentum of the first, with Burnley on the front foot.
From Mee’s throw in to the penalty area, Barnes swivelled instinctively and hammered a shot at goal left-footed only for Green to plunge to his left and beat the effort to safety.
Shortly after Heaton spilled Barton’s awkward drive, with Austin pouncing on the rebound from an offside position, before Mee somehow failed to connect with Trippier’s inviting corner deep inside the six yard box.
After Heaton comfortably gathered Vargas’s header from Taarabt’s set-piece, the Clarets began to pull holes in QPR’s backline with ease.
Ings orchestrated the onslaught when slicing wide of the near post on the break, though Caulker did well to force the striker to pull the trigger from a more uncompromising angle.
And then celebrations from the home contingent were muted quite controversially when Barnes’s strike was wiped out. Marriner had seemingly pointed to the centre circle when Barnes rifled in to the roof of the net, but then opted to bring play back for what could’ve only been an infringement on goalkeeper Green. Either way, the Clarets were understandably aggrieved at the decision.
That would be Barnes’s last contribution of the fixture as Dyche introduced Sam Vokes, fresh from his first senior goal in over nine months in the FA Cup third round tie against Spurs.
At that point Harry Redknapp went for bust, throwing Bobby Zamora and new man Mauro Zarate in to the fray. But that gung-ho attitude only exacerbated the away side’s tactical inepitude and played in to the Clarets’ hands.
Ings took a heavy touch to spurn a one-on-one with Green from Arfield’s incisive pass before the QPR stopper produced an excellent reflex save to deny Michael Keane just days after the defender signed for the Clarets on a permanent basis from Manchester United.
Keane then missed a glorious opportunity when pulling away at the back post to meet Trippier’s sublime centre, but his header was wayward.
And when Arfield’s first time shot was blocked by Caulker in the closing moments from Ings’s threaded pass, you wondered whether such profligacy would haunt the hosts.
It nearly did in the closing stages when Caulker rose to meet Isla’s corner but Heaton flicked over the bar.
That save ensured the Hoops became the first team to lose their first 10 away games of a top-flight season since Sunderland in 1964-65.
More importantly, Dyche’s men clambered back out of the division’s bottom three ahead of their next Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace.