Burnley record their first away win of the season to leave Crystal Palace staring nervously over their shoulder

Luke Brown
Ashley Barnes celebrates scoring for Burnley against Crystal Palace: Getty

The last time Burnley won a Premier League match away from home, Great Britain was still in the European Union, David Cameron was still the Prime Minister, and the chances of relegation-threatened Leicester City winning the Premier League appeared as remote as those of reality television star Donald Trump being elected to the White House.

How times change. But at Selhurst Park on Saturday, Burnley finally ended a run of 17 away matches that had seem them accrue just four points, Ashley Barnes and Andre Gray scoring in a win that could well have just secured their Premier League status for another season.

And they did it by playing Sam Allardyce at his own game. A smash and grab victory, during which Burnley dug deep, played strictly on the counter-attack, and made Palace’s patched-up defence pay for its sloppiness.

Palace will contend that Burnley also had the benefit of several dubious decisions in their favour, but in truth the home side carved out far too few opportunities and looked tired after their third game in six days. Not that the sight of a number of weary players staggering their way through this match did not detract from the game’s entertainment value: it added to it.

The day’s preceding four fixtures had featured just two goals between them, a meagre total that was very nearly surpassed in the opening fifteen minutes alone at Selhurst Park, during a typically error-strewn relegation scrap.

Palace, sat above Burnley in the table and on a superb run of form under Allardyce, started better with Christian Benteke twice going close to breaking the deadlock. Only the arm of Jeff Hendrick prevented his powerful header from testing Tom Heaton, while his stinging drive from 20-yards forced the keeper into a smart stop just moments later.

Palace started on the front foot (Getty)

But they couldn’t remain on the front-foot forever, and their problems began as soon as Burnley stepped foot in their half, with the pugilistic pairing of Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes quickly causing nuisances of themselves. This was compounded by centre-back pairing Martin Kelly and Damien Delaney frequently playing as if the ball had a timed explosive device sewn into its core, with Scott Dann, James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho all greatly missed.

It therefore came as little surprise to see Burnley break the deadlock with their first meaningful attack of the match. A haphazard long punt forward caused havoc in the Palace defence, with Ward then robbing Milivojevic out on the left and flashing a low drive across the face of goal.

The ball ricocheted through the thicket of legs and initially hit Barnes in the shins, but so slow was the defence to react that the striker had time to control the ball at the second time of asking, crashing a low shot beyond Wayne Hennessy at close-range.

Palace were rocked. On and off the pitch, it appeared, as Burnley defender James Tarkowski was struck by a lighter flung from the crowd while celebrating, in an incident which is sure to merit an FA investigation. And they were almost two down when another long boot into the box left their defence bewildered.

How is it possible that Palace accrued even 19 Premier League points before signing Sakho on loan? In his absence, every long dump forward into the Palace box was made to seem as dangerous as a cross from Cristiano Ronaldo, and it was only a matter of time before Barnes had the ball in the back of the net again. Michael Keane assisted him, nodding the ball into his path for the striker to again slot home from six-yards.

Only this time, his celebration was not cut short by an errant lighter, but by Bobby Madley’s whistle. After exchanging some words with his linesman, Madley disallowed the goal, with Barnes judged to have controlled Keane’s headed knock-down. Replays showed it was the correct decision.

Palace were owed that slice of fortune, as just moments previously an incorrect offside decision had spared Burnley a certain red-card. Jason Puncheon’s defence-bisecting through ball sent Wilfred Zaha haring clear, only for the forward to be floored by the onrushing Heaton. Had the linesman had kept his flag down, it would have been an undoubted red.

That wasn’t the only suspect piece of officiating that had Selhurst up in arms. At the start of the second-half, Jon Flanagan in particular escaped censure for more than one crunching tackle, with Madley’s eventual decision to finally award Zaha a free-kick resulting in a cheer so loud Selhurst Park's neighbours must have mistook it for a goal.

Zaha was repeatedly fouled by Flanagan (Getty)

Fuelled by this sense of injustice, Palace pressed forward: Townsend and Zaha were both lively down the flanks while Delaney almost atoned for his suspect defending with a superb volley from the 25-yards out, which Heaton tipped behind with a flying save.

All too aware that, at this stage, attack was not his best form of defence but his only form, Allardyce gambled, with strikers Loic Remy and Frazier Campbell chucked on in desperation. But still Zaha remained their foremost attacking outlet, and the forward was dumbfounded when he was not awarded a penalty by Madley in the closing stages.

Trapping the ball in the penalty area and looking to wrong-foot the decidedly clumsy Flanagan with a Cruyff turn, Zaha caught the defender’s trailing leg and hit the deck, turning in expectation to the referee. Once again, Madley was unmoved.

Gray made sure of the result with a cool finish late on (Getty)

It was Palace’s last real chance before Gray secured all three points for the visitors. George Boyd pounced on a sloppy pass in the middle of the park and released the substitute with a sublime outside-of-the-boot pass.

Taking the ball into the box, Gray held his nerve and fired confidently into the bottom-left corner of the net, surely securing Burnley’s Premier League status and handing them their first away league win of the season.

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