Fortress Turf Moor has come to Burnley’s protection once again. Uncertainty had begun to creep into Sean Dyche’s team and their Premier League status following a worrying run of form but another home triumph, their 10th of the season, against Stoke City edged them closer to survival.
George Boyd’s instinctive finish was sufficient to punish Mark Hughes’s side, who have badly lost their way since December, and again put into focus the contrast that is keeping Burnley afloat in the top flight. Of their 35 points, a Premier League record for the club, 32 have been collected at Turf Moor and only the top three of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have won more matches at home. Dyche could have designs on Europe if Burnley could replicate this form on their travels.
“If you’re a Burnley season ticket holder, then you are certainly getting your money’s worth,” he said. “I’ve lost chunks of my scalp scratching my head over why we haven’t won away this season but our performances at home have been fantastic. There has been a lot of noise about us going seven games without a win but five were away and the other two at home were against the top two so it has been difficult. We played well considering we were coming off the back of an awkward run but it was a goal worthy of winning the game.”
That was undoubtedly true and Burnley’s resistance when the substitute Peter Crouch led a late aerial assault was also impressive, although Hughes legitimately lamented the first-half profligacy that cost Stoke dearly. There was no shortage of attacking intent and commitment from both teams but a painful lack of quality in the final third helped explain their recent struggles.
Stoke, now with only four wins in 17 league games, created the better openings before half-time but Marko Arnautovic squandered two clear sights of Tom Heaton’s goal to leave his supporters aghast. Burnley needed the reprieves having slipped from 10th to 15th, and only five points above the relegation zone before kick-off, since their previous win, over Leicester City in January.
Arnautovic should have given Stoke the lead when a misplaced corner from Burnley enabled Charlie Adam and Saido Berahino to break on the counterattack. The Austria international was played clean through on goal by Berahino but a dreadful first touch gave the ball straight to Heaton. He was given a second bite on the stroke of half-time, again from a delightful Berahino touch, but attempted to pass back to the striker instead of shooting and wasted another opportunity.
Hughes said: “We should have converted at least one chance in the first half and that would have made things difficult for Burnley. Our performance was OK but we lacked the quality and guile to pick the right pass in the final third and when you don’t take those chances you are always susceptible.”
The second half began in similarly ominous, as well as comical, fashion when Adam attempted to take a corner, tripped on his approach, stumbled knee-first on to the ball and handled to concede a free-kick to Burnley. At least he and Hughes managed to see the funny side. Their smiles were removed, however, when the hosts produced a rare moment of quality to score.
Jeff Hendrick was the provider with an incisive run from central midfield into the Stoke penalty area beyond two weak challenges. The Republic of Ireland midfielder crossed low from the left and Boyd, from 12 yards out, swept a first-time shot beyond Lee Grant’s despairing dive. “It was a sublime finish and a great set-up from Jeff,” said Dyche.