Despite finishing 11th last season, and selling Charlie Austin, Sean Dyche’s Burnley have been pushing for an automatic promotion spot all season. Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting at Turf Moor, Jamie Smith, editor of the No Nay Never blog, tells us what to expect from the home side…

Turf_Moor_-_Jimmy_Mac_Stand

What are/were your expectations for 2013-14?

You always hope to improve on last season, so top half. With Charlie Austin going just before the season started most of us thought it could be a long old year though, especially with no replacement coming in.

I’m pleased to have been proven massively wrong and Sam Vokes and Danny Ings have confounded all expectations by hitting 40 goals between them already. They didn’t get to double figures last season. They’ve been a revelation really, best attack in the league by a long way.

What is the fans’ general opinion of Sean Dyche?

The fact he’s gone from being called Yawn Dyche to Ginger Mourinho in less than a year just shows how far we’ve come. Dyche didn’t have a lot of money in the summer but used what he had well – if there was a better free signing in the Championship than David Jones I’m not aware of them – and Tom Heaton and Scott Arfield were freebies as well.

Dyche is working wonders with a squad hardly anyone predicted would be in the mix for the play-offs, let alone in the top two in the middle of February. I still have the odd minor doubt – he can sometimes be overly conservative and he usually leaves his subs later than I’d like – but on the whole I’m delighted to have been proven wrong about him.

I thought he was a safe appointment, but he’s turned out to be an inspired one.

Have there been many changes since last season?

A few. Chris McCann went on a free to Wigan and we signed Jones to replace him – a step up in class. Same in goal where Lee Grant went and Heaton came in. Arfield effectively replaced Martin Paterson, who also went on a free, and he’s outperformed him. Austin was the only sale and the only player we’ve signed for money since Dyche was appointed has been Ashley Barnes, who came from Brighton as cover for Ings and Vokes. Michael Kightly has been here all season on loan from Stoke.

The main difference has been a settled XI – we’ve played the same team five games in a row now. We’ve also got a strikeforce (dubbed Vings) that immediately gelled and has been on fire all season, the best right-back in the league (Kieran Trippier) and the best centre-back in the league (Jason Shackell). The only player that’s even close to being a weak link is Ben Mee at left-back and he’s been brilliant recently.

What can we expect tactically?

We tend to keep it tight for the first half – we’re very, very hard to beat – and use Trippier as our main creative outlet. That means the wingers usually don’t feature all that much, instead working hard to press the opposition. The plan is basically get the ball to the strikers in good areas and let them do the rest. It’s nothing complicated, a straightforward 4-4-2 with Ings given some licence to roam, while Vokes is more of a traditional target man, albeit one with a good touch for a big man, as they say.

We do go long to Vokes quite a bit, but they’re targeted long passes rather than aimless punts. He wins everything in the air that’s anywhere near him, and I mean everything. The only way to stop him is cut off the supply from Shackell.

 

At the back, Michael Duff wins the headers and Shackell does the rest. Shacks is the best reader of the game I’ve seen at Burnley for a long time.

If it’s not going well, we’ll put Barnes on for a wide player and go 4-3-3, but we tend to struggle for width when we do that.

Who are the key players to watch out for?

Ings and Trippier will both be in the Premier League next season if we don’t get promoted and could even both be future England internationals. Ings really is something else. He scores all types of goals, creates something from nothing regularly, has a great touch, finishes sharply, makes chances for others – he’s superb to watch. Trippier’s delivery is a major part of our play and his defending is top notch too.

In midfield, Dean Marney’s energy is a key reason behind our success as well. He’ll get in your faces with Jones a calming presence on the ball alongside him. Vokes is unplayable on his day, he’s just so strong in the air and powerful on the deck when he gets going.

What’s going to happen on Saturday?

We’ll win, hopefully! We haven’t lost at home since last March and have only lost three in the league all season, so a point is probably the best you can hope for.

Lots of teams are coming to the Turf to try to get a draw these days, so it could be a tight game unless Forest play a more open game. We proved at Loftus Road that we’ll score plenty of goals if a team comes at us, though. There’s a lot at stake but the lads look like they’re playing without feeling the pressure and if they carry on the way they have all season, we’ll go up.

I’m naturally a pessimist so I’ll predict a 2-2 draw but I’m quietly confident we’ll get all three points if we play to our best. We’ve conceded a few from set pieces recently so that’s a good chance for you to score.

Fingers crossed for a good, open match.


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And No Nay Never is well worth a read.

Image: By Adam Haworth (Jimmy Mac Stand Uploaded by Kafuffle) (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons


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