Burnley 2 Huddersfield Town 1 - Gray double sinks battling Terriers

Chris Powell.
Chris Powell.
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A FIRST-HALF double from the excellent Andre Gray saw Burnley continue their eye-catching recent form at the expense of Huddersfield Town, despite a spirited late rally from the visitors.

Gray struck the opener after 12 minutes, firing home a coolly-taken penalty after being tripped by Joel Lynch, with referee Oliver Langford having little option but to point to the spot.

The Clarets marksmen, brought in for hefty £9m fee, added a second just before the break, with his low angled strike beating Jed Steer, an effort that the loanee custodian should have done better with.

The Clarets, on a rich vein of recent form, crowned the third anniversary of Sean Dyche’s tenure at the club with three points, but given a few scares in the final fifteen minutes by Town, who pulled one back four minutes from time, courtesy of a Michael Duff own goal.

Despite Town pressing for a leveller, Burnley held out to strengthen their claims for promotion

After losing to one of the division’s heavyweights in Derby County last weekend, Town again found themselves on the wrong side of a scoreline against a side who will surely be in the shake-up for prizes at the season’s business end in Burnley.

Not that Chris Powell’s side could not be accused of lack of spirit, with their best spelll on the game comfortably coming in the final 15 minutes, with Tom Heaton belatedly called into action to make smart saves to deny sub Nahki Wells and Emyr Huws.

Heaton was finally beaten when Duff turned in a cross from replacement Kyle Dempsey, but despite a nervy finale, the Clarets held out.

That late rally at least provided some encouragement for another tough away-day at Reading in the week for Town.

Town made two changes to their starting line-up, with Muzzy Carayol, as expected, getting the nod in place of the injured Sean Scannell, out with a hamstring injury sustained in last weekend’s 2-1 home loss to Derby County.

Meanwhile, Jamie Paterson stepped in for his 100th career appearance in place of Nahki Wells, who has to settle for a place on the bench.

Academy products Duane Holmes, Philip Billing, Will Boyle and Flo Bojaj are all among the replacements for Town, who came into the game having won just once at Turf Moor since February 1972.

The Clarets, whose manager Sean Dyche celebrated his third anniversary in charge this week, namer an unchanged line-up to the one who beat arch-rivals Blackburn Rovers 1-0 at Ewood Park seven days ago.

Dyche’s side entered the game in pristine form, having lost just once in their last ten league outings, with the Lancastrians seeking their fourth win in five matches.

Included in their starting line-up was ex-Town player Scott Arfield, the derby hero last Saturday with his sweet strike sinking Blackburn.

Town enjoyed a bright enough start, with a semi-threatening moment seeing Harry Bunn emerge with the ball in a dangerous position on the left, with his fierce shot deflected for a corner.

But the visitors’ competent was undone when they conceded a poor penalty 12 minutes in.

Tendayi Darikwa’s slick pass was latched onto down the right by Gray, whose pace got him away from Lynch, whose injudicious trip in the box in attempting to redeem the situation felled the former Brentford striker in full flight for a clear penalty.

Gray coolly sent Steer the wrong way for his fifth goal of the campaign.

Afforded a platform, Burnley proceeded to control most of the half, with their work ethic self-evident with the movement of Gray in particularly causing Town - and more especially Lynch - problems.

A half-chance in front of the away fans in the David Fishwick Stand saw Ishmael Miller fire high and wide before an important Michael Duff challenge denied Harry Bunn on the left.

Burnley gradually assumed command, with Sam Vokes’ shot saved by Steer before an important block from Mark Hudson denied Arnfield who had ghosted past Muzzy Carayol on the left.

Good work by George Boyd then saw him create space with an inviting cross flashing acorss the six-yard box before the former Hull player brought out a terrific one-handed reaction save from Steer after being teed up by the dangerous Gray - with his low shot destined for the corner.

At the other end, Town failed to trouble Clarets keeper Tom Heaton and the hosts doubled their money just before the interval on 43 minutes.

Gray added his second to complete an excellent half for the frontman, outstripping Mark Hudson after latching onto Vokes’ pass with a low shot going through the defences of Steer rather too easy.

With it all to do on the restart, Town - who made no changes at the interval - had the second period’s first half-chance with Miller turning and seeing an optimistic shot on the turn flash wide after holding the ball up well under pressure from Michael Keane.

Decent build-up play then ended with Vokes firing a 20-yarder into the midriff of Steer - seeking to redeem himself after softly letting in Gray’s second - as the Clarets sought a killer third.

The next to threaten was Keane, whose looping header following David Jones’ corner landed on the roof of the net.

Town forced several corners, but couldn’t prize open a strong Burnley rearguard.

Dean Whitehead soon received a caution after bringing down Gray, who clearly had his sights set on taking the matchball after haring away on the halfway line, with the veteran lucky that Jason Davidson was behind him and so preventing a red card.

Barton’s free-kick from distance was held by Steer.

Gray almost claimed a merited hat-trick, but Barton’s cross was just too high for him.

Home captain Heaton was enjoying a quiet afternoon, with a half-chance in front of him ending with Bunn’s half volley sailing wide after a corner wasn’t cleared.

Bunn was soon penalised for a foul and amid the commotion after a Jones’ free-kick wasn’t cleared, Hudson had to clear for a corner after the ball floated towards the net.

Commendably, Town did not get disheartened or give in and contrived several clear-cut chances in the final 15 minutes.

Substitute Wells, on for Miller, volleyed over when well placed before his low shot brought a neat save low down by Heaton.

The Clarets custodian soon produced a smart save to tip away Emyr Huws’ stinging shot, clearing the follow-up under pressure as Town sought a route back.

Soon after, Martin Cranie was afforded a great chance in front of goal following Paterson’s free-kick, but his header was straight at Heaton.

A Duff own goal then set up an anxious finale, with Bunn firing over when well placed, but the points were Burnley’s.

Defeat meant it was back-to-back losses for Powell’s Huddersfield but the Terriers boss was impressed with the way his players had rallied after the break.

“Andre Gray showed his class with the second goal, that’s why you pay the money and get a player who did very well last year and it’s a good buy for Sean and for Burnley,” he said.

“But my players did what I asked them at half-time and maybe if there was another five minutes, we possibly could have got something from it.

“Maybe the equaliser came a bit too late but I thought our second-half performance was needed after the first half and I got a very good response.

“I’m proud of their response and how they stuck to the task in the second period.

“When you look at it, Tom Heaton made a couple of saves. We had a couple of chances that we put wide.

“My players are adamant it wasn’t a penalty in the first half but it was given.”

Burnley: Heaton, Darikwa, Duff, Keane, Mee, Arfield, Jones, Barton, Boyd, Vokes, Gray (C Long 87). Substitutes unused: Gilks, Ward, Taylor, Lowton, Hennings, Kightly.

Huddersfield Town: Steer, Cranie, Hudson, Lynch, Davidson, Carayol (Dempsey 72), Whitehead (Bojaj 90), Huws, Bunn, Paterson, Miller (Wells 59). Substitutes unused: Murphy, Holmes, Billing, Doyle.

Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).

Attendance: 16,749 (1,309 Huddersfield fans).