Burnley ease relegation fears by beating Palace for elusive away win
Burnley's first Premier League away win of the season finally arrived -- at the 18th time of asking -- as Ashley Barnes scored early and Andre Gray netted late to secure a 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace. Burnley move up to 14th place in the table and this result almost certainly secures their safety.
While Barnes' goal was against the run of play, Sean Dyche's side caused plenty of problems and could have easily scored more in the first half. Meanwhile, with Burnley clinging on in the last few minutes, Gray finished a perfect counter-attack strike to finally give travelling fans something to shout about, after they went up and down the country for little joy all season.
Tom Heaton had to make one sensational save from Damien Delaney, but the goalkeeper was mostly untested as he collected his 10th clean sheet of the campaign. In front of Heaton were excellent centre-back displays from Michael Keane and James Tarkowski.
Picking holes in a complete team performance would be unfair and an injury to under-appreciated left-back Stephen Ward, who was forced off before half-time, was the only bum note on a fantastic day.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Dyche's team selection was questioned, with top scorer Gray benched and creative midfielders Steven Defour, Robbie Brady and Johann Gudmundsson all left out. However, the decision to pair Barnes with Sam Vokes was inspired -- Palace's makeshift back line struggled to cope with the duo in the air -- and the returning Ashley Westwood shone in midfield in place of the suspended Joey Barton. Gray's late goal only served to further vindicate the manager.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Tom Heaton, 8 -- The captain's clean sheet was rarely in doubt, although he had to stretch himself to the full to tip away Delaney's looping effort.
DF Matt Lowton, 7 -- Battled a groin injury and was a warrior for his side when they needed to fight and scrap.
DF Michael Keane, 9 -- Almost flawless at the back, he kept Christian Benteke remarkably quiet. Arguably the best performance of a fine season, in which the England international has moved near the top of numerous summer shopping lists.
DF James Tarkowski, 8 -- Hardly put a foot wrong on his first Premier League start and also appeared to shrug off being hit by something thrown from the crowd while celebrating the opening goal.
DF Stephen Ward, 8 -- Provided the cross for Barnes' early goal but departed before the interval due to injury.
MF George Boyd, 7 -- Twice went down seeking a penalty, but managed to keep his feet to set up the second for Gray with a few minutes to go.
MF Ashley Westwood, 8 -- Played a key role in the opening goal and ensured that Barton was not especially missed in midfield.
MF Jeff Hendrick, 7 -- Industrious as usual but quiet on the ball and did not get forward enough, especially considering Westwood prefers to sit deeper.
MF Scott Arfield, 6 -- Worked hard but did not show enough quality overall, despite his decent set pieces.
FW Sam Vokes, 7 -- Caused Palace all sorts of problems with his size and strength but should have scored a decisive second when sent through on goal, only for a poor touch with his weaker left foot to let him down.
FW Ashley Barnes, 7 -- Scored his sixth goal of the season and had another chalked off in an all-action first half but faded after the interval. His goal was also slightly fortunate as he mishit his first effort only for the loose ball to sit up kindly.
DF Jon Flanagan, 7 -- Should have given away a penalty when he barged Wilfried Zaha but that was a rare lapse in a solid performance, especially given he had not featured in the league since December.
FW Andre Gray, NR -- Scored the second goal on the break when given the service he needs; he now has nine league goals this season and can be pleased with his debut top-flight campaign.