The Premier League is so tantalisingly close for Burnley supporters that they have already started dreaming of trips to Anfield, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge next season – and it is all thanks to Sean Dyche.
Clarets fans have christened Dyche the “Ginger Mourinho” although whether the Chelsea manager would have been able to mastermind a promotion challenge with a budget the size of Burnley’s is perhaps testament to Dyche’s burgeoning reputation.
Indeed, the 42-year-old’s side were tipped to be among the teams battling at the other end of the table rather than heading to the top flight for the first time since 2009-10.
Jettisoned by Watford in 2012 after a change of ownership, Dyche has moulded a Burnley team largely without star names, built around graft and camaraderie. “This group of players have deserved to be where they are, second in the table with lots of points,” said Dyche.
“Two points a game is a strong marker. We have done that all season. Cardiff finished promoted with 87 so to get 86 with three to go is a powerful message.
“It’s another part of the business we’ve taken care of. We’ve had to stay focused and I thought the players did that well.”
Burnley’s task at Bloomfield Road looked a straightforward one against a Blackpool side that have been in freefall since the end of last year.
The home side had won only two of their previous 26 matches before this encounter, although with caretaker player-manager Barry Ferguson in the starting line-up they looked decidedly more organised than in recent weeks when he has directed operations from the dugout.
However, the visitors almost profited from a gift in the opening stages when Michael Kightly latched on to Jack Robinson’s backpass to go clean through on goal, but Blackpool goalkeeper Matt Gilks narrowed the angle to save well.
Defensive stability has been the bedrock of Burnley’s impressive campaign with only 35 goals conceded this season, the fewest in the Championship. And with Blackpool packing the midfield with tangerine shirts, leaving David Goodwillie as a lone striker, there was little between the sides in a fairly even first half.
The Clarets had more of their familiar swagger back after the interval and Michael Duff shaved the post with a shot after he received the ball from a David Jones corner.
Moments later Kightly gave the travelling supporters what they craved with a fine strike.
The winger cut in from the right flank and played a one-two with Dean Marney before curling a brilliant shot into the top-left corner of the net. “It was a sublime finish from Michael. It was a fantastic goal,” added Dyche.
Burnley’s goal also sparked angry scenes among the home fans, disillusioned with chairman Karl Oyston’s perceived lack of investment in the team.
Blackpool supporters threw numerous tennis balls and tangerines on to the pitch – a ploy used by Seville fans a few years ago – which delayed the contest by several minutes.
“The fans have got every right to demonstrate,” said Blackpool interim manager Ferguson.
“If they don’t like the chairman or the board. I just would rather they do it before the game or after the game. At that stage, we were on top of them.”
The tension in the crowd at the club’s plight transferred itself to the dugout as well with Blackpool coach Bob Malcolm sent to the stands by the referee after he pushed substitute Stephen Dobbie in the face for taking too long to get ready to come on.
“There’s no problem there,” Ferguson said. “Tensions are a bit high, I have no problem with that, they are both passionate guys.”
Blackpool almost nicked a point at the end when Andy Halliday’s volley, seemingly destined for the top corner, was headed over the crossbar by Kieran Trippier but ultimately they could not spoil the Burnley party.
Blackpool (5-3-1-1): Gilks; McMahon, McGahey, Cathcart, Basham, Robinson (Halliday, 44); Osbourne (Dobbie, 70), Ferguson, Perkins; Bishop; Goodwillie (Almond, 56). Substitutes not used: Haroun, Keogh, Barkhuizen, Grandin.
Burnley (4-4-2): Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney (Baird, 82), Jones, Kightly (Stanislas, 68); Barnes, Ings (Edgar, 90). Substitutes not used: Wallace, Cisak, Treacy, Long.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)