Vokes ends long wait for Burnley as derby rivalry with Blackburn refuses to die
Burnley 1 Blackburn Rovers 1
As comments go, it was up there with the last words of the American Civil War general, John Sedgwick who said: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance..." Burnley were losing, time was almost up and their manager, Sean Dyche, decided to throw on his No 9, Sam Vokes, to a shout from behind him of: "Why is Vokesy coming on? What's he going to do in five minutes?"
What Vokes did was to score Burnley's first home goal in an east Lancashire derby since Boxing Day 1978. When his header from Junior Stanislas's free-kick struck the corner of the net, there was no sound like it.
A vast roar that seemed to come from the guts of the stadium, accompanied by a wave of V-signs, was directed at those who had travelled in fleets of double-decker buses past the no-mans land of Accrington and Oswaldtwhistle to what in Blackburn is regarded as the very heart of darkness.
To understand the noise and the standing ovation that followed the final whistle, you had to know that, although the East Lancashire derby is among the most intense Europe has to offer, it is also one of the most one-sided. It is 33 years since Burnley won it and this was a game they had dominated and appeared to be losing.
There are very few chants in this fixture that are printable or accurate but the song "Same old Rovers, beating Burnley" that rang out after Jordan Rhodes's 68th-minute diving header had deflected home Mauro Formica's cross would have seemed hurtfully true. Dyche had told his players before kick-off that they would never have a better chance to win this fixture. "We were dominant at every level," he said. "We thoroughly deserved the minimum of a point and probably three."
As Blackburn warmed up, the public address system played "A Town Called Malice" which The Jam released in 1982, three years after Burnley's last victory and the year before their fans attempted to smash up the terracing at Ewood Park in retaliation to Simon Garner's winner.
Except for the mile around Turf Moor, Burnley did not look especially malicious. From the top of the main stand, the sunlight shimmered off the slate roofs and beyond the chimney smoke, the Pennines were smeared with frost. The football, however, seldom threatened to match the beauty of the backdrop.
It had been so long since Burnley scored here in this fixture that every attack – and there were plenty – drew screams of anticipation when anything fancy was attempted. One by one the chances came and went; blazed into the Blackburn fans by Ross Wallace, driven into the body of Blackburn's immense centre-half, Scott Dann, or tipped away at full stretch by Paul Robinson. Eventually, the former England international was beaten by what Henning Berg called "one free-kick too many".
Their years among the elite have ensured the Blackburn manager was able to call upon ability not available to his opposite number. Charlie Austin's header would have beaten most goalkeepers in this division and Robinson's instincts, when saving Martin Paterson's long-range shot, were of Premier League quality.
At the other end, Rhodes may have sent his first shot of the day halfway to Skipton but he is a footballer who cost Blackburn £8m and the way he took his chance for his 13th goal of the season suggested why. The chants from the packed stands may have been raucous and deafening but the money also talked.
Goals. Burnley: Vokes 89. Rovers: Rhodes 68
Burnley (4-1-4-1): Grant; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Stock (Ings, 75); Wallace, Marney, McCann (Vokes, 86), Paterson (Stanislas, 75); Austin. Substitutes not used: Jensen (gk), Edgar,Laffertey, Bartley.
Blackburn (4-4-2): Robinson; Henley, Dann, Hanley, Martin Olsson; Formica (Vukcevic, 79), Lowe, Murphy, Pedersen (King, 55); Kazim-Richards, Rhodes. Substitutes not used: Kean (gk), Givet, Dunn, Markus Olsson, Rochina. Referee: L Mason (Northamptonshire)
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