JOHN ROPER: A tense game at Deepdale – but not a classic – saw Burnley win with a deflected free-kick early in the game.
North End certainly had plenty of the ball but failed to make the final ball count and we couldn’t make any telling inroads into the Burnley defence. The Clarets got more edgy as the game went on but it is easy to see why they have gone on a run of 21 games without defeat, as they are rock solid at the back. North End pushed and probed but the visitors always looked dangerous on the counter-attack and clearly have a team and a game plan which suits all of their squad. North End should not be too downbeat, however, as I thought that Burnley were the best team I had seen this season for the first 30 minutes and they set the standard to which North End should aspire when nest season kicks off. North End went straight on the attack and Adam Reach flashed a ball across the goalmouth in the first 60 seconds of the game. Unfortunately the visitors took the lead after just six minutes when a Joey Barton free-kick hit Alan Brown and the ball took a massive deflection, leaving Chris Kirkland stranded and Burnley a goal to the good. Our curse with injuries continued as Ben Pearson limped off to be replaced by Daniel Johnson who, in fairness, had a pretty decent game. The game ebbed and flowed but Gray had a great chance, only to be thwarted by Cunningham and North End had a huge penalty appeal whenBeckford was rammed in the back by Barton but referee Kevin Friend waived play on. The merry whistle blower went on a booking spree as the game became fractious and to a greater extent I thought the referee lost control for a while. The second half started much as the first had finished with some end-to-end activity and Beckford heading wide for North End when it looked easier to score. Burnley went down the other end and had two or three chances at once but, the goal apart, I thought we defended quite well on the evening. North End were starting to bomb forward but with one eye on our defensive duties it never appeared to be all-out attack, even though Woods and Garner had a couple of good chances as the game entered the last 20 minutes. North End went for broke in the five additional minutes but apart from a Reach effort right at the end of the game, we never really looked liked levelling matters. It is always a bitter pill to swallow when you are beaten in a derby game, particularly at home, but there was no disgrace in this defeat for North End and if it had not been for a very sizeable deflection, the odds are that the game would have ended as a goalless draw. We gave it the best we had and it just didn’t come up good enough on the night. So just two games to go for North End and I am sure manager Simon Grayson will be looking for maximum points to end the season on a high after a poor points return from the last five games.
JOHN SMITH: Local derbies have a habit of distorting form but this one ran true to the book with our neighbours from East Lancashire extending their unbeaten run to 21 matches. The game’s significant moment came in the sixth minute when Chris Kirkland was wrong-footed by a deflected free-kick and from that moment on we were chasing the game. We looked second best for long periods in the first half although at times it appeared we were playing against 12 men with the referee Kevin Friend doing nothing to redeem himself for some past misdemeanours with the home fans, and he left the pitch at the interval to a chorus of boos. The game saw the first pairing of the Garner/Beckford partnership since that heady day at Wembley almost a year ago but they were contained quite easily by Burnley’s towering central defensive combination. In the second half we had more of the possession but, just like the big bad wolf, we huffed and puffed but could not blow the house down. It took us until the 70th minute to have our only shot on target, while our opponents only managed two in what was a feisty but dour local derby.