Ashley Barnes scored in the 89th minute to earn Burnley a 1-0 win over Stoke that lifted the unfashionable team into the top four of the English Premier League on Tuesday. Already sitting above Tottenham, Burnley leapfrogged Arsenal and Liverpool with its ninth victory of what is shaping up to be its most impressive league campaign in a generation.
Barnes, a substitute striker, smashed a finish into the corner from Scott Arfield’s lay-off from only Burnley’s second shot on target on a bitterly cold night at Turf Moor. In its second season back in the top flight, Burnley was tipped by some pundits to struggle after selling two of its best players over the summer, during which the club made a profit in the transfer market.
The northern club has been English champion twice, in 1921 and 1960, but hasn’t had it this good since finishing sixth in 1974. “I keep reality because this division will eat you alive,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. “We’re having a real go at what we can achieve this season. I’m not being negative. I’m a realist, there’s a lot of challenges coming our way.”
The loss for 15th-place Stoke will add to the pressure on its coach Mark Hughes, whose team has lost nine of its 17 games and has the leakiest defense in the league with 36 goals conceded.
“Burnley play on percentages, they hope something will drop for them and they are making a habit of it,” Hughes said. “We’ll be OK, we’re fine,” Hughes added. “We are working hard to try and turn this around but I am encouraged by what I’ve seen tonight.”