Joey Barton scored the winning goal on his Premier League debut for Burnley after coming on as a substitute in the second half of a 1-0 win over Southampton.
The 34-year-old was making his first league appearance since returning to Turf Moor and his first real contribution lifted the roof off the old stadium when his low free-kick found the corner of a net that Burnley had barely threatened up to that point.
Southampton looked set to end a run of three straight Premier League defeats but Barton spoiled their determined defensive display and travelling supporters concerned about the plight of their club under Claude Puel’s management saw little to ease their worries in a toothless performance.
Burnley were not much brighter, and the positive, attack-minded football that earned them a 4-1 win over Sunderland in their previous Premier League home game was replaced by cagey counter-attacking and an unwillingness to commit men forward, with Southampton captain Virgil van Dijk rarely stretched as he marshalled his side’s defence.
Southampton sent on former Claret Jay Rodriguez to try and swing the match, but Barton’s presence in midfield transformed the home side and the man who was instrumental in earning the club promotion to the Premier League in 2015-16 further endeared himself to the Burnley faithful.
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Ryan Bertrand burst down the left after five minutes and his cross found the onrushing Shane Long, but Stephen Ward did enough to put the Irishman off and his shot went over the crossbar.
Dusan Tadic’s neat footwork produced a dangerous cross that Nathan Redmond couldn’t quite connect with, and as Southampton’s bright start failed to yield a goal Burnley grew in confidence.
Van Dijk steadied the Saints’ defence as Andre Gray tried to twist and turn his way towards goal, and for the first half hour Burnley’s chances were restricted to a Ben Mee shot from the edge of the penalty area that flashed wide of the target.
At the other end, a Redmond pass picked out Tadic in the box and the Serbian midfielder had time and space to find the corner of the net but he dragged the shot just wide.
Tadic had another effort blocked on the line by Mee, before the best chance of the first half fell to him when he connected with James Ward-Prowse’s cross but his downward header was well saved by the fast reactions of Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster saved a Steven Defour free-kick early in the second half but chances for both sides remained few and far between.
Puel sent on Jay Rodriguez against his old club to a rapturous reception by the Clarets supporters, and his arrival preceded a narrow miss by Long, who headed Cedric Soares’ cross into the side netting.
Heaton made a crucial save when Van Dijk’s deft cross caused a scramble in the box, and Dyche sent on Barton and Sam Vokes to try and swing the game in Burnley’s favour.
The change worked perfectly and, after Barton’s low free-kick bounced past Forster and into the corner of the net, Heaton made a superb double save to keep Burnley in front and wrap up a memorable victory that lifts the hosts into the top 10.
Key Opta Stats:
– Burnley have won four consecutive home Premier League games for only the second time, after they won each of their first four home games ever in the competition back in 2009/10.
– Southampton have not won any of their last four league visits to Burnley, last beating them there in the Championship in October 2007.
– Sean Dyche’s side have won six of their last seven home league games (losing one).
– Southampton have failed to find the back of the net in four of their last five Premier League away games
– Joey Barton scored his Premier League goal since April 2015 (for QPR v West Brom).
– Southampton mustered 20 shots in the game, their most in a Premier League fixture without scoring this season.