5:30pm Saturday 12th February 2011
By Suzanne Geldard
AWAY crisis? What away crisis? Two Chrises have surely put that to bed now.
Before Eddie Howe arrived at Turf Moor Burnley had won only one league away game all season, and only two in 34 attempts under two previous managers.
Now, after Eagles and Iwelumo traded goals and assists in nine second-half minutes, it’s two wins from four on their travels; a well-timed turnaround considering this was the first of four trips on the spin – with Cardiff, West Ham and Preston to come.
And, to cap it all, for the first time since August 2009 – when Manchester United and Everton were beaten at home – back-to-back league wins have finally been achieved.
In some style too.
Although neither of these top six hopefuls really got to grips with the first half, Burnley came to life as their qualities came together in the second.
Howe’s decision to move Eagles from the wing into the hole behind Iwelumo just before the hour was key to it all.
Jay Rodriguez, buoyant from his England Under 21s debut and involved in a bizarre opening goal, was still able to come in from the left and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet too, Ross Wallace proved a willing worker on either side, while Iwelumo carried on holding the ball up and linking play wonderfully.
But it was Eagles, sprinting and skipping onto immobile centre half Martin Taylor, that blew his old club Watford apart as, minutes after Howe made the change, Burnley were in front for the second time in the game.
Jack Cork started the move and, after combining with Iwelumo, Eagles instinctively finished it to move ahead of the man who had set him up in the race for the club’s ‘golden boot’.
But honours were even as roles reversed to give the Clarets a worthy cushion with just over 15 minutes to go, when Eagles dug out a cross from the byeline for Iwelumo to head in from close range at the far post.
In this mood, there is more to come from Eagles.
Even when he is out wide he is always looking for opportunities. But his movement, aware-ness and turn of pace in possession makes him a massive threat when working off the front man, and the Hornets didn’t know how to cope.
Modest Howe is refusing to take the credit for an instant turnaround in fortunes, insisting the players have made his job easier. But his organisation of those troops has made an undoubted difference.
Everyone knows their jobs and sticks to them, and their versatility is used with purpose.
At Vicarage Road, Burnley also benefited from a rare chunk of luck as they went ahead courtesy of a freak own goal.
Rodriguez moved to close down as goalkeeper Scott Loach came out of his area to make a clearance. Dale Bennett, replacing the injured Lloyd Doyley at centre half, was shepherding it on its way. But Loach’s kick cannoned off the side of the defender and rebounded into the net.
Both were helpless to stop it, while Rodriguez looked on bemused until Eagles confirmed the goal with a double high five and hug.
But Watford quickly recovered from the shock when Clarke Carlisle, another Hornets old boy, missed the chance to boot the ball away and looked on in horror as Marvin Sordell burst clear and crossed for leading scorer Danny Graham to get his 19th of the season after tangling with Tyrone Mears.
It was a clumsy goal to concede from the Clarets’ point of view, and an error that perhaps offered explan-ation for previous away day disappointment.
So too did Carlisle’s short backpass, when he was again outpaced by Sordell, before Lee Grant came to the rescue and blocked with his legs.
But a new regime is righting the wrongs to get Burnley on the up.
Watford’s form has highlighted the compact nature of the Championship.
Since clawing themselves into the thick of the promotion race on the back of seven wins in a row, four games without one had pushed them down to ninth and dented their confidence.
The Clarets are climbing under Howe, and used their burgeoning momentum to full effect in the second half.
After Rodriguez hooked a chance over from Carlisle’s header in the box, Howe signalled for the striker move out to the left and for Wallace to switch to the right to accommodate Eagles in the hole.
The breakthrough goal soon followed.
Eagles took a touch from Iwelumo’s lay-off to poke the ball into the bottom left corner, and Burnley didn’t looked back.
Grant had to be on his guard to avoid another comeback, but saves from lively substitute Andy Weimann and Lee Hodson came either side of Eagles orchestrating Burnley’s third after taking the ball from Mears in the right channel.
An ovation from both sets of fans greeted Eagles as he made way for January signing Marvin Bartley in stoppage time.
But Burnley, as a whole, are beginning to stand up and be counted.
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