The Clarets are looking to close the gap on the top six tonight, writes Michael Bailey.
Burnley v Middlesbrough
19.45 – Turf Moor – nPower Championship
Referee: Kevin Wright [12 Games – 34 Yellows/2 Reds]
Clarets’ boss Sean Dyche goes into tonight’s fixture with a defensive headache with Ben Mee and Michael Duff both still out injured, although Middlesbrough’s awful away form will give Burnley hope of gaining some of the ground recently lost on the play-off pack.
To say Middlesbrough are a team out-of-form would be an under-statement, having lost six out of their last seven Championship games including 4-0 and 4-1 thumpings in their last two outings on the road.
Like Dyche, Tony Mowbray has his fair share of defensive problems. Justin Hoyte, Jonathan Woodgate and Seb Hines all remain sidelined while Stuart Parnaby tore his hamstring at Crystal Palace on Saturday to further add to their woes.
One defender who has avoided the physio room is former Claret André Bikey-Amougou and he’ll be looking to make his first appearance at Turf Moor since his move to the north-east.
The game provides the opportunity for three Burnley players to make it to 100 appearances. Lee Grant is going for 100 appearances, David Edgar is looking to make his 100th career appearance and Ross Wallace is hoping to make his 100th start for the Club.
Middlesbrough 3-2 Burnley
Burnley looked to have snatched a point at the Riverside when Junior Stanislas nodded a late equaliser only for Luke Williams to steal all three points two minutes later with a stunning strike. Charlie Austin had given the Clarets the lead when he headed past Jason Steele at the back post but the lead was short-lived and Nicky Bailey equalised a minute later with a 20-yard strike. Adam Reach curled an effort beyond Lee Grant to put Boro in control only for Stanislas to silence the home crowd with his 86th minute header. Luke Williams had other ideas though and his long-range effort flew into the top corner to give Middlesbrough their first win of the season.
Tony Mowbray’s men have been struggling of late with just one win in their last six Championship games. Their last win on the road was a 3-2 victory at Peterborough at the beginning of December and they’ve shipped 14 goals in their last five away ties and with their current injury problems it’s unlikely they’ll be able to stem the flow of goals anytime soon.
Dangerman: Scott McDonald
Aussie McDonald is the only Boro player to reach double figures this season but he’ll be facing a late fitness test as he attempts to overcome a calf injury. The hard-working striker had originally been pencilled in for a return against Millwall but the need for goals has forced Mowbray’s hand and he’ll be hoping McDonald can recapture his early season form.
Manager: Tony Mowbray
Mowbray is now in his third season in charge of Middlesbrough after taking over from Gordon Strachan back in October 2010. In his time at the club he has managed to move on the majority of the high-earners his predecessor had brought to the club while bringing through younger talent to fill the void. That coupled with some astute buys has turned Boro into a formidable Championship outfit that are more than capable of beating anyone when at full strength.
What team should Dyche play tonight? Comment below.