Joey Barton’s deflected free-kick helped his Burnley side record a narrow win over local rivals Preston North End on Friday night, and move back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship.
The value of that victory was boosted as Middlesbrough failed to beat Ipswich on Saturday afternoon, meaning that the Clarets sit top of the pile with 87 points, and a one goal superior goal difference over Boro, who have the same number of points.
Brighton’s win on Saturday also means that they have amassed the same amount of points, and are two goals behind Aitor Karanka’s men.
With two games left to play, the title race looks like going down to the wire. Preston, on the other hand, dropped to 11th following Brentford’s victory on Saturday, but Simon Grayson will be pleased with his team’s efforts this season following promotion via the play-offs from League One last campaign.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Ryan Evans identifies THREE things that we learned on Friday night…
1) What a crazy, crazy division!
When you have three teams tied on points, with just three goals between those sides and two games to go, you know you’re in for a treat.
That is exactly the situation we find ourselves in, and the 2015-16 Championship season will go down in history as one of the most exciting ever.
Whichever two of Burnley, Middlesbrough and Brighton do go up automatically, you cannot say they don’t deserve it, and in fact it would be harsh for one of these teams to not go up.
It will now go down to the last game, but can Burnley capitalise on their slim advantage?
2) Brilliant Barton
When Joey Barton relocated from London to Burnley in the summer of 2015, most people were split 50-50 on whether he would be a success or failure.
The 33-year old’s incredible talents was sometimes overshadowed whilst at QPR, but his season at Burnley has been, just about, incident free (the alleged stamp in the Brighton game comes to mind). Friday’s performance was definitely in the success category, and he dictated his side’s play brilliantly.
With 81% pass accuracy, you barely saw him play a pass astray, and he won most of the tackles and interceptions he attempted.
This complete performance by Barton has not been a one-off this term, and was rewarded recently by being named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
3) Bailey Wright can be pleased with his performance
Whilst Barton, quite rightly, stole all the headlines, Bailey Wright put in quite an impressive performance too.
Having won nine aerial duels and three tackles, he turned the ball over more than both his teammates in the Preston back three.
The 23-year-old signed a youth contract with the club in 2009, and signed professionally at Deepdale a year later. He has since made in excess of 150 appearances for the club and, if he was to continue this form into next season, he could lead his side into, potentially, a play-off place.
Burnley fans… what do you think? Are you still confident of promotion? Were your chances boosted by ‘Boro’s result?
Preston fans… were you pleased with Wright’s performance, even though it ultimately ended in defeat? Are you confident for next season? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!