Burnley boss Sean Dyche admitted dropping Joe Hart for the game against West Ham was a difficult decision, but hailed Tom Heaton’s professionalism after he came in and kept a clean sheet in a much-needed 2-0 win.
The Clarets had conceded 41 times in their 19 Premier League games heading into Sunday’s encounter at Turf Moor, and Dyche responded by dropping former England international Hart.
Long-serving Burnley stopper Heaton was drafted in for a league game for the first time since September 2017 and was not breached as Burnley picked up their first victory in four matches to move level on points with 17th-placed Southampton.
“It was a tough one on Joe, but Tom is a great pro and his professionalism has paid him back,” Dyche told a news conference afterwards.
“I must say, though, Joe was the first one jumping off the bench when he made that save at the end, which tells you a lot about the group.”
Burnley scored twice in the first 34 minutes as Chris Wood’s opener was followed by an effort from Dwight McNeil, who became the first ever teenager to score a Premier League goal for the Clarets.
“He’s a young player but we think a lot of him,” Dyche told Match of the Day.
19y 38d – Dwight McNeil has become the first ever teenager to score a Premier League goal for Burnley. Kicks. #BURWHU
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 30, 2018
“It’s been hard to get him more football this season because we are where we are and it’s been tough. I decided the time was right and I felt the game was right.
“West Ham have good attacking prowess but they do at times leave pockets where you can work in. He’s good at that, he’s a clever player and he’s got some ability and quality. He showed that today.
“His family should take great pride in what he’s doing, and him himself – it’s a big moment for a young man.”
West Ham had been unbeaten in their previous five away games but boss Manuel Pellegrini felt they were at a disadvantage having faced Southampton on Thursday, with Burnley having an extra day to prepare.
“It’s frustrating because we wanted to win this game,” Pellegrini said.
“It was a good opportunity to go to seventh position in the table, but I think we lacked the energy to win it.
“We arrived back from Southampton at 2am on Friday, and then [the Burnley game was] 48 hours later. I’m sure that affected the recovery because that’s the only reason why we played the way we did.
“It wasn’t only that we didn’t create many chances, they also created a lot of chances. Two-nil was not the score that they deserved – they deserved at least a couple more.”
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