Wednesday 12 December 2018

Ward: Burnley contending with more stubborn opponents at Turf Moor this season

Stephen Ward's Burnley have taken five points from four home fixtures so far
Stephen Ward's Burnley have taken five points from four home fixtures so far

Stephen Ward accepts Burnley will have to contend with more stubborn opponents at Turf Moor this season.

The Clarets' survival last term was built on their record in east Lancashire, where they took 33 points from their 19 fixtures, only one fewer than Manchester United managed at Old Trafford.

It took Sean Dyche's side until the penultimate game of that campaign at Crystal Palace to claim their first away victory, yet this year they have already registered three points at Chelsea and Everton, while drawing with Tottenham and Liverpool.

Their home form has been less impressive - with five points accrued from four fixtures - and full-back Ward believes visitors to Burnley could be approaching trips there with a different mindset in their second successive Premier League season.

"We've been a bit disappointed with a couple of games at home, and our performances," Republic of Ireland international Ward said ahead of Newcastle's visit on Monday.

"I think that can be with people coming and setting up differently to maybe the way they did last year.

"We have to find different ways to breaking teams down. We'll work hard and prepare for a Newcastle team that are in a great run of form themselves."

Last season's Championship title winners Newcastle have recovered from losing their opening two fixtures back in the top flight to take 14 points from their next seven games.

Both Dyche and Rafael Benitez's sides started the weekend in the top eight and Ward knows from experience how the impact of promotion can have a buoyant effect.

"You always have belief in your own squad and your own dressing room - maybe people from the outside wouldn't have thought we'd have started as well as we have, and maybe that's the case with Newcastle as well," Ward admitted.

"But it's still very early days in this league. Even teams that come up, they can be on the high from being promoted - it happened with us last season - and it gets tougher as the season goes on.

"We're under no illusions how hard it's going to be still this season. We've got to be pleased with how we've started."

Monday also marks five years to the day since Burnley, then a Championship club concerned with their second-tier status, appointed Dyche.

Ward has only been at the club since 2014 but can see parallels between his international side, who have a World Cup play-off to look forward to next month, and the environment Dyche has created.

"The one thing we have here is a team spirit and a team ethic and that's one of the things we have when we go away with Ireland as well," he noted.

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