Sean Dyche praised ‘older and wiser’ Ashley Barnes after he began the season with two goals in a convincing win against Southampton.
Barnes exploited a mistake by Jannik Vestergaard to take the ball down and finish smartly in the 63rd minute, doubling the lead seven minutes later with another crisp finish from Erik Pieters’ cross.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s solo effort made it three goals in 12 minutes for the hosts at a wet and windy Turf Moor and they stayed strong at the back to secure a hugely satisfying 3-0 victory.
Barnes has scored 33 Premier League goals for the Clarets, 13 more than any other player, having moved from Brighton to Turf Moor five-and-a-half years ago.
The 29-year-old’s reputation outside of Burnley centres mostly around his combative attitude but his ability as a finisher deserves more attention.
Dyche said: “He doesn’t go under the radar here, with what we think of him, what the players think of him, what the fans think of him. Knowing Barnsey, I don’t think he’d be that bothered. He’s not bothered about much.
“You learn the game the older you get, the wiser you get. He’s become not as affected so easily.
“He hadn’t scored in pre-season but you saw by his performance he didn’t look like a striker that hadn’t scored, he wasn’t snatching at things. His finish is excellent and I think that kind of mental resilience grows year on year the more you play at the highest level.”
Burnley struggled to recover from a poor start to last season, only pulling away from the relegation zone over the final weeks.
But, freed from the demands of the Europa League, their pre-season has been excellent and they carried that confidence into the competitive fixtures.
“Really good start,” said Dyche. “I think the players have got a reward from a very strong pre-season, not just for results but the way they’ve come back. There’s been a strong desire, super fitness level. I think there’s an intent about the group.
“It’s a tight game and often we’re in tight games. There was nothing in it first half. It was really tough out there, the ball’s going all over the place, so it was tough for both sides. Then second half we asked more questions I thought and managed to break them down.”
The emotions were very different for Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, who revealed he had to make a late reshuffle after captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg came down with sickness during the bus journey to the ground.
“At the last minute we had to change a few things but I think it was not the reason because the first 60 minutes was OK,” said the Austrian.
“I think we equalised the game against a team that is really not giving us a lot of chances to win balls early.”
“In the second half one long ball and one bad timing, I don’t know why the centre-back’s missed his ball, then suddenly you’re one down. What happens then, the next 12 minutes, was not acceptable.
“We must be more focused on our way and we lost it completely. And then this game is gone. It’s a very disappointing start for us.”
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