Goals from Chris Wood and teenager Dwight McNeil gave struggling Burnley a much-needed 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham United at Turf Moor on Sunday, ending a run of three straight defeats for Sean Dyche’s team.
Victory lifted Burnley above Fulham into 18th place, and although they remain in the relegation zone on 15 points — the same as 17th-placed Southampton — it was a performance to offer the whiff of a refreshing New Year for Dyche.
After his side’s 5-1 mauling by Everton on Boxing Day, the manager made a “big decision” to drop former England goalkeeper Joe Hart and bring back another international, Tom Heaton, for his first league start since September 2017.
He also gave 19-year-old McNeil only his second league start and watched the youngster become the first teenage player to score for Burnley in the Premier League era.
The Clarets took the lead in the 15th minute when Wood fired home after Ashley Barnes headed into his path. New Zealander Wood has now scored five goals in four appearances against West Ham in the Premier League.
Left-winger McNeil made it 2-0 with a volley at the back post after Ashley Westwood had whipped in a deep cross from the right and the youngster should have added another goal moments later when he shot wide after a fine pull-back from Barnes.
Heaton justified his recall with a good save from an Andy Carroll header late on that gave Burnley a rare clean sheet and three valuable points, as well as stopping West Ham’s run of three straight away victories.
“There were a couple of big decisions with Tom going back in for Joe but, credit to Joe, he was the first to jump up at the end when Tom makes a great save,” Dyche told the BBC.
Delighted with McNeil’s contribution, he added: “Dwight is a clever player who has some quality and ability. His family should take some pride in what he’s doing. He’ll get stronger and fitter and he’ll continue growing with the team.”
Dyche, who has found the pressure on him increasing, added: “(The win) was never far away… When we are really at it, we can find wins against good Premier League sides.
“That last game (against Everton) wasn’t like us. We normally keep games tight and we came out on top with some real quality.”
West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini said: “It was frustrating because we had the chance to be seventh. We lacked energy to win it.
“We had a flight that arrived at two a.m. on Saturday morning after playing Southampton (on Thursday). Burnley recovered better because they had 30 or 35 hours more (between matches).”