Burnley’s pursuit of European football next season continued as Ben Mee’s diving header gave them victory at Crystal Palace.
The Clarets’ skipper threw himself in to meet an Ashley Westwood free-kick and steer an effort past Vicente Guaita, although the home keeper should really have saved it.
It was reward for a Burnley side who were without three injured forwards and again named only seven substitutes, but were marginally the more positive of the two, with Dwight McNeil showing flashes of inspiration in the final third.
Palace had Wilfried Zaha fit after he limped out of their previous game, at Liverpool five days ago, but his was a subdued display, like the rest of his fellow home forwards.
Their best chance fell to defender Gary Cahill, who fired straight at Nick Pope from inside the box.
Burnley’s win takes them to 45 points and lifts them up to eighth in the Premier League table – a league position that could well result in a Europa League place if Manchester City’s European ban is upheld.
Palace, who also held out hope of a late surge for a European place, are now 11th in the table, three points worse off than tonight’s opponents.
It has been a difficult resumption for Burnley, but they continue to find ways to confound expectation.
Their first game back saw them beaten 5-0 at Manchester City on a night overshadowed by a plane flying over the Etihad and arranged by some of their fans, pulling a “White Lives Matter” banner.
The team have also had to make do with just seven substitutes, as a result of injuries to key players and the failure to secure contract extensions with other first-team regulars.
Phil Bardsley, fresh from signing a new deal, was restored to the side at Selhurst Park, but they were again without Jeff Hendrick, Aaron Lennon and Joe Hart, and lost Jack Cork to injury during the game.
This, though, is a second successive 1-0 win for Sean Dyche’s team, built upon a rock solid defensive display and the ruthlessness to seize upon a big chance when it came.
Captain Mee has stood tall for his side both on and off the pitch since the restart.
It was he who came out to passionately and eloquently condemn the banner flown by Clarets fans at the Etihad and he who stuck his head in where it hurts to score his side’s winner at Selhurst Park.
He also contributed superbly to yet another clean sheet. That is 13 for the season now – only newly-crowned champions Liverpool have more.
Dyche may not have the biggest squad, but the players he does have are full of character and resolve.
More to follow.