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Monday 5 December 2016

Stephen's Day in Cup for Clarets

Burnley’s Irish defender Stephen Ward celebrates his match-winning goal in the FA Cup third round clash at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Burnley’s Irish defender Stephen Ward celebrates his match-winning goal in the FA Cup third round clash at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Stephen Ward showed no signs of ring-rustiness following a long spell out in the cold as he popped up with his first goal in 20 months to send Burnley into the next round of the FA Cup.

And while the Ireland international admitted there was a touch of fortune about his winning goal away to an in-form Middlesbrough side, progress to the fourth round is a massive boost for the Clarets who now hope to go on a cup run.

Ward has been a very frustrated figure at Burnley this season and he had spoken of the need to seek a loan move in January so he could stay in the frame for Ireland's Euro 2016 squad.

But boss Sean Dyche has opened the door to a first team return of Ward of late: handed a place in the side in a league game against Bristol City just after Christmas, Ward played a part in a 4-0 win and stayed in the team for another clean sheet against Ipswich, before delivering that winner away to Boro.

"I don't get many goals so it was nice to score and we'll see what the draw brings in the next round," said Ward, whose last goal came back in May 2014 when he was on loan to Brighton.

"My job is to screen the goalie and the ball just fell to me so I stepped off him, swivelled and hit it. It's nice to be in the hat and we've not beaten sides in the top four or five in our league yet so it's a good marker.

"The gaffer said 'soak in the feeling of beating a team' like this because there are plenty more battles to come against quality sides.

"It's a good result for us. In the first half we didn't really deal with their shape and you've got to give them credit. They're a good side and they're top of the league.

"But we dug in there and a moment of real quality got us back in the game. I thought we were much better in the second half, much more solid and they don't concede many here. We're happy to win and go through to the next round. To come from a goal behind is pleasing as well."

Boss Dyche was clearly pleased with the contribution from his Ireland international.

"Wardy has then popped up with a great winner and it's a very nice strike and worthy of winning a game," Dyche said.

"Arguably, statistically, this is one of the toughest places to come at the moment, probably across the four divisions.

"They have only conceded two goals here in the league all season, so to win, when most people would see that as a coupon buster, is very pleasing," he added.

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