Burnley striker Ashley Barnes happy positive outlook paid off
Ashley Barnes insisted he never doubted his ability to put two injury-plagued seasons behind him after striking a dramatic last-ditch winner to give Burnley a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace at Turf Moor.
The 27-year-old missed most of last season with a cruciate ligament injury then picked up a hamstring strain in pre-season which kept him sidelined until he made a brief return in the goalless draw at Old Trafford last week.
Clarets boss Sean Dyche said he "had a feeling" Barnes would make a major intervention when he brought him on as an 86th minute replacement for Jeff Hendrick - and Barnes responded by clattering a Johann Gudmundsson cross into the roof of the net in the fourth minute of injury time.
It was Barnes' first goal since February last year and he said: "If you're going to beat yourself up or get down about it then it's beaten you.
"I don't want to think about the bad things, that's not me. I want to look forward and the positive outcome today was being on the pitch and being lucky enough to score goals.
"I've got a great family around me and a great bunch in the dressing room to help me along and it's worked."
Given Barnes' recent injury problems fellow substitute Andre Gray might have seemed a more obvious choice to replace Hendrick as the Clarets fought desperately to get something out of a game that had started so well.
Sam Vokes and the excellent Gudmundsson put them 2-0 up inside the first 15 minutes before Connor Wickham reduced the deficit and Christian Benteke appeared to have rescued a point for Palace with an 82nd minute penalty.
But Burnley's remarkable work-rate paid off when they swept forward from a Palace free-kick with Barnes playing a neat one-two with Gudmundsson before smashing the ball beyond a helpless Steve Mandanda.
And as his side soared to ninth in the Premier League table, Barnes said he believes the manner of his side's victory - mirroring a similar last-gasp triumph over Everton two weeks earlier - proves how much better-equipped they are to survive in the top flight.
"Unfortunately we got relegated (last time) but I think this group of lads we've got, the spirit in the group means this time hopefully we can stay in this league," added Barnes.
"All the gaffer's done is add to the squad we already had here. He brought some in and it's taken off again. The gaffer's got so many options now we've got a great squad and we're fighting for each other."
England boss Gareth Southgate was at Turf Moor and will have been impressed with defender Michael Keane, who is expected to retain his place in the squad for the game against Scotland next weekend.
Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha are also on Southgate's radar and the latter in particular will have impressed after a busy performance which highlighted his new approach to the game this season.
Zaha told Palace TV: "I'm not rushing things as much this season, I'm trying to go for better quality over quantity, so when I'm crossing it in I'm trying to pick out someone instead of just whacking it in there hoping for the best.
"I think that's what has changed - I'm slowing down and trying to pick out people."