(AFP) – Burnley ended their four-year wait to return to the Premier League in emphatic fashion as their 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic clinched promotion on Monday.
Sean Dyche’s team kicked off knowing a victory would guarantee their lucrative place among English football’s elite next season, and they finished the job with a flourish in front of their jubilant supporters at Turf Moor.
Ashley Barnes put the Clarets ahead in the 22nd minute and Michael Kightly’s 42nd-minute goal allowed Burnley’s supporters to begin celebrating their return to the top flight.
Second-placed Burnley, eight points clear of third-placed Derby County with just two games remaining, join already-promoted leaders Leicester City in securing a top-two finish in the Championship.
Hundreds of fans poured on to the pitch as soon as the final whistle officially confirmed Burnley’s promotion.
Dyche’s players were mobbed by many of those supporters and they stayed on the pitch to join in the celebrations.
“These are great scenes. The season seems like it’s been forever, but we plugged away and the lads deserve it,” Kightly said.
“Promotion to the Premier League means everything. We were fourth favourites to go down, but the character we have shown has been amazing.”
Dyche, dubbed the ‘ginger Mourinho’ by Clarets fans, was lifted into the air by his players before they returned to the dressing room, where champagne corks were soon popping.
“We were intent on getting promoted ourselves, not having to rely on anyone else for help,” said Dyche, who has spent a transfer fee on only one player since taking charge in October 2012.
“It’s getting harder to win automatic promotion to the Premier League because of all the constraints on teams like ourselves. I’m extremely proud.”
Burnley’s third win in their last four matches means Leicester still have to win one of their final three matches to clinch the second-tier title.
It remains unlikely Burnley will pip the Foxes to top spot, but promotion will more than suffice for a club with limited resources who were tipped by many to struggle at the start of the season.
The Clarets started brightly and after just two minutes Barnes slipped Danny Ings in behind the Wigan defence, only for goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi to beat the striker to the ball.
Burnley’s pressure told in the 22nd minute as Dean Marney’s cross found Barnes, who fired home from six yards for his third goal for Burnley.
Six minutes later the pair almost linked up again but a save from Al-Habsi prevented Barnes from doubling the lead.
The Premier League was in sight for Burnley three minutes before half-time when Kightly’s free-kick from the left side of the penalty area evaded everyone and flew into the corner off Al-Habsi’s far post.
On the hour, Ings went close to his 21st league goal of the campaign, but the striker hit a post from a tight angle.
“It’s the best day of my life. I’m so proud of all the lads,” Ings told BBC Sport.
“People did not back us at the start of the season, but it’s been great to prove them wrong.”
Elsewhere, Derby maintained their grip on third place with a 2-1 win over second-bottom Barnsley, who are four points from safety with only two games left.
Charlie Austin netted a last-minute winner as fourth placed QPR sealed their play-off berth with a 2-1 victory against Watford at Loftus Road.
Brighton and Hove Albion, who hold the last play-off spot, had to be content with a 1-1 draw at home to third-bottom Blackpool.
Bottom-of-the-table Yeovil Town look certain to go down after a 2-1 home defeat against Huddersfield Town, while Charlton Athletic boosted their survival bid with a 3-2 win at Sheffield Wednesday.
Birmingham City are only outside the bottom three on goal difference following a 4-2 defeat against Blackburn Rovers, Millwall and Doncaster Rovers remain in relegation trouble after a 0-0 draw and Ipswich Town drew 2-2 against Bournemouth.