Lancashire TelegraphSuzanne Geldard column: Competition is fierce for derby places (From Lancashire Telegraph)

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Suzanne Geldard column: Competition is fierce for derby places

Lancashire Telegraph: Ben Mee Ben Mee

COMPETITION for places has been fierce since Sean Dyche took charge at Turf Moor.

With a clean slate offered to everyone in the squad, team-mates have been pushing each other to the limits to try to force their way into the new manager’s plans.

Ben Mee admits the battle for the shirts is set to go up a notch this week, with Clarets clamouring to be involved in Sunday’s much anticipated showdown with bitter rivals Blackburn Rovers.

“But all the lads are fighting for their positions,” said the defender.

“Everyone's been fighting for their places since the new manager came in, and none of them are safe.

“But all the lads want to be playing in the derby, and they’ll be doing everything they can to be involved.”

Mee and co are, of course, mindful that they cannot afford to be distracted, with an important Championship game at Oakwell to focus on first tonight.

But their determination to be selected on Sunday can only be good news for the Clarets against Barnsley, with the push to be involved in the big one expected to inspire an impressive performance on the back of three points and a clean sheet at Hull City.

“It was a good performance, especially in the first half – we played well. We just had to dig in for the second half and grind out the result,” said Mee, admitting a first away win under Dyche had come as a timely confidence boost.

“Going to a place like Hull and coming away with a clean sheet and a victory was brilliant.

“We've played good teams like Wolves and Leeds and got clean sheets against them, so that gives us a lot of confidence in the defence. We know go up against the best in this league and put on a good show.

“Earlier in the season you could have one game where you ship four and the next game you can get a clean sheet. It just wasn't going for us at that specific time.

“It's started to go for us a little bit now and we've got a few clean sheets under our belts with the new manager.

“It could have happened earlier on in the season, we were just a bit unlucky at times.

“But we've been defending a lot better and with a bit more confidence in each other. Hopefully we can carry that on.”

While this is a big week for Burnley, Mee - who returned to the side on Saturday after a two-game absence with a foot injury - believes the bigger picture is more important.

“We need to kick on now,” said the 23-year-old.

“We always seem to sort of get into positions where we are close and drop off again, so we need to push on and try to get up there this time and not just say 'we're close'.

“Hopefully we can get going and push on a little bit and get six points from the next two games and see where we are then.”

But it is hard not to turn attentions to Sunday, especially for a player who grew up with the blue half of Manchester but whose derby experience didn’t extend to the first team.

“I've been involved in some reserve games but nothing too big,” said the former Manchester City youngster.

“I've been to the derby games between United and City, but it would be great to play in this one.

“I didn't go to the youth cup games last season but I believe there was a big turnout so you get a feel for the scale of it.

“People have been talking about how big a game it is.

“It's not happened for a few seasons so everyone's excited.

“It's a big game and all the lads want to be fit for it and ready for it.

“That's the main thing.

“We've got a big game tonight which we're going to give everything we can to win because at the end of the day they're both games that we need to win.

“But first come first served, we'll get onto the weekend afterwards.

“Going into a big weekend we want another win, and hopefully we can follow that with another one on Sunday.”

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