A win at the John Smith’s to start the year
The Clarets brought an end to 2018 with a much needed home win against West Ham United and we’ve followed that by kicking off 2019 with a 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town to lift us, for now, out of the bottom three of the Premier League.
We had to come from behind after Steve Mounié had given the home side the lead but our strike pair of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes did the trick with a goal each on a night when Mike Dean took his red card tally to six in six games and left us both with ten men on the pitch.
Huddersfield is always one away game I’ve particularly looked forward to on the few occasions we’ve been in the same division. My first visit was in 1970/71 when Colin Waldron gave us a 1-0 win and last night was my 13th visit to either Leeds Road or the current stadium. In the previous 12 I’d seen us lose just twice, those awful performances in 2012 and 2013, albeit the result in the second one aided by the incompetent referee Eddie Ilderton.
This is, as was pointed out to me when we played at Manchester City, our closest away game of the season. It’s a shame it was moved to a Wednesday night. That meant a quick rush for some in our group so for once we all actually met there with no pub stop.
Sean Dyche had named the same team as had beaten West Ham although we saw the return of both Matt Lowton and Robbie Brady on the bench in place of Ben Gibson and Ali Koiki. That meant another start for Dwight McNeil who had grabbed some of the headlines following his performance against West Ham. I thought there might have been a return for Brady but, ultimately, both were able to play their part one way or another.
We didn’t start particularly well. It was all far too scrappy and we were conceding possession too easily and too often. The positive, from our point of view, was that Huddersfield were rarely threatening and even when Phil Bardsley headed an on target effort over the bar it would have been saved comfortably by Tom Heaton who was enjoying his first Premier League away game since Spurs at Wembley last season.
At the far end, we’d had a couple of opportunities, the best from a Ben Mee header which was saved by Jonas Lössl. At that point I thought we were beginning to get on top but then, out of the blue, Huddersfield took the lead.
It all started from Heaton’s quick throw out after he’d caught the ball from a corner. He aimed for Ashley Westwood but the midfielder was surrounded by Huddersfield players and lost possession. It reached Isaac Mbenza on the left. and his cross was headed home by Steve Mounié who got between Mee and Charlie Taylor.
That was only Huddersfield’s fifth home goal all season and, incredibly, the first goal Mounié has scored since the beginning of April last year when he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Brighton.
It was just what we didn’t want. It lifted the Huddersfield fans, the drums started banging even louder in the Cowshed to our right and I sensed this was now going to be a very difficult night for us. Eight minutes later and all the celebrations were in the away section as we equalised and then saw Huddersfield reduced to ten men.
McNeil didn’t manage to add another goal to the one he’d scored at home, but, after a difficult first few minutes, he was becoming more and more of an influence for us on the left and it was he who set up the goal for the impressive Wood. In possession on the left hand side of the box, McNeil turned beautifully to cross low for Wood to turn home left footed from close range.
We’d been behind for only seven minutes but better was to come. McNeil was weaving his way through when he was brought down by Christopher Schindler who had, although he apparently didn’t know it, already gone on Dean’s yellow card list. Out, rightly, came the yellow and that was followed by the red. Schindler looked bemused, Ashley Barnes encouraged him to leave the pitch and Huddersfield were down to ten, making a quick change, sacrificing Alex Pritchard and bringing on defender Erik Durm.
That was just about the last piece of action in the first half but it had certainly left us with some encouragement that we could go on and win it.
Huddersfield came out with the intention of trying to keep a point. With a 4-4-1 formation, they weren’t particularly interested in trying to get forward too much but they defended well and wasted as much time as they possibly could, particularly Lössl who was not even spoken to by the referee.
We were dominating the game with our best two chances both coming the way of Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson. He first shot straight at Lössl after Westwood had broken clear. In all fairness the ball from Westwood pushed him just a little wide. Then, after McNeil and Charlie Taylor had linked up well down the left, he got in a header at the far post that was blocked.
That was just past the hour and signalled time up for McNeil who, rightly, received another superb ovation from the travelling Burnley fans. He can be so proud of his performances in these two games. It’s been fantastic to see.
Brady came on and I have to say he was very influential in that last half hour. He got in an early shot and he also linked up well with Taylor, who I thought played as well as I’ve seen him in a Burnley shirt.
And then, in the 74th minute, the winner came and what a good goal it was. JBG moved the ball inside for Wood who did ever so well, eventually getting the ball to Westwood. He played in Barnes expertly and there it was for us in the away end, Barnes having just the goalkeeper to beat and you just knew he was going to do it. We were all but celebrating before it had gone in and were then joined by an ecstatic Barnes and his team mates right in front of us.
Only the goalkeeper denied him a second as the clock run down with what was surely going to be a second away win of the season. Huddersfield looked a beaten side but they got their one lift in the 90th minute when Dean reached for the red card again, this time for Brady. From a distance it looked to me as if he’d got it wrong. There was no suggestion of a goal scoring opportunity and I thought it was the Huddersfield player being sent off for his reaction. Interestingly, the Match of the Day pundits thought it was only a yellow. It might have been with another referee but, having seen it again, I don’t think we can have any complaints.
Now it is ten against ten and the board is going up for five extra minutes. Dyche quickly got Jeff Hendrick on for Barnes and then, incredibly given what Lössl had been up to earlier, Dean yellow carded Heaton for time wasting no more than a few seconds after the substitution had been completed.
The team have come in for quite a lot of criticism this season and some have even questioned their attitude and the team spirit. Well over 2,000 of us last night were there to witness the winning goal celebrations followed by those at the final whistle. They showed exactly what we are about and how much it meant to them.
I know it was Huddersfield and I know they are bottom of the league and will be heading back to the Championship unless there is a minor miracle in West Yorkshire. I know this Huddersfield team have won only once at home all season, and that against Fulham.
But they still needed beating last night and our away record hasn’t been that good has it? This I thought was a really good performance over the ninety minutes. Westwood was, again, for me our man of the match but there were other candidates and no mention of this game would be complete without reference to the two goalscorers Wood and Barnes. Both played exceptionally well, both scored and this was so much more like the Wood we saw last season.
We get a break now for the FA Cup. At the start of the season I didn’t think I’d be getting too excited about being 16th in the table, but given recent weeks I think it is something we can definitely build on.
I did say I enjoy going to Huddersfield.
The teams were;
Huddersfield: Jonas Lössl, Terence Kongolo, Christopher Schindler, Mathias Zanka, Florent Hadergjonaj (Chris Löwe 71), Philip Billing, Jonathan Hogg, Isaac Mbenza, Alex Pritchard (Erik Durm 44, Laurent Depoitre 83), Elias Kachunga, Steve Mounié. Subs not used: Ben Hamer, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Juninho Bacuna, Adama Diakhaby.
Yellow Card: Christopher Schindler.
Red Card: Christopher Schindler.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley (Matt Lowton 59), James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil (Robbie Brady 63), Ashley Barnes (Jeff Hendrick 90+2), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Kevin Long, Matěj Vydra, Sam Vokes.
Yellow Cards: Ben Mee, Phil Bardsley, Chris Wood, Tom Heaton.
Red Card: Robbie Brady.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
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