A win, three points and out of the bottom three
Burnley beat Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 at home yesterday. It was a day when the result mattered more than anything else and it was a fully deserved victory that was accepted by all but the delusional Chris Hughton.
It was a scrappy sort of goal that won it in a scrappy sort of game that was played in horrendous conditions, and Martin Atkinson’s final whistle of the afternoon was met with a defiant roar from the home fans who had seen their players fight for absolutely everything to get this much needed win, our first since the 2-1 victory at Cardiff at the end of September and only our second home win in the Premier League this season.
I referred to the horrendous conditions. Today is a quite still day in Burnley with plenty of blue sky and sunshine. Yesterday, match day, we suffered incessant and often heavy rain, dropping temperatures and a strong win, conditions that forced a League One game to be abandoned just a few miles down the road.
It never makes for the best of games but all credit to the players for putting on the show they did on an afternoon when all we wanted once in front was the final whistle.
Sean Dyche, hardly surprisingly, named an unchanged team following Wednesday’s game against Liverpool which, despite the result, had brought us the sort of performance we’ve been looking for. It was the same seven subs too against a Brighton side who had lost the head butting Shane Duffy to suspension.
Watford, Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool have all gone home from the Turf this season with wins which shows it’s not quite the fortress people might want to talk about, so it was baffling to see Brighton all but set out their stall early on. They were negative and the time wasting, particularly from goalkeeper Mat Ryan was hard to fathom at times.
There is no doubt they are a well organised side and that, along with their total lack of ambition, made it difficult for us in terms of trying to break them down and create chances and you wondered whether the wait for a first ever top flight goal in games between us might go into a next game. For almost a half hour the game lacked any intensity but, at least, we never once looked as though we might concede a goal and we’ve not been able to say that too often this season.
But eventually we started to apply some pressure and it finally led to a goal. We had a couple of efforts that just missed the target and Chris Wood got onto a ball from Ashley Barnes and saw his shot from a tight angle saved by Ryan who then denied Robbie Brady.
There were just over five minutes of the half remaining when Bernado fouled Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson down our right flank. Surprisingly, there was no card for Bernardo who stopped JBG in his tracks right in front of the assistant referee.
He took the free kick himself which was returned to him via Ryan. This time he laid it back for Ashley Westwood. His cross was headed out but only as far as Ben Mee. In a cluster of players, Ryan got a fist to it to punch it away but it dropped nicely for Jack Cork who appeared to fire home. That’s how it looked from our vantage point but we quickly saw James Tarkowski claiming the goal after it hit him in the stomach on the way in.
I didn’t see a Brighton substitution at this point but they must have changed goalkeeper. No longer did they have Ryan wasting time for fun but a Ryan look-a-like rushing as if his life depended on it. And, incredibly, despite all of Brighton’s dreadful first half time wasting, Atkinson added on only one minute of additional time before we went in with our one goal lead.
A second goal early in the second half, I thought, would just about be enough and we did have our chances. Lewis Dunk just about got a head to a Brady cross to deny Barnes a clear chance and then there were our two penalty shouts. First Brady was fouled in the box and then Phil Bardsley all but had his head kicked off by Yves Bissouma. Neither were given but, for the life of me, I cannot understand how on earth the second one was waved away.
Hughton, apparently has seen it from three different angles and said it is not a penalty. Mind you, this is the man who claimed last year that Brighton should have had a penalty against us when the game was stopped for a throw in so I don’t think we need to take too much notice of him.
I suppose the only answer is that we don’t get them but you can place this among the clear penalties not given. There might not have been any intention but when you foot is high and it connects with someone’s face, it is a penalty pure and simple.
We came close another two or three times too, none more so than Tarkowski’s header which went just wide of the post with Ryan Mark II beaten. But when that goal didn’t come it perhaps gave the previously negative Brighton some hope that they might get something.
They’d already replaced the ineffective pair of Florin Andone and Anthony Knockaert and as the game moved into its closing stages they started to hit as many balls as possible into our box. They missed one good chance, a header which went over the top but, other than that, we dealt with things really well.
There was an almost deafening roar at the final whistle but this had been an important result for us and, in truth, given the conditions and the attitude of the opposition, it hadn’t been a bad performance either.
It’s taken us out of the bottom three for now, but there is still so much work to be done and the next two, at Spurs and Arsenal, are among the toughest of games.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’ve still got a lot of building to do, but we’ve made a start this week and we may well look back at this game as one of the key games of the season. This really was like the Burnley of last season.
The teams were;
Burnley: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Aaron Lennon 72), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Ashley Barnes (Jeff Hendrick 85), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Matěj Vydra, Sam Vokes.
Yellow Cards: James Tarkowski, Phil Bardsley.
Brighton: Mat Ryan (his look-a-like 40), Bruno, Lewis Dunk, Leon Balogun, Bernardo, Anthony Knockaert (Jürgen Locadia 63), Davy Propper, Yves Bissouma, Solly March, Pascal Groß (Dale Stephens 79), Florin Andone (Glenn Murray 63). Subs not used: Jason Steele, Ben White, Gaëtan Bong, Beram Kayal.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds).
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