Boxing Day Blues at the Turf
Boxing Day has always been a big day in the football calendar but this year it is very much one to forget for Burnley fans as we went down to an embarrassing 5-1 home defeat against Everton.
It was pretty dire stuff which saw home fans streaming out with only a quarter of the game gone, by which time we were already three goals down. Even then, we might have got back into it, there again, we might have lost by even more, but the stark truth is that this was a team that, on the day, looked almost incapable of competing at this level.
Hopefully, for most of us, Christmas Day had been an enjoyable one. It certainly was for our family with a new member having arrived during 2018 although I’m sure he won’t remember too much about his first Christmas. With a number of keen football fans in the family, conversation turned to Boxing Day and the potential for getting the three points but the turkey, the wine, the great family occasion was soon out of mind yesterday with a performance that brought us all back to earth if not even under it.
There was a positive. The weather on match days recently has been awful, particularly thinking of the home game against Brighton and that even worse trip to Wembley a week and a half ago. Yesterday, it was almost like a spring day as I made my way to the Turf with over 21,400 others.
Sean Dyche had rung the changes again. Where we once got used to hearing the same again team news, three of the players who were in the team against Arsenal found themselves relegated to the bench. Matt Lowton returned at right-back for Phil Bardsley and Ben Gibson got his Premier League debut at the expense of Kevin Long. That meant three changes, in effect, to the back line with one change and two players, James Tarkowski and Ben Mee, both moving over one position. The third change saw Sam Vokes preferred to Chris Wood up front.
If we wanted a good start to the game, it was something we very definitely didn’t get as the goals went in, and the early period of the game brought more than a reminder of that awful day back in 2010 when Manchester City tore a hardly interested Burnley team apart. That day, however, it only took City seven minutes to go in front as Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez all found the net; at least yesterday we had reached the 22nd minute before Everton had, or certainly should have, taken the game away from us.
The moves for all three goals started with shockingly poor errors from members of our back five, three players who all had awful games, although that’s hardly excusing the rest of the team.
The first one started with Charlie Taylor getting such a bad touch on the ball, he gave away a needless corner. They took it short, we dealt with the ball in but when it came back in via Bernard, an obnoxious but a very good player, Yerry Mina was unmarked to head home from the six yard line.
If we thought we might be able to get over that dreadful start and get back into it, we were very much mistaken. Lowton gave away a needless free kick on the edge of our box. Lucas Digne’s free kick went right over the wall and in with Joe Hart getting a good hand on the ball but unable to prevent it going in.
It was only the 22nd minute when Tarkowski lost the ball to Bernard on the half way line. At least he got back to retrieve the situation at the expense of a corner but when that came over, referee Michael Oliver pointed to the penalty spot for a hand ball against Mee, although he could, had he seen it, given it against Gibson for pulling the shirt of Everton’s recognisable defender Michael Keane who, I’m sure, was enjoying this particular return to the Turf.
Up stepped Gylfi Sigurdsson to take the penalty, up went the number from 2 to 3 on the big screen and at that point you wondered just how big a defeat this could be.
I suppose when you do go 3-0 up like that, there is always the possibility that you might ease off a bit and we did at least get some sort of foothold into the game. Incredibly, by early in the second half we could have been right back in it.
Ashley Barnes forced a save out of Jordan Pickford at the expense of a corner. Tarkowski headed the flag kick against the post and Gibson was there to score a debut league goal, the first to achieve that for the Clarets since Chris Wood came on as a sub and scored the equaliser at Tottenham last season. Thankfully Vokes didn’t get a touch on the ball as it made its way into the net, that would have seen the flag go up for offside.
So 3-1 at half time and that really should have been 3-2 just a few minutes into the second half. A free kick into the box was headed out but Jeff Hendrick’s ball back in from the right dropped for Tarkowski whose close range shot went over the bar.
Just past the hour, we changed things in terms of personnel and shape. Although Robbie Brady was still out of the squad, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson had made the bench and both he and Dwight McNeil came on at the expense of Hendrick and Gibson and I have to say I was mystified that Hendrick was the midfielder chosen to come off.
Neither of them were able to have any sort of impact on the game and by the time Wood came on for Vokes, it really was all over with Digne having got his second and Everton’s fourth and I don’t think there were too many home supporters left inside the ground by the time substitute Richarlison made it 5-1 in stoppage time.
I mentioned the Manchester City game in 2010; it ended 6-1 and yesterday was the first time Burnley have conceded five goals at home since that horrible day when goodness knows what the score would have been had City not given up when the pitch all but flooded in the second half.
Yesterday was absolutely horrendous. We didn’t look capable of competing against, let’s be honest, no more than an average Premier League team. It’s so hard to believe how different things look from a year ago but it is not difficult to see where the difference is.
In the 19th game last season, half way in the season, we had just been beaten 3-0 by Spurs at home. We had 32 point from those 32 games in which we’d scored 16 goals and conceded 15. This season we have 12 points, a staggering 20 points less, yet we’ve scored one more goal this season than we had last. Take a look at that goals against column. Last season it was 15, this season it is 41, not too far short of three times as many.
A year ago we looked a team that was so difficult to score against. This season we look a team that is so easy to score goals against. It’s incredible, it’s difficult to believe to be honest but City and now Everton have scored five, Fulham, Chelsea and West Ham have all scored four against us while Watford, Liverpool and Arsenal have all netted three times. Last season, City and Spurs both got three while we did concede five in the last away game at Arsenal.
When we left the London Stadium back in early November, one of our group suggested we change goalkeeper. I asked why, Joe Hart had played well. His answer was that we concede too many goals so you have to find ways to change that and maybe a change of goalkeeper could achieve that. I don’t think we will and is that the answer? I’d certainly give it a go now, certainly after Hart’s performance yesterday. We will make one change, Bardsley will come back for the now suspended Lowton but it’s not team changes we need right now, it’s surgery.
That was absolutely desperate yesterday, it’s not ruined my Christmas but it certainly hasn’t helped. My first ever Boxing Day as a Claret was in 1960 when Everton won 3-1 at Burnley. I sulked; my dad wouldn’t let me go because he said it would be too rough for me. I hate missing games but what a shame he isn’t here now. He might have told me not to go yesterday. I certainly wouldn’t have missed much.
I hate writing negative match reports, but I think I’d have been certified if I had, but it is not the be all and end all is it? Yesterday I learned that a very good friend of mine is struggling now with dementia. There are more important things in life, but that ninety minutes on the Turf yesterday was horrible.
The teams were;
Burnley: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Ben Gibson (Dwight McNeil 63), Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick (Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson 63), Ashley Barnes, Sam Vokes (Chris Wood 73). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Matěj Vydra.
Yellow Cards: Matt Lowton, Ben Gibson.
Everton: Jordan Pickford, Kurt Zouma, Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, Seamus Coleman, Gylfi Sigurdsson, André Gomes (idrissa Gueye 75), Lucas Digne, Theo Walcott, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Richarlison 67), Bernard (Tom Davies 80). Subs not used: Maarten Stekelenburg, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Oumar Niasse.
Yellow Cards: Gylfi Sigurdsson, André Gomes, Idrissa Gueye, Richarlison.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).
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