Geordies take the points in latest home defeat
Two goals in the first quarter of the game were enough to give Newcastle United all three points at Turf Moor last night. We pulled one back through Sam Vokes five minutes before half time but for all the possession after the break, it was all huff and puff with hardly a clear cut chance and, overall, we could have no complaints about the result.
It was another hugely disappointing ninety minutes at the Turf with another disappointing result but we are almost getting used to home defeats. This was the fourth this season and, since going fourth with a 1-0 win against Stoke in December last year, we have now lost nine of sixteen home league games with only three against Everton, Leicester and Bournemouth won.
Besides being disappointing, it was a strange night too. I’d got it into my head that it was a 7:45 p.m. kick off, our usual midweek kick off time, and my clock watching became something of a joke as we sat having tea ahead of the game.
“It’s 8 o’clock kick off,” I was repeatedly told, but it wasn’t. We were just walking up Harry Potts Way when we learned that there was to be a thirty minute delay because former referee Eddie Wolstenholme had been taken ill in the players’ tunnel and required urgent medical attention.
We nipped into the cafe on Yorkshire Street, which was full of Young Boys (their team are playing at Manchester United tonight), for a brew and when we finally did make our way back to the turnstiles there was hardly anyone outside the ground with most having already gone in.
We knew there was one change. Robbie Brady was in for Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson who was apparently ill, and Brady’s place on the bench was taken by fit again Ben Gibson. Otherwise it was as we were at Leicester in the previous game.
What we haven’t been able to do this season very often is keep a clean sheet. There have only been three, those in the goalless draws at Southampton and Leicester to add to the 4-0 home win against Bournemouth. Very quickly we knew this wasn’t going to be the fourth when Newcastle went in front in under four minutes.
There was definitely some misfortune with Ben Mee deflecting the ball into his own net when the shot was going wide, but there was some poor play, notably from Brady, that contributed to it. Mee got one block in at the expense of a corner after Brady had given the ball away. From that corner, they worked the ball across the pitch and when we headed the ball out of our box, Brady was caught dallying allowing Federico Fernández to get the shot in that found its way into the net via Mee.
If we were hoping for a big response, it didn’t really come other than one speculative effort from Chris Wood. I think I am being kind to Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka if I suggest he didn’t hold it; he somehow just appeared to let the ball hit him and bounce off him. This is when you need a predator, a goalscorer, but there was no one moving in to take advantage.
Soon after, Newcastle won another couple of corners on the right and from the second of them they doubled their lead. They took a short corner with Matt Ritchie’s cross being met by an unmarked Ciaran Clark who headed into the far corner.
The home fans were getting restless. There was now little encouragement coming from the stands and there was nothing on the pitch to encourage it. But, out of the blue, we got back into the game and might even have gone into the half time break level.
One feature of our game last night was constantly, and very slowly, passing the ball across our back line. We did it again but eventually Mee hit the ball forward where Sam Vokes got up to brilliantly head home from only just inside the penalty box. He caught the goalkeeper off his line and we were back in the game.
Dúbravka had looked anything but secure on the rare occasions he’d been called upon but he did keep his side in front with a good save in the 45th minute, denying Wood’s excellent strike after Vokes had headed the ball down to him.
That last five minutes did, at least, give us hope that there was better to come. “I hope that was the bad half,” someone behind me said at half time to which I replied: “It can’t have been the good half.”
Was the second half any better? Some seem to think so, I don’t really, and undoubtedly Newcastle should have had the game done and dusted just a few minutes in only for Ritchie to miss the chance of all chances. Quite what Charlie Taylor was doing, I’m not sure, but once the ball had been played across to Ritchie he had one of those chances everyone dreams of, the one when you can’t really miss. He, thankfully, did.
There is no doubt we had a lot of the ball. Mostly it was that boring, slow, passing across the back that was frustrating the hell out of the crowd. It reached the point where Newcastle just dropped off and allowed us to do it and for much of the half there was very little threat.
There were half chances. Wood shot straight at the goalkeeper, Brady fired wide with his right foot. Newcastle even freshened things up with a substitution while we carried on playing the same laboured football with the same eleven players until, finally, we got a couple of changes long past the eighty minutes.
One of the two coming on was Jeff Hendrick. For me he should have been on earlier if not from the start. He’s the one player who gets us up the pitch and gets us moving. He replaced Steven Defour who had offered little; Ashley Barnes came on for Brady who had offered even less.
It got a bit frantic and then, right at the end, we won a free kick on the right. It earned Ritchie the only yellow card of the evening. Lennon took it; Vokes met it but could only head over. Referee Taylor blew the final whistle and we’d been beaten again.
The away end was full but I can’t imagine too many of them had ever seen their side win at Turf Moor. Their last win at the Turf came on Boxing Day 1975. Ex-Claret Geoff Nulty and future Burnley midfielder Tommy Cassidy were in their line up that day. They won 1-0 with a Tommy Craig penalty two minutes from the end. We got our last St. James’ Park win later that season, so maybe our long wait will come to an end too.
Why are we struggling so much? “We don’t score enough goals,” was an explanation I heard leaving last night. That’s correct, 13 in 13 games isn’t anything to write home about, but, incredibly, we’d scored less, albeit only one less, at this stage last season.
The problem is quite clearly at the other end of the pitch. After 13 games last season we had conceded no more than 10 goals; this season that total is 27 and unless we find a way to stop leaking goals, and soon, then this season really is going to be a scrap. Right now I can’t see it being anything else.
I don’t want to hear about last summer’s transfer window again, nor about how Europe has damaged things. Neither do I want to hear the words fortress Turf Moor – three wins and nine defeats since in the last eleven months makes it clear it is far from being a fortress.
What I do want to hear is news that we’ve kept some clean sheets. Only then will be have a chance of pulling away from the bottom end of the league. Last night we conceded another two and, frankly, got what we deserved – nothing.
The teams were;
Burnley: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon, Steven Defour (Jeff Hendrick 82), Jack Cork, Robbie Brady (Ashley Barnes 83), Chris Wood, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Ben Gibson, Ashley Westwood, Matěj Vydra.
Newcastle: Martin Dúbravka, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Schär, Federico Fernández, Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie, Kenedy (Isaac Hayden 90), Mohamed Diamé, Sung-yueng Ki, Ayoze Pérez Gutiérrez, Salomόn Rondόn (Joselu 71). Subs not used: Freddie Woodman, Christian Atsu, Jonjo Shelvey, Jacob Murphy, Javier Manquillo.
Yellow Card: Matt Ritchie.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe).
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