Hull of a win for the Clarets
Burnley moved up to within a point of the top two yesterday after we beat current leaders Hull City 1-0 at home with a Sam Vokes goal some thirteen minutes from the end of normal time.
Vokes turned the ball home after Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor had parried a Joey Barton shot from the edge of the box. As the ball nestled in the net it brought one of the biggest roars heard at the Turf all season and led to us clinching those much wanted three points.
I say wanted, and some would say needed. To be hones I was amazed at how many people were suggesting ahead of kick off that this was a must win game. Admittedly, a Hull win would have taken them seven points clear of us but must win games don’t come around in February.
I knew it was a home match Saturday when I got out of bed to see the rain pouring down and the wind howling. Steve Bruce had said in his pre-match interview on Friday that horrendous conditions were forecast. He’s clearly no Michael Fish; Bruce had it absolutely right.
Thankfully, I received a door to door service to get me down there but it really is getting tiresome now; it seems it is just about every home game that we get strong winds, heavy rain or usually both.
With one eye on the cricket to see how many Josh Buttler would get this time and how quickly, we got the expected team news that we would line up as we had at Sheffield Wednesday. It was the same seven substitutes too. Dean Marney was still not fit enough to return and new signing James Tarkowski once again had a stand seat.
One stand seat was unoccupied yesterday and that was Frank Teasdale’s. I can report that his tie was placed over the seat for the game and also that a collection in the 100 Club and Vice-Presidents lounges raised over £300 in his name and went to Barry Kilby’s prostate cancer fund.
Someone did joke outside and asked me if we were going to have a minute’s demonstration, all with chants of Teasdale Out! We did have a minute’s silence ahead of the game. It had already been scheduled to allow Burnley supporters to pay their respects to Ray Pointer but it was appropriately held for both.
Pointer – another of my heroes gone. I make no apologies for the tears that rolled down my cheeks yesterday as we stood in silence. As I reported last week, he scored the first Burnley goal I ever saw and really was one of favourite players as a youngster. It’s inevitable, but still so sad, to see these players depart and all we can do is show this respect and remember their wonderful contributions to Burnley Football Club.
We’ve played Bruce’s teams a good few times over the years and so I was expecting them to keep it very tight and organised. I was convinced that he’d come with the intention of ensuring they didn’t lose; that returning home with a point would be a good result for them.
It wasn’t quite like that. They were more expansive than I’d imagined and that led to a more open start to the game that we might have expected. But it was Burnley who started the better of the two and we put them under some real pressure from a number of set piece opportunities.
Ben Mee had one header blocked that ended with Vokes hitting the rebound over and Michael Keane, not to be outdone by Mee, also got a header in that went narrowly wide.
Most of Hull’s efforts were from long distance and the only time they really threatened was via a Robert Snodgrass effort that Tom Heaton got down to save with the loose ball knocked out for a corner.
At Hull on Boxing Day, the game, particularly the second half, was run by Jake Livermore. Here there is no doubt who was dictating the game. You only had to look at the two players in the centre of midfield for us.
Joey Barton was everywhere. I asked with about fifteen minutes gone whether there was a blade of grass he hadn’t covered. He pressed, he chased, he prompted and, alongside the majestic David Jones it was a delight to watch.
Barton might have even got himself on the scoresheet at the Turf for the first time. McGregor did well to get down to his left to save a free kick from the midfielder and then he saved a header from him after another superb ball into the box from Jones.
Against a lesser team I’m sure we’d have been well in front by half time, but this is a very good Hull team. Chatting at half time, I think the best comment on the first half I heard was: “It’s a game between two very good sides.”
It really had been an enjoyable first half but I suppose, given the goals he scored for both teams, it was ironic that it was 0-0 when Andy Payton came out to make the half time draw.
You know Hull will try to step things up after half time and they did and they had one real chance to get themselves in front. Heaton saved spectacularly from Moses Odubajo but it was a save you would expect him to make.
However, he did brilliantly to deny Abel Hernandez when he got clear past the otherwise superb Keane. Left one-on-one, Heaton got there feet first to clear. Soon after Hull might have scored when Hernandez tried to get on to a cross but as the ball flew safely across goal, so did Hull’s chances of winning this game.
Vokes was involved down the left and as he made his way into the box, Andre Gray opted to back heel the ball for Scott Arfield. His cross into the box was met by Vokes. He did well to chest it down but was outnumbered and they got the ball away, but only to Barton.
He kept his shot on the ground but Vokes did so well once the ball came back off the goalkeeper. it appeared to have gone behind him but he clawed it back to get his shot into the net and a lead for the Clarets.
There were still thirteen minutes to play, plus the almost four minutes added on by referee Graham Scott who, I thought, had a very good game. Not once in that time did we look as though we might surrender that lead. We closed the game down so well I don’t think Hull got a sniff of a half chance let alone a real chance.
It wasn’t must win, but my word this was an important win. On the message board this morning, LancasterClaret posted: “Yesterday was the first time the team reminded me of the performances of two years ago. If we can keep this up, then we have a real chance.”
I’m not so sure it’s the first time, but I totally agree on the sentiment. This was the pressing, organised Burnley team we got so used to in 2013/14, and a team with some attacking flare to add to that.
I was thrilled at the result, but not just the result, also the performance. Apart from a short period during the second half I thought we were the better side. We did press them and we played with so much energy it was exhausting even watching at times.
And, make no mistake, we’d just beaten one of the best teams in this division.
I really do think seven points from the games against Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Hull is a magnificent return. We just need to keep it going because once again we are now looking a very, very good side again, and all under the management of Sean Dyche who only a day earlier had committed himself to our club with the signing of a new contract.
We’ve never won a league game at the Madejski Stadium. We can put that right next Saturday and I’m looking forward to it.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Rouwen Hennings 90+2). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly.
Yellow Card: Sam Vokes.
Hull: Allan McGregor, Moses Odubajo, Michael Dawson, Curtis Davies, Andrew Robertson, Robert Snodgrass, Jake Livermore (Tom Huddlestone 86), Isaac Hayden, Sam Clucas, Mohamed Diame (Sone Aluko 75), Abel Hernandez (Chuba Akpom 76). Subs not used: Eldin Jakupovic, Alex Bruce, David Meyler, Ahmed Elmohamady.
Yellow Card: Isaac Hayden.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).
Attendance: 17,677 (including 1,628 from Hull).
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