Late goal bags Clarets a point against the Baggies
A late Sam Vokes goal, his second of the game, gave Burnley a 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion yesterday. It left us one point short of being certain of finishing above third from bottom Swansea but as we left the ground news came through of Hull’s home defeat to relegated Sunderland to confirm our place in next season’s Premier League.
The Burnley fans had been signing We are staying up when we took the lead but things went horribly wrong for us then with the goal shy Baggies scoring twice to turn the game on its head. Thankfully we got that equaliser in a game where a defeat would have been totally undeserved.
I’d spent the morning at Gawthorpe watching the youth team win their last game of the season before making my way down to the Turf where we knew there were concerns over three quarters of our regular back four.
It wasn’t good when the team news came through; Stephen Ward had made it but neither Michael Keane nor Ben Mee were in the squad which meant a central defensive pairing of Kevin Long and James Tarkowski. There were certainly concerns going into a game at this level with a central defensive partnership that could boast just one Premier League start between them. Other than Long for Keane, it was the same team that had started at Palace a week earlier.
It was a slow walk out for the teams with Clarets’ captain Tom Heaton coming out with four year old Charlie Proctor who received a warm reception from the home supporters as he made his way to the half way line to shake hands with the players and match officials.
The first half was hardly an inspiring 45 minutes but we looked more than secure defensively with any likelihood of a goal coming at the cricket field end as we looked to break the deadlock and get the points that would assure our safety.
George Boyd fired one effort over the bar, Scott Arfield was blocked by James McClean when he looked a potential scorer while our best effort came from Vokes who forced Ben Foster into a good save with a shot from the tightest of angles.
West Brom won a couple of corners but I don’t recall Heaton having too much to do at all and for virtually the entire half we looked more than comfortable.
In our three previous games against them in the Premier League there have been four goals scored. The two away games ended in big 4-0 defeats while the last home game was 2-2. With the score 0-0 at half time there was a suggestion that it certainly wouldn’t happen this time.
I wasn’t expecting four but I felt that a goal would come if we continued as we did in the first half but we actually stepped it up after the break and started to put West Brom under some pressure.
Tarkowski fired over with a header early in the half from a right wing corner but then we took the lead with a goal I, and many others, didn’t even see. What I did see was Matt Lowton play in Ashley Barnes who was brought down by Jake Livermore. I also saw referee Mike Jones wave away penalty appeals while assistant Andy Garratt was clearly flagging for the penalty.
My eyes were on the assistant so I didn’t see any more so thank goodness for television pictures. Barnes was brilliant. He got back to his feet, to the ball and played it across for Vokes to turn into the net. As the ball made its way from Barnes to Vokes, the referee can clearly be seen putting his whistle to his mouth to award a penalty. With the ball in the net there was no need. Burnley were a goal in front.
Incredibly, just over twenty minutes later we found ourselves behind. They got a corner on the right, an astounding decision for me given that Ward was surely fouled. They hit the bar from the corner and out it came, but they got the ball back out to the left where James McClean picked it up. His cross reached Salomon Rondon who turned to score.
Then, another corner and this time Craig Dawson got his header on target although Heaton would have made the save had it not taken a bit deflection off Barnes. Suddenly we were facing a defeat we surely didn’t deserve.
On came Andre Gray, for Barnes, then Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady replaced Arfield and Boyd. Gudmundsson forced a save out of Foster but the West Brom goalkeeper was caught out by Brady four minutes from the end. His free kick into the box saw Foster come out, not get there, and that allowed Vokes to loop a header over him for the equaliser. It was a goal so similar to the Ewood Park winner in 2014 when Jason Shackell headed home a Ross Wallace free kick with Paul Robinson stranded.
The home fans roared the team on but there was to be no dramatic winner and we assumed another point would be needed to confirm safety, that was until news came through that Sunderland had won 2-0 at Hull. Our position in the Premier League was secure other than some ridiculous scores over the next two weeks.
Another well earned point from the Clarets which has taken us to that magical 40 points. I’m not sure many of us thought that possible when the season kicked off.
As for yesterday’s game, I thought our two central midfielders, Ashley Westwood and Jeff Hendrick, were outstanding. Things have certainly changed in that area of the pitch and I suspect there won’t be need for a Brian Stock Day 2017.
There also has to be special mention of Long. He hasn’t kicked a ball in our first team since New Year’s Day 2015 and to come in like that and play as well as he did deserves so much credit.
Another good day for the Clarets, without a doubt and for those whose glasses have been half empty or worse, I did say we wouldn’t go down. I’m looking forward to the next two games and then can’t wait for next season.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Robbie Brady 83), Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield (Johann Berg Gudmundsson 83), Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes (Andre Gray 79). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Tendayi Darikwa, Jon Flanagan, Steven Defour.
Yellow Card: Ashley Barnes.
West Brom: Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans (Allan Nyom 51), Marc Wilson (Claudio Jacob 88), Sam Field (James Morrison 54), Jake Livermore, James McClean, Darren Fletcher, Chris Brunt, Salomon Rondon. Subs not used: Boaz Myhill, Jonathan Leko, Kane Wilson, Nacer Chadli.
Yellow Cards: Marc Wilson, Gareth McAuley, Allan Nyom.
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester).
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