Late winner this time for never say die Clarets
It’s often said that what goes around comes around and after Arsenal snatched victory in stoppage time in our last home game it was our turn yesterday with Scott Arfield netting a 90th minute winner against Everton to secure this 2-1 victory.
Most Burnley fans, surely happy with a point, were looking a the clock and hoping the fourth official’s board wouldn’t show too many minutes when Arfield finished so well after a superb Johann Berg Gudmundsson shot had fired back to him off the cross bar. It was the second time we’d taken the lead in the game but there was to be no second comeback from the Toffees who left the pitch a beaten side for only the second time this season.
This had been a difficult game. I know things aren’t going too well on the road, but at home it’s now three wins and a draw from the first six and I would think this proved to be the most difficult game of them all against a strong and confident Everton side.
A Sam Vokes goal six minutes before the break gave us hope but we had some defending to do in the second half, particularly after Yannick Bolasie equalised just before the hour. Hang on we did and it all paid off with that Arfield goal which makes him the first Burnley player to score a goal in two different Premier League seasons.
There was a shock with the team news. We knew Steven Defour was ruled out with the hamstring injury he suffered at Southampton and it was no surprise that his place went to Arfield. But there was one other change, an unexpected one, with Michael Kightly replacing George Boyd who was ruled out with what has been reported as an ankle injury. For Kightly, it was a first start since January.
It left us almost short of players with every member of the first team squad left standing either in the starting line up or on the bench. Alongside goalkeeper Paul Robinson, we had two right-backs and two centre-halves named as substitutes alongside Aiden O’Neill and Patrick Bamford.
We knew Everton were going to be tough opponents. Although they went into the game without a win in their three previous outings, they had only been beaten at Bournemouth all season, were sixth in the table and were coming here on the back of a superb 1-1 draw at Manchester City last week.
They started well too and we were so close to going behind in the first couple of minutes after a defensive mix up. Thankfully Tom Heaton came to the rescue to prevent Kevin Mirallas giving them an early lead and he made another couple of good saves to deny firstly Romelu Lukaku and then Ross Barkley who had been restored to the team.
No doubt they were the team in the ascendancy and there was little for us to get excited about at the other end. Kightly saw a shot go over but generally it was Everton moving forward although defensively we were looking pretty solid overall.
Then, out of the blue, came that first goal. Kightly won the ball back for Burnley just inside the Everton half. He got the ball back and it eventually found Ben Mee who in turn played it to Dean Marney. He played it forward for Gudmundsson whose wonderful flick played the ball into Arfield’s path and went on a run towards goal.
He couldn’t get the shot away he wanted. It looked to be going wide but goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg parried it right into the path of Vokes who didn’t need a second invitation to net his third goal of the season. Maybe somewhat fortunately, we went in a goal in front at half time.
I think we all knew we had some work to do to win the game and so it proved as Everton came looking for an early equaliser. We held off their initial burst but then conceded after they nipped in to take the ball from us after our passing got a little bit too intricate.
When Lukaku went clear it looked ominous for us, but it was Yannick Bolasie who took the ball from his team mate to go forward and crash home a superb strike across Heaton into the far corner.
At that point I was worried. There was still over half an hour to go and I felt this was going to be a long time to try and hold on. At times they put us under some tremendous pressure.
Two incidents stand out. The first was a superb interception from Michael Keane who got the ball away at the expense of a corner when Lukaku looked a certain scorer and then a save from Heaton that was equally as good.
Sean Dyche changed things. James Tarkowski went on to try and shore things up in front of the back four and then we were forced into a second change with Jon Flanagan getting a league debut for the injured Stephen Ward.
I remember looking at the clock and seeing 86 minutes gone. Given what’s happened at home this season this was no time to be complacent even though it did seem as though Everton had perhaps run out of ideas.
With not much more than a minute remaining, Dyche made his third change, throwing on Patrick Bamford for goalscorer Vokes. There was still drama to come as Everton gave a needless free kick away for a foul on Gudmundsson just inside the Burnley half.
Heaton took it and hit it towards the edge of the Everton box where Tarkowski won his header to get the ball down to Keane. In turn, Keane looked to find Tarkowski but a poor touch from Bolasie saw the ball reach Gudmundsson.
His shot hammered against the bar and for a split second I was bemoaning our bad luck. The ball sort of dropped for Arfield who was quick to react. It was not going to be an easy finish and I suspected he was going to blaze it over the bar. But Arfield was too good for that, he played the ball into the ground and immediately, from my vantage point, you could see exactly where the ball was going.
I was already on my feet when the ball crossed the line and all hell broke loose with only the manager seemingly keeping his head. He was calling for calm as the Burnley fans went ballistic and the players celebrated just over the half way line with Tarkowski and Matt Lowton quickly telling Bamford to stay in the other half so Everton couldn’t re-start. It took him a while to fasten that lace as the players got back into position.
Four minutes of stoppage time became five minutes of agony, albeit without our goal ever coming under any threat, and that was followed by a roar from the stands as referee Mike Jones blew his final whistle.
Just six days earlier I’d seen the overreaction to our Southampton defeat on the message board. No, we weren’t good at St. Mary’s, far from it, but I still think some haven’t got a grip as to how difficult this league is for a club like ours. We won’t get any easy points, home or away. We will have to fight for everything we get and some days we won’t be good enough to get anything, that’s just how it is.
Swansea and Arsenal have beaten us on the Turf this season, Hull got a point and we’d previously beaten Liverpool and Watford, but I don’t think we’ve had a more difficult home game than this one. It was tough, Everton were tough, but we hung in there, we stayed in the game, and ultimately by doing that we got a last minute goal to count.
So often we hear of the togetherness of our players. Never was it more on public display than yesterday. Check out the Sky coverage as the players celebrate the win. You will see what looks like a budding bromance between Mee and Arfield. Then take a look at the reaction from Kevin Long, a player who rarely gets a kick, and Kightly, a player who hardly gets a kick. That shows the togetherness. That’s what makes these players so special. That’s what makes us as good as we are.
As for Arfield, he’s become the first Burnley player to score goals in two different Premier League seasons. Yesterday was his 19th league goal for the Clarets since signing for us in the summer of 2013. Those goals have come in 15 wins (he scored twice in last season’s 4-0 win against Charlton), 2 draws and only the 1 defeat, that against Chelsea on the opening day of the 2014/15 season.
That really was a hard fought game, but what joy to be able to leave the Turf when the action right at the end of the game finally goes in our favour. Were we better than Everton? Probably not. Did we deserve that? Absolutely.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward (Jon Flanagan 83), Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Scott Arfield, Michael Kightly (James Tarkowski 74), Sam Vokes (Patrick Bamford 89). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, Kevin Long, Aiden O’Neill.
Yellow Cards: Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick.
Everton: Maarten Stekelenburg, Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka (Enner Valencia 90+1), Ashley Williams, Bryan Oviedo, Idrissa Gueye (Tom Cleverley 83), Gareth Barry, Yannick Bolasie, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas (Gerard Deulofeu 76), Romelu Lukaku. Subs not used: Joel Robles, Ramiro Funes Mori, Aaron Lennon, Mason Holgate.
Yellow Cards: Idrissa Gueye, Seamus Coleman, Gareth Barry.
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester).
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