Pride restored despite result
Burnley fell to a second defeat in five days yesterday when Manchester City came to Turf Moor and took all three points in a 2-1 win, but there is no doubt that our pride was restored after last Monday’s 4-0 drubbing at West Brom.
The television cameras were rolling yet again. This time it was BT and that had brought the kick off forward to 12:30 p.m. on what was supposed to be a bitterly cold but bright day weather wise. There is no doubt you had to be prepared. Those in the Bob Lord were wrapped up against the cold while it was more factor 15 and sun glasses for the Longside on what felt like a summer’s day.
I think we were all expecting some team changes given the West Brom performance, but the big news broke from the training ground on Friday that Tom Heaton had been ruled out with a calf injury. Sean Dyche had previously confirmed that he had a niggle but no more.
That meant a debut for Paul Robinson, the very goalkeeper who suggested just over a year ago that it would be impossible to swap Blackburn for Burnley. Television was quick to tell us how long it had been since he’d played in the Premier League, clearly nothing else matters to them, but his last game was over two years ago, for Blackburn in a 3-2 home defeat against Derby. It was the first time Burnley had kicked off a league game without Heaton since the last game of the 2012/13 season when Lee Grant was in goal against Ipswich.
The only other change saw George Boyd return for Scott Arfield who dropped to the bench which now included Nick Pope as sub goalkeeper. Manchester City, as expected, made some changes, but the threat of Sergio Aguero was one star name in the line up and he was to cost us.
Aguero forced an early save from Robinson, and it was a good save too, going down to his right to push the ball away, but we were the brighter team in the opening period during which we took the lead.
Even before that save we should have had a penalty for a push on Jeff Hendrick and soon after the City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was forced into a save down to his left to keep out a Johann Berg Gudmundsson shot.
Then the goal. Robinson hoisted a free kick forward. Nicolas Otamendi got to hit ahead of Michael Keane to head clear but only to Dean Marney whose superb low volley flew into the bottom corner to the keeper’s right.
Apparently it’s 2,558 days since Marney last scored a Premier League goal, according to the BBC. That’s seven years and one day and that last goal was for Hull against Everton with what proved to be the winner. His last goal came in our 3-3 draw at Birmingham in March 2014.
For much of the remainder of the first half we looked more than comfortable. Maybe we didn’t come too close to increasing the lead but we looked secure defensively and City were having precious little joy.
Unfortunately, the last eight minutes of the half cost us as first City did equalise and then we lost two influential players to injury and it started with a City equaliser from a right wing corner.
Matt Lowton’s superb challenge in the box led to the flag kick which was knocked in from the near post by Nolito. Sam Vokes appeared to handle it, then it deflected off Otamendi and fell invitingly for Aguero at the near post.
I just thought it was vital that we got to half time without that, and we certainly could have done to avoid the changes we had to make before that half time whistle. When Marney went down for a second time we knew his day was over; Scott Arfield replacing him in 40 minutes. Three minutes later and James Tarkowski had to come on for Gudmundsson.
With absolutely no disrespect to Arfield and Tarkowski, but this really did show the difference between the two. Here were our two midfield replacements; City had David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne among their substitutes.
With that goal, City had become the first team to score against us at the Jimmy Mac end since Preston just a week short of a year ago.
We got ourselves organised for the second half and were able to deal with what City had to offer for the first quarter of an hour until another scrappy goal proved to be the winner. The ball was played into the box on the left hand side and we had any number of chances to clear it. Ben Mee, captaining the side for the first time, was almost tackled by Tarkowski as he tried to get the ball away and then Stephen Ward suffered similarly when Mee stopped him.
All it needed was a bit of good fortune and it would have come to nothing, but all the fortune was with City. The ball dropped nicely for Fernandinho who got the ball back for it to bounce in off Aguero’s knee.
It was the winner, there was to be no glorious comeback from Burnley, but my word didn’t we give it a really good go. We put City under some pressure and came close a few times. I thought one Boyd effort was going to go in similar to the last time City were here; that was blocked as was a header from Keane.
Into stoppage time and we were to come closer. Tarkowski flicked on a Ward throw in which led to Ashley Barnes, who had replaced Steven Defour ten minutes from the end, seeing an overhead kick saved by Bravo.
It wasn’t our day; the final whistle blew and the points were on their way back to Manchester, but we’d given them a tough game as Pep Guardiola was quick to acknowledge after the game.
We know it’s points we need, those are what will give us our chance of staying in the Premier League, but yesterday I felt that giving a decent performance was every bit as high on the agenda given last Monday when we all left West Brom deflated and concerned.
Our lads gave us that performance yesterday. Against one of the best sides in the country I felt we were really worth a point. It’s easy to say, but I do believe that if we can continue to play at that level we will be OK. I also know that when we do drop below our best, that’s when the West Brom games will come around and we can’t afford so many of those.
Despite that result, the performance has surely given us all that bit of confidence that had been lost, that we can continue to compete at Premier League level. It would help if we could get the occasional penalty decision to go our way too.
Stoke next. Sean Dyche has admitted that we are just not doing it away from home. Next Saturday would be a good place to start.
The teams were;
Burnley: Paul Robinson, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson (James Tarkowski 43), Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney (Scott Arfield 40), Steven Defour (Ashley Barnes 80), George Boyd, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Nick Pope, Jon Flanagan, Michael Kightly, Andre Gray.
Yellow Cards: Dean Marney, Matt Lowton.
Manchester City: Claudio Bravo, Bacary Sagna, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando, Raheem Sterling (Leroy Sané 57), Yaya Toure, Nolito (Kevin De Bruyne 78), Sergio Aguero (Jesus Navas 89). Subs not used: Willy Caballero, Pablo Zabaleta, David Silva, Kelechi Iheanacho.
Yellow Cards: Nicolas Otamendi, Sergio Aguero, Nolito.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
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