Spurs Special at the Turf
Burnley took the unbeaten run in the Premier League to eight games yesterday with a 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur at the Turf. It was undoubtedly the best performance and result of the season and was arguably one of our best ever in the Premier League.
Again it was the two strikers Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes who took the plaudits with a goal apiece in the second half, either side of a Spurs goal from Harry Kane, but this was a performance with no stars where we stood out man for man from back to front with a performance that lifted everyone inside Turf Moor with the exception of visiting manager Mauricio Pochettino and his right hand man Jesús Pérez. They lost the plot completely with referee Mike Dean at the final whistle but I think Poch had lost the plot long before that given he said after the game that he thought they were in control.
Wood got the opener just before the hour, heading home a corner and it was Barnes who sent the whole place into raptures when he was on the spot to finish a move set up by Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson who had just come on as a substitute.
It was a somewhat unseasonable afternoon in Burnley. It’s only a few short weeks ago that we went to Wembley to play Spurs and we all left frozen and wet through, made worse by Christian Eriksen’s stoppage time winner. This time we treated our visitors from Spurs with the sort of weather you wouldn’t usually expect in Burnley during February. The temperatures have risen and the only problems were caused by the sun making watching difficult at times, particularly when play was in the shaded area close to the Bob Lord stand.
There were no problems with the team news. Since naming his team for the home win against West Ham at the end of December, Sean Dyche has made just one change in the Premier League; that chance was bringing in Jeff Hendrick for Guðmundsson for the Fulham game on 12th January.
Guðmundsson is back fit now, as is Robbie Brady, and both were named on a subs bench yesterday that included just two defenders, a bench that would offer more options should they be needed during the second half.
All the talk at the Tottenham end all week centred on whether Harry Kane would play. That was a no brainer for me. I can’t for the life of me think that you would put Kane, if fit, on the bench and neither did Pochettino; the England captain started for the first time since suffering an ankle injury last month.
It was cat and mouse stuff for a time in the first half but there was always a threat from the visitors who had moved themselves into contention for the title with four successive wins. They came up against a Burnley defence in inspired form whenever they did get forward and the closest they came to breaking the deadlock was when Kane made space for himself on the edge of the box before firing wide.
But the closest anyone came to a goal in the first half was when Barnes saw a first time effort go agonisingly over the bar after great work from Hendrick on the right had set him up. Spurs did put us under a little pressure at the end of the half but referee Mike Dean, who I have to say had an excellent game, blew up right on the 45 minutes with the score at 0-0.
I thought we’d done well in the first half. Maybe we hadn’t threatened them enough but we’d certainly kept a strong looking Spurs team at bay and limited them to very little when it came to goalscoring opportunities. All I felt we had to do was repeat that in the second half and we’d have a very good chance of getting something from the game.
They’d clearly had a strong talking to at half time and they certainly came out on the front foot as the second half got underway. In the opening minutes of the half they had their best spell but they had only the one chance and that was Kane opted to let fly from distance with a shot that Tom Heaton, who is surely set to rejoin Kane in the England squad, tipped away brilliantly.
For me that signalled the end of the time when Spurs could even come close to suggesting they were the better side. Soon afterwards we went in front and we went on to turn in a second half performance that was as good as anything we’ve seen in a long time.
There might be some controversy with the goal over the corner but let’s not forget the brilliant part Dwight McNeil played in winning that corner. HIs turn in the centre of the pitch was something else but he then had the foresight to play the ball out quickly to Charlie Taylor. His cross eventually reached McNeil who couldn’t keep it down but got it to Hendrick with the ball going out as he tussled with Jan Vertonghen.
Having seen it from every available angle, I still can’t be certain but I do think it’s a goal kick. The assistant flagged a corner and as it came over Juan Foyth seemed more concerned with pulling at Wood’s shirt. Wood didn’t care, he just got his head to the ball and scored with a terrific header off the underside of the bar.
There was still over half an hour to go and it was likely that we would need to retain that lead for some time, unfortunately it was no more than eight minutes before Spurs equalised with a controversial goal of their own.
They won a throw in, no problem with that, but fourth official Craig Pawson threw the ball back for Danny Rose. His was a foul throw from some yards further forward than he should have been. But, we fell asleep, it gave Kane the chance and he didn’t need asking twice. Rose found him with the throw, he got forward and shot past Heaton and in off the far post.
I bet I wasn’t the only Burnley fan who now feared the worst, more so given their recent ability to score late crucial goals, but what happened was we lifted our performance even more. We were putting them under some pressure and with ten minutes to go we brought on our two returning wide men and it was Guðmundsson who played the major part in the winner.
JBG actually played the ball up the left wing where Wood forced Serge Aurier into making a poor connection with the ball. Jack Cork got to it and was able to get it to Guðmundsson who, with one excellent flick, took the ball away from Eriksen. He moved into the box before placing the ball across (or scuffing his shot according to Andy Hinchcliffe) and there was Barnes moving in at the near post to finish.
Seven minutes to go, plus the obligatory four extra minutes, but we didn’t really have to hang on. Spurs had a couple of tame efforts but generally we kept them at arm’s length and at no point did they ever really worry us.
The final whistle was greeted with delight from all but one section of the cricket field stand, and of course Pochettino and his entourage. Was he really complaining about the corner? I could have half understood it had they had a penalty refused similar to the one we should have had in the last home game against Southampton but any wrong decisions made yesterday were minor ones to be honest. We just celebrated what really as a fantastic win.
I’ve always loved Burnley v Spurs games. My first was back in April 1961. We were then champions and they’d just won the league to take the title from us. We trailed 2-0 at half time to goals from Peter Baker and Bobby Smith but we stormed back in the second half to win it 4-2. Gordon Harris and Jimmy McIlroy drew us level before Harris, again, and Jimmy Robson won us the points.
There were great players in both sides then and there were yesterday. Playing this Spurs team is a big task with the likes of Kane, Eriksen, Son and Rose (who has since been found in Hendrick’s pocket) up against you, but this was no fluke result at all. It didn’t need a freak goal, or a big mistake from them, or inspired goalkeeping from Tom, we just played outstandingly well.
I was meeting my friends Kat and Martin from Spurs after the game. I’d warned them that I’m a grumpy old sod when we lose and unbearable when we win. Some would say I’m grumpy and unbearable all the time. I think I showed great humility and they were both wholesome in their praise of our performance and readily accepted that we deserved the points.
That’s eight games without defeat in the Premier League. It was nice of Sky to recall yesterday that football was played before the Premier League and they confirmed it was 1966 the last time we achieved that. They must have been reading my report of the Brighton game.
Was it our best ever performance in the Premier League? We’ll all have our own thoughts on that but to be honest, you’d be hard pressed to find one better.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick (Robbie Brady 80), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil (Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson 80), Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Ben Gibson, Matěj Vydra, Peter Crouch.
Yellow Card: Phil Bardsley.
Tottenham: Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Juan Foyth (Erik Lamela 76), Jan Vertonghen, Serge Aurier, Harry Winks (Fernando Llorente 62), Moussa Sissoko, Danny Rose, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min (Lucas Moura 88), Harry Kane. Subs not used: Paulo Gazzaniga, Kyle Walker-Peters, Ben Davies, Victor Wanyama.
Yellow Cards: Fernando Llorente, Juan Foyth, Erik Lamela.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
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