Stoppage time frustration for Burnley
When the board went up for four extra minutes yesterday it looked virtually certain that Burnley were about to record a seventh successive Championship with win Sam Vokes scoring the only goal to beat Wolves 1-0 at Turf Moor.
Just over a minute later and we were having to settle for a point after Danny Batth headed home from a corner to earn Wolves a draw. I was stunned. It’s so rare that we concede a late goal in a game that costs us points. I think the last time we dropped Championship points through a goal, even in the last five minutes or so of a game, let alone stoppage time, was when Federico Macheda scored for Birmingham at St. Andrew’s in March 2014. At home it was probably the Jordan Rhodes goal for Blackburn in September of the same season, that one recorded on 85 minutes.
It flattened the ground. The atmosphere had been decidedly shaky through much of the second half, certainly until we scored, but the level of criticism I head of the team from people towards the end and on leaving would suggest we’d been hammered.
If Sean Dyche listened to it, and took heed of it, then none of Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, George Boyd, David Jones or Andre Gray would be in the team for the next game, maybe none of them play again.
And yet, we weren’t beaten, we’ve now won eleven and drawn four of our last fifteen games and we still sit top of the league. We are still in a better position than any other club in the Championship with just eight games remaining.
Wolves have always proved difficult opponents for us. Despite the fact that we’ve beaten them on their two previous Championship visits, our post war home record against them shows just eleven league games in 41 games following yesterday’s draw.
And so they proved again yesterday although Burnley were the much better side in the first half, and certainly in the first half hour when, had we got a goal, I’m certain we would have gone on to win the game comfortably.
Un unchanged Burnley team from the one that beat Huddersfield, started on the front foot. The closest we came was when Sam Vokes all but set up Andre Gray. It was a superb low ball in from the right but Batth was the Wolves saviour, getting the slightest of touches onto the ball to just take it away from Gray who would have been a certain starter.
Wolves were very organised, and I’ve not seen a team so quick at getting men behind the ball when out of possession for some time. The made it difficult for us at times as we looked to find that opportunity and, as much as we were on top, chances were at a premium.
Incredibly, the best chance of the half came at the other end. It all came after a poor clearance from Tom Heaton. They looked certain to score but twice we got blocks in and we escaped to go in level at half time.
That, I think, is when the negativity started in the stands and there was no real let up in the second half, a half that was somewhat delayed.
I’ve no idea why, but the half time interval yesterday was more than 22 minutes without any explanation given. Even the stragglers who normally return to their seats after the second has kicked off were back in their seats before the teams came out.
Wolves looked a different side and there were times when we were in real danger of conceding the lead to them. We lost control of the game but thankfully we defended well and I can’t remember Heaton having too many difficult saves to make although they did rattle one effort against his post.
Not for the first time recently, when we least looked likely, we took the lead and what a good goal it was. Lowton, out on the right touchline, slipped the ball inside for Joey Barton. The midfielder’s ball into the box was perfect for Vokes whose header into the far corner was every bit as good as the one he scored to win us our first point of the season at Leeds. It was Sam’s ninth goal in the last 13 league games and his fourth in the last three.
It killed Wolves. We saw nothing of note from them again for the rest of the ninety minutes. When the four minutes up I had no real worries. We looked in total control by then. Then came stoppage time and the corner. It looks as though the ball actually went out off the Wolves man for a goal kick but when the ball came in it was much too easy for Batth to head home.
If the negativity had been strong at times in the crowd, that served only to make it worse. You’d have thought we’d been relegated given some of the reaction.
The reality is we’re still top, just not as far ahead of two of the clubs now, but we’re still unbeaten and that, incredibly, was only the second time all season we’ve dropped points from a winning position.
There is still a lot to be done to get where we want to go and that would still have been the case had we won. I referred to Dyche’s ‘One Club Mentality’ in my preview on Friday. That’s what’s needed; we all know how formidable we are when we’re all pulling together.
The players are off to a training camp now, those who are not on international duty. We’ve two weeks to the next game and it’s the tough one at Brighton who themselves have won four of the last six. I’m looking forward to it and one thing guaranteed away from home is a real positive atmosphere among the fans.
For now, we’re on 75 points, we’re unbeaten in 15 games and we are still TOP OF THE LEAGUE.
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 81). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Dean Marney, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly.
Yellow Cards: Stephen Ward, Ben Mee.
Wolves: Carl Ikeme, Dominic Iorfa, Danny Batth, Kortney Hause, Matt Doherty, Conor Coady, Jack Price, George Saville, Jed Wallace (Nathan Byrne 81), Michal Zyro (Joe Mason 73), Jeremy Helan (Bjorn Sigurdarson 72). Subs not used: Damian Martinez, Sylvain Deslandes, Kevin McDonald, Adam Le Fondre.
Yellow Card: George Saville.
Referee: Fred Graham (Essex).
Attendance: 17,411 (including 1,091 from Wolves).
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