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west-ham-2-1000x500Burnley kick off a run of three consecutive away games tomorrow with a trip to West Ham United with future fixtures to come against West Bromwich Albion and Watford before we finally get home for a game against Leicester City in mid-April.

It’s not quite as bad as last season; that was four consecutive away games and a gap of seven weeks between home games which had been caused by the switching of our Liverpool games. This time it is all because of a postponement against Chelsea next week.

So, London again tomorrow and our second ever visit to the London Stadium which I described last season as being like the Withdean with stands. I’m not going to get into the whole debate again as to whether it is suitable for football but it is certainly not one of the venues that will ever be high on my list for a visit. Hopefully it will be better in daylight, hopefully the walk from the station won’t be as long this time and, more than anything, hopefully it will be a better result.

It’s been a good week to be a Burnley fan. We finally broke that run of games without a win by beating Everton. Not only did we get the win but came from behind to win for the first time in the Premier League since the final game of the 2009/10 season when we were 2-0 down against Spurs but went on to win 4-2.

That win has taken our points total to 40 which has equalled the final total of last season. It’s not guaranteed that it will be enough to stay up but it invariably is. Since the league was reduced to 20 teams, only one club have ever been relegated with more than 40 points and that’s tomorrow’s opponents West Ham who went down in 2003 with 42 points.

With nine games to go, four at home and five away, it gives us a big opportunity to press on and push closer to 50 points and a potential seventh place finish that could see us qualify for Europe for the first time in over half a century. Manager Sean Dyche might well be keeping expectations lowered with his suggestion that we just want to be better than last season but he, like us, will know it is within our capabilities to get there.

When Robbie Brady suffered his season ending injury at Leicester on the first Saturday in December, our form suffered somewhat. Brady had really hit form at the time and I don’t think I’d seen him have a better game in a Burnley shirt than he did at Bournemouth three days earlier.

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But now we’ve got two players in form in the wide positions. After a first season at Turf Moor that was hit by injuries, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson has played well in 2017/18 and now has a new wing partner with the signing of Aaron Lennon who had his best game yet for us last week in the win against his old club.

“It’s a good combination. It’s been good to get him in,” Guðmundsson said of Lennon. “He’s a really good player and he’s been around fantastic clubs and played at the highest level. As wingers, we want to score and create goals. We have been creating chances for our strikers, so let’s just carry that on.”

Looking forward to the potential of finishing seventh, he added: “We’re not getting carried away and there are still many games to go for reaching our goal and ending up in the same place as we are now. There’s a lot of football to be played but if we keep playing, for example, like we did at the weekend I think we will be high up. There’s a little bit of pressure off and we can go out there and enjoy it, but still win that mentality that we want to win games and get points.”

Both Guðmundsson and Lennon are expected to play with Dyche having the same squad to select from with Scott Arfield still ruled out with a calf injury and none of the longer term injured players ready to return.

The big question will be whether we continue with what has been the usual formation or whether we will stick with the 4-4-2 system that served us so well during last week’s second half, that when fit again Chris Wood came on and scored the winning goal.

Wood scored against West Ham too, a late goal in the home game that earned us a point in a 1-1 draw and I suspect he might start. If so, the team could be: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs from: Anders Lindegaard, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Dean Marney, Jeff Hendrick, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes.

West Ham ended last season in 11th place in the Premier League last season under the management of Slaven Bilic, his second season in charge, but things haven’t gone quite as well this season. Things haven’t gone quite as well this season. Their poor results cost Bilic his job and he’s since been replaced by David Moyes and, currently on 30 points, they are one of the clubs hovering just above the drop zone and occupy 14th place although they’ve played less home games and more away games than any other club.

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They’ve just been beaten 4-1 in each of their last two games, but both were away at Liverpool and Swansea whilst at home they are unbeaten in the last four games with wins against West Brom and Watford sandwiching draws against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

They do have some injury problems. Both Andy Carroll and Pedro Obiang remain out of the side whilst Winston Reid and Sam Byram were both injured last week at Swansea and both have now been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Arthur Masuaku, sent off in the FA Cup at Wigan for spitting at Nick Powell, will serve the last game of a six match ban.

There are positives though with both Angelo Ogbonna (pictured) and James Collins available again. Ogbonna missed last week’s game through illness with Collins ruled out with a hamstring injury.

David Moyes, who spoke to the media this afternoon, admitted they couldn’t afford another performance as poor as last week’s at Swansea. He did say: “There were mitigating circumstances, going into the game without three or four key players. We don’t want to make excuses, but they are facts.”

He added: “We’ve got six games remaining at home and we think that in those six games we can accumulate enough points to stay in the Premier League. Saturday is the first of those games, the players know exactly what’s required of them and what they need to do. I’m more interested in the points we get rather than what Burnley have got.”

West Ham’s team at Swansea last week was: Adrián, Declan Rice, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Zabaleta, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Mark Noble, Patrice Evra, Marko Arnautovic, Manuel Lanzini, Javier Hernandez. Subs: Joe Hart, Jordan Hugill, João Mário, Sam Byram, Michail Antonio, Josh Cullen, Marcus Browne.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

The Premier League scheduled our first ever visit to the London Stadium for a Wednesday night in December and we arrived with a very poor away record. We’d played six away games, picked up just a solitary point from a 0-0 draw at Manchester United and our only goal had come from a debatable penalty scored by Sam Vokes in a 3-1 defeat at Southampton.

Nothing really changed. We lost again and failed to score, but there were more positive signs in the second half that we might be getting to grips with things.

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The only goal of the game came right on half time when referee Bobby Madley stepped in to help the home side. On the previous occasion we’d played them away, on our last visit to the Boleyn Ground, we were beaten 1-0 with the winner coming from a Mark Noble penalty.

There was nothing wrong with that award, other than the ridiculous sending off of Michael Duff which we later successfully appealed, but this time Madley missed the foul on Tom Heaton. Rightly, he allowed the penalty to be taken beyond the time remaining in the half but should have blown when Heaton saved Noble’s kick. He didn’t, and Noble converted the rebound.

Although they’d created very little, West Ham had been the better side, but we were much better in the second half and gave them a really difficult 45 minutes. Our best chance was missed by Sam Vokes but by the end they were hanging on to their lead. They achieved that and it was another defeat on the road for Burnley with the next three to come at Spurs, Manchester City and Arsenal.

The teams were;

West Ham: Darren Randolph, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, Michail Antonio, Mark Noble (Håvard Nordtveit 89), Pedro Obiang, Aaron Cresswell, Manuel Lanzini (André Ayew 69), Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll (Ashley Fletcher 83). Subs not used: Adrián, Edimilson Fernandes, Domingos Quina, Marcus Browne.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Ashley Barnes 76), Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Scott Arfield (Patrick Bamford 90+4), Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Michael Kightly, Steven Defour.

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