Three points at a nervy Turf Moor
Burnley went looking for, and got, a first win in four games with a 1-0 victory over Leeds United yesterday courtesy of a first minute goal from Scott Arfield.
In a bright start we could have extended the lead but eventually we had to contend with a lot of Leeds possession, a series of corners and their striker Chris Wood missing two chances before we could celebrate a victory that ensured we would remain top of the league once the weekend fixtures had been played.
I suggested it in my preview that the whole atmosphere has changed among the fans who, when we won at Huddersfield to make it six wins out of six, were counting the number of points needed and trying to work out at which game promotion would be confirmed.
It’s never quite like that, and three draws later those same fans have been getting very concerned and some of the negative comments during, after and since the Cardiff game have been hard to understand.
I’ve always been a nervous fan but maybe it’s getting older that’s changed me because I was as calm as you like again yesterday before the game. I spoke to some Burnley supporters who ranged from nervous to worse.
Leeds at home has never particularly been a fixture to look forward to. Prior to yesterday I’d seen it played on eighteen occasions and was surprised when I realised that as many as six of them, including the last two, had resulted in victories.
This is not a good Leeds side though, and certainly they are nowhere near as good as Cardiff who had held us to a goalless draw on Tuesday.
I don’t think anyone was surprised when the team news came through revealing that Sean Dyche had gone with the same eleven players again in the starting line up. The only change came on the bench where Lloyd Dyer was there for the first time, preferred to Michael Kightly who hasn’t started a game since the 5-0 win in MK on 12th January and has made only one substitute appearance since, that for Scott Arfield in the win at Huddersfield.
It’s always billed as a Roses clash but I have never seen it that way. Although in Lancashire, I never think of us representing the county. Roses clashes are just that, Lancashire v Yorkshire, and in any case there are plenty from t’other side who are Burnley fans, including one I travel regularly to matches with. We might be on different sides when the cricket whites (and colours these days) come out in the summer but yesterday we were very much on the same side, him having the advantage of being able to mingle with Leeds fans last night when out for a quiet drink.
We kicked off in bright Lancashire sunshine and within a minute both of us were celebrating. Usually, when you get a first minute goal, it’s scored by the team who have kicked off. It’s rare that a side who doesn’t start the game and has also to take a goal kick can get in front with only a minute on the clock, but that’s what happened.
Having started the game, Leeds played a harmless ball up field that ran out for a goal kick. Tom Heaton’s kick was flicked on by Sam Vokes for Andre Gray who took the ball really well and turned to play it out for Arfield. His shot from around 12 yards out to the left of goal went across goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and into the bottom corner of the net with 59 seconds showing on the clock.
What a start, just what we wanted. I know one Burnley fan who will always concern himself with ‘have we scored too early?’ but I couldn’t think of any better way to get things moving towards a win.
Sol Bamba tested Heaton with a decent effort but, other than that, it was a good start from the Clarets. Gray played a superb ball for the onrushing Matt Lowton but the full back just couldn’t quite get the ball under control and the chance was gone.
George Boyd, who was playing as well as he’s done in some time, almost replicated Arfield’s effort but his shot went inches wide of the post. Leeds looked dithery and we pressed them to the point where a mistake from them and a second goal looked inevitable.
Had that second goal come then I’m convinced we’d have won this by a fine margin, but it didn’t and Leeds started to put us under some pressure, winning a series of corners. Thankfully they weren’t able to create a chance from them and we went in at half time with the score still at 1-0, but needing to step things up in the second half.
We didn’t and for long periods after the break it was concerning. The whole place became nervous. Again the worries from the crowd were audible and the players looked anything but as confident as they had done in the early stages of the game.
In truth, Heaton didn’t really have a save to make worth bothering about, but Wood then missed those two chances. I still remember his last Turf Moor appearance when, having fouled Michael Duff, he was allowed to go on and finish superbly for Leicester but this was not to be his day.
Dyche was forced into two changes. Sam Vokes suffered a groin problem and was replaced by Ashley Barnes with Dean Marney coming on for David Jones who was feeling unwell. Both, I felt, had an impact as the Leeds threat diminished and all but disappeared.
We’ve missed these two players during their long periods out with injury and it’s good to be able to call on them. Barnes, particularly, made an impact; I thought he was excellent when he came on, that was until the fourth minute of the fine minutes of time added on.
By then Matt Taylor had just replaced Gray. I like Taylor and he so often makes something happen in a game. At Brighton his set pieces led to our late equaliser and on Tuesday only David Marshall in the Cardiff goal prevented him setting up a winner.
Yesterday, he got in front of his defender on the left before pulling the ball back for Barnes who had no more to do than place his shot into the empty net. The whole ground was stunned when it went wide and that included Barnes.
But it was the last real action of the game. It wasn’t inspiring, it really was nervous at times, but it was a 1-0 win, it has taken us to 80 points and we’ve now just got to keep on going and pick up the points we need to get back into the Premier League.
It was a nervy Turf Moor, of that there is no doubt. Maybe, hopefully, the win will have calmed some of those nerves. I’m sure if, back in August, I’d offered 80 points from the first 41 games, that virtually every Burnley fan would have taken it. We just don’t know how many more points it is going to take.
Birmingham next – with Burnley to keep right on to the end of the road.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones (Dean Marney 76), Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes (Ashley Barnes 72), Andre Gray (Matt Taylor 90). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Lloyd Dyer.
Yellow Card: Joey Barton.
Leeds: Marco Silvestri, Gaetano Berardi, Sol Bamba, Liam Cooper, Charlie Taylor, Toumani Diagouraga (Tom Adeyemi 81), Luke Murphy, Lewis Cook, Stuart Dallas (Alex Mowatt 87), Mustapha Carayol (Mirco Antenucci 66), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Lewis Coyle, Giuseppe Bellusci, Kalvin Phillips.
Yellow Card: Luke Murphy.
Referee: Lee Mason (Bolton).
Attendance: 18,229 (including 2,188 from Leeds).
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