A Brighton draw on Britton day
On a day when the Burnley supporters honoured Ian Britton, another headed goal, this time from central defender Michael Keane, proved crucial as the Clarets twice came from behind to earn a point in a 2-2 draw against Brighton at the Amex Stadium.
Andre Gray had levelled for us in the first half but it was into the third minute of stoppage time when Keane powered home his header in front of the celebrating Burnley fans just six minutes after he’d had a perfectly good goal ruled out due to the assistant referee’s poor eyesight, something which had previously caught him out in another Burnley attack.
In a game that looked to be heading away from us, and for quite some time deservedly so, it was justice that it was Keane who scored it and kept us four points ahead of Brighton who are now in third place in the table.
It’s not often that I opt for a Friday departure for a Saturday game but memories of travelling to Portsmouth in December 2009 for a lunchtime kick off persuaded me that it was the best option. We stayed close to Crawley and travelled into Falmer by train from Haywards Heath with the match ticket.
It wasn’t so bad going, but the journey back was very time consuming with long queues at Falmer station and then a long wait at Lewes for the connecting London train back to Haywards Heath. Still, as much as I’m not over keen on the Amex Stadium, at least it’s not the Withdean.
Sean Dyche made only one change to his match day squad from the one that drew with Wolves a couple of weeks ago. Rouwen Hennings, as expected, was ruled out and in came Ashley Barnes, back with the first team since suffering the cruciate injury at Aston Villa last season and back at the club from where we signed him.
I’m, as you know, a critic of such things as goal music. Now Brighton, at least, don’t bother with that daft idea but the happy clapping nonsense before the game took some believing. My clubbing days are years behind me but I don’t ever recall the decibel level getting as high in the Angels as it was yesterday and it really was amusing to see the dancing sheep syndrome hitting everyone of the home stands. It was sustained and continued beyond the first whistle from referee Craig Pawson to start the game.
Pawson, who refereed an at times difficult game well, was a strange choice given he was the man in charge when Brighton had two players sent off in this fixture four seasons ago, including Barnes, and I note Sky referred to him as the red card referee.
As you will know from my article on Friday, he’s only handed out three red cards this season, less than many other referees. Keith Stroud is the official red card referee with eleven already this season.
It was the 12th minute of the game when he sent off Barnes in that game in December 2011 and the 12th minute was a significant one for Burnley fans yesterday. Once the clock had reached 11 minutes, the whole away end stood to applaud Britton, who passed away after a battle against cancer last Thursday.
He played in the days before squad numbers and actually only wore the number 11 on seven occasions in the league, but the significance was that was the number he wore on 9th May 1987 when he scored the second of our goals in that 2-1 league place saving win against Orient.
By that time we were beginning to look second best with Brighton really taking the game to us. They moved the ball quicker than us and they were making headway down the flanks, particularly with Anthony Knockaert.
I thought we’d done well to be honest to get to the half hour still level. They’d already missed one good chance but then they got the goal that we’d expected for some time. It was a bit unfortunate in that Matt Lowton’s touch didn’t help us from the corner but Dale Stephens got in front of David Jones at the far post to convert.
The lead lasted all of three minutes and again it was from a corner. Keane headed it back across and Stephen Ward, being dragged all over the place, managed to touch it back for Andre Gray to hit home from just a few yards out.
It was just what was needed but it didn’t improve the performance to be honest and it was still very much Brighton in the ascendancy. They might have gone in front again only to be denied by a good save from Tom Heaton, but with fourth official Darren Deadman trying to get the numbers on the board to signal the extra minutes for half time, they ensured they would go in to the half time interval with a lead.
We lost possession on the edge of their box and they got it forward very quickly for Knockaert to break down the right. He was given too much space and too much time and once he got into the box you knew there was danger. In the end he was fortunate that his shot took a touch off Keane which helped lift it over Heaton.
To be honest, I don’t think we could have argued at being behind and not too much changed in the second half. We weren’t really threatening and they, playing on the counter, always looked dangerous.
I really do think things started to improve with the first two substitutions. Dyche is often criticised for his lack of getting subs on but Matt Taylor for Scott Arfield particularly and then Dean Marney for Jones helped us enormously.
We started to play a more direct game and started to put them under some pressure, and to help even further, Barnes got his long awaited return for Gray with nine minutes remaining.
Remember folks it’s a contact sport. This is not crown green bowls.lots of love JB x ?
— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) 2 April 2016
Joey himself had some words on the matter when he took to Twitter after the game, my favourite was: “Remember folks it’s a contact sport. This is not crown green bowls. lots of love JB x”.
Those home fans might want to pay more attention to the horrible way some of their players go about their business. There were lots of niggling fouls that allowed us to keep putting their defence under pressure from free kicks, but it was a corner that led to what we thought was an equaliser on 87 minutes.
Keane headed home Taylor’s free kick. From my seat on Row Q behind that goal it clearly looked over the line but the hapless assistant, who had got it so badly wrong when he wrongly thought a ball had gone out for a goal kick earlier in the half, didn’t see the ball clearly going over the line.
Our players in and around the six yard box, who had already started to celebrate, looked stunned at the non-award of a goal, but it was play on and there was nothing we could do about it.
It was still 2-1 when Deadman held up a board for five extra minutes. Dunk crazily fouled Barton and then could have got himself in some real trouble as he stuck his knee into Joey as he walked past. I don’t think Pawson saw that but he did calm Joey down as Taylor went to take the free kick.
Brighton headed it away from a corner and over Taylor went. This time, not even a man with a flag playing blind man’s buff could refuse us as Keane’s powerful downward header hit the back of the net.
We were level; we’d got the important point. The home fans went quiet, the music had stopped literally for them and Burnley were coming home with a point.
The closing couple of minutes were played down at the far end before the final whistle went. It looked to be kicking off on the pitch for a while with Knockaert, hardly surprisingly, involved, but it all calmed down for Dyche to lead his players over to take the applause from the travelling Clarets.
It was a mightily different feeling to the last game when a goal in stoppage time drew the sides level. This time it felt like a win and it certainly ensured we remained four points clear of second place and now with only seven games remaining.
Brighton looked a decent side, potentially as good as we’ve played, but they need to take that nastiness out of their side. Is it a residue of the Poyet era at the Amex?
We’d a long journey home, but it didn’t seem to be anything like as long as it might have been had that Keane header not gone in. He said of it: “It’s an incredible feeling, it’s probably the best feeling I’ve had in football. To score in front of our fans in the last minute after having the first one not count. I knew Tayls would put a great ball in and thankfully I was in the right position.”
It’s so tight. One minute I’m confident and the next I’m nervous. I have no idea how many points we need but one of our group said last night that if Brighton were to pick up two points per game now for the rest of the season we’d only need another ten to finish above them.
Sod that, let’s just take it one game at a time. I like that mantra. It’s Cardiff on Tuesday.
The teams were;
Brighton: David Stockdale, Bruno Saltor (Gaetan Bong 82), Connor Goldson, Lewis Dunk, Liam Rosenior, Anthony Knockaert, Dale Stephens, Beram Kayal, Jamie Murphy, Tomer Hemed (Steve Sidwell 85), Sam Baldock (James Wilson 43). Subs not used: Niki Maenpaa, Gordon Greer, Jiri Skalak, Kazenga LuaLua.
Yellow Card: David Stockdale.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones (Dean Marney 72), Scott Arfield (Matt Taylor 66), Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Ashley Barnes 81).
Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire).
Attendance: 29,683 (including 1,633 Clarets).
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