A drab Turf Moor stalemate
Take the bottom two in the Premier League, Burnley and Norwich City, throw in a downright shocking referee and the result is a 0-0 draw and the final whistle being greeted with sheer relief.
This was the day we were going to get our first win of the season. Prior to this game I honestly believe we’ve actually played well enough in just about every game, despite the disappointing results, but this was the day that definitely ended with a performance that many were saying at the end had relegation stamped all over it.
What a difference a week can make. Seven days earlier I was at Leicester in soaring temperatures; yesterday it was considerably colder and definitely wetter, although the rainfall was never anything like as bad as forecast and, thankfully, I was able to make my way to the Turf and back without getting wet.
Inside the ground, it was good to see the words ‘Jimmy McIlroy Stand’ returned, now shown just below the upper tier. Other than that, maybe it’s me who hasn’t settled back into the routine of a home game, maybe it’s the less than positive results at home, I’m not sure, but the excitement has certainly diminished from what I can see.
The other change was a surprise. We knew that Maxwel Cornet was out, but I think most of us expected Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson to start but instead it was Aaron Lennon. I was asked when Lennon had last started a Premier League game for us; it was at Chelsea on 11th January 2020 when we came up against a shocking referee in Kevin Friend and some equally dreadful VAR decisions.
That takes us nicely into the first half with the same referee. There wasn’t too much to enjoy being honest although we were relieved to see an early Max Aarons shot go just wide of Nick Pope’s post, but the first big moment came when we won a free kick on the right hand side.
Ashley Westwood played it into the box and what is clear is that Matěj Vydra was first to the ball and headed it before Norwich goalkeeper wiped him out. I’ve watched it time and time again and if that’s not a penalty then I’m absolutely baffled as to how you do actually get one. Did VAR even look at it? If so, there was no indication to anyone inside Turf Moor as far as I know. Friend ludicrously awarded a corner despite no Norwich player having made any contact with the ball.
Up we all went again for a penalty when Vydra went down from a Grant Hanley challenge. Nothing given by Friend, but television pictures do show the foul, and there was a clear foul, was outside the box. That foul was not given but had it been surely Hanley would have had to have been sent off.
By half time there was no real sign of a goal, and we could just hope for a huge improvement after the break. Sadly, it didn’t come. If anything, I thought we worsened in the second half although we probably had more chances to score. Dwight McNeil and Jay Rodriguez both missed chances while Matt Lowton close to the end was unfortunate to see a header go over the bar.
The worry was that Norwich, as inept as they were, always had me concerned that they might snatch a winner but in truth although one cross did hit the top of the bar, I don’t think they ever really ever threatened Pope other than a free kick that he saved well.
That was it, a game that won’t last long in the memory and will probably be remembered most by Burnley fans because of Kevin Friend’s performance with the whistle. Still, he visibly enjoyed the chanting of “You’re not fit to referee”. Not everyone thought he got things wrong. Former Norwich goalkeeper Rob Green on Sky thought the current Norwich goalkeeper had punched the ball and not Vydra, although he did come across as a Norwich fan throughout.
Ian Wright on Match of the Day, and even Gary Lineker, thought it was a penalty while Danny Murphy thought the decision not to overturn it was bizarre. I know we wouldn’t have been given any of these decisions had VAR not been in place, but after this and the non-penalty on James Tarkowski at Everton, you do wonder what on earth is the point of it.
Nonetheless, let’s not blame the referee and VAR for this performance. For the first time this season I have to say it was just not good enough. I can’t imagine many, if any, Burnley fans went home having enjoyed the experience other than, perhaps, the kids who were lucky enough to meet Maxwel Cornet. I know we can’t pin all our hopes on the Ivorian winger, but I do think he’d have been an influence yesterday and would have given Norwich something to think about.
Nathan Collins had a decent debut.
We’ve moved up one place in the table.
We’ve reached 100 Premier League games without a red card.
But the big negative is another disappointing result that has taken our league run at home to no wins in fourteen with just seven points won out of 42.
Break time now, Manchester City next at the Etihad. Surely not 5-0 again!
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon (Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson 60), Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Matěj Vydra (Jay Rodriguez 35), Chris Wood (Ashley Barnes 80). Subs not used: Wayne Hennessey, Will Norris, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Erik Pieters, Jack Cork.
Yellow Cards: James Tarkowski, Chris Wood, Matt Lowton, Josh Brownhill, Jay Rodriguez.
Norwich: Tim Krul, Max Aarons, Ozan Kabak, Grant Hanley, Ben Gibson, Dimitris Giannoulis, Pierre Lees-Melou (Lukas Rupp 80), Mathias Normann, Kenny McLean, Josh Sargent (Adam Idah 90), Teemu Pukki (Milot Rashica 80). Subs not used: Angus Gunn, Andrew Omobanidele, Brandon Williams, Billy Gilmour, Christos Tzolis, Kieran Dowell.
Yellow Cards: Mathias Normann, Max Aarons.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).