A point on an otherwise desperate day
For the second time this week we’ve drawn at home against one of the bottom three, It was Fulham last Wednesday and yesterday it was struggling West Brom who came here, played with ten men for an hour, and held us to a 0-0 draw.
Did I dare suggest that West Brom held us? They did a lot more than that. It was us hanging on at the end and to be honest we were, in the end, more than a bit fortunate to get the draw on a day when we turned in a performance as poor as any I can recall for some time.
This was West Brom, the team with the worst defence in the league and a team that had kept just two clean sheets all season, one of those against us at the Hawthorns on the evening we picked up our first point. This was West Brom who have won just twice and currently sit ahead of Sheffield United and look all but certain to be joining the Blades in the Championship last season.
But this was a Burnley team that was a pale shadow of that which had drawn against Fulham and unrecognisable from the team that had won at Crystal Palace a week earlier.
Ben Mee, who had missed the Fulham game, was back, we knew JBG would be out but it was a shock when the team was announced to find no Barnes who has suffered a thigh injury. If that wasn’t bad enough, the bench included two goalkeepers, two full backs and three central defenders leaving the two inexperienced young players Josh Benson and Joel Mumbongo as the only real options.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the injury problems had all but cleared up but Dale Stephens, Robbie Brady and Chris Wood were alongside Pieters, Guðmundsson and Barnes on the injured list and that’s too many for a squad like ours.
This was never, ever going to be a classic. Sam Allardyce wouldn’t want a free flowing game and, in any case, the weather ruled out much chance of good football on a typical Burnley day with high winds. Even so, the opening exchanges were as dull as ditchwater. Neither side offered anything of note and it looked to be heading for one of those games when neutrals would be switching off their televisions.
The wall stood firm and the free kick was headed away but looked to be going out for a throw in close to the West Brom dug out. One West Brom player thought otherwise and for whatever reason played the ball into the centre circle where Vydra got a touch to push it past Semi Ajayi. The West Brom defender clearly handled the ball but referee Mike Dean gave nothing.
Now I’m sure Dean would not have wanted a monitor visit in this game but it’s what he got and once he’d seen the handball there was no hesitation. Out came the red card and West Brom were down to ten men.
If we thought we were going to take advantage of that, we were very much mistaken. From that moment on we were simply dreadful although we got to half time without any real threat to our goal.
The one saving grace, despite how poorly we were playing, was the fact that West Brom didn’t look as though they would cause us any damage either. That then changed and I’m still not sure how we managed to hang on during the final 15-20 minutes when the Baggies surely should have scored twice.
It all seemed to start when Ainsley Maitland-Niles broke through but fired over. Soon after came big chance number one when Mbaye Diagne came in from the right and had the goal at his mercy. Somehow he managed to hit the top of the bar.
That was a bad miss, the next one was hard to believe. When the ball came in from the left hand side, it looked impossible for Maitland-Niles not to score. He fluffed his lines but the ball fell for Matheus Pereira who also looked a certain scorer. James Tarkowski brilliantly headed it off the line with Pope then getting the ball out for a corner.
Overall it was horrible, no other word for it. There were so few performances that even reached an average level. As usual, the two central defenders and goalkeeper were our best players but elsewhere it really was difficult to understand.
Ashley Westwood has been a Burnley player for just over four years; I don’t think I’ve seen him give the ball away so easily and so often as he did today, but it wasn’t just Westy, and it’s unfair to single him out. The two up front, who have one Premier League goal between them this season, offered precious little but then again the service into them wasn’t anything like good enough.
Sean Dyche said we looked flat and had no spark and admitted, based on the level of performance, he was pleased to get a point. Tarkowski said: “Having watched that second half I think it’s a good point in the end because that’s the worst I’ve seen us for a while.” He added: “The only positive from the game really is that we didn’t lose. ”
The one piece of good news is that it is eight days now between games. Whether that is enough time to get some of these injured players back or not I don’t know but at least it will give some of the fit players a break. As a team in this game we looked desperately in need of one.
Let’s hope, in the remaining 13 games, we don’t see another performance anything like as bad as this one.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez (Joel Mumbongo 81), Matěj Vydra. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Will Norris, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Richard Nartey, Anthony Glennon, Josh Benson.
Yellow Cards: Jack Cork, Ben Mee, Matt Lowton.
West Brom: Sam Johnstone, Darnell Furlong, Semi Ajayi, Kyle Bartley, Conor Townsend, Okay Yokuşlu, Matheus Pereira, Conor Gallagher, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Matt Phillips (Dara O’Shea 32), Mbaye Diagne. Subs not used: David Button. Lee Peltier, Romaine Sawyers, Jake Livermore, Grady Diangana, Hal Robson-Kanu, Callum Robinson, Karlan Grant.
Red Card: Semi Ajayi.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).