Another Turf Moor day to remember
The last day of January 2017 is one Burnley fans might want to remember for a long time with two new signings coming into the building followed by a 1-0 victory over current Premier League champions Leicester City to take us into ninth place in the league.
I had a very busy day. I was sat at my computer ready for transfer deadline day by 7 a.m. and it was around 1:30 a.m. today before I’d finally wrapped up most things, leaving just our loan departures until today. It was tiring, no doubt, but I’d happily do it every day if this was the result because what’s happening right now at our football club is way beyond anything I could have imagined not too long ago.
It all started with a disappointment when one of our transfer targets fell by the wayside as Hull manager Marco Silva spelled out that Andrew Robertson was going nowhere but by the time the coat went on to make my way down to the Turf, we’d already confirmed the signing of Ashley Westwood from Aston Villa and I knew that Norwich’s Republic of Ireland international was in the building (to use Sean Dyche speak) and we were just waiting for the all clear from Norwich.
Just like Saturday, it was very Burnley again as the rain came down on a miserable night but by the time I was leaving it was more than the new Turf Moor lights that had brightened things up.
We knew there had to be at least one change from the team that had lost at Arsenal. Joey Barton came in for the injured Dean Marney but that was the only change. However, we were able to welcome back both Scott Arfield and Johann Berg Gudmundsson to the bench with the pair replacing Marney and Burton bound Michael Kightly in the match day squad.
I’ve always been one for looking at records. We used to have a very good one against Leicester but more recently that’s not been the case. They’d won on each of their last four visits to Turf Moor, three of them in the Championship and that horrible day in the Premier League two seasons ago. We’d scored only once in those four games, that a long range header from Ross Wallace believe it or not, but at least there was no smiling assassin by the name of David Nugent lurking in the shadows this time.
Leicester started on the front foot. It’s becoming a pattern at home games. It only lasts for a few minutes but it gets me into a worried state. As has been the case so often, we soon pulled out of that and, although scrappy at times, we edged ourselves on top as the first half progressed and that despite losing Steven Defour to an injury just past the half hour.
There were a couple of occasions when Jamie Vardy, the Albert Steptoe look-a-like pulled clear, but he didn’t have too much joy against our formidable defensive pairing of Michael Keane and Ben Mee, both of whom would have been familiar to Foxes fans.
The aforementioned Barton was a major part in us getting into our stride. At one point I thought he was going to take the job on singlehandedly as he came storming forward to fire in a powerful shot that flew just over Kasper Schmeichel’s bar.
With news filtering through that we’d completed the signing of Brady, referee Mike Dean took centre stage on the pitch. He’s come in for some criticism in recent months and twice we screamed for penalties. Both times he waved them away but how on earth he could refuse the one for the push on Keane only he will know. The penalty king of referees now appears to be bottling it.
Soon after we had another big shout, this time it was Ashley Barnes. I’m not just as sure on that one but Barnes was and got himself involved in an ugly incident with two Leicester players that Dean didn’t even seem to notice.
I have to say that by half time I was happy with our performance. Leicester really weren’t looking a threat and I felt if we could just lift it a touch then we might have too much for them. With the players off the pitch, the club took the opportunity to announce the signing of Brady much to the delight of the crowd. I was quickly to work and I think it is the first time I’ve ever published a signing article from my seat in the stand.
Brady was sat watching with Westwood and the pair must have been pleased with the reception they received; I think they might have been blown away by our second half performance.
Barton was in the thick of things with yet another shot at goal, this time his low drive going just wide and Arfield came close with a shot from the right that went just wide of the far post.
There were just two scares in the second half and both involved Vardy. He probably should have scored when Tom Heaton spilled a Riyad Mahrez shot, but he most certainly should have been yellow carded for simulation when he did what he does best and engineered a fall in the penalty box alongside Heaton who just laughed at the England striker. England striker? Is he really?
The two key men on the pitch by now were Barton and Jeff Hendrick. They were by now running the show in the middle of the pitch. Leicester really had no answer to us. Gray might have had a penalty but, being a Burnley player, he stayed on his feet. He came close with a shot from a wide position and then saw another effort saved when he probably should have pulled the ball back.
Ben Mee might have done better with a header from a corner and from another set piece we seemed to get any number of shots blocked as we searched for the winner.
I remember looking at the clock and it had just reached eighty minutes and though that a draw would certainly not be a disaster. Every point is vital and it would be one more closer to where we need to get.
That wasn’t the thought on the pitch or generally in the stands. We pushed forward, we got men forward, the passing was crisp and Leicester were hanging on. The crowd roared its approval at every positive move. It might not quite have been Middlesbrough levels but the decibels were going higher and higher.
We won a corner with three minutes to go. It was our tenth in a game in which we enjoyed 59% possession. This time it counted. Arfield’s flag kick was met by the imperious Keane. It hit substitute Sam Vokes, and there was more than a hint of arm in there, before he gleefully hammered the ball home left footed with Danny Drinkwater trying to save it on the line which would have seen him get a red card.
Was it handball? I’ll concede that had Leicester scored that goal I’d have been questioning it, but it did hit his arm after it came off his stomach rather than him go to play it. If the goal rightly stood then good, if it shouldn’t then all I can say is it’s about time we got a decision going our way.
Turf Moor erupted. The game was won. We saw out the last three minutes plus the three minutes and more of stoppage time with no concerns whatsoever.
That’s more of our Premier League records gone. The total of nine wins is more than in either of the two previous seasons and, it was a fifth successive home win in the league, beating the first four home games of the 2009/10 season. What is amazing is that it is over fifty years since we last won five in the top flight, a run of games between March and April 1966. It’s worth listing those games.
12/03/66 – Newcastle 1-0 – Morgan
26/03/66 – Nottingham Forest 4-1 – Irvine(3), Lochhead
09/04/66 – Sunderland 1-0 – Irvine
11/04/66 – Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 – Irvine(2)
23/04/66 – Liverpool 2-0 – Irvine, Coates
There were outstanding performances all over the pitch. I have to start with the brilliant Barton and Hendrick, but the two central defenders were superb and the two up front gave Leicester’s defenders a torrid time with Barnes battering them into absolute submission.
I do think we played as well in that second half as we’ve done in any game all season. It was fantastic stuff and right now it really is very special being a Burnley fan. It really was another Turf Moor day to remember.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick (James Tarkowski 89), Joey Barton, Steven Defour (Scott Arfield 34), Ashley Barnes (Sam Vokes 79), Andre Gray. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Yellow Card: Matt Lowton.
Leicester: Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs, Marc Albrighton (Shinji Okazaki 77), Danny Drinkwater, Onyinye Ndidi, Demarai Gray (Ahmed Musa 67), Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy. Subs not used: Ron-Robert Zieler, Ben Chilwell, Andy King, Nampalys Mendy, Yohan Benalouane.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
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