Brilliant night in Bournemouth
It was just after 4:25 this morning when I finally arrived home from our latest away game in the Premier League. It had been a long but a very rewarding day as, for the fourth time this season, we returned home with all three points, this time after an outstanding performance that brought us a 2-1 win at Bournemouth.
I really don’t see the sense in forcing us all the way down the Dorset coast for a midweek game and the whole situation was summed up when we met with Southampton fans travelling in the opposite direction for their fixture at Manchester City.
And I think my patience would have worn a bit thin to be honest on the trip home had we not got a result. Firstly, the A34 was closed forcing a delay upwards of 45 minutes and then we came to a 15 minute standstill on the M6 before having to detour due to the closure of M66 from Bury, and, being on a coach that was dropping off at Bury and Rawtenstall, there was little alternative but to go that way.
Still, over 18 hours after leaving home, I walked back through the door with another big smile on my face having secured another three points from performance that had the travelling fans drooling.
The journey down, thankfully, had not been anything like as bad. Even the notorious stretch of the M6 in Cheshire was generous to us and, other than a short hold up not too far from our destination, it had all been relatively plain sailing and we were there in good time.
Sean Dyche had made two changes to the starting eleven, one of which was forced on him. It’s rare not to have Matt Lowton at right-back but the injury he’d sustained in the Arsenal game ruled him out and that allowed Phil Bardsley to make his first league appearance for us since the 0-0 draw at Hull in April 2006.
Dyche also made the decision to recall Chris Wood at the expense of Ashley Barnes who Dyche himself said was unfortunate given how well he’s played recently.
I sometimes refer to us making a quiet start in games, on other occasions I suggest we had started well. At Bournemouth we started like a house on fire and with any good fortune would have had an early lead.
We won a flurry of corners, the third of which led to Wood heading onto the top of the bar after Robbie Brady’s flag kick beyond the far post had been headed back into the middle by Ben Mee. And Wood was even closer when he headed Bardsley’s cross down. The bounce looked to be taking it into the top corner before Asmir Begovic managed to claw it over the bar.
Any concerns that we might have been flattened by the Arsenal defeat had already been wiped from the minds by now and Wood all but became provider when he played a ball across the box for Jeff Hendrick who saw his effort blocked by home defender Steve Cook. From my vantage point I thought Hendrick might have done better but, having seen it again, that’s not the case and it was a case of outstanding defending from Cook.
Bournemouth did have the occasional push forward but apart from one move down the right from Callum Wilson, they rarely offered any sort of threat while we were continuing to put them under pressure at the other end of the pitch.
Surely a goal had to come and it duly did eight minutes before the break and how deserving it was that the two players involved with Brady, a major influence all night, and Wood, who had the upper hand over the Bournemouth defenders throughout.
Bournemouth cleared the ball but it fell to Stephen Ward who found Brady. His superb flick got the ball to Jack Cork who returned the ball to the wide man. His ball into the box was, I’m sure, a shot, which deflected off Steve Cook right into the path of Wood who fired home first time from close range.
It was the last real chance of the half and when the whistle blew for half time there was absolutely no doubting that we were worthy of the lead and there was no doubting that the performance had been fully appreciated by the travelling Burnley fans.
Bournemouth perhaps had more of the game in the second half, but they weren’t really troubling us and that led to Eddie Howe deciding on some changes. Lewis Cook replaced the ineffective Harry Arter and a few minutes later Marc Pugh gave way to Jermain Defoe.
The England striker might be 36-years-old now but his very presence on the pitch should always be a concern to any team given the number of goals he has scored in his career and he’d been on the pitch for no more than a minute when a goal did come, although not as the home side had hoped.
Hendrick and Cork linked up for the latter to then set Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson on his way down the right. He played the ball across for Brady who came inside on his right foot and hit home with a superb effort from just outside the box. It apparently got a touch off a defender but it was always going in for another goal of the season contender.
We were coasting, even though we did lose Steven Defour to an injury that saw Ashley Westwood come on for the final quarter of an hour and then, suddenly, Bournemouth got back into it. They worked the ball down the right and eventually Defoe got the ball across for Josh King to convert from close range.
There were 12 minutes to go plus a few more in stoppage time. That brought with it some concerns that all the good work might be undone should Bournemouth get another. Twice this week in the Football League we’ve seen teams score twice in stoppage time to draw games but that was never going to happen here.
Bournemouth’s only real effort was from their third substitute Ryan Fraser. It was from distance and flew considerably wide of Pope’s goal.
It was another superb team performance with some superb individual performances within it, and there has to be special mention for Bardsley who, having come in for Lowton, slotted in seamlessly and perfectly.
This really had been an outstanding performance from Burnley and the points had taken us to a new dizzy height of sixth in the Premier League table. All the five above us have also won this week but Spurs were beaten at Leicester and we are now above them.
It still takes some believing. We have 14 away points; that’s equalled our Premier League best set in 2014/15. We’ve won four away games this season; that is a record. Incredibly we won four of our first 55 Premier League away games; we’ve won five out of the last nine.
It’s been a long, long time since things were this good at Burnley Football Club and, as Sean Dyche said after this latest win, they are to be enjoyed.
Even the marathon journey home couldn’t dampen that enjoyment, that delight at seeing another away win that takes our points total to 25 in 14 games, and just for interest, it has taken us 34, 29 and 21 games respectively in our previous Premier League seasons to reach that total.
Let’s carry on enjoying it.
The teams were;
Bournemouth: Asmir Begovic, Simon Francis, Steve Cook, Nathan Aké, Charlie Daniels, Jordon Ibe (Ryan Fraser 69), Andrew Surman, Harry Arter (Lewis Cook 58), Marc Pugh (Jermain Defoe 64), Josh King, Callum Wilson. Subs not used: Artur Boruc, Adam Smith, Dan Gosling, Benik Afobe.
Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour (Ashley Westwood 75), Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick (Ashley Barnes 86), Chris Wood (Sam Vokes 90). Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Scott Arfield.
Yellow Card: Sam Vokes.
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire).
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