Clarets get much needed win against Leicester
It was only four weeks since we won at Bournemouth, although it does seem much longer, so it was a definite relief when the final whistle blew yesterday on a 2-1 home win against high flying Leicester City.
A win for the Foxes would have taken them level with Manchester City in the table and it looked more than a distinct possibility when they went in at half time with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of a Harvey Barnes goal over 22 years after his dad Paul scored his final Turf Moor goal, a winner against Northampton Town at the end of November 1997.
I thought we’d looked a little better than in recent games during that first half and, with one or two things going in our favour after the break, we saw a much more Burnley like performance which enabled us to come back and win it with goals from Chris Wood and Ashley Westwood.
Last season’s home game against Leicester was played in horrendous conditions with torrential rain. It was nothing like that yesterday on a cold, crisp but still day with hardly a cloud at times. That was good news for me and friends from West Yorkshire Clarets who were on Clarets for Foodbanks duty and again it was a really positive day showing just how generous some of our supporters are.
The team news came through while we were collecting and it showed two changes from the side beaten at Chelsea. Phil Bardsley and Jay Rodriguez had both recovered from illness and replaced Matt Lowton and Aaron Lennon and saw Jeff Hendrick go back onto the right hand side to play in Sean Dyche’s favoured 4-4-2 system.
Ahead of kick off, we observed the annual minute’s silence to remember those connected to our club who have passed away in the last year. It was particularly poignant for me yesterday with Alan Beecroft’s passing two days earlier. Alan had been very vocal and very positive about this annual in memoriam when it started seven years ago and I very definitely shed a tear when his name appeared on the big screen.
I’m sure he’d have had plenty to say in a first half when we fell behind and, in truth, rarely threatened to find the net ourselves. I didn’t think we’d played particularly badly but Leicester, with their pace and movement, can be a very difficult team to play against. We’d started so poorly in the previous two home Premier League games against Manchester United and Aston Villa, that this was almost like a breath of fresh air.
Unfortunately, we didn’t create much in terms of goalscoring opportunities although, for those who like to criticise when shots on goal shows zero, Rodriguez did force Kasper Schmeichel into a save, albeit a reasonably easy one.
To be honest, Nick Pope, who was to take a more starring role after the break, didn’t have too much to do but just past the half hour he was picking the ball out of the net after Leicester went in front.
“Harvey Barnes, he’s one of our own,” sang the Leicester fans after the Burnley born player had given them the lead and Leicester were close to a second right on half time that would really have put damper on things. As it was, there was no booing at half time as there’d been in those two previous games; this time there were roars of encouragement from the home fans who had appreciated the improvement.
There wasn’t much more than a minute gone in the second half when Leicester might have wrapped up the points, but Pope started the half with an outstanding save to deny Praet. A 2-0 deficit at that point might well have presented us with a mountain too high to climb, but still at 1-0 we gained some more belief that we could get back into it.
And back into it we did with just over ten minutes of the half gone. Chris Wood had already headed a Charlie Taylor cross over the bar but he was to have his moment against his former club. Jay Rod won us a corner on the right. Dwight McNeil swung it to the far post where Mee headed towards goal. Schmeichel did well to keep it out but only as far as Wood’s right foot which stabbed the ball home from close range.
Now it was game on and it was so refreshing to hear the home crowd in support. There have been so many games recently when the atmosphere has been poor, alongside some disappointing performances, but there was a real belief here we could go on and win it.
We waited for Jamie Vardy to restore their lead but Pope went to his left and saved brilliantly and then was able to see a rebound shot go wide. If the fans had been behind the team up to that point, then the decibel level was raised again as we went looking for a winner although Pope saved well again from Vardy.
Westwood was the unlikely hero. He’s never scored a goal on the Turf but what an opportune moment to break that duck. After some really neat football down the left hand side, Taylor got onto the ball and crossed well. Jonny Evans could do no more than place the ball right into the path of Westwood who made absolutely no mistake.
The cynical side of me was delighted it was Evans. He was the player who put through his own goal against us at the King Power and then, by some miracle of nonsense called VAR, saw the goal chalked off. He’s a damn good player but I was so pleased it was him.
Suddenly it was like being back on the Turf during a good spell of form. We knew Leicester would come back at us but every tackle, ever challenge, ever clearance was greeted with huge roars from the home stands.
We are not out of the woods yet, far from it, but this was a very important win for us to get that points total moving forward again. We can have no idea as to how many points are needed to stay up but we are three points closer than we were from a game when not many, other than Mark Lawrenson, thought we’d get anything.
I did say Alan Beecroft would have had a lot to say at half time but I know he’d have gone home with a big smile on his face at the final whistle. I’d like to dedicate this report to my good friend who I’m going to miss so much.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Chris Wood (Aaron Lennon 90+3). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Erik Pieters, Robbie Brady, Matěj Vydra.
Yellow Card: Ben Mee.
Leicester: Kasper Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Ҫaglar Söyüncü, Christian Fuchs, Nampalys Mendy, Ajoze Pérez (Kelechi Iheanacho 74), Dennis Praet (Youri Tielemans 74), James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy. Subs not used: Danny Ward, James Justin, Wes Morgan, Demarai Gray, Marc Albrighton.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe).
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