Clarets maintain unbeaten home record against Fulham
Last night’s 1-1 draw against Fulham kept the distance between the third bottom club to eight points while also ensuring our unbeaten home record against them would stretch beyond seventy years.
It was another night of counting the walking wounded for manager Sean Dyche. By the time the team was announced he was without Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Dale Stephens, Chris Wood and Matěj Vydra. Mee’s absence was certain; for the other three it was likely. The one good piece of news was Charlie Taylor’s return from the recurrence of the hamstring injury he suffered at Liverpool. That meant two changes to Saturday’s team with Kevin Long and Taylor for Mee and Pieters.
When we walked off the pitch at Selhurst Park with our 3-0 win against Crystal Palace it had extended our lead over Fulham to eleven points so, at the time, we thought a win last night would increase that to fourteen. It’s never quite so simple is it? Fulham unexpectedly won at Everton on the Sunday to peg it back to eight points and that’s how it remains after last night’s draw with us both now having played more games.
If we thought there was going to be an exciting start similar to that we witnessed at Palace, when we went 2-0 up inside the first ten minutes, we were disappointed, but we started the better of the two teams and in truth were the better of the two teams throughout the first half.
We didn’t have much in the way of chances. Ashley Barnes almost got onto a superb ball through from Ashley Westwood, we caused them a few problems from set pieces but then the injury problems hit again just six minutes before half time. When Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson sat down on the pitch it was clear there was another problem with him. He was immediately replaced, with Robbie Brady coming on.
With half time beckoning we came agonisingly close to going in front when James Tarkowski got down the left wing and crossed low into the box. Jay Rodriguez looked a certain scorer at the back post only for Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola to get a vital touch and keep his team level.
All square at half time, what we needed now was an early goal in the second half to take things away from Fulham. We got an early goal but not in the way we expected. With less than four minutes gone, Fulham swung in a corner from the right. Joachim Andersen flicked it on. From there it bounced off Ola Aina’s chest and evaded Brady on the line. We were a goal behind.
Jay Rod was right in front of the Burnley dug out and turned the Fulham player superbly and then, with his first touch, played in Barnes who took a heavy touch with his right foot before placing a shot past the keeper with his left. Now could we go on and win it?
At this point I think I should mention Brady. He’d come on just before half time and then, despite his minor involvement in our goal, had a shocking few minutes. He was yellow carded in the very first minute of the second half, struggled with the clearance for their goal, might have got himself a second yellow and then made a mess with a header in front of goal. He was clearly struggling and lasted just 25 minutes before he too was forced off with the recurrence of an injury.
Josh Brownhill, out since being withdrawn at half time against Aston Villa, was next to try his luck on the right hand side and at least he came through unscathed. But he couldn’t lift our performance. It never really got going at all in the second half and rarely did I think we might score a winner. Having said that, I don’t recall ever being the slightest bit worried that Fulham might score either.
Overall then, not the best of performances, but a vital point in that it keeps Fulham at bay, it’s taken us up a place in the table and we are one point closer to the safety point that I believe we will reach sooner rather than later.
Seventy years without a win at Turf Moor? That’s an incredible run and it will reach seventy years on 21st April this year. It’s not as though we haven’t played them very often. Since that defeat there have been no fewer than 28 league games of which we’ve won 22 and now drawn six, and you can add three cup wins to that, two in the FA Cup and one in the League Cup.
I made absolutely sure I made no reference to it yesterday in the preview; the last thing I wanted to do was tempt fate, but it still takes some believing that since that win in 1951, nine months before I was born, they have not won at Burnley in 31 attempts.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Robbie Brady 39, Josh Brownhill 64), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Jay Rodriguez. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Will Norris, Phil Bardsley, Jimmy Dunne, Anthony Glennon, Josh Benson, Joel Mumbongo.
Yellow Card: Robbie Brady.
Fulham: Alphonse Areola, Kenny Tete (Antonee Robinson 78), Joachim Andersen, Tosin Adarabioyo, Ola Aina, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Harrison Reed, Mario Lemina André-Frank Zambo Anguissa 61), Ademola Lookman, Bobby De Cordova-Reid (Ivan Cavaleiro 67), Josh Maja. Subs not used: Marek Rodák, Michael Hector, Denis Odoi, Tim Ream, Josh Onomah, Terence Kongolo.
Yellow Card: Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Referee: Jon Moss (Horsforth).