Clarets storm back to win point against Brighton
When the players went off at half time it didn’t look as though it was going to be our day but a superb second half performance changed all that as we came off at the end with a point from a 1-1 draw.
That first half hadn’t been anything to get too excited about but what a turnaround after the break as we played as well as at any time this season and we were so unfortunate, in the end, not to have won the game.
For anyone who can’t be bothered counting, this was our 36th league and cup game without Burnley fans present. The only time we’ve played in front of a crowd was when 2,000 were admitted at Arsenal earlier in the season. So instead of being in my usual seat at the Turf as the rain poured down, it was a seat in front of my television just over two miles away during a snow storm.
One hour before kick off is the time when we learn the team news. Would any of Charlie Taylor, Josh Brownhill, Robbie Brady, Ashley Barnes or Chris Wood be back? The answer was one of them with Barnes coming straight back in for Jay Rodriguez in the only change from last Wednesday. It saw Richard Nartey, who had played on Friday for the under-23s, depart the bench but it also, significantly, meant a third successive start for Matěj Vydra and that proved, in my view, to be significant.
It was a right wing corner that proved the undoing of us with less than ten minutes to go to half time. Usually so good at defending set pieces, we allowed Lewis Dunk a free header. Even then, it should have been kept out by Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson on the line but he seem to lose his bearings and the ball went in between him and the post.
One was so nearly two but Nick Pope saved well to deny Aaron Connolly but the half ended with Burnley back in the ascendancy and Matt Lowton seeing a shot blocked by Barnes who was trying to get out of the way again.
Despite probably having created more than enough chances, overall it hadn’t been a good half for us. Having said that, I didn’t think Brighton had done too much either and they probably were somewhat fortunate to go in with a lead.
It was eight minutes into the second half when the equaliser came and a first goal for Guðmundsson since the opening day of last season. From a Nick Pope clearance there was some good play down the left and when it came in it was like watching Pinball Wizard as we looked to get shots in and saw them blocked. Eventually McNeil picked up the ball in the centre and played it out to Erik Pieters. His shot was well saved by Robert Sánchez but all he could do was parry it out to Guðmundsson just inside the box and the wide man calmly planted a left footed shot into the net.
Almost immediately we nearly got a second when McNeil all but played in Jack Cork, we had another couple of efforts blocked and then thought we’d gone in front when Barnes scored only to see the late offside flag go up. You haven’t a clue what’s going on now but Vydra had run onto a ball initially and might, just might, have been offside. He slid off the pitch and game back on to set up the goal so it could have been that. Either way, it was no goal.
For a long spell in the second half we were so much on top that a goal looked inevitable. By now we were so much better than Brighton; they were doing no more than hanging on and they are very strong defensively as their record of four successive clean sheets prior to this game can testify.
That’s what we did. All credit to Brighton for holding out. Sometimes it was more luck than judgement, at other times they defended well. As for us, what a second half performance. Here we should just what we are capable of and how good our football can be.
I don’t think ,in the end, any one player disappointed with his performance but I would like to single out three players. Firstly Matt Lowton, as good a performance as we’ve seen from him for some time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him attack like that. At times it was like the old Kieran Trippier days as he overlapped. He might have even got himself that goal just before half time too but for Barnes blocking it.
Then there is Guðmundsson. The biggest question over the past year and a half has now been how well he might play but whether he’ll play as one injury after another has cost him so many appearances. Yesterday we saw the sort of play from him that won him the Up the Clarets Player of the Year in 2017/18. Let’s just hope he can remain fit for the remainder of the season.
What could have been three points was only one, but every point counts when you are 17th in the table and into the second half of the season. I do believe we’ll play worse than that this season and win. I hope we can continue to play in the way we did in that second half. If we do we’ll be a long way from that bottom three very soon.
So it’s off to Palace next Saturday with the cup tie against Bournemouth to come before that. Let’s hope we’ve got some of the injured players back by at least last Saturday.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Matěj Vydra. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Anthony Glennon, Dale Stephens, Josh Benson, Jay Rodriguez, Joel Mumbongo.
Yellow Cards: Ben Mee, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson.
Brighton: Robert Sánchez, Ben White, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster (Adam Lallana 75), Joel Veltman, Pascal Groß, Yves Bissouma, Dan Burn, Aaron Connolly (Danny Welbeck 62), Alex Mac Allister, Neal Maupay (Leandro Trossard 62). Subs not used: Christian Walton, Michael Karbownik, Jakub Moder, Steven Alzate, Percy Tau, Andi Zeqiri.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe).