Disappointing end to a great season
There were mixed feelings as supporters left the Turf for the last time this season yesterday afternoon having seen Burnley lose 2-1 against West Ham. It hadn’t been good, the second half in particular, but we were leaving knowing that our team had done what so many said we couldn’t do and stayed in the Premier League.
But this, as a match report, cannot be too positive. Prior to yesterday, only Swansea on the opening day, of teams outside the top six had taken maximum points at what has been called Fortress Turf Moor but West Ham ended things as Swansea started things by condemning us to a defeat that would not have been the case if we had taken our chances. In beating us they also became only the second team all season to come from behind to win at the Turf, and that’s something we’ve not done in a Premier League game, home or away, since beating Spurs on the last day of the 2009/10 season.
It was a day when we were all relaxed. The job had been done with us having secured our Premier League place two weeks ago with the point against West Brom. We were all looking forward to an end of season party and even the sun came out for the occasion.
Prior to the game there was no checking at other fixtures where previously we might have wanted particular results although I’m sure the money men at Turf Moor were looking at the potential for a further climb up the table with a value of around £1.9 million placed on each position we moved up the table and it is not so long ago that paying that sort of money in a transfer fee would have been a massive outlay.
As expected, the team news confirmed that neither Michael Keane nor Ben Mee would take part and there was also no place for George Boyd. Given that he wasn’t on the bench I can only assume he was ruled out with an injury. Robbie Brady came in for him with Andre Gray replacing Ashley Barnes in the only other change to the team beaten at Bournemouth eight days earlier.
Just before kick off, as the two teams lined up around the centre circle, fans rose to their feet to remember former captain Peter Noble who passed away on 6th May. With his wife Jenny on the touchline alongside members of her family, a cry of UWE, UWE, UWE could be heard as the minute’s applause got underway.
Respectfully observed by supporters of both clubs yesterday, for those of us who can remember Uwe it was an emotional minute for a player loved by the fans of the time. I spoke to Brian Flynn yesterday and told him that Peter seemed reluctant to talk to me on the last occasion I saw him. “He wouldn’t have known who you were Tony,” Flynny said to me.
Uwe, of course, had been an influential member of the last Burnley team to finish a season in the top flight not having been relegated. That was in 1975. We finished 10th that season when only a late collapse ended our title chasing hopes. He scored 12 league goals that season with not a single one of them from the penalty spot; Leighton James was still the designated penalty taker. One of those goals was against West Ham at home, coming in a strange game that ended in a 5-3 defeat.
The 2017 Burnley almost grabbed a first minute lead in this game when Gray found himself with an opening but, looking to get himself to double figures in his first Premier League season, his effort was some way wide. It’s astonishing to think that Gray, who scored the vital second goal at Palace recently, hasn’t scored a Premier League goal at home since New Year’s Eve when he got a hat trick against Sunderland.
Sofiane Feghouli forced Tom Heaton into a save but Burnley then had two good chances that really should have seen us take the game away from West Ham. Sam Vokes somehow fired wide after he got on the end of a superb ball in from Brady and then, following a Brady corner, James Tarkowski headed over the bar from close range.
Not to worry though, midway in the half we did take a deserved lead. Scott Arfield got the ball out to Gray on the right. His ball into the box was completely missed by Arfield’s air shot but it ran through to Vokes who this time made no mistake, edging ahead of Gray with his tenth Premier League goal of the season, only the second Burnley player, following on from the 11 scored by Danny Ings two seasons ago, to reach double figures in a Premier League season.
At that point, I was reasonably confident that we’d win this game fairly comfortably and move a few more places up the table. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Within four minutes West Ham were level with a goal from Feghouli.
Oh yes, they took it well following a free kick for which Ashley Westwood was rightly yellow carded, but we made it far too easy for them. André Ayew, who flicked it forward, was granted far too much space while Feghouli was allowed to run unmarked in the box.
We might have regained the lead right on half time with Gray’s flick but he was fortunate not to be flagged offside in any case. Westwood though was the most fortunate. A high challenge on James Collins would guarantee him at least a yellow card virtually every time but referee Bobby Madley, who did not have a very good game, spared him when we might have expected to be playing over half of the game with ten men.
Still, 1-1 at half time and still plenty of confidence that we would go on and win it. What no one could have known is that we would not test West Ham goalkeeper Adrián again. We didn’t have a single shot on target in the second half and I’m not sure we had any real efforts off target either unless you consider Brady’s free kick from the corner of the box that troubled those in the Jimmy Mac upper more than the West Ham goal.
For much of it, West Ham didn’t look that threatening either but they were the better side, of that there was no doubt. And with just under twenty minutes to go they got their winner after referee Madley twice played advantages for fouls by Steven Ward and then Matt Lowton.
The ball eventually landed at the feet of Edimilson Fernandes just inside the box. His shot was parried by Heaton and we thought we’d escaped. But no, it hit the bar and as Lowton tried to rescue it, Ayew was allowed to come in totally unmarked to head home from close range.
We’d already made one change with Johann Berg Gudmundsson replacing Brady. We made two more a few minutes later but the game was gone for us and we didn’t once threaten to get back into it.
A disappointing performance and a disappointing result to end the season. A win would have seen us finish 13th but, in the end, we dropped a place to 16th; that’s £5.7 million for the bean counters.
I think most of us would have taken 17th when the season started and would certainly have snatched at 40 points. So let us not forget the season which has given us so much more than we might have expected. It was just a disappointing way for it to end.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood (Steven Defour 78), Robbie Brady (Johann Berg Gudmundsson 67), Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Ashley Barnes 78). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, Dan Agyei.
Yellow Cards: Ashley Westwood, Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
West Ham: Adrián, José Fonte, James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna, Sam Byram, Edimilson Fernades (Declan Rice 90+1), Robert Snodgrass (Ashley Fletcher 84), Aaron Cresswell, Sofiane Feghouli, André Ayew, Manuel Lanzini. Subs not used: Darren Randolph, Domingos Quina, Moses Makasi, Dan Kemp.
Yellow Cards: James Collins, Manuel Lanzini.
Referee: Bobby Madley (Ossett).
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