Disappointing end to a wonderful season
Burnley’s 2017/18 season ended with a 2-1 home defeat against Bournemouth yesterday, the visitors’ winning goal coming in the third minute of stoppage time., and this after we’d led for over half an hour of the game with Chris Wood’s tenth Premier League goal of the season.
In the grand scheme of things, it hardly mattered. Win, lose or draw, we knew we were finishing in seventh place and much of yesterday was about saluting the performance of our team over the whole season.
For the second successive game it was shirt sleeve weather. I definitely didn’t see any big coats around, not even those representing any German Bundesliga clubs. The sun was shining, the skies were cloudless and I bet the Bournemouth fans would have felt at home.
There had been a lot of debate about what the team would be. Would either or both of Scott Arfield and Dean Marney feature? Would any of the young players be included? Would Sean Dyche give games to some of the players who have been out of the side?
The answer was provided just one hour before kick off with the news that Chris Wood, who missed out through injury at Arsenal, was back for Ashley Barnes, himself injured at Arsenal. Other than that, it was the same team. Arfield and Marney had both declined the opportunity to be involved so that meant Marney’s place on the bench went to 18-year-old Dwight McNeil who was in the match day squad for the first time.
This was our first home game since we clinched a place in the Europa League qualifiers. The European Tour chants were prevalent before the game and what a welcome was reserved for manager Sean Dyche. A huge roar went up all the way around Turf Moor when he came out ahead of kick off.
It didn’t give us the start we wanted and Bournemouth, who were still looking for a first ever win at Turf Moor, were the better side in the opening exchanges. It really did take us some time to get going but as the half wore on, so we got better and the latter part undoubtedly saw us in the ascendancy.
Wood missed what looked like a sitter from an Aaron Lennon cross. He was spared by the assistant referee’s offside flag. It was so, so close too but he did get the decision correct.
Wood wasn’t to be denied though six minutes before the break. Having won the ball back, it eventually reached Jeff Hendrick who has done really well in the last two games since being recalled to the side. He slid the perfect ball to Stephen Ward and his cross was met by Ashley Westwood who volleyed towards goal. Wood, expertly, diverted the ball into corner leaving Asmir Begovic helpless.
By this time I was confident we were going to end the season with a win and, after an early Bournemouth opportunity in the second half, there was nothing to suggest otherwise as we went on to enjoy our best spell of the game.
It looked only a matter of time before the second goal came as we dominated with Hendrick and Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson prominent. But the second goal didn’t come and things changed. Eddie Howe made three substitutions in the space of six minutes either side of the hour mark; the last of them seeing striker Jermain Defoe come on for defender Tyrone Mings. It took a while, but Bournemouth’s push forward did eventually pay dividends.
Defoe , who scored for Sunderland on the Turf last season, saw an effort well saved by Nick Pope. That should have been it; the ball should have been cleared, but Matt Lowton and Jack Cork made a right mess of things and that saw the ball find Josh King who curled a shot into the far corner to draw them level.
Callum Wilson, another to come on as a substitute, hadn’t scored since January. He nearly ended that run with a shot that went just wide but after that it seemed as though the game was going to peter out with both teams taking a point.
It should have done too, but in the third minute of stoppage time we gifted them another goal. When Kevin Long looked to play the ball forward there was no Bournemouth player within yards. He took a touch and then opted to change his mind and play the ball across rather than forward. He slipped and that left Defoe on the ball. He moved forward, played it across for Wilson who scored with ease and we were beaten.
There was just time for McNeil to come on and at least get a touch of the ball but the final whistle blew on a disappointing end to this wonderful season.
Many Burnley fans stayed behind to see the players come out for the traditional walk round the pitch, and it was good to note that finally there were no fans running on the pitch to spoil the occasion. Arfield and Marney led them out to the sort of receptions their Burnley careers warranted. In so many ways it is sad to see them leave.
It’s such a shame we didn’t win. It did flatten things a little, but it shouldn’t. We need to remember what we’ve achieved this season. This is my last Premier League report of the season. In the first one, after the win at Chelsea, I wrote: “The first half will live long in the memory of those Burnley fans in the Shed End at Stamford Bridge. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing as first Sam Vokes, then Stephen Ward and Vokes again all scored to give us a 3-0 interval lead.”
Steven Defour was my man of the match that day; yesterday he was sat not too far behind me in the Longside Upper. It will be good to have him back next season, as it will all the players who are currently out injured.
That’s it for 2017/18. A disappointing result to end but if next season is anything like as good then it is definitely going to be worth waiting for.
I’m keeping an eye on the Europa League 2018/19 pages, watching the teams placed as they qualify. Let’s hope we get a good draw.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon (Dwight McNeil 90+4), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Nahki Wells 80), Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood (Sam Vokes 61). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Charlie Taylor, Georges-Kévin NKoudou.
Bournemouth: Asmir Begovic, Tyrone Mings (Jermain Defoe 66), Steve Cook, Nathan Aké, Ryan Fraser, Emerson Hyndman (Dan Gosling 59), Andrew Surman, Charlie Daniels, Lys Mousset (Callum Wilson 59), Josh King, Jordon Ibe. Subs not used: Artur Boruc, Brad Smith, Marc Pugh, Kyle Taylor.
Referee: Paul Tierney (Wigan).
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