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brighton 3 1000x350When the board went up to indicate there would be four minutes of stoppage time, and with us trailing 1-0 at Brighton, I think we’d just about decided this wasn’t to be our day, but the players, and Jeff Hendrick in particular, came up with a stunning equaliser in the first of those minutes and not for the first time at the Amex had we claimed a point with a goal so late in the day.

Four seasons ago, when Michael Keane headed home, it was a fully deserved point. I’m not so sure we could claim to be too deserving of that yesterday but as we left to make our way to the station there is no doubt it all felt like a win.

What an opposite of emotions. Three weeks earlier we’d been robbed of a win at Wolves with a penalty that looks more dubious the more I see it. Having got within seconds of a win, that 1-1 draw felt like a defeat; yesterday it was the reverse with us scoring a late goal we probably didn’t deserve and the Burnley fans left the Amex celebrating every bit as much as you would an away win.

It was a day of contrasts. My long day started at the bus stop waiting for the X43 to Manchester. It felt like a bitterly cold winter’s morning but one bus, three trains and an underground trip later I was in the heat of Brighton with the game set to be played in temperatures way above the norm for this time of year even if not anything like those experienced at Wolves.

I’m never so sure what to make of the Amex. Billed as a super stadium, I don’t quite get that at all and I know I wouldn’t like it to be our home ground given the hassle of getting to and from with all the restrictions.

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For a while, they were a team we didn’t seem to be able to beat very often. That’s changed round a bit now and, although there have been a lot of draws, they haven’t beaten us home or away since that day when Tom Heaton was farcically sent off early in his Burnley career.

It was our seventh visit there and besides that game, we’ve had the 1-0 win against nine men when Kieran Tripper scored in a game we were eventually very fortunate to win, that late Michael Keane goal, the one that was given as having crossed the line, for a vital draw in the last promotion season, and last season’s excellent 3-1 win.

Brighton lined up yesterday with more central defenders than you could have shaken a stick at. With Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson still ruled out, it was the same Burnley team that had played against Liverpool although there were three changes on the bench. Phil Bardsley and Ben Gibson were preferred to Kevin Long and Charlie Taylor for the defensive positions; fit again Robbie Brady replaced the unavailable Danny Drinkwater.

We started really well at Wolves in the last away game and got ourselves in front with a superb goal scored by Ashley Barnes. We started this game almost as well. We were well on top for the first quarter of the game when the only thing missing was a goal.

All the action in that period was at the far end from where the Burnley fans were situated and we hardly saw the ball at all as we dominated proceedings. Twice we came close to opening the scoring. The first of those was almost an own goal and then Jack Cork got himself free in the box. His shot was off target but almost gave Chris Wood the opportunity to open his account.

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You need a goal when you’re on top. It didn’t come and as the first half progressed, Brighton came more and more into it. They eventually forced Nick Pope into two good saves, one exceptionally good down to his left, and Glenn Murray missed an opportunity.

They were beginning to have the better of things and by half time I would think the 0-0 scoreline was fair although knowing that we’d have to step things up to gain control again.

The early part of the second half was key. We couldn’t afford Brighton to take control but that’s exactly what happened and within six minutes of the restart we’d fallen a goal behind. It was a horrible start to the half from our point of view. They’d already had two opportunities before Neal Maupay finished when he shot home into the corner from a Solly March cross from the right.

We had to hope for a positive reaction but for much of the second half we didn’t really threaten to get back into it. Brighton certainly looked the more likely although they too didn’t create too much more of note although Pope had to be alert more than once. The closest we came was when an Ashley Westwood effort was heading wide only for Wood to get a touch but unable to turn it into goal.

We made changes. Hendrick came on for Lennon and then we saw Jay Rodriguez replace  Wood much to the concern of the home fans who gave him the sort of reception you might have expected. Nothing much changed though and then we had the rare sight of Jack Cork going off with Matěj Vydra used as the third substitute.

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As the game headed towards its close, we did at least push forward but not with too much effect and as the ninety minutes was reached it was still 1-0. With an injury to a Brighton player and one to James Tarkowski, both that brought delays for treatment, added to the goal and the substitutions, I was surprised that only four minutes were added. As it happened we only needed the first of them and what an equaliser it was.

Westwood found Hendrick around the half way line and he played a lovely ball between two Brighton players for McNeil. He moved the ball forward well before playing the perfect ball for Vydra. He just flicked it into the path of the oncoming Hendrick who, first time, fired home into the bottom corner from fully 25 yards.

We’d done it, surely. We’d got a point. In the same goal as the Keane equaliser in 2016, in front of the Burnley fans again. Hendrick doesn’t really do ordinary goals does he? Bournemouth in 2016/17, Everton in 2017/18 and that brilliant goal at Chelsea at the end of last season. This one is right up there among them.

It’s not been a bad couple of weeks for him. He’s won his 50th international cap for Ireland and yesterday made his 100th Premier League appearance and marked it with that goal.

Did we deserve a point? At 3:25 I thought we might get all three but by the time Michael Oliver blew his final whistle I think it is fair to say Brighton might be a bit aggrieved, just as we were at Wolves, in not picking up all three.

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But you take what you can get and that point is gratefully accepted thank you very much, despite us being nowhere near our best. I don’t think we’ve played badly at all in the previous four games. Yesterday, particularly in the second half, was the first time this season I’ve been disappointed with the way we performed. We’ll drop points we don’t deserve to and, hopefully, there will be a few occasions where we maybe get more than we deserve. This point was probably one of those occasions.

The teams were;

Brighton: Mat Ryan, Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster, Solly March (Gaëtan Bong 90), Dale Stephens, Davy Pröpper, Dan Burn, Pascal Groß, Glenn Murray (Aaron Mooy 80), Neal Maupay (Aaron Connolly 84). Subs not used: David Button, Yves Bissouma, Tudor Baluta, Steven Alzate.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon (Jeff Hendrick 59), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork (Matěj Vydra 78), Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood (Jay Rodriguez 66). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Ben Gibson, Robbie Brady.
Yellow Cards: Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

Attendance: 29,398.

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