No points again – but what an improved performance
Burnley fell to a 2-1 defeat yesterday at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur with the latest round of games seeing us drop three places to 16th in the table.
No surprise there. Losing away from home has become a habit this season with seven of the eight now ending with us on the wrong end of the scoreline and the only point gained coming at Manchester United in a 0-0 draw. Prior to yesterday we hadn’t even scored a goal in open play either.
So the report should very much be a case of ‘same again’ as we came home with nothing on our second trip to London in four days. However, it wasn’t quite like that. I know it doesn’t quite fit to have a positive report from yet another away defeat but it would be so very wrong to pigeon hole this with the defeats at such as Leicester and West Brom, even Stoke, because this one was very unfortunate in what was a vastly improved performance on the road.
We even scored a goal; we even took the lead, and I do think the one goal defeat was a harsh scoreline for us on what will be our last ever league visit to the old White Hart Lane.
I wrote last week of my liking for White Hart Lane and I was pleased to get there early yesterday to take a good look round the old ground and take in the building work for the new stadium behind one end, just about one Gifton Noel-Williams penalty kick away.
One end of the new WHL is there for all to see and they’ve made a real effort with the hoardings around it showing pictures and stories from their days there including the celebrations for one current Burnley player scoring against Watford. You can certainly see why they will need to vacate White Hart Lane by the end of this season to allow the building work to continue on the current footprint.
Inside the existing ground, it looks no different than last time other than it having been necessary to take one corner away as you can see from the photograph at the top of the report and, as ever, we Burnley fans were situated in the diagonal corner.
There was a time when you didn’t need to second guess Sean Dyche’s team selection; it was usually a case of same again unless there were injuries or suspensions. It’s not quite like that now although there was only one change from the team beaten by West Ham, Ashley Barnes coming in for Sam Vokes while there was one change on the bench with Tendayi Darikwa there for the unavailable Patrick Bamford.
If we were looking to get on the front foot from the start we were out of luck. Spurs came flying out of the traps and might have gone in front within a minute or so. Thankfully Dele Alli fluffed his lines after he’d been set up by England team mates Danny Rose and Harry Kane.
Michael Keane got in a great header to keep out another effort and, in the first ten minutes, it was fair to say we were fearing the worst. But from nowhere we got a chance of our own when Stephen Ward collected the ball after a defensive mistake from the home side and his cross was met by Andre Gray whose shot was saved by the leg of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Spurs played some good football during the game but they were never to dominate the game in any way as they’d done in the opening exchanges as we turned in our best away performance of the season.
Our big moment wasn’t long in coming. Again we got the ball down the left where Scott Arfield worked his way through to get into the box. He found George Boyd who crossed low. The ball deflected ever so nicely off Mousa Dembélé and Barnes, as he’d done two seasons ago, scored at the end of the ground, this time from close range, before running to the corner to celebrate with the Burnley fans.
It’s the first time we’ve been in front away from home since the end of last season. It was good but unfortunately didn’t last too long. Six minutes later a right wing cross from Kyle Walker was met by Alli who made amends for is miss to convert. It was all square at 1-1.
For the rest of the half we played some really good football. Spurs had their moments, no doubt about that, but we were more than holding our own against our illustrious opponents. We might have even gone in with a lead too when we broke in the last minute of stoppage time.
Dean Marney had gone down during the fourth and last minute which meant a further minute to play. Ben Mee headed out a corner with Gray on the 18-yard line. He made a move forward to collect the ball, beat a Spurs player and make a run forward. For a second it looked as though he could go all the way but two defenders got back. He tried to play the ball to Boyd on the left but got too much on it. The chance was gone and the whistle went but it had been a good first half from us.
We actually started the second half the better of the two. Gray went down in the box and we all went up for a penalty. It wasn’t; this was one that referee Kevin Friend got right, the defender had clearly played the ball.
But Spurs did get right into things. Alli fired a shot wide and Heaton saved from Christian Eriksen although Mee had to get in to clear the ball.
We got to 70 minutes at 1-1 and to be honest, at that point, I was confident of getting a point. But disaster was soon on the way. Moussa Sissoko had not been on long as a substitute for Dembélé when he was yellow carded for a foul on Ward.
Picking up the post-match comments on the way home, Sean Dyche was adamant that he should have been sent off. Having seen it since, I’m in total agreement with him. He stayed on, they cleared the free kick and he latched on to the ball, moved forward with it, played it to Danny Rose on the left and the full back hammered home at the near post.
We gave it everything to try and get back into the game. We made three changes from the bench but it was all to no avail and the final whistle signalled yet another away defeat with just time for Matt Lowton to pick up his fifth yellow card of the season and earn himself a one match ban, the first player we’ve had suspended since Barnes following his red card at Everton two seasons ago.
This defeat, without any shadow of a doubt, was the least deserved this season. I thought we were worth a point on that performance against one of the better sides in the league, but it wasn’t to be and with the next two games on the road at Manchester City and Arsenal you wonder when it might come.
It’s always disappointing to lose so it was very much the same again yesterday, but this one has at least given me the confidence that points will come away from home. If we could just play as well as that on our travels then I’m sure those points will come.
Finally, for whatever reason, some have had a downer on Jeff Hendrick. He’s come in for criticism on the message board after games in which I think he’s played reasonably well. He hasn’t played well all of the time, Stoke away was a poor one for him, but I thought he had an outstanding game yesterday in the midfield. I’m convinced he will prove to be a very good signing for us.
That’s it for 2016, no more away games, just two very important home games to come against the North East pair of Middlesbrough and Sunderland. They are two very big games that I’m looking forward to.
As for yesterday, no points again – but what an improved performance.
The teams were;
Tottenham: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose (Ben Davies 77), Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembélé (Moussa Sissoko), Harry Winks, Dele Alli (Son Heung-min 73), Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane. Subs not used: Michel Vorm, Kieran Trippier, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Kevin Wimmer.
Yellow Card: Moussa Sissoko.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Michael Kightly 83), Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney (Steven Defour 84), Scott Arfield, Ashley Barnes (Sam Vokes 80), Andre Gray. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski.
Yellow Cards: Ashley Barnes.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).
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