Not the start we wanted on our return
Football was back for the new season, fans were back inside the Turf, we got off to the best of starts but it was Brighton who went on to take the points, coming from behind to beat us 2-1.
It was the day we’d been waiting so long for, and it was very much an occasion. I saw friends for the first time since March 2020 and I know it was the same for everyone. It was weird in some ways, 17 months is a long time, but it almost seemed as if it was just a matter of a couple of weeks since the same people sat in front, to the side and behind me for a home game. There were a couple of absences in our locale but neither, thankfully, are long term absences.
I was there early; I had some non-football matters to deal with first. I spotted the club badge under the new video screen at the traffic lights and WELCOME TO TU from last week had become WELCOME TO TURF MOOR on the newly painted wall on Harry Potts Way.
I don’t mind the black around the ground at all; we knew that was coming when the two corner stands were built. What I can’t get my head round is the need to paint all the gates and turnstile doors in different colours for each stand. Our stands have been colour coded for a good number of years now, but I think having the Bob Lord look like Goodison, the Longside like Old Trafford and the Jimmy Mac like the Westfalenstadion is unnecessary and downright wrong.
I know I’d been to the Liverpool game and last week’s friendly, but this was different. This felt like it was back to how it had been prior to the shutdown of football. It was too. The team news came through. Amazingly there were only two changes from that game against Spurs in March 2020 with Matt Lowton and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson replacing Phil Bardsley and Jeff Hendrick who had played that day.
The team came out to a superb reception with Brighton approaching from the club shop corner. If that reception was good, then it was surpassed by the welcome Sean Dyche received.
Could we get a good start? The answer was very much yes. We could have had a penalty in the very first minute for shirt pulling but it mattered not, just a minute later and we were in front, and it came in a very familiar way, from a corner. Ashley Westwood’s left-wing corner was not dealt with and James Tarkowski, at the back post, headed home.
What a start in the first game. For a few minutes tried to get back into the game but overall, we were by far the better side in the first half and probably should have had it won by half time.
I think the only time they concerned me was when they won a free kick just outside our box but they shot tamely at Nick Pope. At the other end we constantly looked a threat and hit the woodwork twice.
Guðmundsson broke and I was screaming at him to play in Chris Wood. He opted to go himself and ended by firing a right-foot shot that hit the inside of the left-hand post. Later in the half, in an almost replica of the goal, Ben Mee headed the ball against the underside of the bar before dropping down onto the line with Tarkowski coming in to shoot over the bar.
Brighton had a few minutes at the start of the second half but generally, up to the midway point, it was very similar to the first half with us in the ascendancy although we didn’t threaten too often to get another goal although Charlie Taylor was potentially close before Steven Alzate brought him down just outside the box. Despite my screams for a penalty, it was outside but remain baffled that the inconsistent David Coote failed to take any further action.
We brought on Ashley Barnes with twenty minutes to go. It didn’t benefit us, but two changes made by Brighton helped turn the game on its head. Jakub Moder came on and almost immediately set up an equaliser for Maupay and then on came Argentine Alexis Mac Allister who scored with his first touch to convert a Pascal Groβ right wing cross.
There we were, 2-1 down in a game we should have had won. Josh Brownhill came on, as did Matěj Vydra but we caused Brighton very few problems as we frantically looked for an equaliser although there is no doubt that our opponents should have ended the game with ten men. Maupay, who had already been carded, kicked the ball away after it had gone out of play. It was blatant time wasting but, incredibly, Coote offered no card. The Sky commentary team suggested it was because he’d already had a yellow card and the referee didn’t want to send him off.
What must be of greater concern for our new owners is how many were there yesterday. On 8th February 2015, with us hovering close to the bottom three and having seen a transfer window close with no additions to the squad, just 16,904 turned up to see us draw 2-2 against West Brom. That, to date, is the only Premier League attendance at Turf Moor lower than the 16,910 who were there yesterday.
On a positive note, we have levelled a Premier League record held by Ipswich. In January 2019, Robbie Brady was sent off by Mike Dean, somewhat unfortunately in my view, in a 2-1 win at Huddersfield. We have now played 94 Premier League games since without one red card, the only player we’ve had sent off since is Ben Gibson, farcically, at Olympiacos.
One game gone then, no points, and we’re off to Liverpool next Saturday in front of the BT Sport cameras.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork (Matěj Vydra 85), Dwight McNeil (Josh Brownhill 79), Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez (Ashley Barnes 70). Subs not used: Wayne Hennessey, Phil Bardsley, Nathan Collins, Bobby Thomas, Erik Pieters, Lewis Richardson.
Yellow Cards: Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, James Tarkowski.
Brighton: Robert Sánchez, Adam Webster, Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk, Pascal Groβ, Steven Alzate (Jakub Moder 72), Solly March, Enock Mwepu (Adam Lallana ht), Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard (Alexis Mac Allister 76), Neal Maupay. Subs not used: Jason Steele, Michael Karbownik, Andy Zeqiri, Florin Andoni, Moisés Caicedo, Taylor Richards.
Yellow Card: Neal Maupay.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).
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