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bournemouth 1000x500At around 1:15 a.m. this morning I opened the front door having returned from our last away game of the season at Bournemouth. It’s been a season with not the best of away records with well over 1,000 miles travelled in May alone but overall has been an enjoyable one.

It’s my first full season reporting for Up the Clarets which arrived just in time to see most of the wonderful 23 game unbeaten run in the first half of 2016. This season I have only been able to report on that one victory on the road, at Crystal Palace two weeks ago, but this report comes as one of the best seasons I’ve seen draws close to its end.

Yesterday’s extravaganza got underway at around 7:45. Our usual plans for lunch on the way down had been abandoned to allow a later start but such a stop had been planned for the return journey in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, thus the late arrival home.

We left Burnley in heavy rain, no surprise there then, and we reached the sun drenched Dorset coast, after a couple of short stops, around 2 p.m. and strolled through the park towards the ground where I got the chance to have a good look round having been struggling on crutches on my last visit there three years ago.

It’s a real Eddie Howe love in down there. Every one you speak to talks about him and one Bournemouth fan asked me: “I bet you wish he’d never left you.” I pointed out that, while he was doing a terrific job at Bournemouth, we were just two points from the relegation positions in the Championship when he left and since we’ve had two promotions to the Premier League with us now having retained our place. “And we’ve no rich Russians or any American investment at Burnley,” I smugly added.

To be fair, those I spoke to were a decent lot, as were those I spoke to on my last visit and I wished them well knowing they’ve hardly underachieved either.

My walk past the ground took me past Bournemouth legends on the wall, including Harry Redknapp and ex-Clarets Ian Cox and Wade Elliott, before joining the queue to go into the ground alongside some vociferous Burnley fans and a group of very tall chickens. They were from an Indian poultry farm they told me. They had a number of banners, one which read Chicken Karma.

Burnley’s team was the same as that which had drawn against West Brom a week earlier. We knew that Ben Mee was likely to be out although we were expecting Michael Keane to be back although it appears he didn’t travel with the squad which was a surprise given he almost made it for the West Brom game.

It was far more relaxed. We wanted a good performance and we certainly wanted some points, but for the first time all season we didn’t actually need any points other than to shift us up the table potentially.

Thankfully we didn’t need the points but, in the end, we didn’t get what we wanted either as we fell to a 2-1 defeat. It was a real end of season affair and I can’t believe either manager could have been too impressed with their teams although, it has to be said, Bournemouth were the better of them, particularly in the second half.

Bournemouth started the brighter but, one ball across the ball apart, there was little to get excited about for either the home or away fans. That was until midway through the first half when the home side broke the deadlock with a dreadful goal from our point of view.

It came from their free kick on the edge of our box and took just two passes to get Junior Stanislas free. Stephen Ward allowed him to get goal side of him once clear Tom Heaton should surely have done better to keep it out.

We tried to get back into it and we had three potential opportunities, all of which fell to Scott Arfield. The first was blocked, then he fired wide and right on half time he delayed long enough to allow Artur Boruc to save.

It hadn’t been good for either side and there wasn’t much in it and Sean Dyche brought on Andre Gray for the second half, replacing the out of touch Ashley Barnes while just ten minutes into the second half he introduced Robbie Brady for George Boyd.

People often speak about teams with nothing to play for at the end of the season having packed their suitcases. Both sides looked as though they might have but we looked set for the airport at times. We offered precious little with the one saving grace being Bournemouth hardly looking likely to add to their lead.

Arfield had another shot on goal. It was wide again but much, much closer than the one in the first half. That was about it though until Johann Berg Gudmundsson came on. We then put together a few minutes of football and it led to the equaliser.

tapfoodThe delivery from the right by Gudmundsson was terrific as was the header from Vokes that nestled into the far corner. If anyone deserved a goal it was Vokes. He was by some distance our best player. I can’t recall him losing a header and he led the line really well. This goal, besides being his 50th league goal for Burnley, took him level in this season’s Premier League with Gray, both have scored nine times.

With only seven minutes to go we thought we’d got a point but within two minutes Bournemouth were back in front again with a goal that was even worse, from our point of view, than the first. Both central defenders could be pointed at and if anyone can’t see why Keane and Mee have been first choice this season the answer was very much there for all to see in this game.

It is, as Dyche said after the game, difficult to criticise them given the circumstances in which Kevin Long and James Tarkowski have come together as our central defensive partnership and their inexperience has shone through unfortunately.

Once Josh King had scored there was no way back for Burnley despite five minutes of stoppage time being added. It was another away defeat but, at least this time with no points needed in terms of staying up. That had already been achieved.

Dyche came over with his players to applaud the Burnley fans and, although you might see a lot of negativity on the message board and social media, there was none here with mutual support and respect from both sides. Over this season our players have given us everything and our supporters have been rewarded with another season in the Premier League.

There was now just the short walk through the park to the car and then the journey to Oxfordshire for something to eat and an end of season drink. I’d like to thank our researcher for choosing an excellent hostelry.

Then it was the journey home, finally arriving back to find that Match of the Day hadn’t recorded on my Sky box because of the overrunning Eurovision Song Contest.

That’s it for another season on the road. I’d like to thank my fellow travellers for their company, support and assistance over the season. I might not always show it but it really is so very much appreciated.

And I’m already looking forward to 2017/18 when we’ve even got a league game at Wembley to look forward to. Before that we’ve got West Ham at home to bring a superb season to an end.

The teams were;

Bournemouth: Artur Boruc, Adam Smith, Simon Francis, Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Junior Stanislas (Jordan Ibe 87), Harry Arter (Dan Gosling 81), Lewis Cook, Marc Pugh, Josh King, Lys Mousset (Ryan Fraser 66). Subs not used: Ryan Allsop, Tyrone Mings, Brad Smith, Max Gradel.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Robbie Brady 55), Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield (Johann Berg Gudmundsson 75), Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes (Andre Gray ht). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, Steven Defour.

Yellow Card: Robbie Brady.

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 11,388.

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