Return home brings defeat against Spurs
It was Tottenham who took the points yesterday, two second half goals giving them a rare league win at Turf Moor to edge them closer to leaders Chelsea just as Hull and Crystal Palace were closing the gap on us.
By the time referee Stuart Attwell blew his final whistle we could have no complaints over our fourth home defeat of the season and the first since November. Once behind midway through that second half it is fair to say there was never any real suggestion that we might get back into it and once the second went in I think we all knew that the points were lost.
It brought to an end a run of six home Premier League games without defeat, the longest run we’ve had in our three seasons in this league, against a team who are still to lose a game against any side currently outside the top five.
Sean Dyche named the same starting eleven that drew at Sunderland last time out. Although criticised since the end of the game, it was the same eleven who played most of the game against Leicester in what was our last victory at the end of January.
Spurs made a couple of surprise changes, one of which saw Kieran Trippier get a rare start on his home ground. He was given a warm reception but it was nothing like the one reserved for our latest England international Michael Keane.
Some reports have suggested that we dominated the first half, but I didn’t see it like that. I thought Spurs started much the better side although we improved as the half went on and by the half time whistle were looking the more likely.
Spurs had a couple of early opportunities and we were thankful to Stephen Ward, our best player on the day, for one block when they looked almost certain scorers.
We were often very wasteful in possession and no one more so than Joey Barton who had a spell early in the game where it seemed almost every pass went astray. He wasn’t the only one and we were also making too many unforced errors.
Our biggest threat always looked likely to be Andre Gray. He received criticism recently for his performance against Liverpool at Anfield on an afternoon where I considered he’d given them a lot of problems with his running into the channels. He did likewise here and gave the usually watertight Spurs defence some real problems.
The problem was, we didn’t test Hugo Lloris anything like enough, and I don’t think he was seriously tested throughout the half, it was their midfielders who ultimately caused most of their problems as the half wore on.
Victor Wanyama was the first of them. I lost count of the number of times he went down but eventually he had to call it a day just before the end of the half with Mousa Dembélé replacing him, and that wasn’t the end of it with Moussa Sissoko coming on for Harry Winks during first half stoppage time after what initially looked like a bizarre injury.
From my vantage point in the Longside, I saw Winks and Ward involved just in front of our technical area. Winks then went off the pitch, toppled over the drinks box and that was that. He didn’t move as medical staff surrounded him. He was eventually stretchered off after the players had left the pitch for half time.
I wondered if he’d smacked his head against the wall and was surprised when I saw the incident again. He clearly had a problem before he went over the box and that problem was caused by him trying to kick Ward. It has been confirmed as an ankle injury.
I thought those two changes actually helped Spurs for the second half. They looked so much stronger, albeit with Eric Dier pushed forward into a more orthodox looking formation. And I don’t think our first substitution did us too many favours either when Sam Vokes replaced Gray with not long of the second half gone. From that moment on, Spurs took almost total control as they were able to push further up.
They missed one chance and then it was Ward again saving the day when Tom Heaton had parried a shot. They failed to take advantage of another couple of chances too and it was starting to look as though it might be our day.
But midway through the half they got the lead and that always looked to be that. Barton put the ball out for a corner on their left. When it came over it should have dealt with by Jeff Hendrick but he inexplicably played the ball right into the path of Dier who made no mistake from not far out.
We tried to get back into it. Keane had one left footed attempt that was nowhere near and Scott Arfield didn’t get much closer with a shot either. George Boyd gave way to Robbie Brady with just over a quarter of an hour to go but he hadn’t had a touch when Spurs got their second.
Barton lost out just inside their half but they moved the ball forward well and quickly for Dele Alli and he played the ball across through Ben Mee’s leg for Spurs’ third substitute Son Heung-min to score from close range.
Steven Defour was immediately brought on; it was his first action since the last day of January, but by now we were a well beaten side and they might have helped themselves to another goal or two. Certainly Alli should have scored.
I think it is the first time I’ve left the Turf this season disappointed with our performance, and that’s in 15 Premier League games. If you look at the other three defeats you can make a case for us deserving points from all of them, particularly, of course, the loss to Arsenal.
This time there were no complaints at the result. Spurs deserved to win. Even without a number of their key players, they remain a very good side and once we’d given them that opportunity they were never going to pass it up.
Naturally there was the usual overreaction to the defeat; that’s commonplace now for any loss, and apparently, according to Phil Babb on today’s Goals on Sunday we are in a quagmire after a run of defeats – and that run is one Mr Babb.
It’s been a tough run since we last won – that’s seven games with five away and the top two at home, and you can see why they are the top two.
It’s made things tougher for us, no doubt, and we need to start picking points up again. I don’t think we need many more, although I might have to adjust the 35 points total I thought was likely to be the safe point. I still think we are having a terrific season, way beyond what we all thought likely, and I’m certainly not going to go overboard because we lost to this Spurs side.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Robbie Brady 74), Jeff Hendrick, Joey Barton, Scott Arfield (Steven Defour 78), Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray (Sam Vokes 56). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Ashley Westwood.
Yellow Cards: Michael Keane, Ashley Barnes.
Tottenham: Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Kieran Trippier, Victor Wanyama (Mousa Dembélé 44), Harry Winks (Moussa Sissoko 45+2), Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Vincent Janssen (Son Heung-min 73). subs not used: Michel Vorm, Kyle Walker, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).
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