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1920 burnley turf moor 03 1000x500Kicking off a new season with the biggest opening day win in over half a century can’t really be bettered and that’s just what we did yesterday with a 3-0 home win against Southampton to get the 2019/20 season underway in excellent fashion.

Two goals from Ashley Barnes, who hadn’t started an opening day game since his Brighton days and one from Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, all in the space of twelve second half minutes, blew Southampton away and left the home crowd singing: “Manchester City, we’re coming for you,” after their 5-0 win at West Ham in the lunchtime kick off.

It’s a perception that football seasons kick off with cricket like weather and there have been a number of examples over the years of playing the first game in sweltering heat. A home game against Crystal Palace in 2003 comes readily to mind as do trips to Watford when Chris Waddle was manager and to Chelsea two years ago. Yesterday, unfortunately, it was the sort of weather that blights any cricket season which saw many supporters arriving having been drenched making their way to the Turf in the pouring rain.

Opening day is always exciting. You are never totally sure what you are going to get and there have certainly been some surprises over the years. It’s eleven years now since we went to Hillsborough full of optimism only to see us go 2-0 down in the opening four minutes and lose the game 4-1. We won promotion that season but the search has not been called off yet for the missing Remco van der Schaaf who we never saw play again. Two years ago we were 3-0 up at Chelsea by half time. We might have been hanging on by the end but what a sensational result that was.

I suppose I’m well beyond the age now of being nervous but I was definitely sticking to my routine with my morning porridge, a quick check on the message board, posting the First Goal Sweep and then making my way down, this year dodging the heavier showers if at all possible.

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I once remember Billy Shankly being asked ahead of the first game of the season how Liverpool would line up. “Same as last season,” he said. It wasn’t quite like that for us when the team news came through; the team showed three changes from the one beaten by Arsenal in the final game of last season.

The first of those changes saw Nick Pope return for the departed Tom Heaton. It was Pope’s first league appearance since Bournemouth beat us in the final game of the 2017/18 season. There was a debut on the left of defence for new signing Erik Pieters with Charlie Taylor still a bit behind having missed some of pre-season. The final change saw Guðmundsson preferred to Jeff Hendrick on the right of midfield.

Jack Cork, formerly of Southampton, was in midfield but for Jay Rodriguez, who received a warm reception pre-kick off from the Saint’s fans, it was a place on the bench while former Burnley team mate Danny Ings started for Southampton, although former team mates is stretching it with the pair only once starting a Burnley game, that a 1-1 home draw against Crystal Palace in March 2012 in which Jay Rod scored our goal from the penalty spot.

With the wind swirling around Turf Moor to such an extent that the floodlight pylons were swinging significantly you could hardly expect classic football and, for an hour at least, we didn’t get any classic football.

There wasn’t too much to excite in the first half although there was a concerning ball into our box in the opening minutes that Che Adams, a player who could well have started for us, just couldn’t quite get to. Pope had a couple of saves to make; one was routine and straight at him but close to the end of the half he denied Nathan Redmond brilliantly after the Southampton forward had kept the ball in on the by line, cut in and forced Pope to tip a good effort over.

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At the cricket field end there wasn’t much to get too excited about although we did get the ball in the net when Barnes crossed for Chris Wood to turn in only for assistant Andy Garrett to raise his flag for offside against Barnes. That brought VAR in for the first time which, although not quickly enough, did rule, correctly so, in favour of the assistant.

Guðmundsson had our best effort, firing just wide with a shot from the edge of the box and then VAR came out to play again, this time checking a potential red card that I don’t think many inside Turf Moor knew much about. Referee Graham Scott, surely as bad a referee as you can possibly get in the Premier League, was backed from Stockley Park but Adams can count himself somewhat fortunate to have got away with his foul on Ben Mee, the Clarets’ new club captain.

That was about it for the first half entertainment. It hadn’t been good but probably as good as you could have expected in the conditions.

Things didn’t change too much in the early part of the second half. Redmond shot wide and then Ryan Bertrand put a free kick over the bar when we all feared a James Ward-Prowse effort might be finding the top corner.

We got past the hour and then the game changed. Pieters hooked a ball forward that Jannik Vestergaard totally misjudged. Barnes was on to the ball and took one touch off his body before hitting a sensational shot through Angus Gunn in the Southampton goal to give us the lead.

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Within no time the points were ours. Pieters and Barnes combined again for number two. This time an outstanding ball in from the Dutchman found Barnes on his own in the box but he didn’t need  a touch; he volleyed home to make it 2-0.

Southampton had gone and when Barnes got the better of Vestergaard from a long kick from Pope, the ball was won by Guðmundsson. He got himself clear on the right and then, just as we though he was going to play the ball across, he placed a wonderful shot into the far corner. Opening day and were already scoring some goal of the season contenders.

The game was over although Barnes was close to a hat trick when he got the ball at a tight angle. He fluffed it to be honest when he should probably have pulled the ball back for Dwight McNeil but by then no one cared. The cricket field end were rejoicing in our ‘anti-football’ and it had become a superb day.

We even got to see a few minutes of Jay Rod who came on with Aaron Lennon towards the end with the game well and truly won and no Burnley fan bothering about the dreadful weather.

I don’t think you can start a season much better than that. We won at Chelsea two years ago but the last time we won at home on opening day was back in 2012 when Martin Paterson and Charlie Austin goals gave us a 2-0 win against Bolton.

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It was 1967 the last time we won a top flight game at home and that was a 2-1 victory against Coventry in what was their first ever First Division game. Frank Casper, on his debut, and Willie Irvine, scoring in his first game after suffering a broken leg at Everton in the previous season, scored our goals with Dave Merrington’s own goal credited as Coventry’s first ever top flight goal.

One year previous was when we last achieved a win by three or more. Four second half goals gave us a 4-0 home win against Sheffield United. Irvine scored in that game too with Gordon Harris scoring a hat trick.

Yesterday’s win has won us nothing other than three points, but that’s a good start and three points closer to where we need to be, come the end of the season.

Arsenal next – surely our turn to get something in our favour.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil (Aaron Lennon 84), Ashley Barnes (Jay Rodriguez 84), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Jeff Hendrick.

Southampton: Angus Gunn, Jan Bendarek, Jack Stephens (Pierre-Emile Højbjerg 73), Jannik Vestergaard, Yan Valery, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Ryan Bertrand, Danny Ings (Michael Obafemi 66), Nathan Redmond, Che Adams (Sofiane Boufal 73). Subs not used: Alex McCarthy, Cédric Soares, Maya Yoshida, Moussa Djenepo.

Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 19,784 (including 1,921 from Southampton).

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