Still home rule against Fulham
The Clarets made it four wins in four games yesterday, three of them in the Premier League, with a 2-1 home victory against Fulham that saw us come from behind to win the game with two goals that have officially been recorded as own goals.
We didn’t just have to come from behind but we had to come back from a goal as early as the second minute, a stunning finish from German midfielder André Schürrle, but by midway through the first half all the scoring was complete with Joe Bryan and then Denis Odoi credited with goals that gave us the points.
Yesterday was what many might describe as a typical Burnley day, windy and wet. It was very much a dark, dirty grey day and the weather decided to take a turn for the worst during the game as the wind howled round the Turf and the rain poured down.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad at all before the game to enable us all to get there for a game that was billed by some as a must win game. I’m not sure there are such games in January but it was definitely a fixture that could be considered important, just as the previous Premier League game at Huddersfield had been. Win it and we would go seven points clear of Fulham, lose it and they would be just one point behind us.
In our first promotion season under Sean Dyche, until the latter part of the season, we suffered very few injuries. This season it seems to have been one after the other and we thought things were clearing up. They are, I suppose, and thankfully both right-backs came through to be in the squad yesterday. However, once again we were without Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson which, given Aaron Lennon and Robbie Brady were unavailable, left us somewhat short of wide players.
Jeff Hendrick came in to play on the right hand side with Dwight McNeil, and it is an understatement to say he’s settling in well, playing on the left. Other than that, the team was as you would have expected and it was another boost to see the name of Steven Defour on the bench as he comes back, via an appearance in the cup, from injury.
Ahead of kick off we remembered those who had passed away during the previous year as the names of those former players and supporters were shown on the big screen. It was impeccably observed by the supporters of both clubs.
And then came the start of the game. It had hardly got going when we were kicking off a goal behind. It was Schürrle’s second appearance at Turf Moor. In August 2014 he scored Chelsea’s second in a 3-1 win, the goal that will forever be remembered for the pass from Cesc Fábregas, he even scored against us in the 4-2 defeat earlier this season at Craven Cottage and with this goal he made it three in three appearances against the Clarets and it really was some goal.
We were caught out by a ball forward from Odoi. It found Schürrle on the right hand side of our box. He took the ball down beautifully before hitting a superb shot past Tom Heaton that went in off the underside of the bar. I’m not sure there was too much we could have done about it; it was an outstanding goal but one that left us with potentially a very difficult afternoon.
It flattened the whole place. There were murmurings in the stands and on the pitch we looked almost shell shocked. Thankfully, that didn’t last long. We started to play and got on top and not much more than twenty minutes after their goal we’d turned the whole thing round in our favour.
We gave them notice with a Chris Wood header that came off the post following a ball in from Phil Bardsley after good work from Hendrick who was getting involved in just about everything. He was to play a major part in us going in front too.
The equaliser came via a left wing cross from the once again impressive McNeil. James Tarkowski went flying in and thought he might have had a penalty. Really James? This is Burnley. This is the Premier League. We don’t get them. It mattered not. The ball dropped nicely for Hendrick who hammered it back towards goal. It clearly got more than a touch off Fulham left-back Bryan before going in.
Should it be Jeff’s goal? In my view, very much so. I believe his shot was on target and therefore the goal should be his. And having seen Shane Long credited with a goal yesterday despite his off target effort being deflected in, surely this goal will be changed.
Three minutes later and we were in front and this goal owed so much to the Ireland international . McNeil did the defensive work this time, winning the ball back in our left-back area before playing it forward to Barnes who moved it inside to Jack Cork.
Hendrick took the ball and drove forward with it before playing it back to Barnes who quickly returned the ball to Hendrick who had continued his run. Almost on the line, he turned smartly to get the ball in the box and there is no doubt that this time it was an own goal as Odoi could do no more than see it go past Sergio Rico and into his own goal.
From the flattened Turf Moor to a buoyant Turf Moor as the home crowd really got behind the team. The visiting fans weren’t too impressed; they sung less than positively about our town and suggested they would prefer to return home. They should have done; there wasn’t going to be anything for them.
Bardsley stuck one over his own bar and Calum Chambers headed against the bar with Tom Heaton helpless, but generally we dominated the remainder of the first half and I’m sure another goal would have seen this one done and dusted. It didn’t come but a one goal lead at half time was good enough although things definitely changed in the second half.
Claudio Ranieri made a change during the interval, bringing on Luciano Vietto, who is with them on a season long loan from Atletico Madrid. He replaced the totally ineffective Ryan Sessegnon and it nearly made an early difference when Vietto saw a shot brilliantly cleared off the line by Tarkowski.
Fulham started to push more and more players forward. It might have left them open to a counter attack and a potential third goal but the only time we went anything like close was when Barnes headed a ball down for Wood whose first time shot from outside the box missed the target.
It was frustrating to watch at times and it led to some nervous moments, but generally we defended it all well. It was very much like the Burnley of last season, getting blocks in, closing them down and restricting them to very few chances and the only real save Heaton had to make was to deny Vietto.
I purposely chose not to mention Fulham’s record at Turf Moor when I previewed the game on Friday evening. I really didn’t want to tempt fate. Yesterday’s game was played on my 67th birthday and we have to go back to nine months before I was born, to April 1951, to find the last time they tasted success here. I really didn’t want that run to end on my birthday and it didn’t.
That game in 1951 ended in a 2-0 win for Fulham. We’ve since played them 27 times at home in the league. We’ve won 22 of them and drawn the other five. You can add three cup ties to that too, two wins in the FA Cup and one in the League Cup.
This one had not been a classic. It couldn’t have possibly been in the conditions, but there was plenty to enthuse over in our performance. In the first half all of McNeil, Ashley Westwood and Hendrick, in particular, played really well. After half time there were some outstanding performances defensively.
All the talk nationally is of us winning a game without having had a shot on target. That’s absolute nonsense, there were certainly two I can recall in the first half, one blocked and the other that led to our first goal, but we have to give the likes of Sky something to talk about.
We are back on our travels now, to Watford and then to the two Manchester clubs, but at least we do that in a much better position than we’ve been in. There’s still a lot to do to ensure we don’t go down but we’ve certainly given ourselves something of a chance with these wins.
Come on you Clarets.
The teams were;
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood (Sam Vokes 87). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Steven Defour, Matěj Vydra.
Yellow Card: James Tarkowski.
Fulham: Sergio Rico, Denis Odoi, Maxime Le Marchand, Tim Ream, Cyrus Christie, Calum Chambers, Jean Michaël Seri, Joe Bryan (Tom Cairney 71), André Schürrle (Neeskens Kebano 78), Aleksandar Mitrović, Ryan Sessegnon (Luciano Vietto ht). Subs not used: Marcus Bettinelli, Steven Sessegnon, Ibrahima Cissé, Floyd Ayité.
Yellow Cards: Calum Chambers, Cyrus Christie.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds).
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