The daylight is shining through the tunnel
Today, 21st March 2020, Burnley should have been playing Watford at home. The game has been postponed due to the Coronavirus crisis as has every other game in England. So, instead of going to the Turf and then writing a match report, I’ve decided to have a look back at a previous game against the Hornets. One week earlier we’d been beaten 2-0 at home by Leicester, our first home defeat of the season, with the Leicester goals scored by former Claret David Nugent and future Claret Chris Wood. Leicester had been able to bring on Wood for the injured Jamie Vardy around ten minutes before half time; earlier in the game we had only David Edgar to come on for the injured Sam Vokes.
One week on we turned up at Vicarage Road without the services of Kieran Trippier, Dean Marney, Vokes and Danny Ings. Leicester were, by then, ten points clear of us. We had a nine point advantage on QPR who were in third place with Derby a further point behind in fourth place. Below is my report from that game at Watford.
A Scott Arfield goal four minutes from the end of normal time gave Burnley a point in a 1-1 draw at Watford yesterday amidst scenes of delight from yet another packed away end.
Don’t be fooled into thinking we were fortunate to get something. Don’t let the Football League Show coverage allow you to think we weren’t the better team. This was another outstanding away performance from the Clarets and better, I thought, than some when we’ve come home with all three points.
That we did it against the odds, with four regular players out of action, speaks volumes for what Sean Dyche has been telling us all season, of it being all about the group and about other players stepping in when required and doing everything asked of them.
This is the story of yet another superb day following the Clarets in the 2013/14 season and, despite Dyche’s one game at a time mantra, was one where the lights were shining very brightly indeed at the end of the tunnel.
It was a Supporters’ Club coach for me yesterday, a pick up just past 9 a.m. with even a meet up with two ex-Clarets into the bargain when the coach pulled into Norton Canes services on the M6 Toll. Frank Sinclair was there but it was Ade Akinbiyi I saw first. Always popular with the Burnley fans he told me he was absolutely delighted to see Burnley up there in the Championship and so wanted to see us win promotion. With a shortage of strikers right now he smiled when I asked him if he was up for a game and even more so when I asked if he could pick up Jay Rodriguez, his protégé, on the way.
Soon after came the worst news of the day. Jay Rod is no longer a Burnley player but by the time we’d gone just a few miles down the road the news was coming in of the shocking injury he had sustained playing for Southampton at the Etihad. This report is about the Watford v Burnley game but it would be so remiss of me not to send best wishes to Jay who will always be one of our own.
Not too long later the coach was manoeuvring its way down the Yellow Brick Vicarage Road where there were already masses of Burnley supporters outside. Sadly some were without tickets, having chosen not to heed the warnings, and when I went into the ground it didn’t look as though they were likely to follow me.
There were a big group of Watford fans outside posing for photographs. I’m not sure whether or not they were members of the Pozzo family but they were all speaking a foreign language. With them all wearing sun glasses and carrying violin cases my thoughts were that they must be Italians.
One old Watford fan came and asked me: “Is old Bob Lord still running his butchers up there in Burnley?” He appeared surprised when I told him that Lord had died over 32 years ago. Apparently this bloke had done business with Lord on Green Shield Stamps (and that’s one for the older readers) a long time ago. As an aside, had Lord still been with us he would have been aged 106.
Much of the talk was of our promotion chances of course. Ahead of kick off we led QPR by nine points and Derby by ten points. One Burnley fan said: “If we supported QPR or Derby we wouldn’t think we had any chance of catching Burnley, yet as Burnley fans we worry that they are going to catch us.”
My concern was the team. It was pretty much as expected with David Edgar holding the central midfield position alongside David Jones. It was a sort of 4-2-3-1 formation (I know Dyche says we shouldn’t get hung up on them) with a three of Michael Kightly (right), Scott Arfield (centre) and Keith Treacy, who was in the team for the injured Junior Stanislas, on the left.
Attacking the end where the Burnley fans were situated in the first half I thought we started the game really well with Treacy having an early influence, but in only the ninth minute we were rocked on our heels when Watford scored.
It was so simple; a ball hit forward for Troy Deeney to hit home what looked like an unstoppable shot from outside the box that flew into the net. The young Claret sat next to me immediately told me it had taken a deflection but it was one too difficult to see for my ageing eyes. He was right though, the deflection is clear even to me having seen the television footage.
We don’t panic when we fall behind but it is always good to get an early response, and three and a half minutes later we thought we had one. Treacy delivered a superb cross from the left. Ashley Barnes got there first at the near post to hit home high into the net.
Up went the Burnley fans to celebrate but also up went the assistant referee’s flag for offside. I’m damn sure it was close but the only clue on the footage is just a couple of seconds, if that, before the cross you can see Barnes just edging offside on the 18-yard line.
Watford did fire in a couple of shots wide of goal but as the first half went on we were getting more and more of the play. Treacy moved inside with Arfield going to the left and alongside Kightly, who was playing as well as I’ve seen him in some considerable time, were getting some joy. However, Watford soon dropped back into a back five and at times it was sheer numbers at the back that was keeping us out.
Referee Attwell, who was constantly upsetting the Burnley fans, failed to spot the most blatant foul of the game when Barnes went down just as half time approached but we’d some time left as the board went up for six minutes. That was due to an injury sustained by Cristian Battocchio that saw him stretchered off. Those six minutes should have become eight or nine with two more stoppages in the added on time but Attwell didn’t bother with them and blew with Watford, in my view, fortunate to go in with a lead.
The news coming through from elsewhere was that Bournemouth were beating QPR with it all square between Middlesbrough and Derby, so nothing disastrous.
If we played well enough in the first half, albeit without creating too many goalscoring opportunities, then we went on to play even better in the second half. Unfortunately, though, QPR soon levelled but there was still good news to come from there and Middlesbrough. We all know now that the home sides both got winners meaning the two teams directly behind us weren’t going to pick up any points on us.
We simply played really well in the second half. Yes, Watford had their chances. There was one almighty piece of action in our box when we got so many blocks in it was untrue. When you see your players getting their bodies in the way like that you know they are giving everything they’ve got for you. That sort of thing lifts the fans even more.
I thought we just needed a break and it looked as though it had come when Ben Mee, having another excellent game, got his head to a Kightly corner. It looked bound for the top corner until Manuel Almunia made the save of the match. Ross Wallace had come on for Treacy; Brian Stock, who did so well in the last quarter of an hour, replaced the unwell Jones, but that goal just wouldn’t come.
It should have done at the opposite end when Ikechi Anya got through. He took the ball round Tom Heaton, slotted it past the diving Jason Shackell and the ball rolled towards goal. We were stretched but we had to be as we chased that goal which would give us a point. I don’t care where Chris Baird came from, but I know where he got to. He got to the ball just inches before it crossed the line and hooked it clear. It was still 1-0 and Baird was to play his part in the next, and last, significant moment in the game.
Baird, like Kightly, has played for Watford on loan, and the two combined. Kightly had the ball on the left; he turned inside and played it across for Baird. The full-back slid the ball forward to Arfield in the D on the edge of the penalty box. Arfield brilliantly opened his body and turned leaving him in front of defender Marco Cassetti. And from just outside the penalty box he drilled his shot into the bottom corner, almost shaving the post as it went in.
From the far end of the ground it was impossible to see just how good a goal it was, but I can tell you we knew just how important a goal it was. There again Scotty Arfield only seems to score important goals.
We’d got the point and what a point it was. We played out the rest of the game more than comfortably and if either side was going to go on and win it then it was us. But the point was more than our rivals got and the point took us one step, or one point, closer to where we want to be.
As the players and manager saluted the fans and the fans responded the scores came over the PA. As those involving QPR and Derby were announced there were visible signs of delight from the players on the pitch.
I know Dyche keeps telling us it is one game at a time, and it is Barnsley on Tuesday. Even so, the lights are not just on at the end of that tunnel now, the daylight is shining through.
My only disappointment was not winning in the Grand National sweep; my horse Burton Port was the second to fall but I did see those in dark glasses, heads down, on their way home just as our co-chairman John B joined us on the coach. And there was another ex-Claret to see on the services on the return journey; former youth and reserve player Alex-Ray Harvey, a Burnley lad and a Claret, thrilled with our season. As for the National, I’m no horse racing fan but I do recall Foinavon. It was the 100/1 outsider that came through to win the 1971 National. At no stage were we ever 100/1 but what odds were we for promotion last August?
And I reckon it would take a collapse similar to that of the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Loch in the 1956 National to stop us now. That’s not going to happen. I’m getting excited because I know where we are going.
The teams were;
Watford: Manuel Almunia, Gabriele Angella, Marco Cassetti, Joel Ekstrand, Ikechi Anya, Cristian Battocchio (Almen Abdi 43), Daniel Tozser, Lewis McGugan (Albert Riera 87), Daniel Pudil, Troy Deeney, Mathias Ranegie (Marco Faraoni 75). Subs not used: Jonathan Bond, Tommy Hoban, Samba Diakite, Sean Murray.
Yellow Card: Marco Faraoni.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Chris Baird, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, David Edgar, David Jones (Brian Stock 76), Michael Kightly, Scott Arfield, Keith Treacy (Ross Wallace 63), Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Kevin Long, Danny Lafferty, Steven Hewitt, Jason Gilchrist.
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).
Attendance: 16,182 (including 1,732 Clarets).Follow UpTheClarets:
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