The save, the pens and the collapse
Our third away game of the season, at Southampton, was almost a carbon copy of the other two at Chelsea and Leicester. Once again we went three goals behind with the only difference being our consolation goal from the penalty spot and a final result of 1-3.
Having held the home side for over 50 minutes, the floodgates opened once Charlie Austin had opened the scoring and just over a quarter of an hour later, with our performance in tatters, we were 3-0 down and on the way to another heavy defeat on the road.
Southampton are a good side, there’s no doubt about that. Even so, we can’t afford to be conceding three goals so quickly in any game and, by the end, we were thankful they didn’t add any more to make the scoreline even worse.
The south coast hasn’t been a pleasant place for promoted clubs this weekend, with Hull suffering a 6-1 loss just down the road at Bournemouth a day earlier, and this could so easily have been similar once that door at the back had been opened.
The Sunday morning trip down was not quite perfect due to navigation issues but we reached our destination, the lunchtime pub, in good time and eventually left to make the way to the stadium via a one mile walk. Not far from St. Mary’s we saw Francis Benali and his crew go past after their exploits of the last ten days.
I don’t think any report of yesterday can be complete without any mention of the 47-year-old former Saint. On each of the ten days he ran a marathon and cycled 75 miles, visiting, I believe, all the Premier and Championship grounds.
To be honest I was exhausted reading about his exploits which ended yesterday at St. Mary’s via a visit to the Ageas Bowl, home of Hampshire County Cricket Club. In doing so he’s already raised over £350,000 for Cancer Research UK and he was introduced to the crowd at half time. Everyone in the stadium had received a Francis Benali mask, even if one Burnley fan did think it was Tom Cruise, and his lap of honour at half time was so rightly greeted with a standing ovation from every part of the stadium.
By then we’d seen a first half that had ended goalless but certainly not without any talking points and the first of them initially centred on our former striker Austin and our England goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
I always thought it might not be good news when Shane Long suffered an injury on international duty. I thought that would guarantee a start for Charlie and that, given his record, I didn’t think was good for us.
I saw it live from what had to be the best vantage point in that left-back corner, and I went straight to look at it again on television when I got home. From a left wing Matt Targett cross, Charlie headed towards goal and immediately I assumed we were going behind in only the fifth minute of the game.
Still, after seeing it so many times, I’m not sure how on earth Tom got anywhere near it, let alone get such a strong hand on it to push it wide for a corner. I just sat there in total disbelief. “As good a save as you will ever see,” said Niall Quinn on Sky, before comparing it to the save Gordon Banks made to keep out Pele in the 1970 World Cup.
It was a stunning save and was part of what proved to be a difficult opening for us. We survived it unscathed and started to get ourselves into the game and there was to be one more major talking point in the first half, one of two incidents that certainly made life more difficult for us.
From the far end of the ground we saw Johann Berg Gudmundsson go down in the Southampton box. There was no way we could see what had happened and, in any case, the home side broke quickly and we were found short at the back as the ball came across to Austin on the left. His first touch was, thankfully, not good enough and he scuffed a shot wide.
That break should not have been allowed to happen because quite how on earth referee Mike Dean failed to see Virgin van Dijk’s foul on Gudmundsson is difficult to fathom. When Matt Le Tissier, who can’t see past Southampton, admits it’s a clear penalty then that’s exactly what it was.
Sean Dyche after the game said, had we scored, it would have changed the whole feel of the game and Jamie Redknapp, the other former Saint in the Sky studio said virtually the same.
We didn’t get it, it remained at 0-0 and Heaton made one more good save before, significantly, we lost Steven Defour to a hamstring injury just before the break which came after four minutes of added time due to the injuries to Southampton’s Targett, who was substituted earlier and Defour.
Two weeks ago we had the debate over the added time in the game against Arsenal. It mattered not yesterday but it is worth noting that over one minute of the four added on were lost when George Boyd required treatment for an injury, another incident that upset Dyche and with some just cause. Dean ignored that and added on nothing further.
Although we hadn’t probably offered enough going forward, we had begun to look reasonably comfortable. I’d always considered that a point at Southampton might be a good result but it wasn’t long into the second half when that initially looked unlikely and then totally out of the question.
They took the lead via a corner just seven minutes into the half and eight minutes later the result was in no doubt as a second corner brought goal number two. The first was a bit scrappy as Austin got two opportunities, and didn’t we all know that if they scored it would be him? The second came from arguably their best player Nathan Redmond who dropped off and finished well from a few yards out.
There is very little positive I can write about us after that. As was the case against Leicester, we offered absolutely nothing of note after that as Southampton got a third from the penalty spot, a decision as bad as the refusal of ours in the first half. It was Charlie again. His day was done and a few minutes later he left, to a mixed reception from the travelling Burnley fans, to be replaced by one of their substitutes who received a very warm welcome from those same supporters, once one of our own Jay Rodriguez.
He forced Tom into one last save but not before we’d finally got our first away goal. This time Dean did point to the spot. It was soft but it was a foul and this referee is continuing to give those sort of decisions. Vokes hit it straight down the middle.
You sort of get a resurgence of confidence temporarily and the thought that should we get a second anything could happen. Michael Kightly had improved things and was getting us further up the pitch but, in truth, we looked ten times more likely to concede than scoring.
Simply the second half performance was nowhere near good enough. Who knows what might have happened had Dean done his job. He didn’t, but neither did we and this season is going to really be long and hard if we continue to fall apart on the road as we did yesterday in just the same way we had done at Leicester.
We need to be far better than that. We have to be far better than that because we are not going to get enough home points to stay up and are going to have to start playing better away from home. Once behind, we look a completely beaten team.
At least we were home sooner than anticipated.
The teams were;
Southampton: Fraser Forster, Cuco Martina, José Fonte, Virgil van Dijk, Matt Targett (Sam McQueen 14), Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu, Steven Davis, Dusan Tadic, Nathan Redmond (James Ward-Prowse 88), Charlie Austin (Jay Rodriguez 71). Subs not used: Alex McCarthy, Maya Yoshida, Pierre-Emile Højberg, Shane Long.
Yellow Card: Dusan Tadic.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Michael Kightly 70), Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour (Aiden O’Neill 41), George Boyd (Patrick Bamford 81), Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Scott Arfield.
Yellow Cards: Steven Defour, Dean Marney.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
Attendance: 29,040 (including 1,106 Clarets).Follow UpTheClarets:
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