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2019 ended on the pitch with a 2-0 home defeat against Manchester United and in came 2020 with another home defeat, a sixth of the season in the Premier League, this time beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa.

I can’t imagine there was anyone inside Turf Moor yesterday who had ever seen Aston Villa win a league game at Burnley before. You have to go back to September 1936 when they also beat us 2-1, this after we’d taken an early lead.

The legendary Jimmy Hogan, who was lauded across Europe for his coaching, was Villa manager at the time and Joe Mercer, who went on to manage England, is the only Villa manager since to have secured a Turf Moor victory, this one in the FA Cup in 1959 when Peter McParland scored twice in a 2-0 win in front of a crowd of just short of 39,000.

That game is just short of 61 years ago, and I would bet Villa would have had to play better that day to get a result than they did yesterday when we saw our own team play as badly as we’ve done for some time at home and the only comparison I can make with our first half performance was that at Sheffield United.

Sean Dyche made just the one change to the team that started the United game; he brought in Robbie Brady for Jeff Hendrick who had been targeted by sections of the home crowd. Personally, I always think we look a better side when Hendrick plays, but we certainly didn’t with Brady in the starting eleven yesterday although he was far from the only player culpable.

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The start was awful and it was no surprise when Villa scored with only 11 minutes gone. Jack Grealish, who was outstanding for Villa, headed past Nick Pope after they’d latched on to a shocking clearance from James Tarkowski.

What happened next is what’s killing this game of football. Sean Dyche remains a fan of VAR. Has he simply not seen how much damage it is doing to the game? I always suggest that the longer you wait, the more likely it is that VAR will overrule a decision. Lo and behold it did, Wesley’s heel was adjudged to be offside prior to Tarkowski’s clearance. That’s pure farce. “It’s not football anymore,” sang the Villa fans with many from Burnley joining in.

That I thought, might be the incident that wakened us from our slumbers. Not so, it actually went worse and Wesley, who has found scoring difficult, gave Villa the lead they so deserved after receiving the pass from, you’ve guessed it, Grealish. There were no cheers from the Villa fans, just a ripple when our big screen actually showed 1-0, but they waited until we’d restarted the game, knowing that VAR farce could no longer rule it out.

At that point, I wondered just how we might turn things round and, not for the first time this season, I thought if we could get in at 1-0 then we might come out refreshed in the second half. Then Grealish scored with a superb finish and there we were going in at half time with a two goal deficit.

It’s become a worrying theme that started when Jamie Vardy equalised for Leicester in the final minute of the first half against us at the King Power. In the very next match, Christian Pulisic got his and Chelsea’s second, again in the 45th minute and then Sheffield United turned a 1-0 lead into 3-0 with goals on 43 and 44 minutes. That was all in three successive games. It’s continued too; Crystal Palace went in front in the first minute of stoppage time while Manchester United opened the scoring on 44 minutes. I suppose we could say this one was early in only the 41st minute.

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It really was no surprise when we were booed off at half time but everyone seemed numb during the interval, unable to take in how badly we’d played. Brady and Ashley Barnes were the two who paid the price but there were so many others who could have been pulled and you have to wonder about Danny Drinkwater given that both Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork stayed on.

Our club reported that we were impressive after the break but that’s not really the case. We were very definitely better than we’d been before the break but Villa knew they had this game wrapped up and, in fact, they missed the first chance of the second half.

We had a lot of the ball, and the possession stats show we had 62% of the game, but we didn’t create much at all. There were half chances and both Jay Rodriguez, on as a sub, and Chris Wood missed the target with two of them,  but eventually we got one back when Wood headed home at the far post after Westwood’s second attempt at a cross found him.

Earlier in the half we’d had a lengthy stoppage that saw Wesley carried off on a stretcher by a load of red coats. When they came on I thought I’d arrived at Butlins. He’d gone down in a challenge with Ben Mee but there can be no blame be apportioned to the Clarets’ skipper.

There was also another long delay after our goal and this time it was Tom Heaton. It was good to see Mee walk the length of the pitch to have a word with the Villa goalkeeper. Ahead of the game I’d been hoping he’d have his worst ever game at the Turf. In the end, he’d had precious little to do and I certainly didn’t want to see our former captain leaving on a stretcher.

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Interestingly, Danny Drinkwater was just about to come on when we scored but he was sat down again, never got on and you wonder whether that might be the last we see of him at Burnley although Sean Dyche did say afterwards he would be available for the cup tie. If he’s going back, I can’t imagine Chelsea would want him cup tied.

Those delays led to nine minutes of stoppage time. There’s always a roar goes up from the fans of the team a goal behind. We have been given a reputation for being direct but we spent the entire nine minutes being anything but. We got only one meaningful ball into the box; that was from Charlie Taylor and it won us a corner. Westwood’s corner was collected by sub goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland and that was just about all he had to do.

Eventually Michael Oliver put us out of our misery with the final whistle. We’d witnessed a dire first half and a second half when, in truth, despite having all the play, we hardly really threatened to turn things round. Had we got another goal, I’m sure Villa would have been kicking themselves all the way back down the M6.

That’s nine defeats in the last thirteen games. We are down to 15th now in the league and, just to show how close things are, had Bournemouth scored a late winner against us recently rather than us win it, then we’d now be sat in the bottom three.

It’s worrying. Just a few weeks ago I didn’t have any real concerns. It was Sheffield United that had me worried. We followed that up with a 3-0 win against West Ham but we’ve hardly played well since. It’s a real concern. The squad needs a lift from somewhere. Where I don’t know but it’s needed.

We get a break now with the FA Cup. In fairness, Lincoln apart, we do tend to go out of the FA Cup against teams in the big six, but we’ll put out a team on Saturday that is capable of getting a result. Then it’s only Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United and Arsenal in the next four games.

Happy New Year everyone.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Robbie Brady (Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson ht), Ashley Barnes (Jay Rodriguez ht), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Danny Drinkwater, Jeff Hendrick.
Yellow Card: James Tarkowski.

Aston Villa: Tom Heaton (Ørjan Nyland 85), Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause, Frederic Guilbert, Douglas Luiz, Marvelous Nakamba, Neil Taylor, Trézéguet (Conor Hourihane 78), Wesley (Jonathan Kodjia 71), Jack Grealish. Subs not used: James Chester, Henri Lansbury, Anwar El Ghazi, Ahmed Elmohamady.
Yellow Card: Neil Taylor.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

Attendance: 19,561.

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