We’ve finally got that first win
A Chris Wood goal early in last night’s home game against Crystal Palace got things off to a good start but we had to endure the obligatory nervy last few minutes in front of our television sets before referee Kevin Friend blew his final whistle on our first Premier League win of the season.
It was almost like being back to normal, but what is normal? For me, it would have been going to the Turf and taking my seat in the Longside Upper. That’s not possible but at least, having had to miss recent games, I was able to get in front of my television to watch it all unfold.
I still find it very strange that I pick up the confirmed team news while still at home but that team news brought with it a couple of changes from the team that drew 0-0 at Brighton in the previous game. Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, who had been an unused substitute at the Amex, came in for Robbie Brady whilst Jay Rodriguez partnered Chris Wood up front with Ashley Barnes dropping to a bench that looked much stronger than we’ve seen all season.
The big news on the other side of the pitch was the absence of Wilfried Zaha. He’s had mixed fortunes at Turf Moor. He’s scored in this fixture in each of the last two seasons but back in 2017/18 wasn’t in the team when we beat them 1-0. He’s also found himself getting sent off on the Turf. That was back in the 2011/12 season when Jay Rod scored his final Burnley goal in his first spell at Turf Moor. Overall, he’s the Palace talisman and this season he’s been very much their goalscorer. His absence was surely going to be in our favour.
There’s no doubt that Palace played a part when we opened the scoring in the eighth minute. It all started out on the left touchline when Cheikhou Kouyaté gave away a needless free kick. Palace cleared that danger well enough but Matt Lowton, Josh Brownhill and JBG combined on the right with the latter crossing the ball in from a very deep position. Kouyaté got there but his header was woeful. Jay Rod picked it up, slipped it through to Wood who finished emphatically past Vicente Guaita.
Just what the doctor ordered, an early goal and a lead. What followed was some good football, some very nervous moments, possible goalscoring opportunities at either end but eventually a final whistle to signal the victory which I thought was fully deserved.
How would we cope with being in front? The last time was at Leicester and the lead lasted ten minutes. The last time at home was in early July when we held the lead for some time against Sheffield United before conceding ten minutes from the end.
We were doing well enough in the second half too and then, in the space of a couple of minutes, we could have secured the points and then been pegged back with Dwight McNeil involved in both incidents.
McNeil played the final ball in for Guðmundsson who had just the goalkeeper to beat but from right on the 18-yard line he smashed his shot against the bar. The chance to go 2-0 up was gone and Sean Dyche’s reaction looked one of bemusement at how we could possibly have missed that chance.
Would we pay for it? We nearly did almost immediately. This time McNeil got a back pass horribly wrong. It let in Michy Batshuayi and he too looked a certain scorer. He just had an England goalkeeper between him and an equaliser and the England goalkeeper did brilliantly to get out quickly and smother it before pushing the ball away.
We’ve seen it so many times. Burnley 1-0 up and seemingly hanging on to their lead. Prior to this game, we’ve won 22 Premier League games 1-0 under Dyche. Sometimes we’ve won them with late goals but on any number of occasions it was just as it was last night.
Palace were pushing onto us, we were doing exactly what we do well and defending and, looking back, the simple fact is that until right at the end they didn’t once threaten an equaliser during that period.
Then came that moment when once again we were thankful to have an outstanding international goalkeeper in our team. From a free kick, Christian Benteke headed towards goal. Pope came out, spread his body and somehow got a left hand to it to push the ball away as he got clattered. That one piece of brilliance ensured we won the game.
We are a long, long way from being comfortable in the Premier League this season but at least, for now, we are no longer in the bottom three and that’s a good start. I suppose we could have done without the annual trip to the Etihad next but we have to play it some time. Maybe Pep will be too busy banging on about not having enough substitutes to worry about us.
I was delighted to be able to watch us again last night, I was delighted to see us win and I’m pleased I’m able to start reporting on the games again.
I have to make mention of a stat broadcast last night on Sky television although they didn’t get it absolutely correct. In last night’s game we had James Tarkowski and Ben Mee in the centre of defence for just the second time this season. Incredibly, we have kept six clean sheets on the last eight occasions they have been our central defensive pairing.
The only dampener in the end was Brady’s latest injury. I really hope it’s not too bad. I feel for him and he deserves a bit of good fortune to come his way.
I’ve got my seat booked for Saturday – it’s the same one as last night.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Robbie Brady 67, Erik Pieters 84), Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ashley Barnes, Matěj Vydra.
Yellow Cards: Jay Rodriguez, Matt Lowton.
Crystal Palace: Vicente Guaita, Nathaniel Clyne, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt, Andros Townsend, Jairo Riedewald (Jeffrey Schlupp 67), James McArthur, Eberechi Eze, Jordan Ayew (Christian Benteke 77), Michy Batshuayi. Subs not used: Jack Butland, Joel Ward, Mamadou Sakho, Gary Cahill, Tyrick Mitchell.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).