Dave Thornley, the Clarets Mad resident match summariser reflects on today’s Burnley defeat at the hands of Newcastle United.
We’ve all seen the movies, haven’t we? James Bond, Indiana Jones or Ethan Hunt dangling perilously over the precipice, supported only by an increasingly fraying rope or rapidly crumbling cliff-ledge; their fate, and the fate of millions, dependant upon their ability to extract themselves.
That is what it feels like to be a Burnley fan right now; powerless to intervene and just hoping against ever increasing odds, that all will turn out alright by the time the credits roll.
But there are two crucial differences: unlike our big screen action heroes Burnley’s perils have been largely self-inflicted and we don’t enjoy the comfort of knowing that in all likelihood, there will be a happy ending.
For the second Sunday lunchtime in succession, Burnley have been defeated after assuming early control and establishing a lead. On both occasions ending up losing to opposition who were at best moderate.
This afternoon’s home defeat at the hands of Newcastle United, following as it did from the defeat at Southampton a week ago, was hard to stomach and has brought into sharper focus very real concerns that once crowds are re-admitted into Turf Moor, the opposition will be provided by the likes of Preston North End and Millwall.
When, after 18 minutes, Chris Wood drove into the Newcastle penalty area and squared for Matej Vydra to score from close range, everything seemed set fair; the Clarets were assuming control of the game, pressing in midfield and purposeful down the wings, with Dwight McNeil in excellent form on his hundredth appearance for the club and still only twenty-one years of age.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell is three years older than McNeil, but, with his slightly boyish and chubby-cheeked appearance, he looks younger. He has played 98 fewer matches for Burnley than McNeil but found himself pressed into service today when Nick Pope had failed to recover from a shoulder injury.
His point-blank save from Dwight Gayle was hugely impressive but was overshadowed by Newcastle’s valid appeals for a penalty when, in the ensuing scramble, James Tarkowski’s boot was raised to the same height as Shaun Longstaff’s head. VAR poured over the incident and concluded that no foul had been committed, much to Burnley’s relief and everyone else’s general astonishment.
Over the course of this weekend, VAR has struck off two goals for infinitesimally narrow off-sides, whilst simultaneously turning away blatant penalties such as this one. VAR was introduced to correct such mistakes by the on-field officials; but instead has become mired in petty, po-faced pedantry.
The game turned on the second half introduction from the Newcastle bench of Allan Saint-Maximin, a fine player, and one who had caused Burnley trouble when the teams met at St James’ Park in October.
Within the space of five excruciating minutes, he had laid the ball into the path of Jacob Murphy, whose hard low shot defeated Peacock-Farrell; then ran unchallenged from the half-way line to sidestep the retreating Tarkowski and Ben Mee and slot the ball into the corner of Burnley’s goal.
It was a telling and decisive contribution from the Frenchman, but to hear the praise lavished upon him from the Sky Sports commentary box, one could be forgiven for thinking that Newcastle had brought on Pele himself.
Burnley pushed forward for an equalizer, their efforts however lacked any real thrust, imagination and potency and produced nothing more threatening than a slew of corners, all of which were dealt with by the excellent Dubravka in the Newcastle goal and his steadfast defensive colleagues.
The match drew to a conclusion with Burnley defeated, still in trouble and with their lack of activity in the past two transfer windows returning to haunt them. For whilst Newcastle were able to bring on a player capable of grabbing the match by the scruff of the neck and diverting its course. Burnley, on the other hand, were labouring with only half of their striking options available for selection and missing their first-choice goalkeeper.
Whether Burnley avoid the drop or not, and whoever is in charge of the team next season; more resources, more imagination and more aggression needs to be shown in the transfer market.
The countdown clock is ticking remorselessly towards the detonation of the relegation bomb; will a hero emerge from the Burnley ranks to defuse it just in time? Its going to be an edge-of-the seat cliff-hanger.
Ken Hanson posts across social media from articles written by Dave, which are edited and posted from Clarets Mad, by The Editors Chair (TEC).