It really does seem a whole lot longer, but it genuinely was only a week ago since Sean Dyche’s Clarets trudged off the field at the London Stadium after an uninspired, plodding and lacklustre performance against West Ham. A lack lustre 1-0 defeat against the Hammers raised serious questions about Burnley’s destiny for the remainder of the season.
What a difference a week makes! Thursday evening came and went, and Liverpool had been beaten at their Anfield fortress, and the Clarets followed up with an empathic 3-0 win over Fulham in the FA Cup. Such is the roller-coaster ride of being a Burnley supporter.
If we are honest, who could have reasonably seen the result we witnessed at Anfield last Thursday?
It had been almost four years since Liverpool lost a home Premier League fixture at Anfield and a remarkable forty-six years have come and gone since Burnley last won at Anfield. That Reds’ reverse came from a sumptuous long-range strike from the Clarets’ former full-back Ian Brennan, as I recall.
But Burnley caught Liverpool in something of a slump; the goals had dried up, the fire in the belly so evident as they swept to the title last season had dimmed to a flicker and rumours of dressing room unrest swirled around the club.
Under those circumstances, and given the Clarets’ performance at West Ham, Liverpool probably anticipated this fixture as an ideal opportunity to arrest the slump and re-set their season.
What the Reds found instead was a Burnley team at their most organised, most resilient and most bloody-minded.
Burnley’s defensive structure maintained its now familiar rigidity throughout, never yielding, never panicking, winning headers, blocking shots, intercepting crosses and tracking back; running and tackling followed by more running and tackling.
Fans of other teams voice the criticism ad nauseum that Burnley’s style of play is dull, dour and lacking in enterprise. But Burnley do what Burnley do, it is simple and when done correctly is effective and what is more, a perfectly legitimate means of winning football matches.
It is worth noting that cavalier, free-flowing Leeds United sit only four points ahead of dour, uninspiring Burnley and three of those points came as a result of an appalling display of refereeing when the two teams met recently at Elland Road.
It is strange what pressure can do isn’t it? The usually smiling, affable, charismatic Teutonic, Jurgen Klopp engaged in a heated finger-jabbing tunnel confrontation with Sean Dyche at half time. For me, it was reminiscent of the time in the 2005 Ashes series when Ricky Ponting lost it after being run out by Gary Pratt.
When events don’t unfold as anticipated, when things don’t go to plan, the frustration levels can boil over, Sean Dyche must have felt as I did, that Liverpool were there for the taking in the second half.
It is never that straight-forward in the world of football and Burnley could ill afford any drop in intensity as the second half unfolded, but in the 83rd minute their big chance came as Ashley Barnes shrugged off a half-hearted challenge to bear down on Allison’s goal.
The Liverpool keeper rushed out and flung himself at both Barnes and the ball. A tough penalty to concede, admittedly, but once awarded Ashley Barnes was in no mood for debate, and he drilled the spot kick low into the corner of the Liverpool goal.
A marvellous three points which hoisted Burnley further away from the drop zone and hopefully set them up for the second half of the season.
Perhaps, this will feature a cup run? Burnley are now in the fifth round where a home match against Bournemouth or Crawley Town lies in wait.
FA Cup runs historically feature kinks and wrinkles along the way; sometimes serendipity takes a hand and the draw falls nicely in your favour. Who knows where Matej Vydra’s last-gasp equaliser against the MK Dons might lead. Wembley perhaps?
A rejuvenated Burnley were much too good today for a woefully dis-interested Fulham; with Jay Rodriguez contributing two goals and an assist. This is the latest totally unexpected Clarets away win, which will no doubt further boost the confidence now seeping through the team from Turf Moor. Long may it last.
An equally rejuvenated Dave Thornley comments on two consecutive Burnley away wins, which only the most ardent of Burnley fans could have seen coming. (TEC.)