Eight O’clock on a Saturday evening is no time for a football match to start.
By eight o’clock, the day’s football should be concluded and it is time for a takeaway, a beer, Strictly Come Dancing and perhaps a nap in readiness for Match of the Day.
But in Covid-Britain, strange times have given cause for strange occurrences and so it was that Burnley were obliged to commence their home Premier League season by kicking off against Southampton at this ungodly hour.
This disorientation seemed to be reflected on the pitch as Burnley began sluggishly and as early as the sixth minute they fell a goal behind.
Che Adams’ pull-back from the right wing fell obligingly for Danny Ings (who else?) eight yards from Nick Pope’s goal and although his finish was scuffed and partially blocked, it still had enough momentum to find the net.
It is customary for crosses such as that supplied by Adams never to find their way through to Ings; normally, they are intercepted at the near post by Ben Mee or James Tarkowski, but those two weren’t there and it showed.
Burnley fans know all about Ings of course and it is good to see his career blossom in the way it currently is. We who revelled in his performances wearing the claret and blue had no doubt as to his talent, but couldn’t he have seen his way clear to taking the night off in deference to his old mates?
Burnley for their part huffed and puffed thereafter, but couldn’t quite find the probing pass or the teasing cross for Chris Wood and Matej Vyrda to feed on.
Wood might have had a penalty when he received a shove in the back, it very much fell into the “seen ‘em given” category, but when it was revealed that Mike Dean was on VAR duty, the chances of the on-field decision being overturned were decidedly remote. My daughter, on the other hand, instantly accused the Saints’ defenders of “cheating”. If only she had been the VAR controller!
Early in the second half Wood squeezed the ball past McCarthy in the Saints goal, but the offside flag was already fluttering aloft. Replay’s suggested that the flag might have been raised in error, it certainly wasn’t clear cut, but no VAR referral, why?
Sadly, that was pretty much that and Burnley slumped to a second defeat in as many games. A poor start to the season by any standard, made worse with a squad deprived of no fewer than seven regular players stricken by injury.
Ironically, up to eight o’clock last night it had been a rather better week; a handy 2-0 League Cup win over Millwall, in which many of the young bucks in the squad performed admirably; then the club gave their spending muscle a mild flexing with the arrival of Dale Stephens from Brighton; and finally, Ashley Westwood put pen to a three year contract.
It is clear that things must change, more new arrivals should and must be the top priority. A fully fit squad with one or two additions contains more than enough quality to ensure Premier League prosperity, but Burnley, purely and simply, must stop losing.
Dave Thornley hits a rather somber note in his post-match assessment of how the Saints arrived at Burnley and marched off with all three points. (TEC.)