Pope Saves The Day

Last updated : 21 January 2020 By Dave Thornley

Some of you may recall that in my piece following the defeat at Chelsea, I set out a number of points which, in my opinion, needed to be addressed if Burnley were to halt a run of poor form which had seen them slithering down the Premier League table. 

Well, dear reader, it seems that Sean Dyche and his players took notice and actioned most of the points I raised: 

Find a way to beat Leicester City, tick; 

Play with more intensity and passion, tick; 

Work out how to respond when going a goal behind, tick; 

And create goalscoring opportunities from open play, rather than rely almost exclusively from set pieces, tick. 

Whilst I acknowledge that Chris Wood’s and Ashley Westwood’s goals and Nick Pope’s penalty save had played a part in Burnley’s victory, I think we can all agree that the bulk of the credit clearly belongs to me and the guidance I provided! 

What was perhaps most reassuring about Sunday’s result and the manner in which it was achieved was the fact that Burnley’s players were clearly and visibly up for the battle; they were prepared to strain every sinew and not yield. 

Such commitment and such an obvious expenditure of effort quickly engenders a positive response from the stands, and Burnley supporters rapidly got themselves four square behind the players and whipped up the kind on atmosphere that Turf Moor has become associated with and which visiting teams find unsettling. 

When Leicester’s Harvey Barnes slipped between Ben Mee and James Tarkowski to put his team ahead in the first half, Burnley fans feared yet another unproductive fixture. Even after falling behind, however, it was evident that Burnley were not about to go quietly into the night. 

They drew level early in the second half, a corner (naturally) found Ben Mee on the far post, his header was parried by Kasper Schmeichel into the path of Chris Wood who finished from a distance of no more than a couple of feet. 

The game was back in the balance, but looked to have been tilted Leicester’s way when Mee brought down Harvey Barnes. But Nick Pope dived to his left and pushed Jamie Vardy’s spot kick away from Burnley’s goal. 

The save inspired the Clarets and in short order, a break by Charlie Taylor down the left wing was followed by a hard low cross which was deflected into the path of Ashley Westwood who drilled his shot into the Foxes’ goal. 

At 2-1 up, Burnley proceeded to do what they do best, organising themselves, closing down space and resisting pressure. There was a more than reasonable shout for a second penalty when Mee repelled a shot with a part of his body that may or may not have been his arm. 

Given that Burnley were unfairly denied a point in the corresponding fixture early in the season, we can file this perceived oversight under “karma”. 

There is much work ahead of Burnley if they are to secure the relative prosperity of mid-table, but Sunday’s result and the manner in which it was achieved give renewed rise for optimism. 

Our regular contributor Dave Thornley wrote this piece while waiting for the 'phone to ring. Surely he will be on the bench belting out instructions at Old Trafford next to Sean?  (TEC)