First of all, an apology that a technical malfunction prevented me from contributing a piece on the draw with Villa and the win over Wolves and from wishing all of you the very best for the festive season. Fortunately those games were more than ably covered elsewhere.
With laptop newly restored, I find myself chronicling Burnley’s Boxing Day fixture (deferred by 24 hours) against Leeds United in which Burnley were victims of not one, but two gross and calamitous miscarriages of justice.
During his loan spell with the Clarets, Patrick Bamford resembled a spoilt, sulking teenager who had been asked to clean his room. Now, at Leeds, he has found a rich seam of form and however bitter a taste his time at Burnley left in the mouths of the supporters, he and the Leeds coaching staff deserve credit for his transformation.
Not that any such credit sprang readily to mind when he broke clear early in the match. Nick Pope sprang from his line to challenge and his outstretched leg nudged the ball away from Bamford’s foot. The striker’s momentum meant that a collision with Pope’s prostrate body was inevitable.
There are some things that one has been brought up to believe are indisputable truths; gravity, the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, longitude and latitude and that if you win the ball cleanly in a challenge, a foul can’t be awarded against you.
Sadly for the Clarets newbie EPL referee Robert Jones was of a mind to twist our perception of reality as though this was not so much a football match than a Christopher Nolan movie. He duly pointed to the penalty spot and the fortunate Bamford slotted the ill-deserved kick past Pope.
Well at least we now knew where this brylcreamed charlatan of a referee set the bar for the award of a penalty kick. Right? Wrong!
Later in the first half, Ashley Westwood clipped a free kick towards Ben Mee who had taken up position in the Leeds penalty area.
Meslier, their baby-faced goalkeeper – resplendent in shocking pink – charged from his line to meet the ball and in the process careered into the back of Mee who was doing nothing more than readying himself to leap for the header. The keeper made less contact with the ball than he did with Mee and it fell invitingly to Ashley Barnes who scooped the ball into the unguarded Leeds goal.
The whistle had already been blown before Barnes’ shot, but having set the precedent it must surely be a penalty to Burnley? Nope, free kick to Leeds for a foul their own player had committed. Leeds were relieved, Burnley were left simmering with rage at the injustice.
It is impossible to say how the game would have progressed had justice been served, but it is fair to say that Burnley left Elland Road without any points but with the knowledge that over the span of the game, they were the better team.
The problem was, as it had been previously this season, an inability to create enough clear cut chances. Without the injured wide pair of Robbie Brady and Dwight McNeill, there was a dearth of quality delivery into the Leeds box. Crosses invariably were too long, or cut out at the near post; through balls were similarly over-hit and promising passages of possession all too often fell apart with a stray pass.
Erik Pieters and Josh Benson were pressed into service in place of Brady and McNeill and try as they might, they were not equipped to serve as adequate replacements.
It is ridiculous that having to make a mere two changes to the starting line-up should so unbalance a Premier League outfit. The acquiring of new players in January is an urgent requirement.
Which brings me onto the takeover; the negotiations of which seem to be even more protracted than the Brexit trade deal. There is talk of it reaching a conclusion this week. I hope so, but nothing may be taken for granted until the ink is dry on the contract, and the new owners parade themselves, scarfs aloft, before the press on the Turf Moor touchline.
This defeat notwithstanding, there has been sufficient improvement in Burnley’s form and general play to enable us all to approach the new year – and more immediately the two must-win home games against Fulham and Sheffield United- with a degree of confidence.
Dave Thornley is back in business, let's hope he reflects on two home wins in his next two match reflections. (TEC).