It has been a week for Burnley of near misses, last gasp equalisers, poignant farewells, intriguing arrivals and the usual referring blunders. Let us take a look at those events in more or less chronological order.
In the week that the good people of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania sought their annual metrological advice from their resident groundhog, perhaps it is appropriate that events at Old Trafford last Tuesday evening followed an eerily identical pattern to those of the same fixture last season.
On both occasions, Burnley swept into a 2-0 lead only to be pegged back in stoppage time and have to settle for just one point instead of all three.
Whilst coming away from Manchester United with a draw is undeniably an acceptable result, it was galling that such a fine display was undermined by an equalising goal that the eagle-eyed would spot as being scored from an offside position.
This after Ashley Barnes had put Burnley ahead with a well-struck shot to conclude an incisive move, and Chris Wood’s header had doubled the Clarets’ lead with a mere ten minutes remaining.
Pogba’s penalty after Jeff Hendrick’s push (no complaints about that decision) brought United back into the game and with a grim sense of the inevitable, Lindehof poked home the aforementioned controversial equaliser.
The very next day, we were subjected to the bi-annual non-event that is the last day of the transfer window, as Sky Sports presenters did their earnest best to inject a note of tension and drama into what is invariably a mundane shuffling of a pack of players of whom none but the nerdiest of aficionados had previously heard.
The exception of course was at Burnley, whose supporters were left lamenting the departure of the beloved Sam Vokes whilst simultaneously extending a guarded welcome to none other than Peter Crouch.
Vokes’ status as a Clarets legend is assured; he was an integral part of both Championship promotion campaigns under Sean Dyche, forging dynamic strike partnerships with first Danny Ings and then Andre Gray; both of whom benefitted from Vokes’ willingness to take the knocks and win the flick-ons from which they would feed.
Vokes was no mean finisher himself, and it was with a characteristic near-post header that he secured the second of those promotions, against Queens Park Rangers.
All in all, Vokes’ immense contribution to Burnley’s recent successes assures him a prominent place in the Parthenon of Burnley centre forwards of the past; names like Pointer, Lockhead, Fletcher and Hamilton. Farewell Big Sam, you will be missed but you leave with the thanks of a grateful club.
With Vokes moving to Stoke, Burnley secured the services of Peter Crouch in exchange. On the face of it, the arrival of a thirty eight year old who was unable to command a place in a mid-table Championship team is an underwhelming move. But the Crouch name carries with it some cache and a fair amount of intrigue.
Despite the reservations of many fans, myself included (it is worth noting that I harboured similar reservations about the signing of Joey Barton) Crouch nonetheless received a warm welcome from the Turf Moor crowd when his name was announced among the substitutes for yesterday’s match against fellow strugglers Southampton.
This was a match in which both teams seemed acutely aware of the potential magnitude of the three points on offer. It was thus a tense, anxious, tetchy affair, although never dull and less than watchable.
Some of the tetchiness must be attributed to referee Anthony Taylor, who waved away appeals for as blatant a penalty as it is possible to imagine, when Ashley Barnes was upended by the onrushing McCarthy in the Saints goal. An infuriated Barnes was then booked for remonstrating in industrial vernacular with the Assistant Referee. It was unwise of Barnes to do so, but perfectly understandable in the circumstances.
Momentum in the game would shift to and fro; the aforementioned Danny Ings – now in Saints colours – was denied an early chance by Tom Heaton’s save.
Ben Mee's header caused a moment of panic in Southampton’s defence and Chris Wood chose to shoot over the bar from an angle, when a square ball into the path of Barnes would have been the more productive option.
Early in the second half, the speedy and slippery Nathan Redmond found space deep into Burnley’s half, he skipped past a somewhat half-hearted challenge from Jack Cork and fired a neat shot into the corner of Heaton’s goal.
Spurred into a response, Burnley pressed forward and deployed their new arrival, Crouch, with a quarter of an hour to go and the fate of those three precious points on the line.
Perhaps understandably, the ex-England striker looked a little rusty and off the pace required of Premier League football, but his presence – and possibly his reputation – were enough to cause the Saints defence some alarm and this produced a chance for Barnes to shoot from close range, but instead of finding the back of the net, he found only McCarthy’s sprawling torso.
When Barnes subsequently hit the crossbar with another shot, it seemed that all would be lost, it was going to be one of those days.
But Crouch and Barnes would have the final word; Ashley Westwood aimed a cross at Crouch, but in the aerial tussle the ball made contact with Stevens’ outstretched arm. This time Anthony Taylor called the penalty correctly (Burnley’s first in an implausible 67 Premier League matches) and Barnes hammered the spot kick into the corner of the Southampton goal.
A draw was probably the correct result, and came as a relief that a point had been rescued and that all three were not heading south. It maintains Burnley’s momentum as their recent improvement sees them inching their way clear of relegation trouble.
The constant irritation for Clarets' fans lies in the fact that refereeing decisions have now cost Burnley victory in three consecutive Premier League matches and that just cannot be right.
This opinion comes from the pen of Dave Thornley, who contributes regularly on behalf of Clarets Mad. (TEC.)