Cast your minds back to Boxing Day last year. On that late December day Everton arrived at Turf Moor brim full of swagger and jois de vivre, scored five goals and left with all three points.
Burnley on the other hand, were mired at the foot of the English Premier League table, devoid of confidence and heading, it seemed, for the Championship.
That fixture however, marked a seminal moment in the Clarets’ fortunes; they reset, regrouped and embarked on a run of results which hauled them safely clear of the relegation zone.
Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, when the two clubs re-convened for this seasons’ version of the same fixture; in the intervening ten months, Burnley had re-discovered their mojo and their identity. No team who play against Burnley are left in any doubt as to the challenge they will encounter.
Everton on the other hand, appear to be a confused, dysfunctional mess. The arrived yesterday on the back of a three game losing streak and left having seen it extended to four.
This is exactly the type of run which places managers, particularly managers who splashed the owners’ cash during the transfer window, under serious pressure to keep their jobs.
Everton boss Marco Silva will no doubt be feeling that pressure having been undone yesterday by a single Jeff Hendrick goal. Silva will also be acutely aware that the same result, supplied by the same goal scorer, two seasons ago accounted for one of his predecessors, Ronald Koeman.
In truth, yesterday’s encounter was by no means a classic, the sort of game that Match of the Day do not linger over. This was a fractured, incoherent game in which for seventy minutes, neither team could establish any lasting superiority over the other.
The turning point came when Everton skipper Seamus Coleman received a second yellow card for a challenge on Dwight McNeill. This followed a badly-timed first half lunge at Erik Pieters, which left the Burnley full back writhing in agony and caused him to hobble off later in the game.
Coleman is not a malicious player and although his dismissal was undoubtedly correct, both challenges were clumsy rather than vicious.
Nevertheless, Burnley benefited from having the advantage of the extra man. Shortly after Coleman’s departure, Charlie Taylor, who had replaced the injured Pieters, forced a corner on the Burnley left wing.
Ashley Westwood swung the corner deep to the far post, where it was met squarely on the volley by a revitalised Jeff Hendrick and his sublime volley flew past Jordan Pickford into the Everton goal.
Hendrick’s finish was indeed a demanding one; the in-form Irish International had to gauge the flight of Westwood’s corner, precisely time his run to the far post and then make contact with the ball in such a way as to keep its trajectory under control and under the crossbar.
For most of the remainder of the game Burnley played some of their best football, and chances which were created for Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez might easily have added to Burnley’s tally.
But despite a stoppage time extended to six minutes due to the Pieters injury and the Coleman sending off, Burnley saw out the game in relative comfort, which must be a source of concern for Marco Silva.
His team are badly mis-firing; talented players such as Alex Iwobi and Richarlison showed only fleeting glimpses of their ability and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has much work ahead of him if he is to be considered alongside great Everton centre forwards of the past; names like Dean, Lawton, Latchford, Gray, Ferguson and Lukaku.
Perhaps of even greater concern for Marco Silva, must be his team’s wanton abandonment of their defensive duties at set-pieces. Burnley’s goal was a carbon copy of a first half corner which Pickford managed to scramble away. It seemed they had learned nothing from their previous escape.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley are unforgiving of such carelessness, and yesterday’s victory puts the Clarets firmly and proudly in the top half of the Premier League table as the league goes into International Break hiatus.
It definitely felt like Christmas for the home fans, to experience such a welcome turnaround in fortunes since last year's Boxing Day debacle. Bring on the Foxes.
Written by the ever brilliant Dave Thornley, on behalf of Clarets Mad. (TEC)