For us football club supporters, the emotional reaction generated by victory and defeat are pretty binary; joy or despair and nothing in between. The emotions stirred by drawn games are however more nuanced.
Last week at Newcastle, the reaction by Burnley fans to a drab nil-nil result was predominantly indifference tinged with boredom. Yesterday, in the tea time home fixture against Tottenham Hotspur it was largely frustration at a game which concluded at one goal each, but one from which Burnley should undoubtedly have emerged victorious.
When these two teams met earlier in the season Spurs swept Burnley aside in a 5-0 mauling which left the Clarets harbouring uncomfortable thoughts of a grim winter fighting relegation.
In the ensuing three months, the fortunes of the two clubs have reversed somewhat; Burnley’s chief tormenters that day; Harry Kane and Son Heung Min have picked up injuries, whilst the skilful elegance of Christian Erikssen is now on display elsewhere.
The Clarets for their part hauled themselves clear of relegation trouble by virtue of an unbeaten league run which, when the match kicked off, stood at six games.
The contrasting philosophies of the two managers were reflected in their team selections; Sean Dyche was his usual model of consistency, the only change being Chris Wood restored to the starting eleven, with MattejVydra dropping to the bench. Jose Mourinho in contrast made no fewer than six changes, fielding a team which was virtually unrecognisable from the two clubs’ last meeting.
For the duration of the first half, the match took the form of the familiar and coherent against the fractured and disjointed. Burnley, playing with fluency and purpose, produced some of their best football of the season; at times they were toying with Spurs, moving the ball around slickly and unleashing the left wing combination of Dwight McNeill and Charlie Taylor who were a constant thorn in Spurs’ right flank.
It was no surprise when the Clarets took the lead; France’s World Cup winning goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris spilled Jay Rodriguez’s hard low drive and Chris Wood was first to respond to the loose ball and prod it into the Tottenham net.
Spurs could summon no credible response, with Dele Alli having to play in a lone striker role to which he is totally unsuited, and Jan Vertonghen – a natural central defender – pressed into grumpy and half-hearted service at left back.
Mourinho is however, a gifted and decisive manager, neither is he a stranger to the dark arts and before the second half commenced he enlisted the help of Lucas Moura and Giovanni Lo Celso from his bench and referee Jon Moss, with whom he reportedly had “a word” during the break.
It clearly worked, the two substitutes engaged and committed the Burnley defence and offered support to the isolated Alli. Moss played his part by producing more cards than the local branch of Clintons.
Burnley are a team who unapologetically seek to impose themselves physically on their opponents, but never as brutally as Moss’ card count would have one believe.
There can however be few complaints about the penalty award which allowed Alli to draw Tottenham level; an unwise lunge from Ben Mee. But equally Moss missed a barge in the back of Chris Wood, a clear and obvious error if ever there was one, such errors were what VAR was brought in to correct but went unutilised on this occasion.
Despite Tottenham’s much improved showing after the break, the best of the second half chances went Burnley’s way; Vydra , introduced from the bench, saw two such efforts blocked, one of which after taking an unnecessary touch to transfer the ball to his left foot, when a first-time strike with his right was called for.
So one point each at the end and with it a feeling that two points had been lost due in no small part to poor refereeing. Nevertheless, Burnley’s unbeaten run now stretches to seven games.
Given recent history, the run is unlikely to survive the encounter with next week’s opponents, Manchester City at the Etihad, but equally there can be no doubt that Burnley are on the right track.
During the first half yesterday the chap in the seat next to me offered the opinion that Burnley are just a couple of players away from making the transition from being a decent team to a very good one. I am inclined to agree.
This week, our regular contributor to Clarets Mad Dave Thornley berates the totally hapless Jon Moss. Who could possibly disagree? (TEC).