There are times when the anticipation of going to watch your team on match day can barely be contained and kick off cannot arrive soon enough; there are other times when it feels more of a chore, an obligation. Yesterday’s season opener at Turf Moor between Burnley and Brighton fell into the latter category.
It was tough to tear myself away from Joe Root as he homed in on yet another century and fulfil my duty as a season ticket holder, mindful of the fact that for the majority of the last eighteen months I lamented the fact that such trips had been unavailable to me. Capricious, I know.
Witnessing a noisy altercation at the cricket field bar as I approached the stadium certainly did nothing to lift the spirits; football’s back, crowds are back and with it the inability of some to act with civilised restraint after a couple of pints. Eye roll.
The opening game of the season should not, and usually does not, engender such indifference, but yet another transfer window was sliding by without serious additions to Burnley’s playing resources and recent home form could only be described as woeful.
Once seated however, it was good to once again be amidst a vibrant and throbbing Turf Moor and the opening passages of play further lifted my spirits.
The game was barely three minutes old when Ashley Westwood reminded us all of the magic he was capable of weaving from the corner quadrant; delivering a ball to the far post which James Tarkowski headed into the Brighton goal.
As the Tarkowski charged in to meet the corner he flattened Neal Maupay whose attempt to block Tarkowski’s path was reminiscent of a man trying to stop a runaway freight train. VAR might well have ruled the goal out, but it didn’t, reasoning correctly that any infringement was on Tarkowski, not the other way around.
For the remainder of the first half Burnley were in control. Johan Berg Gudmundsson struck the post with a hard low drive after seizing on a lose clearance from Brighton keeper Sanchez.
Another Westwood corner and another header, this time from Ben Mee. Unfortunately this one bounced off the underside of the crossbar and onto the goal line, but sadly not beyond it.
Nevertheless, the 1-0 lead Burnley enjoyed at half time seemed certain to be the precursor to a win against opponents who lacked thrust.
Brighton boss Graham Potter is an accomplished coach, and he had the bench resources to affect the course of the game and as the second half developed they grew into the game.
Maupay shot over the bar after a break down the Burnley left and a low cross. It was a warning which went unheeded as some time later, the same move and cross once again found Maupay this time he made no such mistake and Brighton were level.
Same move a few minutes later, same cross and same finish, this time from MacAlister. Brighton, from a position of apparent hopelessness were now leading.
They held the lead with reasonable comfort thereafter as Burnley ran out of ideas and ran low on stamina. With only like-for-like swaps from the bench available to him, Sean Dyche was unable to reverse the passage of the game and Burnley slumped to a defeat in a game they could and should have had locked down by half time.
It was grimly reminiscent of matches against Newcastle and Southampton last season in which leads were also squandered, it is a failing which, if left unaddressed, will see Burnley relegated. The current trajectory is a downward one and needs reversing soon.
Dave Thornley replicates the pessimism shared by many Clarets fans after the opening day debacle against Potters Seagulls. (TEC.)