No recovery after poor start

It was a start that stunned the home crowd as first Nick Blackman and then Lucas Piazon struck for the Royals and from that point on it is always going to be a difficult afternoon. I've been trying to think when we last fell two goals behind in a game that quickly and I reckon it must have been the home game against Man City in 2010 when we were actually 3-0 down after just seven minutes with all of Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez having found the net at the Jimmy McIlroy end of the ground.

Many were confident ahead of this game, but Reading's record at Burnley is not bad. Ahead of this game they'd won on eight of their sixteen league visits, the first of which was back in November 1980 when they beat us 2-1.

Even so, we have been playing well. We went into this game on the back of a five game unbeaten run which included four successive wins and that well fought and well earned draw at Derby last Monday.

Debutant Joey Barton came on as a sub for Michael Kightly

Sean Dyche was forced into one change. As expected, Andre Gray was ruled out with a hamstring injury and replaced by Rouwen Hennings who was making his second start for the Clarets. Hennings' place on the bench was taken by Tom Anderson with Joey Barton sat there for the first time at home and with some expectation that he might be about to make his debut at some stage of the afternoon.

It all started quite brightly; we got forward and got the ball into the Reading box but then came those two goals. Our two central defenders got into a mix-up on the first from Blackman and although their second goal was a good one, there was still a lack of picking up players in the box when the ball came in. Even so, they were two good strikes that gave Tom Heaton no hope of keeping them out.

At that point in a game it is natural to fear the worst. We did concede three goals last season on four occasions at home but since Dyche became manager we've never conceded more than two goals in a home Championship match. Here we were though, already having conceded two and still with 81 minutes of the match remaining.

In truth, a late Oliver Norwood free kick apart at the end of the game, I don't think they ever really threatened another goal and it was just a matter of whether we could get back into it.

We probably should have done so very quickly when Michael Kightly, undoubtedly one of our better players in the first half, had a shooting chance, but his right foot effort went straight to goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.

But generally we were only creating half chances. Kightly and Sam Vokes both had shots blocked but then came the talking point of the first half. Kightly's cross from the left was almost turned in by Hennings, but was the striker pushed? Nothing much has been said of it but from my position it did look as though he'd been fouled in the six yard box.

By half time it was still 2-0 but generally, after the two goals, we'd played well enough, probably better than we've played at home all season. But, that's of no use when you are going in 2-0 down.

The game continued in the same pattern in the opening minutes of the first half but many eyes were being caught by the activities on the touchline as Dyche prepared to make a change. It was two as it happened; Chris Long came on for Hennings, but just ahead of that saw Kightly replaced by debutant Barton.

I can't recall when there was last such an expectant roar as Burnley made a substitution but if Barton was unsure how he would received, here was his answer.

The remainder of the game was certainly not all about him, but what a difference he made to the overall performance. Alongside the yet again impressive David Jones, the midfield now looked as it should. His passing was crisp and accurate, he was always available and all of a sudden we were playing at the sort of tempo that we loved so much during the promotion season.

Reading were now being put under some pressure. They got a couple of blocks in to protect the goalkeeper but could do nothing when we finally pulled a goal back with 23 minutes remaining.

Jones pushed the ball forward on the left hand side to Long whose quick flick found Scott Arfield, now out on the left hand side of midfield. Arfield turned inside the full back and crossed to the far post where Tendayi Darikwa found himself unmarked to volley home from about five yards.

A first Burnley goal for Tendayi Darikwa

The goalkeeper did get a touch but he had no chance of keeping it out. It was an excellent finish from Darikwa for his first Burnley goal although I'm sure Reading boss Steve Clarke will be wondering how on earth he was allowed to get into that position totally unmarked.

It was game on and at there was real hope inside the Turf that we could go on and get something, but it wasn't to be. We came close as we pushed Reading back for most of the remaining time; Bond failed to hold a couple of balls but got away with it, they got a couple of good blocks in and when it looked as though we'd got the second, up popped Burnley lad Oliver Norwood to clear off the line.

It's the fifth time Norwood has played against us, for Coventry, Huddersfield and now Reading and he's only been on the losing side once, that when we beat Huddersfield on New Year's Day 2014.

And having made that clearance with what was our last real chance, he all but cemented their win yesterday with a third, hitting a free kick against the bar in the dying minutes before receiving warm applause from his fellow Clarets in the stand when he was substituted.

After the game, Dyche said that we will play worse than that and win. I couldn't agree more and in so many ways I felt that was our best home performance of the season. But you can't go giving teams 2-0 leads and expect to get something out of the game. Ultimately we paid the price for that first ten minutes.

A win would have seen us go second in the league, ahead of Middlesbrough, who play today. This defeat has seen us drop three places to sixth but with a chance to repair some of the damage when we travel to Rotherham this Friday in what will be our first visit to the South Yorkshire town in just over eleven years. And with the Barton influence, there could be some really good days to come.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, George Boyd, Scott Arfield, David Jones (Matt Taylor 86), Michael Kightly (Joey Barton 56), Sam Vokes, Rouwen Hennings (Chris Long 56). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Matt Lowton, Tom Anderson, Stephen Ward.
Yellow Card: Michael Keane.

Reading: Jonathan Bond, Chris Gunter, Jordan Obita, Paul McShane, Michael Hector, Oliver Norwood (Jake Cooper 90), Daniel Williams, Lucas Piazon (Aaron Tshibola 71), Garath McCleary (Ola John 82), Hal Robson-Kanu, Nick Blackman. Subs not used: Ali Al-Habsi, Andrew Taylor, Paolo Hurtado, Alex Fernandez.
Yellow Cards: Daniel Williams, Chris Gunter.

Referee: Tony Harrington (Hartlepool).

Attendance: 15,226 (including 401 from Reading).

 

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