Having removed the curse of Goodison Park on Sunday we headed North again to another venue that has been particularly unkind to us over the years…
Unlike Everton, we had actually won at Burnley in the League but you’d have to go back as far as 1951 for the last occasion it happened. Since then we’ve visited Turf Moor 30 times without the sweet scent of success and the power of the curse has been so strong that even Keegan’s and Tigana’s all-conquering promotion teams, who both managed 101 points in the season managed to lose there.
Scott Parker wisely kept faith with Sunday’s selection in the hope the confidence engendered might help secure another win that would double our season’s tally in the space of four days and further enhance belief that Premier League survival is possible. On the flip side, Burnley were missing their stalwart centre half Ben Mee, which would also have given us cautious grounds for optimism.
Any hope that we would dominate the way we did from the off at Everton were swiftly extinguished though as Burnley were in our faces from the first whistle. Their high pressing and physicality prevented us from establishing any rhythm and even when we got a little time on the ball our passing was nowhere near crisp or accurate enough. To our credit, the defence was standing strong and were dealing pretty effectively with Burnley’s direct approach. There was one big scare just before the break when Tarkowski fizzed a ball across our box but otherwise, we looked relatively untroubled.
We then got a huge bonus on the resumption with possibly our ugliest goal since Kevin MacDonald’s sumptuous effort against Leeds in our promotion push of 2018. Ola Ainaseemed to connect with the front of the body from a right wing corner, as opposed to the delightful intervention of KMac’s ‘petite derriere ‘ but as they say they all count. Robbie Brady did try to clear it off the line but it was poetic justice that his intervention only helped it in as he arguably should have been sent off just before this for his foul on Harrison Reed. VAR seemed to take little or no interest in the studs-up challenge which I found ironic considering how they adjudged a very similar challenge by Aboubakar Kamara against Crystal Palace earlier this season to be worthy of a red card.
This should have been a game-changing moment as with the lead it would have forced Burnley to take more risks and give us more chance to hit them on the counterattack. We didna see this scenario pan out though as within four minutes we handed the initiative straight back by conceding a very cheap equaliser. Possession was needlessly given up in their half and Tosin compounded the situation by diving in on Rodriguez who then squared it to the unlovable Ashley Barnes for a tap in. This is no criticism of the young defender as this is probably the first real mistake I’ve seen him make in a Fulham shirt. It’s just bad luck that the error was punished with a goal.
This setback rocked us back on our heels as the play then followed a similar pattern to the first half with Burnley again on top. Scott Parker, therefore, deserves credit for a couple of timely substitutions with the introduction of Anguissa and Cavaliero helping give us a semblance of control for the first time in the match. Big Frank did seem to be something like the player we saw earlier in the season for the first time in a while, which will be very good news for the run in if he’s back to full throttle.
Burnley too made substitutions as they seemed to be tiring from their early exertions. Dyche sensibly took the hapless Brady off as he seemed to be of the view he was a red card waiting to happen. It was a pity Jon Moss hadn’t shared that opinion a little earlier when he let him off for a pull back that should have been a standard yellow card and therefore an early bath.
As the clock ran down we were finally getting more time and space in the attacking third. Ruben Loftus Cheek had another nearly moment but couldn’t divert his header on target. Josh Maja again got into some promising situations but it was Ademola Lookman who had the best chance as the game went into its death throes. He had plenty of time and quite a sizeable target to aim for but rather than see the net bulge we saw his curler go the wrong side of the post and ensure we’ll have to wait a while longer for that elusive victory at Turf Moor.
To be fair to Burnley it would have been harsh on them if they’d lost. Dyche has packed his side with a smattering of seasoned homegrown professionals who are very good at what they do. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Dyche gets the maximum out of a side that are physically strong but are also curiously very easy to knock over. Moss seemed to be taken in on a regular basis and Scott Parker made his frustrations clear during the first half when the previously mentioned Barnes often seemed to be felled by a puff of wind.
After the outstanding effort at Everton, it would be easy to be disappointed by tonight’s performance. However, a point at Burnley is not to be sneezed at and gets us to within two wins of our prime target Newcastle. With over a third of the season still to go there is plenty of time to reel them in. The next two games are obviously pivotal but now is certainly not the time to give up hope. Keep the faith people; well at least until Saturday!