It must be conceded that taking the game as a whole, Sean Dyche’s Burnley did not deserve the three points they harvested from their lunchtime encounter with Crystal Palace at Turf Moor yesterday.
All of the statistical measures of the match; shots on target, corner kicks, possession, completed passes, heavily favoured the visitors. Every statistic except of course the single most important one: goals.
Chris Wood’s gift-wrapped early goal, when he seized on a loose back-pass and bent a composed shot past the stranded Wayne Hennessey, felt at the time to be a pre-cursor to a handsome Burnley victory with some room to spare.
But along with many other Burnley supporters, I should have known better. Rather than press home the early advantage they had established over a jittery Palace, Burnley instead invited the visitors back into the contest.
Fortunately, it was an invitation which they chose not to accept, thanks to some determined defending and some wasteful finishing. Scott Dann in particular will have had few headers easier than the one he allowed to slide off his forehead and wide off the post in the closing minutes of the game.
As the game progressed, Burnley eschewed any notion of attempting to construct coherent attacking play in favour of manning the ramparts and repelling wave after wave of Palace pressure. Such defensive resolve is of course laudable and demonstrates the character of the team, but it does little for the blood pressure of the increasingly anxious supporters.
Nevertheless, there were notable performances from Ben Mee, who skilfully marshalled the threat of the imposing Christian Benteke, along with James Tarkowski, who enjoyed his best game to date in a Burnley shirt. Jack Cork too demonstrated his customary coolness under pressure, whilst others struggled to maintain theirs.
The pressure on new Palace manager Frank De Boer will have intensified after this result, but if the powers that be at Selhurst Park happen to read this, then take it from me that the Palace players were most definitely playing for their manager.
Palace will play worse than they did today and win, whilst Burnley will play better and lose. Football is like that sometimes. Sean Dyche looks to have finally learned from the likes of Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce and knows how to win a game ugly.
Ugly or not these are three welcome points for Burnley, but ones which came with a heavy price tag, namely the suspected dislocated shoulder suffered by Tom Heaton which, if confirmed, will mean a lengthy lay-off for the England international.
His replacement, Nick Pope, was assured and competent and his point-blank save off Benteke was positivelyHeatonesque. He will need to maintain that form in the coming weeks as he assumes the role of the Clarets’ starting goalkeeper.
Seven points from the first four matches represents a solid start to the season for Burnley, a strong foundation upon which to build, but for all the character, determination and collective will they displayed today, better performances will be required as the season unravels.
As a postscript, this weekend also saw the latest in a long sequence of magnificent achievements by the finest sportsman the town of Burnley has ever produced. It would be fitting if the board of Burnley Football Club re-named the Cricket Field Stand in honour of James Anderson OBE.
This Burnley centric match report was written by David Thornley, who contributes to Clarets Mad on a regular basis. (TEC).