Burnley rediscover their edge - Chris Boden’s match verdict

Subservient. It’s not a word you would associate with Sean Dyche’s Burnley side.

Sunday, 15th December 2019, 7:00 am
Burnley celebrate Chris Woods winner against Newcastle
Burnley celebrate Chris Woods winner against Newcastle

And yet, Dyche himself accepted that was exactly what his players were in their heavy defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last week.

It was a shock to the system to see a Dyche team so weakly yield to, admittedly, superior opponents.

But the Clarets bounced back on Saturday in a manner we have come to expect, to find a way to come out on top in games where the margins are tight.

In appalling weather conditions, Burnley managed to grind out a big three points against a Newcastle side buoyed by a draw at home to champions Manchester City, backed up by successive wins.

It was far from a classic encounter, in the biting cold, but the Clarets produced a classic Dyche display - resolute defensively, playing from a solid framework, while producing in the big moments, when they could affect the game.

Another set piece goal proved sufficient, but once Burnley got in front just before the hour, you sensed that they would hold onto their advantage.

As Dyche said: “The main thing for me was that edge we play with, we played with it - the last couple (of games) we didn’t.

“I said to the players last week, Tottenham are a good side, we know that, but there was a subservience, and you can’t do that.

“Once they smell blood, you’re gone. But today there was a forcefulness to our play, there was a deliberate edge, and it gets us a nice win.”

Chris Wood’s demeanour, as he awaited a post-match interview with Sky’s Dickie Davis, said it all - the Kiwi striker had been ill ahead of the game, and he slumped against the wall, the exertion of a tough battle clearly on show.

It may not have been pretty, but Burnley gave everything for the cause, which you could argue wasn’t necessarily the case in north London.

And the detail they put into every performance came to the fore, with another superb corner from the returning Ashley Westwood taking keeper Martin Dubravka out of the picture, allowing Wood to nod in his seventh goal of the season, and edge ahead of strike partner Ashley Barnes.

It was Wood’s 10th headed goal since the start of last season - and no one in the Premier League has as many in that time.

Westwood’s delivery has been missed in the three games he has sat out, all defeats, but it wasn’t just his dead ball prowess - the former Aston Villa man slotted straight back with a typical display, setting the tone with his ability to play forward quickly, press opponents and put his foot in.

However, he was outshone by Jack Cork in midfield. Cork was named the sponsors’ man of the match, and it was hard to argue.

If Cork is fit, he starts, but this was him at his best, composed in possession, protecting the ball, breaking play up, and also joining in going forward. Had he beaten Dubravka to make it 2-0, after stealing the ball from Sean Longstaff and cut into the area past Fabian Schar, it would have been a thoroughly-deserved goal.

That Cork couldn’t kill Newcastle off made for a slightly nervy finish to the game, especially when rookie referee Tim Robinson and his assistant failed to spot a blatant foul on Erik Pieters, enabling Joelinton to cross for Dwight Gayle, who somehow couldn’t provide a finish.

That wasn’t the only time the officials were at fault, with Andy Carroll staggeringly only booked for rocking Ben Mee’s head back with his elbow, which came in late and from some distance.

Carroll has form, having been sent off for another reckless elbow on Mee while with West Ham at Turf Moor in October 2017 - a second yellow after catching James Tarkowski with a stray arm seconds earlier.

Bizarrely, Steve Bruce said: “I don’t think it was an elbow. The referee made a rod for his own back with his inexperience.

“There were challenges all over, when you jump it’s impossible to jump with your arms by your side.

“It’s why I have a face like I have.”

Mee was lucky he could continue, as was Tarkowski, who twice was the recipient of, albeit not malicious, but, nonetheless, challenges over the ball on his ankle from Joelinton.

The Brazilian was booked for the second, which wasn’t as bad as the first...

In the end, Bruce was left aggrieved at the award of the corner which led to Burnley’s winner - with Federico Fernandez falling onto the ball and rolling it out of play, feeling he had been fouled by Wood.

Dyche somewhat agreed, expecting a free kick to go against his side, but in the scheme of things, it wasn’t a clear error - and, anyway, it is up to Newcastle to defend the corner better than they did.

It was an important win, on the back of three-straight defeats, but more in the manner that this was much more like Dyche’s Burnley.

And now, with 21 points from 17 games - nine more than this stage last season - they are in a position to look up, rather than over their shoulders, and try and see how high up the table they can finish.