Burnley 1 Newcastle 2 – A massive relief but a couple of things…
I’m sure we’ve been here before.
I promised myself I’d ignore the Fulham game on Friday night, as I did a few weeks ago when they played Leeds. Once again I spent the best part of that match refreshing the score on my phone, desperately hoping for a favour.
Like Leeds before them, Wolverhampton duly delivered, scoring an injury time winner that must have smashed Fulham’s brittle confidence to smithereens for the desperation of the run in.
For the benefit of anyone who’s so cool they’re not even bovvered, I should clarify that I desperately want us to stay up. I have small, lingering shreds of confidence left in the whole drawn out takeover process (I actually think Nick de Marco may be on the wind up with his cryptic updates everyone is jumping all over) but I still believe there is that small lingering possibility.
I also know that relegation would annihilate that chance, as Ashley would doubtless still expect Premier League money, buyers would rightly refuse to pay it and the current owner would once again gamble on immediate promotion, which he’d likely be ignorant enough to trust to Steve Bruce.
Even if the situation did get sorted it’s unlikely that PCP would hang around for yet another year, and ironically the court case may clear the way for their takeover of someone else.
I don’t think this will all happen, but as long as it’s a possibility, I want us to stay up to give the club every chance to breathe again. A win today would open up a six point gap to Fulham, with a game in hand, as well as bringing both Brighton and today’s opponents right back into the mix. The question was, which Newcastle would we see? The slightly promising, attacking action of the Spurs game, boosted by the possible inclusion of Wilson and ASM, or the play for a draw, cowering sh.tshow served up the last time we had this opportunity, the surrender at Brighton in the archetypal Bruce performance?
I think I read the team sheet through the cracks in the fingers over my eyes, I was so dreading an obvious set up to play for a draw. The introduction of Clark and Fernandez for Krafth and the injured Lascelles added steel to the defence if anything, although I wonder what Willock must have thought to be back on the bench after salvaging a point last week.
Willock must have thought this consistently throughout the first half as Shelvey sat back in the defence and Longstaff, regressing after a positive game against Spurs, allowed the midfield game to pass him by. As a result Burnley bossed the opening exchanges, taking the lead in abysmal fashion after 18 minutes. A speculative ball forward was weakly headed away by Clark, who then backed off as Wood brought it straight back to the box. Both Clark and Fernandez failed to prevent him finding Vydra, who Dummett had wandered away from, and a simple tap in was notched.
This looked set to be another one of those performances. Almiron worked down the right and Ritchie got forward on the left but the final balls were consistently woeful. There was then a flurry of activity towards the end of the half that maybe betrayed a small sense of fight.
First Gayle turned in Joelinton’s scuffed effort despite seeming miles offside. VAR correctly gave the decision, although the replays showed it was a lot tighter than it first looked. Moments later Gayle was again involved drawing a save from the rookie keeper, but in the build up to this Longstaff had been booted in the face by a high foot from Tarkowski the likes of which I haven’t seen since Hulk Hogan used a similar move to great effect in the 90s. Dangerous play and a clear penalty, of course. Except the VAR didn’t give it because I can only assume he was either a Mackem refusing to do his straightforward job properly, or in some way on the take. I welcome the subsequent investigation that must surely be coming.
Dubravka had to be on his toes at the end of the half as Burnley had about eight corners, which you can assume they spend around 80% of training practicing, with at least another 10% devoted to crying out loudly and pretending to be fouled when experiencing opponents. Then a rush of blood from Dummett, who scorched an effort at his own goal that Dubravka had to dive full stretch to keep out.
The opening ten minutes of the second half saw Burnley continue their incredible sequence of corners, with Dubravka desperately keeping us in the game. In a rare moment of clarity, Bruce actually seemed to notice this wasn’t going great and played both trump cards in one go. Saint-Maximin and Wilson were introduced with 35 minutes to make a difference. It took ASM one.
Thinking back to the home game against Burnley, the match overall was fairly equal other than the Clarets couldn’t live with Saint Max. There was an instant reminder of this as he destroyed three of their defenders meandering into the box, before cutting back for Jacob Murphy to belt in a fine equaliser, although the wait to see what Larry Rokertown in the VAR box would come up with to rule it out was agonising.
You couldn’t have asked for more for ASM introducing himself off the bench. Or could you? Minutes later, with what felt like his next touch, wor Allan picked the ball up in the centre circle and dribbled towards the box shredding Tarkowski while (I’d like to think) shouting “think it’s fun to kick people in the face do you? Have some football pie in your goal you massive clogger!” Despite Wilson being wide open to his right, he went with the option of scoring a brilliant individual goal.
The final half hour or so is a blur of Burnley belting it forward, United heading it constantly clear and occasional glimpses of brilliant from ASM. In the final minute of normal time, he destroyed the hapless Clarets back line one final time, with his cutback eluding Wilson but finding Almiron, whose effort to wrap the game up was desperately hacked off the line by Tarkowski.
A massive relief then…but a couple of things:
I have been full of praise for Karl Darlow this season but Martin Dubravka served a reminder today of the difference he can make. When things were going against he kept us crucially in the game.
Secondly, I’m sure if you trawl back through everything I’ve written this year it’s there in black and white that Saint-Maximin would win us one or two games on his own. Injury has robbed him of some chances but today was a big pay off and I wouldn’t bet against him securing us another six or seven points before it’s all over. However, I can’t see a player of this quality remaining at this sh.tshow for another season of clownery and there will surely be suitors if massive changes aren’t affected in the summer.
I have confidence in these massive changes being at least possible after today. Six points clear with a game in hand and Fulham drained of confidence is one thing. Hauling in Burnley could be very useful, especially as they go to Craven Cottage shortly and it would be nice to see them desperate to get something.
More needs to be done to secure it, but for this weekend at least we have the chance to exhale, relax and potentially even look forward to the next game with a sense of hope instead of foreboding. I just hope we can do the same with next season.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Burnley 1 Newcastle 2 – Sunday 11 April 12pm
Murphy 59, Saint-Maximin 64
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Burnley 57% (49%) Newcastle 43% (51%)
Total shots were Burnley 24 (11) Newcastle 10 (4)
Shots on target were Burnley 4 (2) Newcastle 5 (1)
Corners were Burnley 13 (1) Newcastle 3 (4)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Dubravka, Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Sean Longstaff, Almiron (Hendrick 90+30), Gayle (Wilson 57), Joelinton (Saint-Maximin 57)
Darlow, Carroll, Willock, Krafth, Lewis, Manquillo
(Allan Saint-Maximin gets emotional after MOTM turn around “I give this win to the supporters” – Read HERE)
(Burnley 1 Newcastle 2 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Sunday’s dramatic win – Read HERE)
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]