Burnley are making steady progress under Sean Dyche, but lack a spark, writes Thomas Pickles.
Leaving Turf Moor last night, I walked past two men talking about their decorating woes.
“I’d done everything. Windows. Kitchen. All it needed was a coat of paint on the ceiling.”
“And then I turn up the next day and the boiler’s broken. Water everywhere.”
There’s a metaphor there. Somewhere. A metaphor about how Sean Dyche has renovated a Burnley side leaking goals in to one which has much more of a solid foundation.
Moreover, it’s a metaphor about how close we are to the finished product.
Middlesbrough are ahead of us in the league, tantalisingly so. There have been recent occasions where we could’ve caught them. Should’ve caught them. The home game against a dire Birmingham side, a poor performance against Peterborough, leading against Bolton.
And last night. When faced with the team occupying sixth place, we should’ve beaten them. They had one corner to our 12. Their goalkeeper made three saves and was helpless as Charlie Austin’s best opportunity flew over the bar. That’s a stark contrast to Lee Grant who – if it wasn’t for his involvement in Burnley’s tedious tapping of the ball along the back line – could’ve stayed at home for the first half and for much of the second too.
Regardless of that though, we didn’t do enough to win the game.
We’re lacking a bit of curb appeal. The team sheet doesn’t invoke excitement or intrigue from supporters, nor does it worry opposing managers. There’s no player in the team who can catch the breath of the Turf Moor crowd with a flick of a heel or a flash of pace down the wing. It speaks volumes that our most creative player is our right-back. Ross Wallace and Junior Stanislas have their moments without ever capturing the imagination and Charlie Austin is so often out wide that he could contend with David Walliams on time spent in the channel. As someone behind me on Row S said: “You don’t want Charlie Austin out wide offering himself for a throw in. You want him stood on the penalty spot.”
Speaking of channels. Many would’ve switched over. One team looked devoid of any motivation to score whilst the other, Burnley, seemed utterly contented to pass the ball backwards and sideways. I’d be interested to see if there’s a statistic for how many touches of the ball Lee Grant has had compared to other goalkeepers. I think that’s a pretty solid indication of how we played tonight. We pinged the ball about comfortably enough in our own half. Marvin Emnes gave his dreds a wiggle as he chased a couple of the passes. He knew though that there was very little likelihood of anything progressing into the ‘Boro half.
Brian Stock and Chris McCann both remind me of Joe Allen at Liverpool. I have a Scouse mate who lambasts Allen for passing in any direction but forward. The first ten minutes were spent exclusively down Burnley’s right flank where Trippier and Stanislas kept the ball between them until Martin Paterson got involved on the opposing flank. He was facing the ‘Boro goal but insisted on turning sluggishly, as if shielding the ball in an extra-time corner flag routine. He quickly lost the ball and a Middlesbrough player skipped away. Sadly, I didn’t notice Paterson after that until he was subbed in the second half.
For the majority of the 90 minutes, we kept the ball without looking remotely threatening to the opposition. Something that according to two chaps next to me is becoming a routine. “It’s looking like that same familiar pattern,” one chirped to the other. I think he meant more the pattern of looking comfortable all game until the opposition score and supporters are left bleating “I don’t know how we lost that one” – a la Birmingham City at home. That thankfully didn’t happen tonight.
Someone, somewhere, tried to sing a song but it was lost among empty seats and crisp packet rustlings. At one point, from my seat in the Longside, I was sure I could hear a conversation from the back of the Jimmy McIlroy. I wonder if Dyche was smiling when he referred to the great Turf Moor atmosphere “under the lights” on Radio Lancashire.
The atmosphere tonight was summed up with superb eloquence by the bloke sat to my right. In response to the lads at the back of the Longside who were asking fellow supporters to stand up in order to convey their animosity towards those who play at Ewood Park, the bloke beside me muttered: “This lot won’t even sing. As if they’re going to stand up.”
There’s no need for complete negativity, though. In four months, Sean Dyche has found a consistency in the defence. Kevin Long featured last night and looked more than comfortable. There’s other encouraging signs. Keith Treacy split the ‘Boro defence with two majestic passes in his cameo role this evening. If Dyche can facilitate him into the side on a more regular basis then perhaps he can be the creative player to capture the imagination.
It’s uplifting that despite our bad form we’re still in with a sniff of sixth spot. It’s a poor league this season. We’ve played some poor teams. That makes it all the more frustrating that Dyche’s refurbishment is missing that showpiece, that pièce de résistance.
I just hope Dyche has more fortune than that poor sod I heard on my way out of Turf Moor tonight. I hope we find that extra something we’re lacking – I hope we manage to put that coat of paint on the ceiling.
What’s missing from Dyche’s team? Comment below.