PROMOTION party poopers Boro ruined the expectant Burnley crowd’s coronation plans with an industrial double-shift of frantic defending. And a dash of luck.
The home fans were waving their pitchforks and hysterically screaming at the referee after two “seen them given” penalty shouts were waved away. It didn’t help that before Boro’s winner in the hard-fought 1-0 victory at Turf Moor physical Lee Tomlin had put a half-Nelson on a defender and thrown him aside before slotting through for Jacob Butterfield to score his second in successive games.
Burnley headed against the bar and missed two sitters in a nervous first half as a radically restructured Boro defence tried to get to grips with the game. Having two centre backs banned and no left back forced Aitor Karanka – ideologically wedded to 4231 – to change his shape to 352 and play three centre backs including rusty Daniel Ayala in his first game in two months and Ledesma and Adomah as unlikely wing-backs.
It was creaky for the first 20 minutes but Boro worked like Trojans to block and press and tackle and chase and gradually started to gel while after their first flurry Burnley started to get increasingly nervous. Not least their fans. And Boro stated to break out and carve out chances and in the closing spell of the first half they brought two good saves, Tomlin had two stabs in a scramble from a corner and Graham hooked a volley over. Then soon after the goal Tomlin went close and later on Chalobah had a cracker blocked.
Sean Dyche insisted later they had 27 shots and 71% of possession but he seems to have forgotten that actually Boro had the best chances of the first half and then deservedly took the lead with a well executed counter early in the second – you can see it here – and could easily have had a second..
After that it was frantic stuff and desperate Burnley piled on the pressure. They played well. Boro struggled to clear their lines and attack after attack swept forward. Dimi made a lot of routine saves and three or four excellent ones but the real problem for the edgy home side was breaking through Boro’s defensive wall. There was an incredible industry throughout the team and between them ten men – everyone was back – they blocked a string of goalbound shots in the box as tackles and bodies flew in.
Burnley had a couple of strong penalty shouts. Woody skittled one man over, Albert took a handful of shirt as he fell over and took Ings with him, there was a handball appeal after a shot was whacked straight at Ayala. It was a real backs-to-the wall finale. For the second game running it was pulsating, all-action, frantic and scrappy as hell. It was nerve-shredding stuff as a spectator in the last 10 minutes but battling Boro dug in and were equal to everything thrown at them. Fantastic
It was tetchy stuff. There was a lot of arguing. Diving. Tugging. Pulling. More diving. Flashmobbing the referee. Spurious appeals. Petulant theatrics. A lot of angry screaming from the Burnley crowd and technical area. Daniel Ayala got sent off for two yellows in two minutes in stoppage time, both for unsporting behaviour. There was plenty of that.. The red card took Boro’s tally to three for the week and 13 for the season – and not a bad foul among them.
It was a feisty atmosphere. And there was some simmering bad grace after the game too aimed at both officials and the visitors. How we laughed. Hysterically. We knew we had got away with mugging, But deservedly on the basis of workrate alone. And Burnley’s nervous fumbling and freezing as the big prize loomed. Still, job done.
And Burnley will still go up. And good luck to them. They are a well drilled unit with the best attacking full-back in the division and two 20 goal strikers. They are the archetypal Championship promotion team assembled on a budget without parachute payments and as such are a good model for a medium sized provincial club. I like them. They are a proper club, deeply embedded in the community and the the focal point of a post-industrial town. Like Boro. I hope we are where they are next year with four games left.
We’ve left it too late this season though. That is four wins on the spin now for Boro (for the first time since December 2012) and just one defeat in nine – and that to the bottle top bobble – as Boro launch a late revival. That run has seen them beat Burnley, Derby and Brighton in the play-off pack as well as Ipswich just outside and spirited Birmingham as well as getting good draws at Bournemouth (and not so good ones against Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday). That’s not a bad sequence.
And it was a second industrious 1-0 win over Premier League bound Burnley – and after table-topping Leicester Boro are only the second side to win at Turf Moor all season. That is some achievement, especially with such a depleted and distorted side.
Boro are now just six points outside the play-off places with Reading (just above us) and the bottom three to play? Dare to dream? It is probably beyond Boro to sneak in with three teams bunched around sixth spot and at least one of them must pick up enough points in the final four to seal it – but the finish can give the club a real momentum to take into next season and it has helped win a lot of waverers back behind Karanka.
The one sour note on a great day was the way that a couple of idiots ruined the pre-match minute’s silence in memory of Hillsborough and tarnished the name of the club, because much of the press-box was tutting and scribbling and no doubt it will be a line used in some of the reports while the TV cameras will have caught it too.
It appears a few drunken doyles arrived late and barged into the seats loudly and then when they were told to pipe down by other more respectful Boro fans an argument broke out. That prompted a group of well intentioned and probably embarrassed Boro fans to try to salvage the situation by drowning out the idiots and first clapping and chanting ‘Justice for the 96.’ Steward and police then went in and one man was arrested.
It was a good attempt by quick thinking fans to try to negate the disruption with applause and appropriate chants but few outside the Boro end will understand the nuances – although this Burnley blog suggests some realised what was going on . Most of the ground though just heard a disrespectful commotion and indistinct chanting from the away fans during a silence that should be more poignant than most for football fans. Burnley fans booed, the press box worthies wrung their hands and it goes down as a black mark against us.
MEANWHILE, Untypical Boro has been shortlisted for the Blog of the Year gong in the prestigious Regional Press Awards for all the local papers across the whole country.
This is serious stuff. And I’ve told them it is the quality of the posters that makes it a decent read. And the judges may have a look in so you lot better raise your game with your submissions. I don’t want anyone donning flip-flops and sombreros because the season is fizzling out. There’s still plenty to play for.