Aston Villa 1, Burnley 1: Chris Boden's verdict as Burnley climb out of the bottom three

So, after nine months where Burnley’s Premier League status has been under threat like no other time since returning to the top flight in 2016, the Clarets go into the last game with their heads above water.

By Chris Boden
Friday, 20th May 2022, 9:05 am

Nowfor them to stay afloat, by matching or bettering Leeds United’s result at Brentford, when former boss Eddie Howe brings his Newcastle United to Turf Moor on Sunday.

The Clarets went to Villa Park knowing four points would be enough from their final two games, bearing in mind their vastly-superior goal difference, but a trip to Villa represented a particularly tough task.

To stick or twist? A point would be priceless, but could Burnley achieve a stunning win to really put themselves in the driving seat?

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Burnley's English striker Ashley Barnes shoots a penalty kick and scores during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Burnley at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 19, 2022. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by Geoff Caddick / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images)

Interim boss Mike Jackson certainly didn’t want to be playing catch up on Sunday, as he said: "I never looked at it as helpless, we needed something from this game, you can't hide away from that, that's what we tried to do and we took something from the game.

"On another day, we come away with three, but we still would have had to get some sort of result on Sunday, so nothing changes in that sense, but it keeps us above that line at this moment in time.”

For Jackson, and his staff’s, efforts alone, Burnley deserve to stay up.

His commitment to the cause has been inspirational, grafting for hour upon hour on the training ground, as well as devising game plans in the ‘Bat Cave’ which have dragged the Clarets out of the bottom three just at the right time.

He has also won a manager of the month award on his way to earning 11 points from seven games - 31.4% of the side’s points all season.

While much is made of the size of club, and who ‘deserves’ to be in the Premier League in terms of fan base, little old Burnley may not feature too highly among rival fans’ affections.

But the Clarets have taken some shifting from the top flight, earning six-successive seasons at this level.

If they are not to make it seven, fingers will obviously be pointed at the lack of investment under the previous board, from qualifying for Europe four years ago.

The Burnley support at Villa, however, made their feelings perfectly clear, suggesting, somewhat bluntly, that the Premier League may not be a level playing field, shall we say.

Some of the decisions made by officials against Burnley of late leave you wondering whether the fans have a point, or the refereeing is just inept.

Jackson mused after a mystifying 90 minutes: “I don't know what you can say, people can say it is because you are here and they are a big side and you are not a big side but why not referee the game properly and fairly for both teams. That is all anyone wants to see.

“You just hope somewhere along the line you get something back but I wouldn't want that.

“There shouldn't be an issue with VAR, it is very clear. That is why it was brought in.”

You only have to look at the telling statistic that Burnley’s spot kick, converted cooly by Ashley Barnes right on half-time, was only their 10th in five Premier League seasons - as many as were taken by Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes last term.

The decision to award a penalty, for a rash challenge by Emi Buendia on Maxwel Cornet, was one of the only decisions that made sense on the night.

Barnes himself was lucky not to receive some form of punishment for a stray arm that connected with Tyrone Mings, which infuriated Steven Gerrard, while a number of bookable offences for both sides were overlooked.

Villa’s equaliser, shortly after the interval, scored by Buendia, should have been ruled out, after the move started with a throw in from Matty Cash, taken with his right foot well inside the playing area.

VAR was happy to go back and penalise Barnes at Spurs, but while all goals are supposedly checked, it didn’t go back as far as the start of the phase of play that led to the leveller.

Burnley were later denied a penalty for handball against Lucas Digne, which, if anything, was more a penalty than Spurs’ on Sunday.

Then at the death, substitute Matt Lowton overran the ball, but got to it first before his follow through caught Calum Chambers’ foot - no intent, no malice, low, and actually attempting to turn out of the challenge.

A red card was not overturned by VAR, and Lowton could now miss Sunday, as well as the first two games of next season.

It all added up to a feeling of Burnley against the world.

That mentality has served the club well over time, ignoring what the previous manager would call ‘outside noise’, and focussing purely on the job at hand.

If the Clarets complete the impossible job, their great escape, it will be a remarkable effort, having won only one of their first 21 league games.

There remains work to be done, and Newcastle, with Howe, Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood in tow, will present another very difficult assignment.

But if you had asked most Burnley fans whether they would accept this scenario, of having to match or better Leeds’ result away from home in the last game of the season, they would have snapped your hand off.

So we have another Plymouth, another Orient - a final day survival battle, with the finances suggesting staying in the Premier League is critical.

Here’s to the same outcome as in 1998 and 1987, when demotion would have been similarly problematic.