Burnley 1, Leeds United 1: Chris Boden’s thoughts on a first point of the season
Burnley remain without a win after three Premier League games, and it is now 13 without a victory at Turf Moor in all competitions.
But Sunday's 1-1 draw with Leeds United felt like a step in the right direction.
While performances have not been bad so far this season, this was the Clarets doing what they do for longer spells of the game.
Leeds are lauded for the high-octane tempo of their play, and lung-busting pressing, but Burnley are similar in some aspects, while very different in others.
When they get up the sort of head of steam that saw them take the lead just after the hour through Chris Wood, that is when they are at their best, and a handful for any side at this level.
They do it through sheer force of will, imposing themselves on opponents, forcing mistakes and capitalising on the pressure.
As Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa said afterwards, in a backhanded compliment: “They had three resources that were important - the capacity to force errors and take advantage of them through their two centre forwards, the management of the set-pieces, and they have a very distinct style of play.
“The style of play, it doesn't demand that their players shine, this is something of value when you're describing a team."
While he sees it as “something of value”, the players do have to shine.
That might not be in the creative sense that Bielsa preaches, but Burnley have to match and better sides, who often have more bodies in key areas, in terms of physical output.
And in the likes of Dwight McNeil, they have a player who is technically as good as anything else out there as well.
He maintained his excellent start to the season, with and without the ball, winning back possession time and again, while driving Burnley forward, protecting the ball with intelligence and a gossamer touch.
The only thing missing from his game at present is a goal and an assist, although he remains the Clarets’ key creative outlet.
He will no doubt welcome a little assistance in that area when new signing Maxwel Cornet is up to speed after the international break, although Johann Berg Gudmundsson has also looked a threat so far this season.
The competition, with Aaron Lennon also an option having returned to the club, should ensure a good level in the wide areas.
And it also gives Sean Dyche the option of using McNeil off the front if required - the sort of area where he could have a devastating effect, as at Burnley’s next opponents Everton last season.
McNeil is something of a throwback, in a game veering more towards wide forwards and inverted wingers, and the match was also something of a reminder of a forgotten age.
And it was enjoyable for that.
It was a good, old-fashioned competitive encounter, with no quarter given - although if you listened to some corners of social media, many had bought into Jurgen Klopp’s comments last week.
Indeed, Patrick Bamford added to Klopp’s ‘wrestling’ jibe, accusing James Tarkowski of a ‘Ju Jitsu’ move after an early coming together.
Yes, there were a few full-blooded challenges, and seven bookings, all of which were merited.
Both sides gave as good as they got.
And it was hardly the blood bath it has been painted as.
Yes, Ashley Barnes played typically on the edge, and one challenge on Stuart Dallas was ill-judged, but certainly not a red card offence.
And, as continues to go under the radar, Burnley are now a record 97 Premier League games without a sending off.
It’s no coincidence, and it’s certainly not luck. It’s playing hard, but fair, within the rules of the game.
To hear some of the moans from Leeds fans…the South Stand at Elland Road is named after the legendary Norman Hunter, who was hardly a shrinking violet!
In the end, Burnley were unlucky not to claim a first home win since January, and were only denied by a fortunate late equaliser - a deflected shot hitting Patrick Bamford and going in - having kept Leeds at arm’s length in the main.
There was some criticism of the Clarets dropping deeper after going in front, but it seemed to be more a case of
Leeds upping the ante in search of a way back into the game than any in-game management, with Kalvin Phillips driving the visitors forward.
However, it stopped the rot in that Burnley had lost their last five Premier League games at Turf Moor, and ended the possibility of that sequence dragging on towards the longest run of successive home league defeats - seven - set way back in The English Game era in February 1890!
Things don’t get any easier, with a trip to Goodison Park next in after the international break, with Everton likely to be a tougher nut to crack than they were in March.
But a point gets Burnley off the mark, on a day where fans could also get excited by the statement signing of Cornet.