Dan Black's verdict as Burnley become sitting ducks for set-piece specialists Sheffield United

"It could be a bad time, it could be a good time, but I think in chaos and in difficult times is where you learn the most."

That was Vincent Kompany speaking after Burnley's late turnaround at home to Reading, just a week prior to his side's first league defeat in 17 games.

A second half capitulation against Sheffield United ahead of Bonfire Night saw the burning embers of the Clarets' undefeated run in the Championship strewn across the carpet at Bramall Lane.

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Kompany, a shoe-in for October's Manager of the Month award having collected 18 points from eight games, will be hoping his young and, in the main, inexperienced squad of players learn fast with the East Lancashire derby just around the corner.

Burnley's Manuel Benson breaks Photographer Andrew Kearns/CameraSport The EFL Sky Bet Championship - Sheffield United v Burnley - Saturday 5th November 2022 - Bramall Lane - Sheffield World Copyright © 2022 CameraSport. All rights reserved. 43 Linden Ave. Countesthorpe. Leicester. England. LE8 5PG - Tel: +44 (0) 116 277 4147 - [email protected] - www.camerasport.com

The current league leaders, who will be reliant on Rotherham United to help them retain that status next week, were simply bullied by the Blades in South Yorkshire.

It could only be compared to a schoolyard scrap with a gang of worldly-wise year 11 browbeaters tormenting a bunch of younger kids while using every inch of their height advantage to assert their authority.

The Burnley boss accepted that mistakes would happen with a youthful centre-back pairing after Tom Ince had easily been granted access to put the Royals ahead at the end of October.

He categorised the two goals scored by the Millers at Turf Moor as 'individual errors' before suggesting that his side's lack of steel in the Steel City was just 'one game'.

Burnley's Jack Cork competing with Sheffield United's Oliver McBurnie (left) Photographer Andrew Kearns/CameraSport The EFL Sky Bet Championship - Sheffield United v Burnley - Saturday 5th November 2022 - Bramall Lane - Sheffield World Copyright © 2022 CameraSport. All rights reserved. 43 Linden Ave. Countesthorpe. Leicester. England. LE8 5PG - Tel: +44 (0) 116 277 4147 - [email protected] - www.camerasport.com

"I know what a lot of teams in this league will be looking at for our next game," the Manchester City legend had declared. "We will review, make sure we learn from it and we have young centre backs and that is what happens."

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In all honesty, however, it wasn't quite a 'one-off' for the away side's permeable guard, with the vulnerabilities and fragilities of Kompany's fledglings exposed to the fullest on this occasion.

They weren't able to handle Jack Robinson's long throw-ins in the first half, though they made it to the interval unscathed, but Iliman Ndiaye's equaliser on the half-hour mark gave Paul Heckingbotham's side enough incentive to pursue that route after the interval.

Oli McBurnie cleverly isolated Josh Cullen to meet Burnley-born Oliver Norwood's corner, the home side's leading scorer stuck out a boot, reacting far quicker than Vitinho, to divert the ball home.

McBurnie equalised just three minutes into the second half when, once again, United won the first contact from Robinson's delivery into the box, Jordan Beyer failed to pressurise the ball, Anel Ahmedhodzic helped it on, and the Scottish striker converted from close range.

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Incredibly, the defending for third goal, scored in the 65th minute, was even more criminal. The hosts won four uncontested contacts inside the penalty area from John Fleck's set-piece; Ahmedhodzic's header came back off the bar, John Egan won the rebound, Enda Stevens had a swipe to keep the ball alive, before Robinson scored.

Prior to the fourth, both Ahmedhodzic and McBurnie saw headers saved by Arijanet Muric following corners supplied by Norwood and John Fleck respectively, but when Ben Osborn steered another corner back into the box, which was taken by the former Turf Moor season ticket holder, United's Bosnian defender finished ruthlessly.

"We always try to work hard on set-plays and they worked well from the first one," said Heckingbottom, after his side preyed on their opponents' insecurities.

"I don't know if that gave the lads confidence, but the delivery was really good from [John] Fleck and Oli [Norwood], they were right on the button. If you're one of the guys in the box you're think there's going to be goals.

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"We wanted to play on it even more in the second half, in terms of deliveries into the box, which was good. I made a slight shift at half-time; we went from the in-swing to the out-swing, which is where we got our goal from, because we felt it gave us a better chance with that first contact.

"It keeps the ball alive, which means it has to be defended, so you're foolish not to try and take advantage of where you think you're stronger. We had the height advantage, we had a good delivery into the box, so we rammed it home."

Kompany felt that his players had run out of steam after an unforgiving schedule prior to the World Cup in Qatar. The 36-year-old suggested that their hearts were still in it, but there legs and tired minds were unable to stop their hosts from dominating territory and encroaching into key areas of the pitch.

They would face 24 shots on goal in total, including McBurnie's second of the afternoon, which was a tap-in after Muric had denied George Baldock from Norwood's back-to-front ball over the top.

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Kompany said: "It is the same as always, it is one game and we have done extremely well for a long period of time. There is not one team that is good at it, it is about 80 per cent. So we have done well. The other thing is that it is too easy to look at one thing.

"If you get weight and height on the pitch [to negate the opposition] are you able to recover the ball as quick and keep the ball as long?

"You have to make a choice and with us when we are good we have a lot of the ball and we are dangerous. We squeeze the other team into their own half and you let the other team worry about you rather than the other way round."

They had done that to an extent in the opening 45 minutes, continuing where they'd left off from a 100th minute winner at home on Wednesday evening.

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Manuel Benson had a hand in Halil Dervisoglu's first goal for the club and he was influential for the Clarets in the opening of the cross-pennine derby.

Stevens and Robinson weren't able to deal with the ex-Royal Antwerp winger's liveliness as the 25-year-old added his fifth and sixth goals of the campaign.

But, having been replaced by Charlie Taylor with 12 minutes remaining amid Burnley's decline, the challenge still remains for the summer signing to be effective for longer periods in games.

"We have to be a little bit patient to make sure that he can get if not 90 then 60," said Kompany, speaking last month. "It is not necessarily about the start because you can start a game but you don't need to finish it.

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"For him to be the best version of the player he can be, he has to be looking to play 90-95 minutes three times a week but he is adapting well and he has improved already so much in what he is able to do for the team."

This one might just have been a game too far, but this latest chapter in their education might be quite timely ahead of their meeting with Blackburn Rovers.

After all, we had all said, "I'd rather we lose this one than the next one", to ourselves either before, during or after Saturday's early kick-off in the division.

Let's just pray that their legs, hearts and minds recover quickly and they take heed of the lessons learned against the Blades.

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"I think they will [use the lesson of defeat in a positive way]," Kompany confirmed. "I just felt that we went a little bit too deep today.

"We were hanging on physically so it's also something that I want to make sure they know that, for having being a footballer myself, sometimes you just go over that top and then and then this can happen.

"And we have to still find a way to get results when this happens. It's not an excuse, but I've seen it before. And if there was one game where it was going to happen, it was this game."