Opinion: So near yet so far for Burnley as cruel West Ham defeat proves they must find a way to win

Just when you think Burnley’s miserable season couldn’t get any more painful, they’re dealt another swift kick to the proverbials.
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What Vincent Kompany immediately said after Burnley's devastating late West Ham ...

Vincent Kompany’s men were within touching distance of their long-awaited first home win of the season. Their first points, for that matter.

But within the blink of an eye, West Ham had somehow managed to turn the game on its head to come from behind to inflict a seventh straight defeat at Turf Moor. So near, yet so far.

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In their last home outing, the Clarets somehow transpired to lose a game 2-0 against a Crystal Palace side that hadn’t even tried to score.

On this occasion, the opposition were slightly more threatening, but still Burnley were comfortably the better side for a good 75 minutes of the 90. Yet it still wasn’t enough, which begs the question, what more can they do?

Made to pay

Much will be said about Burnley’s defending for the two late goals but in truth, there wasn’t a lot wrong with it. It was just a case of fine margins.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Dara O'Shea of Burnley looks dejected after the team's defeat in the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Dara O'Shea of Burnley looks dejected after the team's defeat in the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Dara O'Shea of Burnley looks dejected after the team's defeat in the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)

Instead, the home side were made to pay for their failure to add a second when they had the chance, because that would have inevitably made their lives a lot more comfortable.

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As it was, holding a slender one-goal lead was always going to be dangerous, especially for a Burnley side who haven’t exactly been the most reliable of defensive units so far this season.

West Ham have players of real quality and while David Moyes admitted they didn’t play anywhere near their best, they still had the capability to create something out of nothing. Not once, but twice.

Once the Hammers got back on level terms in the 86th minute courtesy of Dara O’Shea’s unfortunate own goal, there was a sense of inevitably about the winner.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Luca Koleosho of Burnley reacts during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Luca Koleosho of Burnley reacts during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Luca Koleosho of Burnley reacts during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images)

Burnley retreated further and further back while the momentum and confidence levels had completely swung West Ham’s way. Lo and behold, the away side completed their turnaround in the first minute of stoppage time courtesy of Tomas Soucek’s steered finish at the back stick.

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It was a heartbreaking end to what had been an otherwise encouraging display. But good performances, as welcome as they are, just won’t cut it on their own.

Encouraging display

But on that subject, this was arguably the best Burnley have played so far this season. It was far from the most entertaining of spectacles but at this moment in time that’s an irrelevance, it’s all about getting results.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley celebrates with teammates after scoring the team's first goal from a penalty kick during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley celebrates with teammates after scoring the team's first goal from a penalty kick during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley celebrates with teammates after scoring the team's first goal from a penalty kick during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)

To that end, the Clarets largely controlled the game and played with a discipline and maturity required to compete at this level.

They were the only team in the first-half, for example. The Hammers barely ventured outside of their own half.

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The only concern for Burnley was that, for all of their good play, chance creation – clear ones at least – was fairly low.

They should have been awarded a penalty towards the end of the half though when Luca Koleosho, their best performer once again, was clearly tripped in the box by Vladimir Coufal.

It wasn’t given on the pitch and, despite it being a pretty clear spot kick, it probably didn’t meet the criteria of being a clear and obvious error from referee Samuel Barrott.

Thankfully the sense of aggrievement didn’t last for too long because Barrott, probably aware of his error, did end up awarding the home side a penalty two minutes into the second period.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley looks dejected after the team's defeat in the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley looks dejected after the team's defeat in the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley looks dejected after the team's defeat in the Premier League match between Burnley FC and West Ham United at Turf Moor on November 25, 2023 in Burnley, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)
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It was a soft one, a lot softer than the one that wasn’t given anyway, with Koleosho having his ankles clipped by Mohammed Kudus.

Soft or not, Burnley gratefully took the decision and Jay Rodriguez emphatically slammed the spot kick down the middle to send Turf Moor into delirium.

While there were moments of nervousness, Burnley seemed relatively comfortable with their lead. It wasn’t like they were just sitting back and soaking up pressure, they had their moments and sought out a second.

But the spell that arguably changed the game was when Burnley began to make their substitutions during a 13-minute period from the 72nd minute until the 85th.

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This is no criticism of the three players that entered the pitch – Aaron Ramsey, Anass Zaroury and Josh Cullen – because they did nothing wrong. But the changes seemed to negatively affect the flow and momentum of the game.

Bringing Koleosho off, for example, also appeared detrimental. He was a thorn in West Ham’s side all afternoon and his pace and trickery was the ideal outlet to keep the ball away from their own goal.

As it was, the Clarets sat back and invited pressure on themselves. They became more panicked whenever West Ham ventured towards the final third and anxiety crept in among the fanbase.

As we know, defending has hardly been Burnley’s forte this season and so it proved, with the visitors snatching two goals out of nowhere in quickfire fashion. Talk about cruelty.

Finding a way to win

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Many have observed that Burnley have forgotten how to win. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but there was certainly an element of know-how and experience that was missing from their game during those final heartbreaking moments.

Had they found a way to hold on, they would have moved off the bottom of the table and up to 18th with another winnable home game against relegation rivals Sheffield United on the horizon.

As it is, that fixture now looks absolutely horrible. You daren’t even think about the consequences of losing that one.