TALKING POINTS: Burnley 0, West Brom 0
Burnley hung on for a point against relegation-threatened 10-man West Brom on Saturday.
In one of the Clarets’ poorest performances in recent times, their goal lived a charmed life, despite playing an hour with an extra man.
They should have had a second half penalty, but they scarcely deserved a point, never mind any more, and here are the talking points from the game.
Sean Dyche didn’t even attempt to dress up one of the most disappointing Burnley performances in recent memory: “I thought the performance was miles off, absolutely miles off.”
The Clarets, despite playing against the leakiest defence in Europe’s big five leagues, failed to trouble Sam Johnstone throughout, even against 10 men for an hour.
Yes, Matej Vydra was denied a clear goal scoring opportunity by Semi Ajayi, leading to the Nigerian’s dismissal, and Burnley could have had one, if not two penalties.
That would have papered over the cracks, however.
Burnley were without Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Robbie Brady, Erik Pieters and Dale Stephens, but it wasn’t the missing personnel that was the issue here.
You can excuse the schedule - 13 games in 42 days this calendar year, another three-game week, the injuries, but a Burnley squad famed for their relentlessness looked out on their feet physically, and appeared mentally drained as well.
As soon as the Baggies went down to 10 men, you expected a tougher afternoon than it should have been, as Burnley are not the sort of side to make an extra man count in terms of making the ball do the work, and their passing was appalling all game, lacking any accuracy, never mind zip.
The Clarets are a side who are often better without the ball than with it, struggling when faced with more possession.
And shorn of Gudmundsson and the aerial threat of Wood and Barnes, they lacked the imagination and off the cuff individual quality to carve open the Baggies.
Their goal lived a charmed life, and but for Nick Pope and James Tarkowski, who tried often to verbally rally his teammates, Burnley would have suffered a defeat that would have been damaging to both their morale, and their situation in the Premier League.
As it was, they just about found the resilience to see their way to a clean sheet and another point, but a repeat of this sort of performance will surely see the Clarets dragged back into real problems at the bottom.
A team who have conceded 55 Premier League goals - more than any team in Europe’s five established major leagues - now have three clean sheets this season.
And two of them have come against Burnley.
Going into the game, only one side in Premier League history had a worse defensive record at this stage of the season - Barnsley in 1997/98.
Yes, Sam Allardyce, as you would expect, has established a more solid base to work from of late, after a tough start after replacing Slaven Bilic, but Burnley’s own struggles in front of goal were underlined in indelible marker again.
You can almost ignore the fact Sean Dyche’s side have a paltry 18 goals from 25 games - with only Sheffield United scoring fewer - as the side have been steadily collecting points, and that they have been claiming enough clean sheets to keep them in games.
Burnley’s nine shut outs can only be bettered by Manchester City, Aston Villa and Chelsea, and is proving the lifeblood of their season.
In the last 13 games, they have to start finding the solution to their lack of goals.
Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes, Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra have all struggled for any sort of momentum, with intermittent injuries not helping.
They have all missed their fair share of opportunities, but the goals for column is not all of their doing - a lack of creativity remains a real concern.
The loss of Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady doesn’t help, and Dwight McNeil was not himself against West Brom, too often drifting inside into traffic.
Ashley Westwood had a real off day in terms of his progressive passing, but he, Jack Cork and Josh Brownhill have to offer more in terms of being able to help open up defences. The trio are similar in that regard, and that is one area which is greatly in need or surgery in the transfer window - as it has been for some time, especially since Stephen Defour’s injury problems and subsequent departure.
STRUGGLES AGAINST PROMOTED SIDES
Burnley have now only won one of their last nine league games against promoted sides - the 2-0 win at Norwich in July - and none of their last four at home.
Their record against sides outside the established big six is admirable - only Everton and Leicester City have accrued more points since Burnley’s last promotion in 2016, from all games excluding those against Manchester City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal.
But it is a strange quirk that the Clarets have struggled against sides coming up from the Championship of late.
They have failed to beat West Brom in both meetings this season, Sheffield United and Villa twice last season, and Fulham and Leeds once this.
With two more potentially big games to come against promoted sides, at Fulham and at home to Leeds, improving that record would be welcome.
WHAT IS A PENALTY?
Burnley scarcely deserved anything from the game, but, goals change games, and they were denied what most onlookers felt was a cast-iron spot kick in the second half, which may have calmed things down and given them more confidence.
Jay Rodriguez’s header bounced down and up against Kyle Bartley’s hand, which was away from his body.
A host of pundits, Gary Lineker, Martin Keown, Danny Murphy, Chris Sutton and more felt it was a penalty.
Referee Mike Dean ignored appeals, and VAR didn’t intervene.
Why? Sean Dyche was puzzled, but wondered whether the ball came off Bartley’s thigh: “From a distance it looks like a pen, but I think, I’ve only seen it once quickly, but I’m not sure if it just clips off his thigh, and if it does, of course he can’t move his arm out of the way.
“You’ve seen them given, we historically don’t get those ones anyway.
“So that was a big shock to me that we didn’t get it.
“On reflection it probably just touches his thigh, so I presume that’s why they didn’t give it.”
Even if it does brush his thigh, the balls’s flight isn’t changed, and handball surely was the correct outcome - especially when moments later Josh Brownhill was pulled for a bizarre handball, controlling the ball with his chest!
Brownhill later appeared to be cut down on the edge of the area by Bartley, with Vydra given offside - despite getting back onside. The debate there was whether it was inside the box or not, which looked a tight call.