TALKING POINTS: Burnley 1, MK Dons 1 (AET, Burnley win 4-3 on pens)

Burnley made heavy weather of seeing off League 1 MK Dons at Turf Moor in the Emirates FA Cup third round.

Sunday, 10th January 2021, 1:53 pm
Updated Sunday, 10th January 2021, 2:00 pm
Joel Mumbongo

But, no one could deny they did enough on the day to win the tie outright, without the need for spot kicks, having created a raft of chances throughout, with their profligacy again a concern.

Here are the talking points from the game:

YOUNG GUNS SHINE

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Sean Dyche, having had the Fulham game last Sunday postponed, went with a stronger than expected side to face MK Dons, keeping his first choice centre back and strike pairings together to keep them fresh.

But while it was welcome to see the return of Jack Cork after over six months out, everyone watching was talking about Burnley’s young guns after the game.

Josh Benson, Anthony Glennon and Joel Mumbongo were late substitutes in normal time, but all three caught the eye.

Benson showed his growing confidence, driving the side forward in extra time, taking the ball off the centre backs and promoting attacks, while also, as a Dyche midfielder is required, looking to hit the forwards early.

In his ninth appearance of the season, he continues to impress, and showed good composure to calmly slot home a pressure penalty to put the Clarets ahead in the shootout at 3-2.

Glennon, a left back by trade, came on on the left of midfield in the Carabao Cup win at Millwall in September, and didn’t look out of place, driving forward with the game still in the balance, and he was similarly positive against MK, getting the last seven minutes and extra time.

He got up and down the pitch well, backing up Erik Pieters, and again did his cause no harm.

Mumbongo meanwhile offered a different dimension up front with his pace and power, stretching the Dons defence, and posing a threat.

He might have claimed a debut goal on his 22nd birthday but for a finger-tip save from the excellent Lee Nicholls, while his header enabled Matej Vydra to slide in for the equaliser deep in injury time.

Had Vydra not scored, he may have won a penalty in any case, having shown good strength to head the ball on while being hauled to the ground.

Clearly there is something to work with with all three, as the pathway from Under 23s to first team continues to strengthen.

FINDING KEEPERS

There was little fanfare when Will Norris arrived from Wolves in the close season, effectively as third-choice keeper.

But Billy Mercer has shown time and again, whoever he gets his hands on in his goalkeeping department, he will improve them, and ensure they are ready to step in.

With Nick Pope struggling with an ankle problem and Bailey Peacock-Farrell also unavailable, Norris came in for his Burnley debut, and while the chances were predominantly at the other end, he made a significant contribution.

He had no chance with Cameron Jerome’s opening goal, but made a big save at 1-0 to deny Stephen Walker early in the second half, one on one from a tight angle.

Had that gone in, it’s highly doubtful we would be sitting here with Burnley awaiting their fourth round opponents.

Norris also got the slightest of touches to turn Ben Gladwin’s superb effort onto the post in extra time.

And in the shootout, Norris - who saved fine penalties at Cambridge in 2016/17, including two in stoppage time against Accrington Stanley - made two key stops to ensure Burnley’s progress.

POACHER

Matej Vydra was on hand to spare Burnley’s blushes with an equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time, sliding in instinctively for a poacher’s effort.

It begged the question whether the starting two strikers Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, in their current form or not, would have taken the opportunity.

Wood has struggled for goals all season, netting three in 19 appearances, and he has developed an unwanted habit of missing gilt-edged chances.

Barnes, meanwhile, has one in 14, albeit as Sean Dyche admits, he was overplayed earlier this season after returning to fitness, out of necessity.

And Jay Rodriguez, either side of injury niggles and intermittent starts, has gone 17 appearances without a goal, the longest drought of his career.

It begs the question whether Vydra, whose three goals this season have come from 434 minutes in total, deserves more of an opportunity.

He and Joel Mumbongo’s introduction against MK Dons gave the forward line a different dimension, stretching the defence, and both were more neat and tidy in their hold up play, combining for the equaliser.

Yes, Vydra then missed from the spot in the shootout, but Dyche praised his attitude after the game, and you could see how much he wanted to impact proceedings.

Which leads me to...

KILLER INSTINCT

Earlier in the season, Dyche had backed his strikers over their lack of goals, pointing at the struggle to create more golden opportunities.

He said in November: He told the club's official website: "It's one of the strange things about football. Sometimes you have a dry spell, and then you score a goal, win a game and everything changes.

"Last season was our highest scoring one in the Premier League, so we know there are goals there, and we know they will come.

"The stats and facts tell you that our four centre forwards can score goals, but we do have to create a better quality of chance at times and tidy up in the final third."

Burnley have since created more and better opportunities, but have seen Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes fluff their lines on a frustratingly regular basis.

Lee Nicholls had a fabulous game in goal for MK Dons, but with 22 shots at goal, and 10 on target, he shouldn’t have been allowed to make half the saves he did.

The Clarets should have been out of sight before Cameron Jerome scored against the run of play just before the half hour, and the procession of chances continued.

As Dyche noted: “I said to the centre forwards at half-time that I put pressure on the defenders to defend, so I have to put pressure on you to score a goal.

We are creating proper chances, and have created a lot more over the last run of games.

“There was a bit of pressure at half-time to take the chances, and we didn't in the second half, but their keeper made two or three fine saves, situations we got into...Robbie Brady as well, it was a brilliant ball from Bardo (Phil Bardsley) and he’s tried to finish it, Joel’s (Mumbongo) done great, got behind them and the keeper got finger tips to it.

“On the quality of chances today I have to look at the centre forwards and put a bit of pressure on them and say 'come on lads, they are ones that have to go in.'”

VAR

It wouldn’t be a game of football at this level without a grumble at VAR.

Just before the break, as Dale Stephens popped the ball forward, Chris Wood rolled Richard Keogh, who brought his hands up, and prevented the ball going through to the Kiwi striker.

Referee Jon Moss brought out the red card, but was soon over by the touchline reviewing the decision on the monitor.

Did Wood foul Keogh? Put it this way, I don’t think you’d get a penalty for that had Wood committed the ‘offence’ in his own area.

Did Keogh handle the ball? Clearly. The tangle with Wood, if anything, almost does Keogh a favour as he lowers his arm as a result.

Was it a clear goalscoring opportunity? Here is where the main debate was, arguably. For me, Wood advances unchallenged to get an effort on goal.

So, obviously a free kick to MK Dons then!

There seems a very small threshold when Wood is involved challenging with centre backs, when Moss is officiating - note his ‘foul’ on Jonny Evans which saw his equaliser at Leicester City chalked off last season.

Sean Dyche was perplexed: “If that is classed as a foul by Woody on their centre half then the game is going to be in a bizarre state.

“I think he realises Woody has got on his shoulder and he threw his arm up and it is a deliberate handball and he tried to referee the game himself by making that decision.

”Lo and behold they decide that it is not a red card and I just find it bizarre.”