West Ham 1, Burnley 1: Chris Boden's verdict from the London Stadium

The Pope’s Easter Message is that Burnley are not giving up the fight in the battle for Premier League survival.

By Chris Boden
Monday, 18th April 2022, 12:00 pm

A quite remarkable Good Friday shook the club to the core, with the surprise sacking of modern day Clarets legend Sean Dyche, and his backroom staff.

Saturday saw interim boss Mike Jackson face the media, ahead of travelling to East London to face Europa League semi-finalists West Ham.

And on Easter Sunday, after losing midfielder Ashley Westwood to an horrific ankle injury, beleaguered Burnley showed remarkable spirit and togetherness to claim a point which puts the ball back in Everton’s court.

Sign up to our daily Burnley Express Today newsletter

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Nick Pope of Burnley makes a save during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Burnley at London Stadium on April 17, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Toffees are now three clear of the Clarets, with a game in hand - Wednesday night’s home clash with Leicester City.

But the pressure is back on Frank Lampard’s side, who, if they fail to beat the Foxes, could find themselves in the bottom three if Burnley can take advantage of home games against Southampton on Thursday night and Wolves on Sunday - before Everton travel across Stanley Park to Anfield.

As goalkeeper Nick Pope said after the win against Everton: “We’re not f***ing dead yet!”

And while defeat at bottom side Norwich was a huge setback, followed by the shock departure of Dyche, Burnley closed ranks and showed real grit to get a result at the London Stadium.

Strangely, while it felt like two points lost, after Maxwel Cornet missed a penalty he won with the Clarets a goal to the good thanks to Wout Weghorst, it also felt like a point gained, as the Hammers rallied after Tomas Soucek’s leveller, and could have won the game but for two absolutely magnificent interventions from England keeper Pope.

Pope is one of several players who owes much to Dyche and his goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer, who also left the club on Friday, despite developing Tom Heaton and Nick Pope into Premier League and England class keepers, while also working with internationals such as Joe Hart, Wayne Hennessey and Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Like Heaton, Pope was signed having been relegated from the Championship, although his pathway was different to his predecessor, who was due to join Dyche at Watford, before he was replaced by Gianfranco Zola after the Pozzo family takeover at Vicarage Road.

Heaton came to Turf Moor as number one, and revelled in that role until a dislocated shoulder gave Pope his opportunity in September 2017, having learned the ropes under the then club captain, as well as another England international in Paul Robinson.

Pope’s patience paid off, as he helped the side finish seventh, to earn Europa League qualification and a call up for the World Cup in Russia.

A dislocated shoulder of his own saw him miss much of the following season, but Dyche put his faith in Pope in 2019, selling Heaton to Aston Villa, and he has repaid that in droves.

He was Burnley’s hero at the London Stadium, helping earn what could be a vital point.

While he was beaten by a fortunate ricochet off Soucek from Manuel Lanzini’s free kick, he preserved parity with a quite sensational stop from Issa Diop, plunging to his right to claw out a header that screamed ‘goal’.

It may be a cliche, but it was genuinely ‘Banks-esque. While the ball was not right in the corner, he had no right to get there.

And Pope wasn’t done yet, as Michail Antonio rolled Nathan Collins at the death, to go one on one, but Pope stayed big to pull off an equally impressive save.

West Ham fans -who remembered his superb display in a 1-0 win here after Project Restart in 2020 – were sick of the sight of the giant in green.

While Pope denied the Hammers victory, it could all have been so different.

Not long after Westwood was taken off after suffering an awful ankle injury, the sight of which caused much distress to his fellow professionals on both sides, Burnley managed to shake off that blow to take the lead, as Maxwel Cornet’s corner was headed against the bar by Jay Rodriguez, before Weghorst got to the rebound first to nod in his first goal in nine games.

And the Clarets had a glorious chance to go in at half-time two goals ahead when substitute Josh Brownhill played in Cornet on the break, and the Ivorian’s perfect first touch took him across Diop, who tried to pull him back, before the former Lyon man was brought down by Lukasz Fabianski in goal.

Rodriguez, with a fine penalty record, wanted the spot kick – Burnley’s first since May – but Cornet held sway, and, despite sending Fabianski the wrong way, after a stuttering run up, he dragged the ball wide of the gaping goal.

You suspected that would come back to haunt the Clarets, but Pope’s heroics at least earned a point, from a performance which gave encouragement for the remaining seven games.

Burnley played with more purpose to their passing, and retained the ball better – although there were moments where the wrong option could have cost them on the break.

And their desire to nick a winner after West Ham’s equaliser could also have gone against them, but was also somewhat refreshing to see.

They played more to Weghorst’s strengths, playing to his feet and chest, and allowing him to use his ability to link play, but also turn and advance with the ball, and the Clarets looked more of a goal threat, even in the second half, when they didn’t perform as well as they had in the first.

Whether the decision to dismiss Dyche pays off or not, remains to be seen, especially with no evidence of a clear plan to replace him.

And with no news expected today, Easter Monday, that would give any new face very little time to prepare for what could be two make or break home games.

Over to you Mr Pace.