Another sliding doors moment? Burnley 2, Leicester City 1 - Chris Boden’s match verdict

Five years ago we had a real sliding doors moment at Turf Moor.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 8:04 pm
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 8:05 pm
Ashley Westwood drills home the winner

Matt Taylor missed a penalty in a key relegation battle, slipping and hitting the post.

And within seconds, Leicester City broke to score the winner through Jamie Vardy.

It was a killer blow to Burnley’s hopes of Premier League survival, at the hands of a side in the middle of staging the great escape - winning seven of their last nine games to stave off what looked the inevitable.

The following year, of course, the Foxes went on to achieve one of the most remarkable underdog stories in football history, winning the Premier League title.

Fast forward to 2020, and Vardy, this time, was on the spot, as Brendan Rodgers’ side looked to close the gap to second place Manchester City.

With the Clarets again searching for a big result to try and gain some breathing space from the bottom three, going behind for a second time in the game might have meant curtains.

However, it was Vardy’s turn to be denied, Nick Pope guessing right, leaping to his left to save.

Ashley Westwood made sure Vardy’s profligacy was punished 10 minutes from time, drilling in the winner to move Burnley five points clear of Aston Villa in 18th, and, in comparison, only six points adrift of Sheffield United in seventh.

Pope’s penalty save could prove the turning point in Burnley’s season, with the Clarets, staring down the barrel of a fifth-successive Premier League defeat for the first time under Dyche.

Had they succumbed to the Foxes, the murmurs of discontent would have grown again.

This one result, however, makes the league table look a great deal healthier.

Dyche was talking about perceptions pre-match on Thursday, saying: "I think perception in football is increasingly powerful.

"When you look at some of the points tallies, and that team has been having a great season, and that team has been told they are not, and yet there is a point between them.

"My job is to not worry about that, and look at what we are doing and what we are challenging ourselves to do.

"That is my main focus, the outside noise is always going to be there and always has been, good or bad, I have always focused on what we are doing.”

That is one thing Dyche does better than most. He may be somewhat stubborn in some aspects, but you won’t find a calmer custodian under pressure - never too high with the highs, or too low with the lows.

Indeed, when I asked how his ticker was after a heart-stopping second half, he smiled: “I'm alright, I can't remember the last time it was exploding out of my chest...there's been a few, but not today!”

I bet there were a few Claret hearts fluttering late on, desperate for the final whistle, and a three points which meant so much.

You could tell how much it meant, as Turf Moor cranked up the volume to levels we haven’t heard for some time.

And while you can never accuse Dyche’s players of not giving their all, you could tell how much it meant to them, as they delivered a performance with the sort of tempo and urgency which suggested they had their edge back.

They pressed with purpose in the first half, and though clear-cut chances were hard to come by against what was the second-meanest defence in the top flight, behind Liverpool, they also largely cut off the supply to Leicester’s dangerous front three.

They could feel hard done by when Dennis Praet went through Jack Cork to win the ball, allowing Burnley-born Harvey Barnes to expose Ben Mee’s lack of pace and fire past Pope.

What is VAR there for if it can’t go back and overturn decisions like that?

So, having only previously overturned a half-time deficit to win in the Premier League - beating Spurs 4-2 in May 2010 and Everton 2-1 in March 2018 - it looked a tall order at the break.

It was an 11th-successive League game in which they had failed to score a first half goal, the longest run since Dyche’s Clarets went 12 in 2015.

However, Burnley delivered the sort of effective football we have come to admire under Dyche in the second half, albeit Pope had to make a couple of key stops, before we even mention his penalty save.

Chris Wood, so harshly denied an equaliser against the Foxes at the King Power Stadium in October, prodded in a leveller after Ben Mee’s superb header from a Dwight McNeil corner was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

And after Mee was adjudged to have hauled down Barnes, Pope produced heroics to save Vardy’s penalty.

Was that the ‘twist’, as Dyche said? Or was there another?

As it was, the excellent Charlie Taylor again worked his way down the left and delivered a cross which Jonny Evans couldn’t convincingly deal with - some form of karma for October - and Westwood drilled in the winner.

It was the first time this season Burnley had won a Premier League game in which they had conceded, and the first since Westwood last scored, at Bournemouth in another big win last April.

And, all of a sudden, that 40-point mark looks a hell of a lot closer than it did on Saturday evening.