Burnley Victims of Their Own Hubris.
Don’t you just love the FA Cup? The glorious uncertainty, the toppling of giants, the small clubs having their moment in the spotlight. Don’t you just love it?
Well no actually, not when it is your team on the receiving end of a major upset, the FA Cup isn’t very lovable at all. “Fortress Turf Moor” had held firm against the elite forces of Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea, only to be breached by the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard.
I can recall standing on the old Bee Hole End terrace at Turf Moor in the seventies and recoiling in horror as the then non-league Wimbledon defeated the then high flying Clarets 1-0, thanks mainly to their goalkeeper, one Dickie Guy, having the game of his life and repelling everything the Clarets could throw at him.
Yesterday’s fifth round tie against Lincoln City was eerily similar, dredging up those old memories which I had struggled to repress down the decades. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde; to lose one home game to a non-league team is unfortunate, to lose two sounds like carelessness.
And Burnley were indeed careless yesterday, careless in possession, careless in their passing and careless in their inability to seize the initiative from committed and determined opponents who stuck rigidly to their game plan.
Lincoln got exactly the game they wanted, feisty, fractured, no flow, tempo or rhythm. They realised (as Burnley’s players singularly failed to do) that long periods defending and out of possession would eventually tell on their stamina and concentration. Instead, the Imps were allowed to break play up at every opportunity, preserving their energy and keeping their shape intact. As it was, it was Burnley who lost their concentration, slack marking from a corner enabling Lincoln to scramble the only goal.
It didn’t help that Burnley were missing the midfield creativity and industry of Marney, Defour (both injured), Hendrick (suspended) and Brady (cup-tied), nor did it help that Gudmundsson limped off following a heavy challenge, after only twenty minutes. But even allowing for those factors, the Clarets should by rights, have had enough skill and technical ability to cope.
For Burnley, this was always going to be their toughest cup tie of the season; their third and fourth round opponents , Sunderland and Bristol City respectively, had their minds elsewhere, whilst Lincoln brim full of confidence from victories in previous rounds, were intent on playing this match to the very summit of their abilities.
Burnley knew this, the manager, the players, the supporters; we all knew this. But I am ashamed to say that I succumbed all to readily to looking at the differential in the relative league positions of the two teams and mentally fast-forwarding to the sixth round and then a possible trip to Wembley for a semi-final , much as I disapprove of that practice. The evidence of the match suggested that the players were equally culpable.
This was hubris, pure and simple and Burnley fully deserve to feel the embarrassment that will now follow every bit as much as Lincoln deserve their place in the sixth round.
The embarrassment will subside but the dent this result has put in Burnley’s confidence may prove harder to repair. Sean Dyche and his staff are now faced with the considerable task of building this back up ahead of a taxing month of nothing but away fixtures.
We re-convene at Turf Moor for the visit of Tottenham on April Fools’ Day. Burnley were the fools yesterday and the players, staff and fans need to put this result and this performance behind them as quickly as possible.
This article was written by long suffering Burnley fan and Clarets Mad contributor, Dave Thornley.