In the white heat of competition that is the Premier League, a point, howsoever it is obtained, is a valuable commodity and should not be treated with disdain.
That said, the point Burnley secured against West Ham at Turf Moor yesterday felt like an opportunity squandered.
In the lead up to the game extended due to the international break, Burnley’s defensive solidity was lauded as the backbone to the Clarets’ strong start to the season.
Indeed a statistic doing the rounds revealed Nick Pope as the goalkeeper with the highest ratio of saves made to shots faced in any of Europe’s major leagues.
Whilst that is undoubtedly a statistical anomaly skewed in Pope’s favour by the relatively few number of Premier League games he has played, it does reveal much about Burnley’s “thou shalt not pass” ethos, and of the comfort blanket enjoyed by Pope (and by Tom Heaton prior to his injury) that Ben Mee and James Tarkowski provide and which has had pundits talking about the pair in terms of England call-ups.
So it was tragically ironic therefore that a routine hoof up-field by Hammers goalkeeper Joe Hart deceived Mee and caught Pope on his heels to allow Michail Antonio the simple task of slipping the ball into an unguarded net to put his team ahead.
The turning point of the game came shortly afterwards, when West Ham striker Andy Carroll received a booking for flattening James Tarkowski with an indiscreetly applied elbow. Still incensed at receiving the card, Carroll compounded his folly by doing exactly the same thing to Ben Mee a few short minutes later. The second yellow card was swiftly followed by a red and West Ham had to complete the match with their number reduced to ten.
Conventional wisdom in these circumstances dictates that the team at the numerical disadvantage retreats into their bunker for the remainder of the game and seeks only to avoid conceding. And that is exactly what West Ham did.
Now Burnley are not good at forcing the pace of a game and breaking down a massed defence. Their forte is absorbing pressure and striking on the counter-attack. So confronted with the situation they found themselves in yesterday, there was an element of huffing and puffing about the Clarets’ play.
Wood perhaps should have been awarded a penalty when Joe Hart dived at his feet and brought him down. The England keeper got away with an almost identical challenge in the World Cup qualifier against Slovenia and he did so again this time.
In the second half, Matt Lowton lunged at the far post in an effort to apply the finish to a superbly flighted cross from the excellent Stephen Defour, but the full-back failed to make contact. And when Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s shot cannoned off the post onto Hart’s back but without sufficient velocity to cross the line, I along with many other home fans had filed this fixture under “one of those days”.
But the Clarets’ Icelandic international had one more telling contribution to make when his cross was met by Wood’s forehead and the striker deftly placed his header in the corner of the West Ham goal.
The equaliser was the very minimum that Burnley deserved, but the dominant emotion when it arrived was one of relief. Nevertheless the draw, whilst tinged with frustration, at least keeps Burnley moving in the right direction, and that is important.
Next up is the daunting prospect of a trip to the Etihad Stadium and Pep Guardiola’s rampaging Manchester City, who are currently burying all-comers under an avalanche of goals.
Keeping a leash on the array of attacking talent at City’s disposal will be mighty tough, but challenges are there to me met and overcome and Burnley can at least approach the game drawing confidence from an unbeaten run which now extends to six games.