Stephen Cummings column: Barnsley test is one this Burnley side can pass
AS a thing of beauty, it’s probably fair to say that Watford 1 Burnley 1 is unlikely to trouble the memory banks many years hence.
As a pivotal result in the Clarets’ pursuit of Premier League football, however, it takes on a much greater significance.
While the badly out-of-form Derby County and the similarly inconsistent QPR fell to defeats at Middlesbrough and Bournemouth respectively, Sean Dyche’s men hauled themselves off the canvass, kept going and salvaged a point from a contest that seemed to be slipping away from them.
It was tempting to read the second half display at Vicarage Road as the embodiment of the mind-set which has helped reap such rich rewards this term.
You’re never more than two minutes away from the word “resilience” in any interview with the Burnley manager, and it was evident on Saturday.
A goal down and deprived of the services of their net-busting front two, their goal-creator-in-chief and one of their key midfield pivots, most sides would have buckled.
Instead, captain Jason Shackell led by example, throwing himself at whatever threat manifested itself.
New recruit, Chris Baird, showed his commitment to the cause, appearing from nowhere with a goal-line clearance that denied the home side all three points. And then, of course, came the pay-off, in the form of Scott Arfield’s goal.
The actual strike might not have been the sharpest piece of shooting you’ll see all season. But if the finishing was messy, the clarity of thought, technique and deftness of touch he displayed to set himself up was, well – Messi.
The player deemed surplus to requirements at Huddersfield Town last summer has scored some vital goals this season, yet none, one suspects, will be more important than his latest.
The point gained puts Burnley 10 points clear of the chasing pack. And with their vastly superior goal difference over QPR, eight points will see Burnley over the line.
It would be wonderful were the Clarets able to lay claim to three of them tonight at Oakwell.
Yet experience suggests this might be easier said than done. Barnsley may be down among the dead men but have demonstrated previously that they have the know-how to extricate themselves from similar perilous situations. Not only that, but Oakwell is not ordinarily a ground which Burnley have enjoyed visiting.
Still, hope lies in the fact that this is no ordinary Burnley side.
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