While it is still August and the Premier League remains in embryonic form, it is hard to gauge what yesterday’s draw might mean for Burnley and Leeds United in the long run. Yet there was surely plenty for both sides to learn as their respective waits for a first win of the season continued here.
Statistically for Sean Dyche there was the unwanted distinction of a new club record of 12 league games at home without a victory. That will be undoubtedly more frustrating given how, up until the final few minutes, that long wait for a win at Turf Moor seemed destined to end. Chris Wood’s strike against his former club on the hour was not only what Burnley deserved but it looked to be enough against a Leeds side who looked to be frustrating their travelling support.
For all of the entertainment that Marcelo Bielsa’s side brought to the Premier League last season, this result showcased a very different trait in them. It is no exaggeration to suggest that they were victims of a robust, physical performance from their opponents here, with one or two Burnley challenges sailing alarmingly close to the wind. There was one in particular one from Ben Mee on Patrick Bamford as half-time approached.
But in the week of his first England call-up, Bamford’s response to that challenge was perhaps symptomatic of Leeds’ reaction to falling behind. He dusted himself off, as did Leeds as a team, and when the ball fell to the striker in the Burnley penalty box three minutes from time, he did what all good strikers do, and turned the ball past the goalkeeper, Nick Pope. Was it harsh on Burnley, given their dominance? It probably was. But in the end the feeling was that both sides have something solid to build upon heading into the international break.
“There wasn’t a tremendous amount wrong with that performance,” Dyche said. “I thought we were decent and we weren’t a million miles away against tricky opposition.” His side came the closer to opening the scoring in the first half but only when Bamford headed against the base of his own keeper Illan Meslier’s post from a corner. At that stage Burnley were on top and the momentum remained with the hosts after half-time.
When the goal finally arrived, it was no less than Burnley deserved. James Tarkowski’s header hit the crossbar and, as Leeds failed to clear their lines, Wood deflected a Matthew Lowton shot beyond Meslier.
The flair that made Leeds so compelling last season has yet to materialise this campaign, as is underlined by their return of two points from the first three games. But while they remain below those heady levels, there was still fight and desire in abundance here.
“Apart from two segments in the middle of each half, we managed the game well,” Bielsa said, which failed to recognise that they were second-best for large periods. But the introduction of Jamie Shackleton from the bench midway through the second half spurred them into life, pressing and pushing, and just as the Burnley supporters were beginning to sniff the prospect of a first home win in months, Leeds’ resilience paid off.
There was a shade of fortune to the goal. Shackleton’s strike was blocked well by Mee but only into the path of Bamford, who produced the decisive touch to turn it beyond Pope and earn Leeds a share of the points. It may not have been what Leeds deserved on the balance of play but just as Dyche took heart from Burnley’s general dominance, Leeds can be comforted by the fact that they found a way to avoid defeat.