PL REPORT: Sheffield United 1 Burnley 0
No big finish for the Clarets as Blades exit top tier with the points
The marathon finally ended without the Clarets able to muster a sprint finish as bottom club Sheffield United went down with a seventh win to their name.
After 11 months in which clubs completed the final nine games of last season’s Covid-hit campaign and played all of this, it eventually came to a stop with Burnley finishing 17th in the Premier League.
The chance to overtake Brighton passed them by as Sean Dyche’s men couldn’t find the goals to reply to David McGoldrick’s first-half strike and to earn a share of their record seven away wins in a Premier League season.
Instead, they signed off with a hat-trick of defeats - without scoring - to follow the win that guaranteed them top-flight safety earlier this month.
In truth, with an 11-point advantage over the bottom three, any major threat had diminished on the back of an excellent run either side of the turn of the year.
But the Clarets will wants to recapture that kind of form when they return refreshed and possibly re-stocked following a well-earned summer’s rest after another tame end to the campaign.
The Clarets’ preparations were disrupted when Nick Pope’s planned comeback was shelved by the need for a knee injury, which may also threaten the goalkeeper’s involvement for England in next month’s European Championship finals.
The absence of captain Ben Mee with a groin injury further reduced the experience in Burnley’s rearguard as Jimmy Dunne was handed a third Premier League start.
His first had come on the opening night of the season at Leicester City – eight long months ago at the start of a gruelling campaign which has certainly taken its toll.
Dunne lined up alongside James Tarkowski, who wore the skipper’s armband and looked to lead by example in a bright start from the Clarets which saw Dwight McNeil force goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale to tip over a fierce drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Tarkowski sparked a number of moves from the back which threatened to get Burnley in behind the hosts’ defence and inflict further home misery on the Blades who were looking to avoid a record 14th home defeat in a Premier League season and 30th in all.
The bottom club also needed a goal to avoid becoming the lowest scorers in a Premier League season and having weathered Burnley’s early pressure got one after 24 minutes to go in front.
McGoldrick had picked up the Blades’ players’ player-of-the-year trophy before kick-off and United’s leading scorer claimed his ninth goal of the season when he strode forward to curl a low shot beyond Will Norris from all of 25 yards.
It was another disappointing goal to concede for the Clarets in a growing list over the past couple of weeks since safety was assured as the United supporters – back inside their ground for the first time in 15 months – were finally given something to cheer.
The Clarets’ tepid response to going behind prompted a change of personnel and formation at half-time as Matej Vydra replaced Josh Brownhill to joins forces with Chris Wood in attack.
And Vydra’s introduction certainly gave Burnley more of a presence up front and increased options for those in support with his willingness to make probing runs.
A succession of set-pieces looked as though they might produce a way through and a possible equaliser as the Clarets cranked up the pressure.
And with 20 minutes to go Dyche sent on further fresh legs in the shape of Jay Rodriguez as McNeil’s invaluable work for the season was done and the Clarets went all out for a leveller to avoid a fifth successive loss on the final day of the season.
Rodriguez had a header blocked in a goalmouth melee after Burnley thought they should have had a penalty when a cross from the tireless Ashley Westwood – completing his ever-present record for the season – struck the arm of Enda Stevens.
The Clarets then finished with a fourth striker on the shape of Ashley Barnes as they kept going until the end.
A Barnes’ flick almost led Wood in for an injury-time strike, but even with Norris joining the attack for a last-gasp corner there was to be no late drama at the end of a season like no other.
Burnley: Norris; Lowton, Tarkowski, Dunne, Taylor; Gudmundsson (Barnes 88), Westwood, Cork, McNeil (Rodriguez 70); Brownhill (Vydra HT); Wood. Substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Pieters, Nartey, Richardson, Glennon.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Basham, Egan, Robinson; Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick, Osborn (Jagielka 83); Jebbison (Brewster 79). Substitutes: Foderingham, Lundstram, Lowe, Bogle, Bryan, Brunt, Osula.
Booked: Baldock, Basham, Fleck
Referee: Kevin Friend