After four consecutive away games Burnley will return to Turf Moor on 1st April with just 2 points to show for their exploits but crucially we remain clear of relegation by 8 points.
We began this awful run of games, that in my mind would be pivotal for the season, with a crucial draw away at Hull. It was the least we deserved and neither side really created enough to win the game. This was vital in keeping Hull down in the mire and stopping them from gaining ground on us in the fight for survival – but then Swansea recorded a win, cutting our cushion from 10 to 8 points.
The Swans were up next and we fell to a cruel late goal, even though on the balance of the game this was fair and we played poorly. The same week, Hull lost away to Leicester City meaning we remained 8 points clear.
A trip to Anfield followed, with an agonising defeat that we didn’t deserve. Up stepped up Hull, who managed to beat Swansea 3-1 on the Saturday, meaning we lost ground on our rivals and the gap was reduced to 7 points with Middlesbrough now in the mix, and losing each week.
Finally, after securing a bore draw with Sunderland 0-0 on Saturday it meant we had once again failed to win away. In isolation this is a poor result and I was really disappointed because this presented our best chance to win away and we didn’t take it. Despite this, Hull and Middlesbrough both suffered heavy defeats, meaning the draw enabled us to extend our safety net back to 8 points. The outlook seems sunnier with that context added in.
In retrospect, looking back at March this was a make or break month for us, and to only have lost 2 points between us and 18th is something I’m sure we would all have taken. Had we held on against Swansea it would have been almost the perfect month all things considered.
Nevertheless, it leads me to believe we won’t win away this season. Of our remaining fixtures away from home we probably have 3 winnable matches against Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Bourmemouth, with the other game at Goodison Park likely to be a defeat. None of those are going to be easy and we’ll probably pick up another point or two, but if we can’t beat Sunderland, Hull or Swansea away we’ll struggle to overcome any of these.
One silver lining (aside from the fact we are very likely to stay up!) is that in previous EPL seasons we have found it very difficult to win away – but managed it late in the season.
In 09/10 we had just one away point going into our last 3 away games, but managed to win at the KC Stadium – ironically that game sealed our fate.
2 years ago we failed to win away until May, but beat both Hull City and Aston Villa to round off the season. We collected 5 draws leading up to those two wins however.
So it’s conceivable we could get 4 or 5 points from those 4 games, but I think we may have blown our chances.
Bigger news of course is that despite losing the battle, we have all but won the war on relegation. Looking at the fixtures left for Middlesbrough, Hull and Sunderland I think they will struggle to climb out of the relegation zone now, and if they had any hope they would have expected to have beaten us on their home ground. Until it’s confirmed however I won’t believe it’s true.
I believe 5 more points will all but seal it, how long it takes us to get them is anyone’s guess.