Burnley started life at Turf Moor without Sean Dyche by selecting a classic 4-4-2 formation made up of players their former manager brought to the club, but this was a different team from the one that lost 2-0 at Norwich less than two weeks ago. Southampton could not cope with the liberated hosts, who gave themselves hope once again of beating the drop.
Goals from Connor Roberts and Nathan Collins put a revitalized Burnley in control of their first home contest without Dyche at the helm for almost a decade. The victory leaves them one point behind Everton and safety having played a game more, but with a marginally better goal difference. In a carefully poised season, such things could be decisive.
Their caretaker manager, Mike Jackson, has secured four points from his two games in charge but does not know if he will be in the dugout when Wolves visit on Sunday. “I think the players and the group have remembered who they are, what they are good at and what they are capable of,” Jackson said. “It’s as simple as that. We are here to guide them – the staff have all mucked in, everyone’s played their part. I don’t buy into this magic wand thing, I am not reinventing the wheel here. This is a group of guys here who have come together and are fighting.”
There was no mourning the departure of Dyche in the stands. Instead supporters focused their efforts on vociferously backing a team in need of a win. They were, however, almost silenced inside seven minutes when Kyle Walker-Peters cut in from the right into space and hit a shot that was deflected over. The resulting James Ward-Prowse corner was attacked by an unmarked Oriol Romeu, who headed wide from six yards to provide a much-needed wake-up to Burnley.
The dynamic of the match changed when Burnley’s first attack concluded with the right-back Roberts receiving a pass 20 yards from goal. Space was given to a man whose most recent club goal came almost a year ago, allowing him to move the ball on to his left foot and perfectly curl a shot round Fraser Forster into the corner to make everyone inside Turf Moor forget their troubles. Jackson was mobbed on the touchline by his makeshift backroom staff, including the club captain, Ben Mee.
The opener ignited an aggression inside Burnley who saw their opportunity to attack a Southampton side lacking thrust. Maxwel Cornet took the ball and slipped a pass through for Wout Weghorst, who shimmied before striking at goal but the legacy of Forster kept his effort out.
Weghorst was then picked out by a Dwight McNeil cross, which was headed down and ended up with a snapshot from Jay Rodriguez that was repelled by Forster’s quick reactions, proving why he has earned an England recall. “When you concede the goal with the first chance from then and then after this don’t win any duels until half-time, you don’t deserve to win, because we have been lacking in everything in the first 15 minutes and it’s simply not good enough today,” Ralph Hasenhüttl said.
Burnley were the ones eventually rewarded from a corner as Collins got above Ward-Prowse to leave Forster helpless on the stroke of half-time. VAR took a long look to see if an offside Jack Cork was interfering with play but ultimately granted the goal, much to the relief of the home fans.
The liberation of Burnley’s full-backs did create gaps to be exploited on the counter, but the determination of those in claret ensured Southampton could not make the most of their opportunities when Roberts or Charlie Taylor were found at the other end of the pitch.
There were also more errant passes than in the Dyche era but this could be put down to the greater ambition when in possession, something the crowd appreciated rather than moaned about when the ball went astray.
Rodriguez and Cork sheepishly wheeled away to celebrate a potential third goal after Forster had palmed a James Tarkowski header against the duo as they simultaneously clattered into the goalkeeper. Sadly for Burnley, Cork was deemed to be interfering with play on this occasion as he stood inches in front of Rodriguez, causing VAR to upset the home support.
In the final moments there were chants from the stands of “There’s only one Sean Dyche” for their departed manager. The fans will be back on Sunday for the visit of Wolves as the team look to honor Dyche’s legacy with survival, but on their own terms.