Nick Pope’s selfless determination to thwart Christian Benteke and preserve Burnley’s lead over Crystal Palace is an insight into the Clarets’ mindset despite their poor start to the season, according to manager Sean Dyche.
Chris Wood’s eighth-minute strike was enough for Burnley to collect their first Premier League victory of the campaign, but they were indebted to Pope, who saved well from Nathaniel Clyne, Andros Townsend and Michy Batshuayi.
Pope was left needing treatment after taking a knock in denying Palace substitute Benteke in stoppage time, with the spread-eagled England goalkeeper’s left arm keeping out the Belgian striker’s effort from point-blank range.
It was a necessary intervention as Burnley won 1-0 to move out of the relegation zone, and Dyche thought it was an indicator that his players had not faltered despite having claimed just two points in their previous seven games.
“I thought Popey’s save really encapsulates the right feel about the group because he’s flung himself, makes a great save and gets a knock in the process,” Dyche said.
“That’s what it takes sometimes, that kind of endeavour and desire to make sure you see the game through.
“I thought it was a real good moment for us but it also gives the feeling of the spirit in the camp. I don’t think that’s wavered through this period, everyone’s stayed in the right direction to turn things around.
“We’ve made a start, that’s all it is, there’s loads of work to be done but it’s a nice start to win that game.”
While Palace, without Wilfried Zaha after he tested positive for coronavirus, had enough opportunities to level, Johann Berg Gudmundsson crashed an effort off the crossbar while Wood’s header was kept out by Vicente Guaita.
That meant some nervy moments as full-time approached and even Dyche worried that their inability to put daylight between themselves and Palace would come back to haunt them.
“Even I was wondering, we’d missed two golden chances and you think, ‘Oh no, it’s not going to be one of those nights where they nick something in the last minute’,” Dyche added.
“It happens, the players just got a bit nervous and I can understand that. I’m pleased for them to see it through.”
Palace winger Townsend feels like it was an opportunity missed as they slipped to 11th in the table.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said on the club’s website. “We know in the dressing room, if we have aspirations of finishing in the top 10, ultimately these are games you have to be winning.
“Yes, Burnley are a good side, they are very tough to beat, especially at home, but if you want to have a good season and break into the monopoly of the top 10 you have to win these games.”