*Hammers draw with Burnley
As David Moyes saw his West Ham players inch a little further away from the Premier League’s cliff edge, Steve Bruce completed another satisfactory mini audition in front of a Saudi Arabian television audience.
The Saudi dominated consortium who hope to shortly be handed the keys to St James’ Park after completing a £300m takeover at Newcastle United must decide whether to retain Bruce as manager but on this entertaining evidence the answer must surely be affirmative. Any coach capable of bringing the best out of Allan Saint-Maximin – once again, a vibrant presence – should not be discarded lightly, reports The Guardian.
Moyes’s future in charge of West Ham is shrouded in similar uncertainty but the draw leaves his side 16th, still vulnerable to relegation but four points clear of the bottom three. If only Andriy Yarmolenko had been fit enough to start victory might have been within the visitors’ grasp yet even without his catalytic inspiration they twice failed to protect leads.
Jamaal Lascelles was touch and go to make Steve Bruce’s teamsheet after sustaining a nasty ankle injury last week but passed a late fitness test. By the fourth minute Newcastle’s captain and key central defender probably wished he had failed it.
And there are more glamorous role models than Burnley but Chris Wilder knows the value of an ability to chisel out points. The Sheffield United manager sees the Clarets as a great example of how to establish a club in the Premier League but his own resourcefulness may have halted Sean Dyche’s accidental European charge.
“It was never the aim of the season,” said the Burnley manager. “The aim was to stay in the Premier League.” But his side were heading for eighth place and set to leapfrog the Blades until Wilder shuffled his reduced pack to salvage a draw in this meeting of the depleted. “To get a result from a losing position is satisfying,” he said. “The spirit was there.”
It is a common denominator. Another is that adversity can provide an opportunity. Ben Osborn had to wait 11 months for his first league start for United but, with two-thirds of his usual midfield injured, Wilder belatedly turned to one of last summer’s signings against Spurs last week and here he helped fashion John Egan’s leveller. The other contributor was Billy Sharp, introduced as Wilder abandoned his 3-5-2 to adopt a midfield diamond. “Delighted for Ben,” said Wilder. “He drove the game forward for us.”
Burnley 1 – 1 Sheffield United
Newcastle 2 – 2 West Ham
Liverpool v Aston Villa