Albion slide towards trapdoor after eighth consecutive defeat
Manager Alan Pardew admitted he was left scratching his head as a dismal West Brom performance that lacked craft or quality condemned them to a record eighth consecutive Premier League defeat.
Goals from Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood, one in each half, were an accurate measure of Burnley’s superiority, although a late score from Salomon Rondon cut the margin to a single goal.
The gap to safety remains, as before, 10 points but, with only six matches left, it seems certain that they will begin next season in the Championship.
It will spell the end of an eight-year run in the top division.
Pardew has spoken about wishing to be the manager charged with taking them back again but, in truth, it would be a surprise were he to survive in his post beyond this season.
He admitted he was finding it hard to give the players the means to cope with the pressure that has been building on them.
“Sometimes you can sense in the team that they are suffering from that and we definitely sensed that in the first half,” he said.
“Any person who is a football person would have been able to see that it was not that the team were not trying, but they were nervous and under massive pressure. I had sympathy for them but also I wanted them to be stronger than that. Pressure does strange things to you.
“We were better in the second half but we stood off Burnley in the first half and did not engage them.
“To sit off as we did in front of our own fans is not how my teams are recognised. I was standing on the touchline scratching my head.”
By contrast, Burnley manager Sean Dyche is having no difficulty motivating his team, whose first win here since 1969 puts them within striking distance of the top six and potentially a place in Europe, although he is confident that they will remain grounded despite their extraordinary season.
“The lads are enjoying what they are doing but they know the reality of the Premier League and how tough it is, they know we are not the real deal,” Dyche said.
“They know we are a work in progress and though the fans may be singing about Europe, our focus is always just on the next game. We know if we keep performing the rest will take care of itself.”
Burnley were at their most impressive in the first half. Although goalkeeper Nick Pope had to deal with a couple of headers from Rondon early and late, the 45 minutes were dominated by the visitors, who went ahead in the 22nd minute as Barnes scored for the fourth consecutive game, hooking home an airborne volley from an Aaron Lennon cross.
Dyche said of his striker: “I think he continues to adapt to the challenge. His game has improved season on season with us and continues to do so.”
There was more spark from Albion in the second half, and a slight correction to the imbalance of possession, although nothing tangible resulted from it, and when Burnley scored their second 17 minutes from time, a procession of West Brom fans towards the exits began.
The goal came after a long clearance by Pope found its way to full-back Matt Lowton on the right. He threaded a neat pass inside to Wood, whose own nimble footwork enabled him to sidestep a sliding challenge from Jonny Evans and take a shot.
Foster managed to save it with his chest but Wood watched it all the way and was quickest to react as the ball looped up, nodding it past the former England goalkeeper to set up Burnley for a third consecutive win.
Rondon stabbed home a late reply for the home side following a mistake by James Tarkowski, offering a glimmer of hope to the fans who had stayed behind, but there was no denying Burnley, who celebrated with their 2,700 suppoeters at the final whistle.
Serial finisher: Ashley Barnes, of Burnley, scored for a fourth consecutive match