James Tarkowski’s personal pain is over, and perhaps Burnley’s might be about to come to an end too.
The England centre-back has had two hernia operations in the past six months, having admitted to playing for nearly a year when not fully fit.
Having finally resolved his injury troubles, he can now set about sorting out Burnley’s defence. And it would appear, while he is about it, that he can throw in the odd valuable goal too.
Tarkowski, making his second start after returning from surgery, did not seem to know very much about the goal that defeated Brighton, deflecting in a Jack Cork shot with his chest from around six yards.
This was not a day for style, though, on a horrible squally December day in east Lancashire. This was a day for scrapping out a victory by whatever means necessary. Burnley were not pretty, but they got the job done.
It would be tempting to say this was a typical Burnley victory, but it was the first time they had won a Premier League match 1-0 in just shy of 12 months. The last time they did it, against Stoke City last December, they rose briefly into the top four. This win lifted them out of the bottom three. It will be a long climb back for Sean Dyche’s team, but this felt like a start.
But good grief, it was a hard game to watch. For large chunks of the first half, Burnley’s fans kept themselves warm with their increasing indignation over Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan’s timewasting. There was not a shot on target for 35 minutes. The standard of passing by both teams was abysmal.
Two second-half incidents summed up the untidiness. First, Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma shanked a pass back towards his own dead-ball line and then, when the ball came back to him from Ryan, he booted Phil Bardsley in the face trying to clear.
Then Burnley captain Ben Mee, trying to deal with Solly March’s angled cross, almost sliced the ball past his own goalkeeper. The rueful grin on Mee’s face suggested he knew this was an afternoon to survive rather than prosper.
Dyche’s side did survive the day, thanks to Tarkowski’s scrappy winner five minutes from half-time. Brighton failed to clear a Johann Gudmundsson free-kick, a follow-up cross from Ashley Westwood and a header from Mee, before the ball ran loose for Cork, whose shot was deflected in by the goalscorer’s chest.
From there, the home side ground it out, although they were grateful in the final 10 minutes that Brighton’s £15million substitute Jurgen Locadia headed over a glorious chance, and that a Solly March drive whizzed just wide. An equaliser then would have done nothing but intensify Dyche’s pain. Maybe the manager can now get on with rediscovering the old Burnley.