BURNLEY boss Eddie Howe is hoping the Clarets can continue their momentum away from home when they travel to the AMEX Stadium to face Brighton tomorrow.
The Clarets have already registered five wins on the road this campaign, just one less than last season in its entirety. In fact a combination of Owen Coyle and Brian Laws, during their respective spells at the helm, could only conjure up a total of two away league victories in 32 outings from April 2009 to Boxing Day the following year.
But Howe isn’t expecting an easy ride against Gus Poyet’s resilient Seagulls: “I wouldn’t say we’ve found the magic answer or the magic cure,” he said. “But the comebacks in recent games shows that we’ve got a great team spirit here.”
He added: “Brighton are a club that from last year have carried on their success like Southampton. I think they’ve had a really good start to the season, they’re an excellent footballing side and I’ve got a lot of respect and time for Gus Poyet.
“He’s a gentleman and you know when you play against his sides you’re going to be in for a battle to get hold of the ball because they really do try and dominate by possession, so it will be a good test for us.”
Only West Ham, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace boast a better defensive record than Brighton in the Championship and Howe is hopeful of mimicking their philosophy of possession football to find success in East Sussex.
“I do like Gus and his methods and how he approaches the game and how he tries to get his teams to play,” said Howe. “It’s certainly a model that we want to follow. He’s had huge success. He’s done really well with a good group of players and they’ve had success for a period of time, so full credit to him and his players for that.
“We know it will be a difficult one.”
Howe added: “Their philosophy will be if you have the ball you can’t concede, and that’s certainly something we want to follow because I do believe that works.
“First and foremost we’ve got to try to unsettle them and you’ve got to try to get your fair share of the ball because if you don’t you’re going to be chasing the game for long periods of time.
“They do score a number of late goals as well so we’ll have our plan set out and hopefully we can combat their strengths.”
Poyet’s side have left it late in several games this season, scoring seven goals in the final 10 minutes of games in all competitions and accruing 10 league points in that sequence. In contrast the Clarets have conceded 10 goals in that same time frame, though only two of those have been away from Turf Moor.
“It goes without saying it’s something we want to put right,” Howe said.
“We’ve scored our fair share of late ones as well.
“I think it’s a concentration issue, especially at home when we can get a little bit edgy going into the last few minutes of games. Away from home we’ve had success the other way so let’s hope that we’ve learnt from our mistakes and we become a stronger team.”
And Howe, who has no fresh injury worries ahead of the trip, was adamant that he wouldn’t allow the intemperate winter weather affect his side’s preparation for tomorrow’s clash.
“The weather has been wet up here this week and we’ve had snow but we’ve trained normally,” claimed Howe. “We’ve not been forced indoors, which has been a positive so we’ve been able to do some good work.
“That’s pleasing for the week. We asked our kitman to bring out the orange balls for the first time.
“We’re going to set off early because the later we leave it the worse it gets on Friday afternoon so we want to make sure we get down there in good time. We’ll be making sure that we leave right on the money. What we don’t want is a nightmare trip down, especially with the difficult weather conditions. Hopefully it will be a smooth passage down to Brighton.”
He added: “We’re going to walk through a few key things when we get down to the hotel. We decided the priority is probably to get there first and then do the bits and pieces that we need to. We’ve prepared quite well this week.
“I wouldn’t say there had been a problem (in training before the Portsmouth game). The lads are an honest group and they want to succeed and be successful. Obviously we set the bar quite high and we feel if we don’t train well every single day with the right mentality it all reflects in the performance.
“It’s a challenge, to reach that mark every single day. It is difficult because we feel we ask a lot of the players in that respect. That standard of training does reflect your performance on a Saturday, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and I think the focus of the whole squad, not just the 11, is a continuing battle.
“Last week it was raining near enough every day and blowing gales. That can be difficult, especially when you want to get certain things across. But that’s the battle for us to shorten what we need to do because the conditions can be brutal for the players on the training pitch when they’re up there for a period of time.”