EDDIE Howe bemoaned a lack of leadership from his players as a 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat at Watford.
Burnley threw away a chance to climb back into play-off contention after easing ahead through Jay Rodriguez’s 20th goal of the season and an own goal from Nyron Nosworthy.
But the loss of Michael Duff to a dead leg at half-time proved pivotal as the Clarets lost their defensive discipline, and Howe said: “I don’t know how we lost that game, I really don’t.
“At 2-0 the game was over, we’d played excellently, executed our game plan perfectly and were comfortable.
“As soon as we conceded our first goal we just rocked, we looked unsteady, unsure of ourselves, and Watford capitalised on that.
“At set plays we didn’t do our jobs in the second half, and it’s a really tough one to take because we should never have got near to losing that game.
“I’m really frustrated and disappointed because we should be talking about three points and closing the gap on the teams above us.
“It’s a big missed opportunity with the position we found ourselves in, but it goes to show we’re still some way from where we want to be. We’ll continue to work as hard as we can to improve things because we’ve got the basis of a very good team, but we’re still not the finished article.”
And he feels his players have to learn from a mad 18 minutes where they shipped three goals to a limited Watford. He said: “On a really difficult surface we controlled the game, and looked a really strong outfit, and that’s what makes it so hard to take because the lads, individually, performed really well for the majority of the game. There was a period where they didn’t.
“So we have to learn from this big time, we’ve got to really step up to the plate and show a bit more leadership during games.
“We are a young side but that’s no excuse – there’s enough people out there who have played enough games too react better to setbacks.
“The first goal came out of nothing, okay, it’s a setback, but nothing’s changed, continue to do the same things and we win the game comfortably. But we took a backward step, defended very deep, allowed balls to come in our box and paid the price.”
Howe pointed to the loss of Duff, but admitted: “We missed Duffo, there’s no doubt about that, second half, his leadership qualities and aerial dominance were key, but we can’t rely on him to stay fit, we can’t rely on one player to make sure we’re okay, other players have to step up and say “Okay, Duffo’s not here, I’m going to take that mantle on.”
“That’s what we have to do, and it’s hugely disappointing.
“He got a dead leg, but was also feeling a bit of nerve damage as well so there was two pains, he couldn’t continue.
“He performed excellently first half, and has performed really well every time he’s been fit, so it was a tough one, but we should still have had enough to win the game.”
The one bright spot was Rodriguez becoming the first Burnley player in eight years to reach 20 goals for the season, since Robbie Blake, and Howe said: “Jay’s had an outstanding season, he continues to improve and it was a great finish for his goal.
“He’s a young lad hopefully going the full distance in his career, I see him playing at the top level and I can’t speak highly enough of him and his attitude.
“It’s a good landmark for him to hit and hopefully he can hit many more.
“If he carries on scoring like he is between now and the end of the season, possibly it will be difficult to hold on to him, but we desperately don’t want him to go anywhere, he’s a Burnley lad and he continues to improve. I’m sure he’ll get even better as well with the attitude he’s got.
“But we’re really pleased he’s with us.”