Top six is tough ask for Burnley

HOPES FADING: Sean Dyche is eager to get back to winning ways
HOPES FADING: Sean Dyche is eager to get back to winning ways

SEAN Dyche hopes Burnley will have the freedom to rediscover the winning habit after slipping eight points off the play-off pace.

The Clarets host Huddersfield Town at Turf Moor tonight having failed to win in five games.

They have dropped from seventh to 12th in the table after taking two points from 15, and Dyche accepts it is a tall order now, with 13 games remaining, to force their way back into the reckoning.

However, with the pressure off in that respect, he hopes that will release the hand brake: “It’s a tough ask.

“The good thing is we’re in that freedom role now because people wonder ‘can they do it?’.

“Sometimes that’s your best weapon because the shackles come off again.

“Four or five games ago people were saying ‘hang on a minute, they’re right in there’ and maybe that surprised a few.

“Maybe that bit of freedom that comes with where we are now, maybe that will give us a freer way of playing. They certainly showed it (on Saturday).”

Asked how far off the pace he feels Burnley are, he added: “It’s hard to judge.

“We’ve come out of winning four out of five and then had two draws in five.

“That’s sometimes just the madness of the division.

“Leicester have just lost three, which is an amazing one when you look at their recent run.

These (Brighton) go down to Cardiff, win 2-0 against the statistical odds – it’s just one of those divisions.

“The main thing is consistency, and you do need the rub of the green now and again.

“Our last two performances have deserved more.

“Maybe we’ll have two where you don’t deserve anything and you get something.

“The main thing is, perform well, keep performing well and over time that will generate results.

“I think the group in the last two games, there have been very good performances. You don’t always get what you deserve so it’s important that we build on that because we want what we deserve – we want points, we want to stay in that hunt and be in that race.”

Dyche will hope to have Ross Wallace back available again tonight after missing two games with a knee problem, but defenders Ben Mee and Michael Duff remain doubtful.

In their absence, the big bonus for Dyche has been 22-year-old centre back Kevin Long, the pick of the Burnley players at Brighton.

Dyche was delighted with his display: “Kevin Long was immense – absolutely outstanding. “He’s a young man who’s come out of the League of Ireland, wasn’t getting much of a look-in until we came in, and he was outstanding.

“He was absolutely terrific.

“They brought the lad Ulloa in and he’s dealt with him pretty much, they brought Mackail-Smith and he didn’t look fazed or worried.

“I’m really, really pleased with his performance – among many others.

“That’s a clear sign of the younger end of our players. Laffs (Danny Lafferty) is still developing, so there are some youngsters out there who are learning their trade and doing a good job of it.”

Long is finally getting the opportunity to impress after having to be patient after moving from Cork City three years ago.

Five loan spells and three managers later and he has had the chance, and Dyche added: “It’s hard to judge the perfect time to play.

“He’d had a look-in earlier. He rolled his ankle afterwards and that probably stopped him from getting another couple of performances in.

“But he’s gone really strong and I thought he did very well against Middlesbrough the other night.

“Two performances in a week is a big thing for a young man, especially coming to an environment like this.

“There are clear signs that he wants to do well.

“If he keeps playing like that it will be hard to get him out of the team for whoever wants the shirt.

“I’m more interested in the whole team and what they’re doing, but he was part of the team and he was excellent.

“He’s finding his feet as well. He’s had three appearances since I’ve been here and he’s maturing quickly.

“Maybe the extra time he’s been given and the loan spells have stood him in good stead.

“He looks an interesting one at the moment for us.”

• CAMERON Howieson was an unused substitute for Doncaster Rovers in their 1-1 draw at home to Yeovil Town on Saturday.

The 18-year-old Clarets midfielder was signed on loan by former Burnley midfielder Brian Flynn on Thursday until the end of the season.

Howieson will link up with New Zealand’s Under 20 squad on March 12th for their World Cup qualifying tournament in Fiji.

Sean Dyche said: “I think it will be a really good one for him. Brian Flynn is someone local and someone I know and respect and I spoke to him recently about Cammie.

“It will be a great experience for him.”

• The Burnley Express has launched a FREE football app which is now available to download on iPhone and Android devices.