CLARETS boss Eddie Howe hailed his players’ best display of the season at Middlesbrough – and believes they should now be taken seriously as play-off contenders.
Goals from Jay Rodriguez and Kieran Trippier gave Burnley their seventh win in nine league games, leaving them in a chasing pack of four clubs, three points outside the top six.
And Howe said: “I’m very happy, it was a really good performance, probably our best of the season.
“We won at West Ham, and although it was a great result, we rode our luck at times, and some people would say we were a little bit fortunate to win the game.
“But there was nothing fortunate about this win, we deserved it, and that’s the most pleasing thing.
“First half, especially attacking-wise, we were really good and counter attacked really well.
“We showed a lot of pace in the side and caused Middlesbrough problems.
“In the second half we defended magnificently and saw the game out.
“Against a really good side we really did limit them, our defence was solid, I thought we looked strong and Granty just had one save to make really at the end of the game, which was pleasing coming to a tough place.”
Looking at the overall picture, which has seen Burnley go from the brink of the bottom three to the play-off chase, he smiled: “We’re hopeful, we’re not getting carried away, we’re on a good run, seven wins out of nine – I think that’s a really good return from a lot of tough games.
“There’s a long way to go, but the most pleasing thing is we feel we’re developing as a team and getting better and better.”
Yesterday marked a year since he took over at Turf Moor, and Howe is pleased with how things are progressing: “The anniversary doesn’t mean anything to me as such, my message to the players before the game was let’s show Middlesbrough we’re a better side from when we played them earlier in the season, we didn’t turn up at all on that day.
“We’ve come on a lot.
“Confidence is a massive thing and you can see it oozing out of them on the pitch, hopefully that bodes well.”
It was a seventh away win of the season, but it still rankles that it isn’t eight: “We’ve been doing okay away from home, the Leeds game is still one that really hurts us because we feel it should have been another win, and it was heartbreaking to lose the game in the last seconds, but apart from that, our away form’s been excellent.
“To be fair to the lads they have worked extremely hard, I was really pleased with the week’s training we had and preparation for the game, the lads looked very good.
“Sometimes you just sense a good performance is coming, and thankfully it turned out like that.
“I can’t give the players enough credit for their application and attitude, and hopefully we’re beginning to develop a winning mentality, which is always crucial.
“Our passing and movement was excellent and we found Pato and Jay Rod regularly, and they are two top players.
“With our wide men as well having good days, we looked a potent threat.
“We were happy with two, maybe it could have been three, but it was important after half-time that we didn’t drop deep and allow Middlesbrough back in the game, because one goal could have changed everything, and I’m really pleased with the clean sheet.”
Rodriguez’s goal was his 14th of the season, and Howe will be hoping the transfer window closes without too much fuss regarding his top scorer: “It was a great finish from Jay Rod, I felt first half he was almost unplayable, he really was very good, and he just gets better and better.”