BURNLEY have thrown themselves a play-off lifeline.
And defender Michael Duff is determined not to waste it.
The Clarets were written off as potential top six material after a run of six games without a win, but two successive wins have put them within two points of Leeds United in the final play-off place, with four games remaining - including a trip to Elland Road.
Duff, who scored his first goal since October 2008 in the 3-1 win over Middlesbrough at Turf Moor on Tuesday night, hopes the spirit and experience in the camp will prove a vital ingredient.
Burnley travel to Pride Park to face Derby tomorrow, before Portsmouth visit Turf Moor on Monday, and Duff said: “The players have character, we were disappointed to be on the run we were on, but we have the best record in terms of coming from behind to win, so that says something about the character.
“We still have a good group from the year we were promoted so a good few of us know how to do it.
“We have that fighting spirit, people who won’t just give in basically. We want to be successful and achieve things, and while we’re a way off doing that, we’ve given ourselves a chance.
“We’re two points off and there’s probably only the one spot available now, with seven teams or so going for it.
“It’s going to be hard, but two games ago people gave us no chance.
“We’ve still got to go to Leeds, who everyone seems to be gunning for, but all we can do is win our games.
“If we can win four, it would be interesting to see where we finish.
“It’s hard to target one team with so many involved, and only really the one spot available.
“Sixth to 12th are going for that place, so it will be tough.”
After five wins from six, Burnley were in striking distance of second place, before the reverse happened - five defeats in six.
But nothing in this division surprises Duff, who has played six seasons at this level: “When we were on the good run, people were talking about the top two, but you can’t get ahead of yourself in the Championship.
“People felt Millwall and Coventry at home was six points, but you take a kick in the teeth and all of a sudden it’s hard to win a game again - that’s just the nature of the league.
“QPR on Monday against Derby - their 19th in the league and QPR will get the win to get them promoted...it doesn’t always work out like that.
“It’s boring to keep saying it, but every week there is a coupon buster, and if we are going to get in the play-offs we have to keep this run going.
“We have Saturday/Monday now, which will be tough, and I think there will be a few freak results because of the game coming so close, so we have to look no further ahead than Derby.
“We watched them on Monday, and they were hard to beat.”
Meanwhile, Everton centre back Shane Duffy has returned to Goodison Park after his 28-day loan spell expired after Tuesday’s game - although boss Eddie Howe insists he could return in the summer: “Part of the reason we took him was to look long term with Shane.
“We’ll wait and see how pre-season goes for him and what his options are and how Everton feel, but he’s done himself no harm and he goes back with our best wishes.”
He made one appearance, in the 2-1 defeat at home to Ipswich, and Howe added: “I thought he did okay against Ipswich in his game, but I just felt we’d go with the experience of Michael and Andre and they’ve done well together since.
“Andre’s come off on Tuesday night but we’ll wait and see how he is, but you’ve got Clarke who came in and did well and we’ve also got David Edgar behind the scenes.
“I think we’re quite well off at centre half.”
• BURNLEY Reserves reversed their away fixture with Accrington Stanley to Turf Moor on Wednesday night, and ran out 2-0 winners.
Two second half goals from Dominic Knowles kept the pressure on totesport.com League leaders Preston, who are a point clear with a game in hand, ahead of a potential title decider at the Turf on Wednesday.
Chris McCann played another hour in his fourth reserve game, as he builds up his game time.
Burnley: Cook, Kudiersky, C. Lynch, T. Anderson, Beadle, McKee (Hewitt 16), McCann (Love 60), King (James Taylor 83), Wilson, Fletcher, Knowles. Subs not used: Mawson, E. Williams, Mullin, Evans.