THE international break seems to divide club managers.
Some appreciate the chance to regroup and take stock, while giving injured players more chance to recuperate.
For others, however, it brings a sharp halt to any gathering momentum, and early in the season can hinder the bedding-in process for new signings.
One thing is for sure, the break hasn’t been too helpful to Burnley so far this season.
Going into the last round of international fixtures in September, the Clarets recorded their first league win of the campaign at then-leaders Derby.
But any chance of building on an impressive performance was stunted for a fortnight.
On return to action, Burnley were below-par against Middlesbrough and comprehensively beaten.
This time around Eddie Howe’s men had built a head of steam ahead of the break, unbeaten in four games, having taken seven points from nine.
However, the Clarets were not their recent selves against Reading on Saturday, and they suffered a first setback in four weeks.
Defeat was harsh – especially coming as it did in the ninth minute of injury time – but Burnley certainly hadn’t done enough to win the game.
Midfielder Marvin Bartley put it down to coincidence: “I don’t think the break’s got much to do with it, we just haven’t performed.
“We should be fresh and raring to go.”
And Howe was at a loss to explain his side’s showing: “We’ve trained well – I can’t put my finger on, now, why we just didn’t perform.”
One factor was Brian McDermott’s tactical nous.
He has now faced Burnley four times since taking the reins from Brendan Rodgers, and won all four.
The FA Cup upset against Brian Laws’ then-Premier League Clarets helped him get the job on a full-time basis, and he outwitted Laws at Turf Moor a year ago in a stunning 4-0 win.
Stuart Gray was in caretaker charge as Burnley went down 2-1 at the Madejski Stadium in January, before this latest triumph.
McDermott sent his side out to close Burnley high up the pitch, preventing the Clarets from playing out from the back effectively.
The fluency and zip of the passing was hit, and the Clarets were second to everything against a physical side.
That said, in the early stages Burnley successfully isolated left back Joseph Mills, working crossing opportunities and chances through Ross Wallace and Kieran Tripier.
However, as at Millwall, the quality in the delivery was not up to their usual standards.
Burnley may have continued to press and look for the breakthrough, but as the game wore on, it was Reading who looked the more likely to nick a goal.
That it came as late as it did was cruel – especially as it came in time added on for Royals midfielder Jay Tabb receiving treatment after being knocked out by a clearance from Lee Grant, while his replacement Jem Karacan got the winner.
Karacan would have enjoyed the moment – the London-born Turkish Under-21 international purports to be a Blackburn Rovers fan.
It all started promisingly enough, as former Reading youngster Marvin Bartley had a sight of goal within 17 seconds, showing great pace to react to a kind deflection from Charlie Austin’s pass, but he took his shot early, and failed to trouble Adam Federici.
Jay Rodriguez then had a shot deflected wide by Kaspars Gorkss, only for the referee to award a goal kick.
Burnley continued to try and force the pace, and after a quick throw-in from Trippier, Wallace cut inside and lashed a fierce 20-yarder just over the top.
Reading were more direct in the first half, and when a Mills punt caused Andre Amougou problems, Grant was on hand to make a smart save from Adam Le Fondre.
And when Jobi McAnuff returned the ball into the box, Le Fondre finished neatly, but was flagged off-side.
After a turgid first 45 minutes, it was almost a relief to watch an exciting schools game on the pitch at half-time.
Things didn’t really pick up after the break, although Bartley – again Burnley’s stand out performer in another all-action display – forced Federici into his first serious action, working a one-two with Austin before drilling a shot towards the near post which the Australian beat away.
As the Clarets became more frustrated, Chris McCann ambitiously tried his luck from 40 yards, while Keith Treacy, on for Junior Stanislas, struggled to get to the pace of the game.
Midway through the half, Grant knocked Tabb out cold with a clearance from close-range, forcing a seven-minute stoppage as he was attended to. The stop-start nature of the game did little to help Burnley’s rhythm, and Reading began to look a threat on the break, as Noel Hunt went close with a glancing header, before substitute Mathieu Manset, with his first involvement, cut inside and went agonisingly close with a measured curler.
Reading looked unfortunate not to win a penalty when Amougou dived in on Le Fondre and appeared to get little of the ball, but right at the death they got their reward when Hunt found space to feed the ball across the six-yard box, and Karacan, falling backwards, managed to turn it into the net to snatch the points.
The Clarets were crestfallen as they made their way off the pitch, and home form – with one league win in eight – is something of a concern.
But it will be a fortnight before that can be remedied, with three away games on the spin, and at least Burnley have little time to dwell on this disappointment before getting chance to make amends at Barnsley on Tuesday night.