SUCCESS when it comes to scoring goals AND keeping them out is one of the hardest things to master in football, and why so few teams achieve it consistently.
“It’s why Manchester United have won the Premier League as often as they have because they score the most and concede the least,” noted Burnley defender Michael Duff.
“Some teams go about it and try to nick 1-0 wins, some teams try to score more than the opposition.
“There are very few teams that score a lot more than they concede, and the ones that do win leagues.”
Under Sean Dyche, Duff believes Burnley are getting the balance right.
Tomorrow’s visit of Charlton Athletic provides the Clarets with a chance to add to the successive home wins and clean sheets under his watch.
A 2-0 home win over Wolves was neatly followed by a 1-0 win over Leeds. In Dyche’s first two games in charge the Clarets became only the second team this season to keep out both clubs.It is a far cry from the record that greeted the new manager.
Burnley were brilliant for the neutral.
Playing an open, expansive game made them exciting to watch. There was a guarantee of goals. They were the top scorers in the Championship under Eddie Howe.
But frustratingly for the Clarets they were going in at the wrong end as often as the right one.
Duff admitted it was disheartening for the defenders.
“You know we’ve not become bad players overnight,” said the centre half.
“It’s disheartening from a player’s point of view because people write you off.
“It was pretty much the same group of defenders that after Christmas last year sorted it out and had the second or third best record after that.
“I don’t think it was a case that we were making individual errors every week. It wasn’t one of those things that you could go ‘he made a mistake and that cost a goal’ every week, it was more teams playing through us.
“You can’t really train or cater for individual mistakes but you can make it a lot harder for teams to score against you.”
Work has begun in earnest to that effect since Dyche’s appointment.
“This is the first time we’ve had a week’s proper training. With the games it’s been hard to work on shape and things, but the gaffer’s put across his ideas pretty quickly and I think the lads have taken it on board quite quickly as well,” said Duff, for whom Dyche is his fifth Burnley boss in nine seasons.
“You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that we were too open. From a supporter’s point of view when you’re seeing plenty of goals it’s great, but from a centre half’s point of view it’s not great when people keep looking at the goals against column.
“We’ve proved it can be done and obviously the more we work at it hopefully the more second nature, the more habit it will become.
“We know we’ve got goals in the team, that’s not a problem. I don’t think he’s taken away too much from the goalscoring exploits.”
In early October the freescoring form of Charlie Austin did not get the maximum return it warranted. A hat-trick was cancelled out, two goals at Crystal Palace counted for nothing.
Duff hopes that is a thing of the past.
“It became silly when Charlie (Austin) was having to score more than two or three goals to get a point. It just can’t carry on like that,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ve recognised as a team that we need to be a little bit harder to beat and that will in turn help people like Charlie, that one goal might win a game.
“Every team wants to be hard to beat, and with the goals we’ve got in the team we’ve always got a chance to win a game.”
And Duff believes it has been beneficial for the players to have their say.
“The gaffer asked the lads to anonymously fill out three or four questions,” explained the 34-year-old.
“I won’t say what they were, but it wasn’t all to do with football, it was things in and around the training ground and things.
“It was the lads telling him things as well, that we wanted to improve ourselves.
“Everyone wants to improve. Everyone here wants to go on and achieve things whether it’s at Burnley or individually – everyone’s got their own goals.
“Hopefully we can kick on up the table now.”