THE last time Burnley locked horns with Crystal Palace, the Clarets lost by the odd goal in seven, nervous glances were being cast in the direction of the bottom of the Championship table and the manager took off in search of pastures new – or rather pastures old, returning to his Elysian fields of Bournemouth.
Three months on and things look markedly different.
The possibility of Burnley being involved in a seven goal thriller seem slim, the club are more likely to break into the top six than fall into the bottom three and the chances of Sean Dyche running back to Vicarage Road are so remote as to be non-existent.
But if the last game of the Howe era was a perfect snapshot of where the Clarets were at that time, then Saturday’s splendid win over the high-flying Eagles was as good a benchmark as we’ve had of how Dyche wants Burnley to play under his management.
Combining defensive solidity with an attacking threat is surely what every team would like to do.
But it’s a difficult trick to pull off. Quite often you get one or the other (see Burnley under Cotterill followed by Burnley under Coyle, for example), yet against Palace there were strong signs that the manager has got things going in the right direction.
For the overwhelming majority of the game, a formidable looking triumvirate of Yannick Bolasie, Glenn Murray and Wilfried Zaha were comfortably contained.
Happily this was not at the expense of the home side’s attacking play. Kieron Trippier and Ross Wallace were a constant threat down the Eagles’ left flank, while on the other side the increasingly impressive Danny Lafferty teamed up to good effect with Junior Stanislas.
If there was one complaint it was that although Burnley’s dominance was not in doubt, they weren’t able to stamp their authority on the game with a goal.
Sitting in the stands, Charlie Austin must have been wondering how both Danny Ings and in particular the profligate Sam Vokes, failed to convert any of the presentable chances created for them.
The winner, when it eventually came, was both deserved and worth waiting for.
It’s fair to say Palace’s defenders seemed in no rush to close down Junior Stanislas, but there was no arguing with the brilliance of his strike. Two goalkeepers wouldn’t have saved it.
And so to Millwall. Another team in or around the play-offs.
But with three wins in the last four and Dyche’s plan starting to come together, Burnley can travel with confidence.