Steve Cummings blog: Play-offs too big a hurdle

I CLOSED last Tuesday’s column by describing Burnley’s game against Middlesbrough that evening as a “must-win” fixture.

“Win, and the season still holds possibilities” I wrote. “Lose, and the campaign will surely fizzle out.”

The Clarets’ failure to pick up all three points that night against a terminally dull and umambitious Boro outfit, coupled with Saturday’s defeat at Brighton’s Amex Stadium, means that even the sunniest of optimists would now struggle to make a case for Sean Dyche’s men gate-crashing the play-offs.

This should not necessarily be read as a criticism.

It is merely an acknowledgement that Burnley, eight points adrift of the top six and nine points clear of the bottom three, are a still a work in progress under the new manager.

And after briefly day-dreaming about possibly extending the campaign, reality has now invited us to assess both the table and Burnley’s current form and to conclude that the curtain will come down on season 2012/13 when the Clarets host Ipswich at the start of May.

Again, this is not a moan. Indeed, Dyche has done well in turning the basket-case he inherited from Eddie Howe into a more defensively disciplined and effective unit that looks comfortable in this division.

Comfortable, that is, rather than lethal.

Regrettably, Burnley have yet to evolve that killer instinct that is a pre-requisite for success at this level.

Just recently, for example, against Bolton Wanderers and Peterborough, the Clarets got themselves ahead into a winning position, yet were clawed back and found themselves unable to regain the initiative.

You can also point to the current run of form which shows that since putting Millwall to the sword in mid-January, Burnley have not managed to win a game.

In fact since that impressive victory at the New Den, the Clarets have picked up just two points from a possible 15.

Then there is Charlie Austin – and the fact that he seems to be the only Burnley striker able to find the back of the net.

Sam Vokes and Danny Ings may have inspired Burnley’s last win, but the Welshman has found the net three times in 36 appearances and Ings just twice in 20 outings.

With five goals from 29 games, Martin Paterson is prolific by comparison.

Granted, Vokes is normally only used as a substitute and Ings and Paterson are not deployed as out-and-out strikers.

Yet still, with more goals and a bit more consistency, the end to this season could have turned out quite differently.

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