SEAN Dyche believes Burnley’s next four or five games will be crucial in determining whether the Clarets still have a chance of making the play-offs this season.
Burnley have gone four matches without a win to slip back to 12th in the Championship table, seven points behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough with a game in hand.
The Clarets travel to fellow play-off contenders Brighton this afternoon before a home match against Huddersfield Town on Tuesday and a trip to Charlton next weekend.
Turf Moor fixtures against Barnsley and Hull City follow to round off a busy fortnight.
And Dyche knows Burnley must be firmly in the race for the top six by the time those fixtures have been played.
“The next four or five games are going to give a good feel to how the season maps out after that,” said the Clarets boss.
“They don’t define every inch of it, but after them you want to be in and amongst it and chasing that top end all the way down the line.
“We’ve seen how quickly it changes. It’s a mad division.
“You don’t have to time your run this second. But it’s fair to say if you want to be in contention, you have to stay in the group, stay in the pack and the hunt at the right end of the table for sure, and we are there.”
Before their recent winless run, Burnley had taken 12 points from a possible 15 and Dyche knows they must rediscover that consistency.
“Consistency’s the key,” he said.
“If you look at any team that’s up and amongst it at any level of football, it’s usually because they keep their performance level at a good level and manage that consistency of result over long periods.
“We’ve done it pretty much since I was here, we’ve had a few hiccups along the way and we want to keep progressing.
“The main thing is to keep progressing, keep learning and keep that performance level high because with good performance levels you will win football matches.”
The Clarets sat 16th in the Championship table when Eddie Howe departed in October and Dyche believes they should take encouragement from the fact that they still have a chance of making in the top six – despite the disappointment of Tuesday’s goalless draw with Middlesbrough.
“We know we’ve got ourselves into a really good position,” he said.
“We’ve just come away from that for one reason or another – you can look at many different things over the last two or three games.
“We’re still in there.
“When I got here I don’t think there was that feeling – it was more ‘what is going to happen?’ “Now we’ve pushed the team and the club to a point where people are saying ‘can we go and do it?’.
“We want to be up there and fighting for that chance.
“To come away from Tuesday’s game with disappointment shows that our intention is to do better.”