EDDIE Howe believes Burnley’s summer of woe ultimately prevented them from reaching the play-offs this season – and knows they cannot afford any more upheaval if they are to challenge next term.

Howe has conceded that the Clarets’ hopes of reaching the top six are now over after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to relegation-threatened Coventry, which saw them slip eight points behind the play-off places with only three games remaining.

A youthful Burnley side have shown signs of potential this term but Howe admits he feared a promotion challenge could be beyond them after seeing the likes of Chris Eagles, Danny Fox and Tyrone Mears depart last summer.

The Clarets took only 18 points from their opening 17 matches as a much-changed team required time to gel.

Howe again expects to face a battle to keep his squad together ahead of the start of the 2012/13 campaign, with Jay Rodriguez most notably linked with a move away from the club.

And he knows the outcome could play a big part in determining how the Clarets fare next term.

“With the summer we had, a very difficult summer as everyone knows, we were very late in recruiting our players and it was incredibly frustrating,” Howe said.

“I think that probably made for a slow start to the season.

“The difficulty, and I’ve said it before, is that we’re not the richest club in the league.

“Other clubs are now looking at our best players so it will be a constant battle to keep the squad together and keep our best players. That’s how we are at the moment.

“We all want to get into the top six but it’s incredibly difficult and we’ve got to try to find some good players from outside and try to improve the squad.

“It is all in place, but it is difficult keeping your best players when you’ve got richer clubs willing to pay your players more money.

“That’s the battle that we have and will have until such time when we come into some money.

“It’s going to be difficult.”

The Clarets travel to Leicester tomorrow and Blackpool on Saturday before finishing their season at home to Bristol City.

Howe accepts that an improvement in results at Turf Moor will be a major priority next term, after points were dropped at home for the 15th time this season at the weekend.

“I’d imagine it’s pretty much all over now,” he said of their play-off hopes for this term.

“We needed to win all of our games and we haven’t done that.

“Home form is the most important thing that we need to address.

“Our record shows that. We’ve got more points away from home, which is unusual.

“The balance is trying to keep the away form as good as it is and try to improve our home form.

“There are plenty of points you could count up that we’ve let slip at home, Saturday being another example.

“That’s something we need to look at.”

And Howe admitted he was dissatisfied with his side’s performance against Coventry, after back-to-back victories over Brighton and Doncaster.

“We didn’t ask enough questions of them and it’s a disappointment because I’d felt recently our performance levels have been very good,” he said.

“Even in the game against Birmingham, which we lost, I felt we were excellent.

“As an overall performance it wasn’t good enough.

“I felt maybe there was a little fatigue in there, the lads looked a little leggy.

“It’s not an excuse but with such a small squad it looked probably like a game too far for them.

“I know we’ve got another game on Tuesday so we’re going to have to try to get them to go again, but it wasn’t a great performance.

“We know we need to do better.”