THE future of Burnley striker Andy Payton was today shrouded in mystery after he was dropped for Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth.

The Padiham predator, the Clarets top scorer with 14 goals this season, did not even travel with the squad to Pompey.

And when asked where the striker was, manager Stan Ternent would only say: "Why's that so noticeable.

"Chris Brass wasn't on the bench or Paul Smith or Micky Mellon. What about them? It is selection."

Payton, who signed a new three year deal in March, has been on the bench for the last few games as Ternent changed things around to try and halt the Clarets poor spell of eight defeats in ten League games.

Ian Moore was the lone frontman before loan man Gareth Taylor forged a strike partnership with Moore which resulted in two wins before Saturday's loss.

Payton -- who has been the subject a ongoing transfer speculation this season -- remained involved as a substitute but his absence on Saturday poses questions about whether he has a long-term future at Turf Moor.

Ternent, however, could need Payton, at least on the bench, for tomorrow night's trip to struggling Stockport County.

Winger Glen Little limped off with ankle problems close to the end of the Pompey loss and is a doubt for the game at Edgeley Park.

"He twisted his ankle and I'm not too sure how bad it will be," said Ternent.

"We have iced him up and we will see how he is. We just have to keep our fingers crossed he will be all right."

The Clarets chief will be determined to put things right after a lacklustre performance from his side at Fratton Park.

They have now not won on their travels since October 21-- more than four months -- and he's struggling to understand why.

"It seemed a low tempo game for some reason and I don't really know why that should be.

"There has to be something that is fundamentally not right when we haven't won away from home for such a long time.

"I keep saying we are close but we didn't perform anywhere near it.

"But we have got to do better than that and we have got a chance to put it right at the derby match at Stockport.

"We've got all our games in March away from home, depending on the QPR game, and so it would be nice to go up to Stockport with a derby atmposhere and after Saturday's performance I think some of the players will be looking forward to it."

Ternent meanwhile thinks, after two wins, he could be blamed for Saturday's loss after he had played up the Clarets chances of clinching a play-off spot in midweek.

"We were talking about the possibility of play-offs perhaps it's my fault because I have always said that I would be happy to maintain our First Division status and we've more or less achieved that.

"We just need another win, that we will get at some stage, and it may well be my fault that I have set the standard.

"The players to be fair have done extremely well this season, lets make no bones about it.

"They have been absolutely magnificent for me and we have 13 more matches, If we maintained our First Division status and never scored another goal or won another match this season I would still be extremely happy that we maintained our First Division status .

"But of the13 matches we would like to win them all if we could.

"We will crack on and will get better."

One plus point from the Pompey defeat was the return of Lee Briscoe after three months out with a gashed shin and then a hamstring injury. He was introduced on the hour on the left wing.

"Brisser has done well he has had a good half hour in there that will stand him in good stead but he is an important one to get back for us."