THE battle between Matt Lowton and Phil Bardsley to be Burnley's first-choice right-back is the perfect example of the 'fight' Sean Dyche wants for shirts in his side.

Lowton was the man in possession earlier this season but an injury he picked up in the Turf Moor defeat to Arsenal on November 26 opened the door to Bardsley.

The former Manchester United man impressed in Lowton's absence and when he returned to fitness he found his path back into the side blocked.

But Lowton never let his head drop and when Bardsley picked up an injury of his own during the draw with Manchester City recent the 28-year-old took his chance to re-establish his own first-team credentials.

That competition is exactly what Dyche wants after expanding his Turf Moor squad in recent seasons and he could have a similar problem at left-back soon with Charlie Taylor impressing in Stephen Ward's absence, but the Republic of Ireland man is now back fit.

Dyche has always insisted on keeping players who are playing well in his side and he revealed that was the decision he had to make when Bardsley impressed.

"Matt was unlucky to come out of the side because he had done nothing wrong. He got injured and it’s that fine line about giving other players a chance," Dyche said.

"If it’s one game it’s unusual that you wouldn’t put the player back in but if it goes to two, three, four games then someone has earned the right to go in and do well.

"He’s probably been a bit unlucky, but Bardo’s done well. I want that competitive element. I’ve spoken many times about how important the squad is.

"We want that challenge in house, the fight for who’s going to get the shirt. I like the group we’ve got.

"Before the injuries we had that gave us a real edge to add to performances because everyone is playing for the fact they want to be in the Premier League, but they know someone’s behind them ready to play if they’re not."

Taylor held off Ward's challenge at left-back to start against Swansea but Dyche will know have to balance his 'loyalty' to players with picking a side to end the Clarets' losing run.

"I do try to find a bit of loyalty within my team but not in a way that affects the team in a negative way," he said.

"The loyalty aspect can't go in front of a team winning. I always pick a team to win. It’s similar with Lowts and Bardo. This is exactly what we want.

"When everyone’s fit, you want the challenge and that demand from each player. There's a healthy respect from each other but they all want the shirt.

"They all want to play and that's exactly what you want. We want this competition all over and that's what we're trying to achieve. Until this long list of injuries we were achieving that, a real competitive group of people."

Another selection headache could be brewing for Dyche, with Tom Heaton closing in on a return to first-team action, but the Turf boss refused to be drawn on whether he would replace Nick Pope in goal.

"I’ll wait and see when he is fully fit. They've got to be active and playing. That will be a decision that comes in due course," he said.