CLARETS boss Eddie Howe couldn’t help pondering “what if?” after his side crushed Portsmouth 5-1 at Fratton Park.
A run of one win in 10 ended hopes of a play-off push, but Burnley showed what they are capable of in a stunning second half showing, netting four goals after going in level at half-time.
And they did it without 21-goal top-scorer Jay Rodriguez, who is currently nursing a groin injury.
Howe said: “I’m pleased we scored some goals. The lads will be given a big boost by that.
“We’ve been a little bit unfortunate in certain games. We should have beaten Watford and should, potentially, have beaten West Ham.
“There have been other games in this run that we’ve been on when you think ‘I don’t know how we lost’.
“You add those points up at the end of the season and that could have been the difference between us and the top six. We’ve got to make sure we’re better next year.”
It was the club’s biggest away win in 14 years and biggest at this level in 65 years, and Howe added: “To score five in any away game is a real feat. We’re delighted with the win, it was long overdue and hopefully it gives us confidence to say that we can challenge.
“We’ve said all season, it’s consistency. You play like that and we should be higher in the league.
“We’ve got to take it on. We’ve got some tough games between now and the end of the season, and it will be a good test for us.
“It’s just trying to put that 90-minute performance together. I don’t think we’ve done it many times this season.
“We’ve had really good phases of play in certain games and then dropped off. That’s the challenge going forward.”
Burnley had arguably been second-best in the first half, despite taking the lead through Kieran Trippier.
Asked whether he saw the second-half performance coming, Howe admitted: “No. No I didn’t.
“I felt for 40 minutes Portsmouth were strong, gave us problems with their system and the front two running in behind, especially down the left-hand side, that caused us a big problem.
“That’s where the goal came from.
“We were on the back foot for long periods. We matched them up with about 10 minutes to go in the first half and from that point on I thought we were okay.
“But we didn’t think we were quite right.
“I wouldn’t say we had words but we certainly made them aware that we can play better than that.
“With the talent that we have in the squad it was just really pleasing to see it all come out in the second half.
“Some of the counter-attacking play, the movement of the front two, the midfield really played their part as well. It was a really good performance and the goals topped it off.” Charlie Austin’s first senior hat-trick was the icing on the cake, and Howe feels that will give him a lift: “I don’t think confidence has been too much of a problem for him. He’s had a good season and the hat-trick will give him a huge boost.
“When he plays like that with aggression, his aerial ability as well is such a key point to his game. When he’s heading the ball well and is an outlet for us, all the other aspects come together – I wouldn’t have wanted to play against him, put it that way.
“It’s surprising it’s his first career hat-trick with the number of goals he’s scored. His record is second to none. We really believe in Charlie and all our strikers. It just goes to show the quality we have in that department.”
Scoring five in the absence of Rodriguez was also pleasing: “We don’t feel we’re a one-man team. We love Jay Rodriguez and he’s such an important part of what we do.
“The last two games we’ve been without him have been a real test for us to say ‘can we live without him?’ because there may come a time when we have to.
“Against West Ham we did that and we certainly did that in the second half.”