PHOTOS: Burnley FC 2, Swansea City 1
Building on the philosophy of Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers has helped turn the Swans into the most aesthetically pleasing team in the Championship – turning them from play-off nearly men to automatic promotion challengers.
Howe said: “I think they have a unique way of playing, and full credit to them for sticking to those beliefs.
“They are one of the best teams we’ve played against this season, and I admire the way they go about playing the game. Ultimately, the long-term vision is that’s where we want to be, but it’s going to take time.”
But while Swansea were again easy on the eye at Turf Moor, Howe and Burnley found a way of beating them, and deservedly so.
While Swansea’s pure brand of football is a delight, the Clarets have the technical ability to be able to play a similar brand of football, at a high tempo, and they looked far more like themselves than of late.
They played with a pace and purpose that has been absent from their game recently, closing high up the pitch and zipping the ball about, and while the visitors had the more clear-cut openings, Burnley’s graft and sheer will to win got them out of a sticky run of results.
And a draw for Leeds, added to defeats for Nottingham Forest, Millwall and Leicester, means victory in tonight’s game in hand at home to Middlesbrough will put the Clarets back within two points of a play-off spot.
While it remains a tough task to earn a play-off spot, it is about putting pressure on the sides above – pressure makes people react in different ways, and Burnley could yet sneak in – although you feel they would have to win four or all five of their remaining games.
Should they beat Boro, however, they are back on the up at the right time, with what was a threadbare squad filling up nicely again.
The spirit within the squad was questioned after the tame surrender at Leicester a week ago, but the players answered those questions, despite defeat, with a committed showing at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.
And in coming from behind to win for a seventh time this season – stretching their divisional high to 26 points from losing positions – they again demonstrated the character in the dressing room.
A goal down to a side who are capable of making you chase shadows with the pace and accuracy of their passing and movement is a daunting prospect.
As it was, the Clarets not only retrieved the situation, but almost ran out more handsome winners than they did – with Graham Alexander denied a fairytale ending to his 1,000th senior career appearance when the late substitute saw his superb free-kick touched on to the bar at full stretch by Dorus De Vries.
While it was an honour to be present to see ultimate professional Alexander pass a quite incredible milestone – one which will see his name indelibly carved into the game’s history – typically he was only too happy to divert attention back to the fact that he was focused on helping the team get back in the hunt for a play-off place.
And back they are.
It was almost the last-chance saloon against Swansea, but the Clarets made their intentions clear from the off.
They were almost too pumped up, as Danny Fox was fortunate to avoid punishment for a late challenge on Fabio Borini, before Chris Eagles slashed a decent opening over the angle after a bright passage of play.
There was a great desire to win the ball as quickly as possible and shift the ball at a high tempo, and Jay Rodriguez had a shot blocked after the referee gave a great advantage.
But Swansea were a real threat as well, and Scott Sinclair laced a shot narrowly wide after one break, before Darren Pratley hit the inside of the post from former Clarets loan man Nathan Dyer’s centre.
Burnley remained bright and inventive, with a smart corner routine resulting in Rodriguez’s shot being charged down, while a delightful cushioned pass from Tyrone Mears released Eagles, whose cross was just too far in front of Rodriguez.
Sinclair headed against the same post as Pratley from the midfielder’s cross, and there were further chances for the Swans as Borini sent a free-kick just wide, before Gary Monk headed at Brian Jensen from Mark Gower’s set piece.
Borini then made a hash of a Dyer centre after Pratley robbed Wade Elliott, and the sides went in goalless.
The sides again traded openings after the break as Borini dragged a shot wide of the far post, while Rodriguez headed a Fox corner into the side netting.
On 53 minutes, however, Pratley stole the ball from Rodriguez and slipped a pass through for Borini, who, despite looking offside, was allowed to advance and lift the ball over Jensen and in.
Moments later Chris Iwelumo was introduced for Nathan Delfouneso, and the Clarets were level as Fox’s corner found it is way too Eagles on the left, and he shifted inside Dyer before whipping in a delightful cross that was glanced into his own net by Ashley Williams.
Crucially, Jensen saved with his legs from Sinclair from another fine Pratley pass, before Rodgers baffled us all by replacing both – arguably his best players on the day.
Burnley grabbed the initiative, Rodriguez having a snap shot beaten away after skipper Dean Marney – who led by example in an all-action display – and Eagles penned Swansea in corner.
And when Rodriguez was barged in the back by Angel Rangel, despite calls for penalty king Alexander to come on, Eagles stepped up and scored low to the keeper’s right.
The day was capped by Alexander creating history, and although De Vries denied him a superb clincher, Burnley could finally celebrate a win and a historic afternoon.