Sean Dyche praised the resilience of his players as the Clarets prepare for a frenetic four-game spell which will take them close to the Premier League’s finishing line.
Burnley head to West Ham on Wednesday evening for the first of four games in 11 days.
They will do so without Ben Mee, Jack Cork, Ashley Barnes and Matt Lowton – with most if not all set to miss the remainder of the campaign through injury.
The Clarets have also lost the services of outfield players Jeff Hendrick and Aaron Lennon since the league’s restart, while Chris Wood, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady have not yet been fit to start.
But Dyche’s men go to London following two wins and a draw from their last three games and just one defeat in 11 league games either side of lockdown to keep themselves in the hunt for a top-10 finish.
“People know we are stretched,” said the Burnley boss. “But the players have been superb, I think, in their attitude towards getting on with it.
“Sometimes when groups lose good players it can affect their feeling towards what the challenge in front of them.
“But I don’t think that’s been the case. The players have worked really hard in the last few games to get something from them. I’m really pleased with how they’re are going about it.”
The Clarets were without a dozen senior players when they resumed their league campaign and saw ever-present captain Ben Mee and midfield regular Jack Cork added to the absent list for last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United.
But Dyche admits things could have been worse, with his side piling up the points since mid-January to guarantee their safety and threaten a club record.
“It could have come at a time when we weren’t in the shape we’re in,” he added.
“You can quickly forget we’re on 46 points – the second highest total we’ve ever had in the Premier League.
“We’ve achieved that so far with these challenges. If these challenges had come before we’d had a good run of seven games without defeat things could have been different.
“We don’t want to cry it in too much. These injuries and different challenges have come at a time when we’ve got good points on the table, so there is a balance to the situation.”
The return of Wood, Brady and Gudmundsson has also softened the blow – even if the trip to the London Stadium may come too soon for a start with five games still to play and then the likelihood of a shorter build-up to the 2020/21 season.
“They are three good players coming back to fitness,” said Dyche, who used Wood and Gudmundsson as substitutes against the Blades with Brady up his sleeve on the bench.
“It’s just difficult getting them that true match fitness. That is the challenge. Even when we get players fit it is difficult to throw them straight into a Premier League game, having hardly had any football.
“But we will have to use them to maximise the group.”