EDDIE Howe insists the Clarets are heading in the right direction after exhibiting their ‘best performance of the season’ against Championship table toppers Southampton.
Charlie Austin’s instinctive strike in the early stages of the second half had given the Clarets a deserved lead, but Saints substitute Morgan Schneiderlin’s close range effort 10 minutes from time denied Howe’s side a first league win of the campaign at Turf Moor.
“In terms of levels of performances, I thought there were some great displays individually and collectively as a team,” said Howe. “It was our best performance of the season and I think the only thing lacking was probably a couple more goals for our dominance.
“There was a lack of clear cut chances but you’ve got to give credit to Southampton for the way they defended.
“They blocked an awful lot of our attempts, especially in the first half. I thought they defended well. I’m pleased with the performance, but I’m disappointed with the result for the players because they deserved to win.”
The Clarets don’t boast the most endearing of defensive records, failing to keep a clean sheet in 22 fixtures.
But Howe was full of praise for his resilient back line who put their bodies on the line on numerous occasions throughout the 1-1 stalemate.
He said: “I thought our defending was excellent, as was Lee Grant. In terms of a unit and trying to improve our defensive record, I think we’re getting there.
“The lads looked solid and you could go through the whole team and say everyone performed. That’ll give us a chance to win any game.”
Consecutive league defeats against Middlesbrough and Peterborough United could have bred negativity and pessimism among such a young and inexperienced group of players, but Howe was delighted with the response of his side.
“They’ve shown a lot of character which pleases me no end,” Howe beamed. “It leaves me with a feeling that we’ve got a great chance of being successful.
“Obviously, the result’s not gone our way and we haven’t had a fantastic start to the season but hopefully the fans can see that the team is beginning to take shape.
“We are heading in the right direction. I think we’re capable of beating anybody and we’ve got the players in the squad to do that.”
Man of the match Marvin Bartley, making his first league start of the campaign for the Clarets, was inspiring in a central role against the Saints, conducting a display filled with tenacity, vigour and conviction.
“I thought Marvin was magnificent,” said Howe.
“You could see the difference he made to our midfield with his energy and his work-rate but when he was on the ball he made us play as well. I thought his all-round game was magnificent and that’s what Marvin’s capable of.”
Howe added: “I’m delighted for him because he’s had to be patient and wait for his chance, but he grabbed it with both hands. The thing with Marvin is that he’s had an absolutely dramatic rise in football.
“A few years ago he was playing non-league football and now suddenly he’s in the Championship against good sides.
“When he adjusts to the level then he’ll fly. He’s such a good lad to have around the place as well, so I’m pleased with him.
“He’ll only improve playing in training with such quality players, it’ll only make his game better.”