Football: Drop looms for Middlesbrough after Burnley stalemate

Middlesbrough's Cristhian Stuani in action with Burnley's Jeff Hendrick.
Middlesbrough's Cristhian Stuani in action with Burnley's Jeff Hendrick.PHOTO: REUTERS

MIDDLESBROUGH, United Kingdom (AFP) - Middlesbrough squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to boost their Premier League survival hopes after being held to a 0-0 draw by travel-sick Burnley on Saturday (April 8).

Boro's failure to take their chances extended their run of games without victory to 14 and kept them second from bottom in the table, six points from safety.

Steve Agnew's men retain a game in hand on the teams immediately above them, but with matches against Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool still to come time is quickly running out.

Boro have now gone 12 league games without victory at the start of a calendar year for the first time in their history.

The draw gave Sean Dyche's Burnley only their fourth point away from home of the season and left them eight points above the relegation zone.

A thigh injury to Steven Defour brought Robbie Brady into the Burnley team and the Irishman went close to breaking the deadlock with a 13th-minute free-kick that hit the bar.

George Boyd shot over before Boro, who showed four changes from their mid-week 4-2 defeat at Hull City, began to come into the game at the Riverside Stadium.

Rudy Gestede headed off-target from Antonio Barragan's cross, while a low cross from Daniel Ayala narrowly eluded recalled striker Cristhian Stuani.

The hosts remained on the front foot in the second half, but without truly threatening.

Stuani failed to make decent contact with Stewart Downing's cross and visiting goalkeeper Tom Heaton comfortably fielded a header by Gestede.

But the hosts were given a big scare shortly before the hour when Barragan's challenge on Stephen Ward inadvertently teed up Brady, who shot just wide.

Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo came on for Stuani and came close to breaking the stalemate with a spectacular mid-air scissors kick that Heaton had to fist away.

Adam Clayton let Burnley off the hook with a weak effort that Heaton saved comfortably, before substitute Sam Vokes fired straight at Boro keeper Victor Valdes at the other end.

Michael Keane's last-man foul on Patrick Bamford - for which he avoided a red card - gave Boro a late chance.

But Burnley defender Matt Lowton headed Downing's free-kick away and then cleared Ayala's header from the ensuing corner off the line.n