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PHOTOS: Burnley 0, Middlesbrough 0

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BURNLEY'S hopes of a Championship play-off spot took a hit as they failed to close the gap on rivals Middlesbrough following a goalless draw at Turf Moor.

Despite a dominant first half the Clarets were unable to turn possession in to goals .

The hosts were without Danny Ings, Ross Wallace and Michael Duff for the Championship fixture but didn't seem to be affected by their absence as they controlled the opening 45 minutes.

Brian Stock was restored to Sean Dyche's starting XI and provided the balance and dependance that had been lacking in recent outings, where just a solitary point was accumulated from a possible nine.

With Boro refusing to close high up the pitch, Stock was afforded ample time on the ball and it was his vision coupled with precise, diagonal passes to the right hand side that often prompted the home side's forays forwards.

The first opportunity arose when the midfielder's half-volley from the edge of the area was blocked en route to goal and as the ball fell to leading scorer Charlie Austin, the striker forced Jason Steele to lunge to his right and flick the effort around the post.

The Clarets completely nulified Tony Mowbray's men, preventing them from seeing enough of the ball to threaten, though they were tidy in sporadic periods where they had possession. Instead they were happy to sit, get bodies behind the ball, and rely on their work rate off the ball to limit the Clarets.

The hosts pressed again as Dean Marney's threaded pass in to Austin was cut out by George Friend, but the loose ball was picked up by Chris McCann who drove forward before rifling over the bar.

Dyche's men were tenacious, eager to win the 50/50 challenges, and that was epitomised in their next opening as Austin grafted to steel possession from former Claret Rhys Williams, leaving McCann to retrieve the loose ball before being upended by defender Stephen McManus 20 yards from goal. However, Kieran Trippier swept the resulting set-piece wide of the angle.

The hosts continually targeted full back Friend, with Junior Stanislas and Trippier looking to infiltrate the space in behind. And it worked again when Stock's pinpoint pass from left to right found Trippier who beat his marker though his lofted centre evaded every claret shirt inside the box.

Then, as the half came to a close, Marney flicked on Stanislas's cross at the near post only to be denied by Steele who plunged to his left to turn the ball around the upright.

However, tactical changes from both managers in the second half saw the game become more of an open contest.

Ishmael Miller, Mustapha Carayol and Curtis Main were all introduced by Mowbray to add a sting to Boro's attack while Stock was sacrificed along with Martin Paterson as they made way for Sam Vokes and Keith Treacy respectively for the Clarets.

The curse of the second half substitute almost struck immediately as the lively Carayol darted towards the area before being dragged down by Long, who was consequently booked for the challenge. From the resulting set-piece, Andre Bikey teed up Grant Leadbitter who flashed an effort narrowly wide of Lee Grant's post.

A controversial moment followed shortly after when McCann was tripped on the chalked line of the penalty box by Nicky Bailey but referee Kevin Wright deemed the tackle to be outside the box and awarded a free-kick, the result of which saw Trippier float harmlessly wide.

Main swept a first time effort around the post as Boro sought the breakthrough while at the other end Williams was forced to hack clear once Steele had spilled Danny Lafferty's cross.

As the fixture continued to fluctuate, the biggest talking point of the half arrived when Wright pulled back play following Marney's cynical challenge on Carayol, though the ball fell kindly for Chelsea loanee Josh McEachran who would have been clear on goal.

That decision seemingly galvanised the visitors and it was they who pressed for maximum points. Williams hoisted a half-volley over the far post, Main fired an acrobatic attempt just over the top before Grant produced a fine save to deny Carayol's speculative, dipping drive.

The stalemate saw the Clarets drop to 10th.

• The Burnley Express has launched a FREE football app which is now available to download on iPhone and Android devices.

 

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