By Simon Evans
Middlesbrough missed an opportunity to boost their flagging Premier League survival hopes as they were held to a goalless draw at home to Burnley at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday.
The result against the mid-table Lancashire side, who have not won away from home all season, meant Boro were unable to take full advantage of defeats for relegation rivals Hull City and Swansea and remain next to bottom, six points from safety with seven games remaining.
Burnley were content to sit deep and wait for their opponents, in more desperate need of points, to over-commit to attack, yet it was the visitors who had the better early chances.
Republic of Ireland international Robbie Brady clipped the crossbar with a curling freekick in the 14th minute and then George Boyd wasted a good chance when he was found inside the box by Matthew Lowton but hurriedly shot over the bar.
Middlesbrough were compact and tidy in midfield but struggled to create real openings in the first half.
Forward Rudy Gestede glanced a header well wide in the 28th minute and four minutes before the break Stewart Downing drove the ball across the face of the goal but no team mate was able to finish.
Brady should have done better in the 57th minute when he shot wide after a low cross from Stephen Ward was cleverly left by Ashley Barnes.
In response ‘Boro manager Steve Agnew brought on Spanish forward Alvaro Negredo in a bid to increase their physical presence in attack and it did not take long for him to make an impact.
The former Sevilla striker produced an acrobatic volley in the 67th minute as he met a Downing cross and his fierce shot was superbly saved by Burnley’s England international keeper Tom Heaton.
The second Middlesbrough attacking sub, Adama Traore, then jinked his way past two defenders inside the area and set up Adam Clayton but the midfielder shot tamely straight at Heaton.
The game had finally opened up and at the other end, Burnley’s Sam Vokes was unable to scramble the ball home in a crowded box after a surging run down the left flank from Ward.
Boro piled on some late pressure with Lowton forced to clear of his line from a corner and then Negredo had an effort ruled out after he was ruled to have handled the ball before his shot.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)