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.
“In terms of effort, commitment, energy…I think we deserved the three points and deserved a goal and we live to fight another day,” said Middlesbrough manager Steve Agnew, who conceded that the result was a missed opportunity.
“Of course it is but I thought it was a game we could have won and should have won. But we are six off it with a game extra to play and all to play for. I’m still positive,” he added.
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.
Ireland international Robbie Brady clipped the crossbar with a curling free kick 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.
Boro manager 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 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 twice forced to clear off his line and then Negredo had an effort ruled out after he was adjudged to have handled the ball before his shot.
The home side were also upset that Burnley defender Michael Keane only received a yellow card after he brought down Patrick Bamford when the striker was breaking clear on goal.
The Clarets, relegated on both their previous appearances in the Premier League, are in 12th place, eight points away from the relegation zone and manager Sean Dyche was pleased with the point.
“Overall its another point on the board and a pleasing one,” said Dyche. “I don’t think many thought we would get this many points full stop, let alone at this stage,” he added.
Agnew remains upbeat despite setback
Agnew felt his relegation-threatened team deserved victory against Burnley on Saturday but insisted they still had “all to play for” despite the disappointing goalless draw at the Riverside.
“I thought the lads were terrific in terms of their effort and commitment, and I thought we deserved to win the game,” said Agnew whose team remain next to bottom and six points behind 17th-placed Hull City.
After creating little in the opening half, Boro created several chances in the latter stages with Burnley defender Matt Lowton clearing off the line and keeper Tom Heaton forced into a fine save to foil a spectacular effort from Alvaro Negredo.
“I think the chances came in the second half,” said Agnew. “Alvaro had the over-head kick and there was Stewy Downing’s free kick that was going in but cleared off the line.
“You have to give Stewy credit, he stood up and did everything he could’ve done. That’s the quality that he and the rest of the players have. It was a game that we’re disappointed to not have won,” said Agnew who took over when Spanish coach Aitor Karanka was sacked last month.
Boro were upset that their substitute Patrick Bamford, who spent the first half of this season on loan at Burnley, was brought down by Michael Keane when through on goal but referee Martin Atkinson only produced a yellow card.
“He had a bit of a point to prove having not played much at Burnley and I think on another day if he’d have stayed on his feet and it hadn’t have been a free kick then he was through on goal”
Agnew remained upbeat about his team.
“We are six off it, with a game extra to play and so, all to play and still positive,” he said.
“We pushed and pushed and couldn’t give any more….not to get a goal today was disappointing, we deserved one,” he added.
The Teessider’s face Arsenal at home on Easter Monday and Agnew said that he was looking forward to regrouping and getting players back from injury.
“We have had three games in six days and the players have taken a lot of information on board and now it gives us a chance to reflect on what we have done and what we need to continue to work on. So I am encouraged by lots of things I saw today,” he said, adding that Uruguayan playmaker Gaston Ramirez and Brazilian defender Fabio were both close to returning from injury.