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Stones not in Keane's class

Burnley
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 By Jamie Smith

Matthew Lowton, Ben Mee provide defensive stability for Burnley vs. Boro

This match always looked likely to end goalless, with Middlesbrough struggling to score of late and Sean Dyche's Burnley determined to scrap their way to Premier League survival.

Robbie Brady went close with a couple of free kicks and Tom Heaton was called into action to protect his clean sheet, while Matthew Lowton twice made vital clearances to ensure the points were shared.

The draw means Middlesbrough are looking increasingly doomed, while Burnley -- promoted above Saturday's opponents as champions last season -- are close to securing their own survival.

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Positives

A third clean sheet in the past four games shows Dyche has prioritised defensive stability as his side enter the run-in and 0-0 was always likely to be his target at the Riverside on Saturday.

Burnley have an eight-point cushion from the relegation zone and with seven games to go, they are virtually safe. It would take a spectacular collapse for them to be relegated from this position.

A couple of years ago, the Clarets were relegated due to poor results against the teams around them. This season, they have collected vital draws at Hull, Middlesbrough and Sunderland in recent weeks.

Negatives

The long-awaited first away win of the season continues to elude Burnley, who have failed to score at Middlesbrough and Sunderland in the past month. It now feels inevitable that they will go through the whole campaign without picking up a three-point haul away from Turf Moor.

Burnley's lack of invention has been clear for most of the season and it was on show again. With only two shots on target mustered all game, they were never likely to trouble Victor Valdes in the Middlesbrough goal.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- Dyche restored record-signing Brady to the team after a period on the bench as Steven Defour is again injured and the Ireland international was a threat from set pieces.

The decision to replace Sam Vokes with Ashley Barnes alongside Andre Gray in attack was more questionable after Tuesday's vital 1-0 win over Stoke City at Turf Moor, but Dyche got the clean sheet and critical point he craved.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Tom Heaton, 7 -- Saved brilliantly from Alvaro Negredo in the second half, but otherwise had little to do in goal as he was so well protected by his defenders.

DF Matthew Lowton, 8 -- A pair of superb clearances showed off the right-back's defensive instincts and one injury-time tackle on ex-Claret Patrick Bamford was crucial, too, in a man-of-the-match performance.

DF Michael Keane, 7 -- Was perhaps fortunate not to have been sent off after bringing down Bamford, but the England international was otherwise virtually flawless.

DF Ben Mee, 8 -- Solid performances like these show why some fans continue to argue that Mee should follow colleagues Heaton and Keane into the England squad.

Ben Mee and the Burnley defence kept a desperate Middlesbrough from scoring in a 0-0 draw at the Riverside.

DF Stephen Ward, 7 -- Lost his cool when clashing with Antonio Barragan, but was excellent defensively as usual and created a fine chance for Brady with a strong run down the left flank.

MF George Boyd, 6 -- Tuesday's match winner wasted Burnley's best chance in the first half from a good position in the penalty area, but his work rate was typically strong.

MF Joey Barton, 7 -- Put in his best performance in some weeks and barely wasted a pass in a very solid display, leading his team through difficult periods of the match.

MF Jeff Hendrick, 6 -- Was disciplined and positionally sound, but lacked creativity alongside Barton in midfield.

MF Robbie Brady, 7 -- Was unlucky to hit the bar with an early free kick and later went close with another set piece. The winger has to contribute more in open play and he missed a good second-half chance.

FW Andre Gray, 6 -- Starved of service, the striker struggled to get involved in the game and looked frustrated as his dry spell stretched to five matches without a goal.

FW Ashley Barnes, 5 -- A puzzling selection alongside Gray when the pair's partnership appears to lack understanding. Barnes struggled against Boro's determined defence.

Substitutes

FW Sam Vokes, 5 -- Struggled to make an impact in attack after replacing Gray for the last half hour and probably should have done better with a chance created by Ward.

DF James Tarkowski, N/R -- A time-wasting sub, Tarkowski touched the ball just once.

Jamie Smith is ESPN FC's Burnley blogger. Follow him on Twitter @nonaynevernet.

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