Burnley hero Tom Heaton refuses to celebrate survival despite well-earned Middlesbrough draw

Jason Mellor
The Telegraph
Heaton ensured Burnley left the north east with a point - PA
Heaton ensured Burnley left the north east with a point - PA

Burnley stand on the verge of ending a 40-year wait to establish themselves in the top flight but Tom Heaton isn't ready to celebrate just yet.

Sean Dyche's side remain without an away win all season and have secured only one victory in their last nine games, but a point ground out with a typically gritty display puts them within touching distance of securing back-to-back seasons at the highest level of English football for the first time since the mid-1970s.

Heaton ensured Middlesbrough drew a 15th blank in the league with a stunning save to deny substitute Alvaro Negredo as the Clarets stood firm against a late onslaught that saw full-back Matt Lowton clear off the line twice in the space of 30 seconds and Michael Keane escape a red card for a foul on Patrick Bamford.

Burnley have suffered relegation in each of their two previous Premier League campaigns. But after coming close to victory when Robbie Brady's free-kick struck the bar and Sam Vokes was denied by a late goal-line clearance, they are up to 12th with an eight-point cushion on the relegation zone.

After posting his ninth shut-out this term, Heaton insisted: "There's still a job to be done. We're looking upwards but you do glance down from time to time.

<span>Patrick Bamford appeals for a penalty</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Patrick Bamford appeals for a penalty Credit: Reuters

"It'd mean everything to secure another season of Premier League football, that's always been the ambition, to stay up and build from there."

Middlesbrough, who came up from the Championship with Burnley last May, sat above the Clarets in the table when the sides met on Boxing Day. But a 13-point swing sees them looking enviously at Dyche's men as Steve Agnew's confidence-shot side try to bridge a six-point gap to safety with time running out.

Caretaker manager Agnew has employed four different formations in his four games in charge since replacing Aitor Karanka, but the division's lowest scorers are set to pay the price for a lack of goals, just 22.

Middlesbrough vs Burnley shots on goal

Middlesbrough face Arsenal, Manchester City Chelsea and Liverpool in their final seven games. Securing a league double over rock-bottom Sunderland in what promises to be a North-East demolition derby at the end of the month looks non-negotiable if they are to retain any hope of staying up after posting 12 league games without a victory at the outset of a calendar year for the first ever time thanks to a seventh goalless draw of the season. 

Of the 10 previous sides to have scored fewer goals than them at this stage, only two have avoided relegation, but Agnew insisted: "We're six points off it with an extra game to play, so we live to fight another day," Agnew said. "I saw plenty of things to give me encouragement."

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