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Full-Time: Burnley 0 Brighton 0
8:23am Wednesday 29th January 2014 in Sport
BURNLEY’S unbeaten home record remained intact, thanks to Tom Heaton.
The Clarets’ keeper has kept a personal best of 12 clean sheets in league and cup this season, but this could prove to be the most significant as the promotion race hots up.
Big stops from Kazenga LuaLua and Leonardo Ulloa in either half ensured Burnley remain the only team in the Championship not to lose on their own patch this season.
They might even have won it, but for Tomasz Kuszczak producing similar heroics in the opposite goalmouth, denying former Brighton loanee Sam Vokes a run of a goal in each of the last four games.
Vokes’ streak might have been broken. But the gates to fortress Turf Moor remained firmly shut, as Heaton settled his own score.
Burnley’s number one was controversially sent off in the first meeting between the two teams, at the Amex in August – the victim of a contentious second yellow card.
He didn’t get to see out the game, or the following fixture, against Preston in the Capital One Cup.
There has not been much cause for the former Manchester United and Cardiff City keeper to be tested this season since arriving from Bristol City.
But he kept his wits about him enough to see out this game and set the side up for a tough trip to QPR.
Brighton arrived at Turf Moor boasting the meanest defence on the road.
And they showed why they have conceded only 10 on their travels this season by making the deadly strike duo of Vokes and Danny Ings marked men.
Not even Ashley Barnes could find a way to unlock the Seagulls’ back line, despite having all the inside information.
It is just three weeks on Friday that the striker left them for a fresh start with the Clarets.
The 24-year-old said he wouldn’t celebrate if he scored, but he might have felt differently had his acrobatic late effort gone in after coming off the bench for the last 15 minutes.
Brighton stifled further threats from midfield.
Dean Marney ran well with the ball but realising he was approaching a dead end made up of defenders he shifted play wide, while David Jones had to rely on set pieces for sights of goal for much of the game.
Scott Arfield put a determined shift in on the right, but struggled to make progress up against Stephen Ward, even when he had Kieran Trippier in support.
Michael Kightly came the closest for the Clarets in the first half, after latching on to Ings’ clever backheel from his short corner and driving goalwards.
The winger, back in for the injured Keith Treacy, was denied by the post.
Vokes was the first to react to the rebound but had his shot blocked in the box.
Those two quickfire chances for the Clarets in the 18th minute raised their spirits.
But they had to survive a scare soon afterwards.
Despite a three-pronged attack Brighton had been kept fairly quiet.
A David Lopez shot had deflected off Jason Shackell, but other than that there had been little to concern the Clarets until midway through the first half.
Burnley were their own worst enemy at times, gifting possession away cheaply with unforced errors, but they were particularly dangerous mistakes to make when the ball went on the direction of Kazenga LuaLua, on the left of the lively front trio.
Michael Duff was doing his job against Leonardo Ulloa in stopping the ball reaching the targetman, but when his header dropped for LuaLua the winger darted across the edge of the box and broke clear of Shackell to fashion a one-on-one.
But there was no getting past Heaton, who had narrowed the angle and made himself big, and succeeded in blocking the shot behind with his thigh.
There was no immediate danger from the corner, but when the ball fell to LuaLua again Heaton was there to smother a low shot.
Burnley made a more promising start to the second half, with Vokes flicking a header wide from Jones’ free kick from the right.
The striker appealed for a corner but the referee was not forthcoming, unlike the Clarets with more frequent attempts at goal, including an outrageous opening fashioned by Ings from another short corner.
The top scorer shuffled his feet and somehow squeezed a chipped ball between two defenders to the far post, where Duff stretched out a leg, but couldn’t convert a tricky chance and instead prodded over.
At the other end Ulloa narrowly missed getting his head to David’s long free kick into the box and Heaton gratefully scooped the ball up.
Trippier fired in a succession of crosses from the right.
Vokes hung at the far post to meet one with a powerful header, but Kuszczak was a frustrating match for it.
Barnes came on for Kightly for the final 15 minutes and helped Burnley to stay on top.
Jones’ free kick from the right was flicked on in the box, but Kuszczak somehow stopped the ball from looping over him, clawing it out of the net and crashing into the post.
There was no way through.
And Burnley were grateful to Heaton for preserving a point and a clean sheet with a big block from Ulloa.
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