BURNLEY’S month-long run of away games ended as it had began - with a hard-earned point when it seemed three were there for the taking.
In between those draws at Hull City and Sunderland the Clarets have been beaten at Swansea and Liverpool and given the opposition they have faced over the last four weeks a return of two points has to go down as a disappointment.
That first away win of the season remains tantalisingly out of reach for now, but if there were two games where avoiding defeat was crucial on this run it was those games at the KCOM Stadium and the Stadium of Light.
For the Tigers and the Black Cats Burnley were the prey who had to be killed. Once again a point suited Sean Dyche’s side more than their desperate hosts.
But there will be frustration that the wait for that first away win hasn’t ended. With four away games to go it might not come now, but it shouldn’t make a difference. The cushion Burnley had built up at Turf Moor remains pretty much intact. Their return to home comforts on April 1 can’t come soon enough.
They should probably be going back in a better position than they are.
There was clearly plenty on the line at the Stadium of Light but it was a game summed up a lack of quality in the final third from both sides.
It’s an affliction that has hit Sunderland for most of the season, but Burnley have usually found a way to hit the back of the net. This was the first time since December 14 they hadn’t troubled the scorers in the Premier League.
How they didn’t is something of a mystery. The first half belonged to the Clarets and they missed two gilt-edged chances.
They had joy down the flanks against Sunderland’s narrow midfield and Stephen Ward was a key outlet early on. He took Andre Gray’s pass in his stride and sent in a low cross which George Boyd somehow failed to make contact with with the goal gaping.
If that miss was bad what followed just before the break was even worse.
In Ashley Barnes’ defence he can’t have expected the ball to come his way when Scott Arfield pulled the trigger from 20 yards. Arfield’s shot was miss-hit but fell perfectly for Barnes to poke home from six yards, only for the striker to send his effort wide.
Sunderland had to go for the win and Tom Heaton made saves from Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj early in the second half before Billy Jones submitted his miss of the season entry, heading wide from five yards that a Sebastian Larsson cross that came gift wrapped with a bow on it.
Having missed those first half opportunities Burnley’s best chance was now going to come from the bench.
The £28million worth of talent sitting amongst the subs was the most expensive bench in the club’s history and while the returning Steven Defour remained sat down Dyche did turn to Sam Vokes and record signing Robbie Brady.
The latter was ineffective but it was Vokes who came close to snatching it, seeing a drive across goal saved by Jordan Pickford with the clock ticking down after he’d picked Jason Denayer’s pocket.
It was left to Heaton to make sure Burnley left with the minimum they deserved as he kept out Borini’s drive from inside the area in added time.
For Burnley the point was no disaster, despite a feeling of what might have been, but as Dyche had pointed out before the game the expectation was on the Black Cats and their failure to win plunged them even deeper into relegation trouble.
When Burnley return to Turf Moor for games against Tottenham and Stoke the Clarets can make sure that is a battle they will be having nothing to do with come May.