Wigan Athletic 0 Burnley 0
THE second half of this Lancashire derby is more likely to make the cutting room floor than the highlights package in any review of the year.
It was more limp leftover turkey sandwich than Lancashire hotpot.
A goalline clearance by Keiran Trippier and the crossbar denying David Jones were the highlights of the first half – and the game in the end.
There was little for the 4,800-plus following to get excited about.
But that can certainly not be said for the season so far.
Although Burnley dropped out of the top two, on goal difference to a resurgent Derby County a clean sheet – their 12th in total this season – and a point at Wigan means the Clarets sign off 2013 still in a position of strength with the aim of pushing on again in the new calendar year.
Burnley started brightly, and looked particularly dangerous with Trippier combining well with Keith Treacy after the winger was restored to the line-up in favour of Michael Kightly for the second time this month. But the Clarets soon had to be in a defensive frame of mind.
Jordi Gomez turned a speculative shot from just outside the box wide, before Stephen Crainey’s free kick from a similar position was swung into the area but evaded everyone and also dropped wide of the far left hand post.
Former Claret Chris McCann had been booed by a packed away end before kick-off, following his summer departure for the DW Stadium. The taunts only served to pump the midfielder up though, and he almost had the last laugh when he met Crainey’s corner with a powerful header across goal that Trippier did well to clear off the line at the left post.
McCann was involved again in Wigan’s next attack as well, combining with Gomez in the centre of the park before the move ended with Tom Heaton saving Marc-Antoine Fortune’s shot and Michael Duff turning the rebound behind before the Latics could react.
Burnley had proved largely frustrating in the attacking third, with the final ball lacking the necessary quality against a side so fresh out of the Premier League and on the up under new management, with Uwe Rosler installed as former Burnley boss Owen Coyle’s successor.
For example, two shots in either half – one for Dean Marney, the other for Keith Treacy – went out for throw-ins.
But Burnley demonstrated how dangerous they could be when the delivery was right, as it needed a fully alert Ali Al Habsi to prevent Sam Vokes from converting a close range header when he attacked Trippier’s long ball into the box.
Trippier later made a clever decoy run to allow Treacy the chance to cut inside and shoot, but while the idea was good, the winger’s execution was too tame to trouble the Wigan stopper.
Burnley, who had lost by a single goal to Middlesbrough on Boxing Day – conceding after a foul on Jason Shackell in the build-up had gone unpunished – had further grievances with match official Mike Jones here, notably when he twice wrongly penalised Duff, and later ex-Wigan midfielder Jones.
On each occasion the Clarets had made good, clean challenges, winning the ball firmly but fairly, but not in Jones’ book, and as such a Duff was booked'. Justice was served when Gomez whistled the 22-yard free kick wide.
Baffled Burnley were caught napping when Leon Barnett swung a ball in from the left channel to the far post, where Danny Lafferty allowed James Perch a free header and was relieved to see the wing back put it wide across Heaton.
Then when Duff put a toe out to stop McCann charging thr-ough, but was pulled up again, Heaton had to be ready to stop a Fortune header when Gomez lifted a long free kick into the box. The half seemed destined to peter out, but the Clarets threatened a shake-up in stoppage time.
Treacy again combined effectively with Trippier on the overlap, and Wigan right back had space to slide the ball back for Jones on the edge of the box.
The midfielder struck it cleanly first time with his right foot and looked to have beaten Al Habsi but the ball was tipped onto the underside of the crossbar and Barnett scrambled clear before Danny Ings could pounce.
There was little in the way of such goalmouth action, for either side, after the break as both defences put barriers up.
A half chance for McCann on the volley was bravely blocked by Duff, who was injured in marshalling the ball behind under pressure from Powell on the edge of the box.
Heaton had advanced, but it was a close call and Duff did well to make certain of danger being avoided and equally preventing a mix-up.
While Duff tried to run off the knock, Powell fired into the side netting. At the other end Trippier appealed for a handball against Ivan Ramis on the edge of the box.
Duff eventually made way for Kevin Long, after Michael Kightly had replaced a tiring Treacy. And Kightly used his strength to fashion a chance going into the last five minutes.
The winger rode a couple of challenges after taking an awkward ball, but mis-hit his shot – high, wide and in no way handsome.
It summed up the second half as both sides settled for a point.
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