Middlesbrough 1 Burnley 0
Burnley suffered a dose of the Boxing Day blues as they lost top spot following defeat at Middlesbrough.
Emmanuel Ledesma’s first half strike condemned the Clarets to only their third league defeat of the season on a miserable day on Teesside.
Danny Ings and second half substitute Junior Stanislas both forced fine saves from Shay Given with the visitors’ best chances of the afternoon.
But despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession before and after the break, there was no way through a resilient ‘Boro defence marshalled superbly by former England centre back Jonathan Woodgate.
The one bright spot of the day was an appearance before kick-off by stricken former Burnley and Middlesbrough defender Gary Parkinson, making an appearance at his first game since suffering a stroke in 2010 that left him paralysed from the neck down with 'Locked-In Syndrome'. Gary is pictured above, as he was introduced to the Riverside Stadium crowd.
Back to the action the Clarets made one change to the starting line-up, with Ben Mee missing through injury and replaced by Danny Lafferty in a straight swap.
But it was ‘Boro who shot out of the blocks, with former Bristol City wide man getting straight at Kieran Trippier and seeing his deep cross headed just wide by giant striker Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Ledesma, who scored a beauty at Millwall in their last outing, then let fly from 30 yards and saw his shot fly just past Tom Heaton’s left hand post.
Ledesma had set his sights, and again he was narrowly off target with a 30 yard free kick that again had Heaton scrambling.
But it was third time lucky for the Argentine as he finally gave Boro the lead in the 24th minute.
Jason Shackell appeared to be fouled in the build-up after Marvin Emnes jumped into him, but as the loose ball fell to Ledesma he beat Heaton with a fierce shot that bounced just in front of the Clarets’ keeper.
Burnley had been on the back foot throughout the opening half hour. But from their first attack of note Vokes forced a fine save from Shay Given with a point-blank header, although a flag against the Welshman would have ruled out the effort.
But there was no flag when Given again performed heroics to deny Ings five minutes before the break. Dean Marney provided the ammunition with a deep left wing cross and the Clarets’ top scorer flexed the neck muscles to force the Irish stopper into a fine tip-over underneath his crossbar.
Given again saved more comfortably from Ings at the start of the second half, as the 17-goal striker looked to curl a 20-yard effort into the top corner.
And as goalkeepers took centre stage, a magnificent save by Heaton kept the Clarets in it, as he got a fingertip to Jutkiewicz’s fierce, rising drive.
Stanislas replaced Kightly before the hour mark as Sean Dyche tried to keep the Clarets on the front foot.
Keith Treacy soon replaced Scott Arfield as the Clarets went for broke.
And the Irish winger provided a wonderful cross 13 minutes from time after teasing the right back, dinking ball to the far post only for the inrushing Marney to head over at full stretch inside the six-yard box.
But this was not to be Burnley’s day- emphasises when Stanislas brought a magnificent save form the evergreen Given with a thumping 30-yard effort with the clock ticking down.
Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Kightly (Stanislas 57), Marney, Jones, Arfield (Treacy 74), Ings, Vokes.
Subs: Liversedge, Stock, Long, Edgar, Hewitt.
Booked: Jones 25, Arfield 66
Middlesbrough: Given, Ayala (Gibson 85), Varga, Whitehead, Emnes (Leadbitter 58), Woodgate, Ledesma, Friend, Adomah, Smallwood, Jutkiewicz (Main 70).
Subs: Konstantopoulos, Williams R, Williams L, Butterfield
Booked: Varga 78
Ref: M Clattenburg
Att: 20,689 (1,387 Burnley)