PHOTOS: Oldham 0, Burnley FC 0
ANYONE looking for clues as to how the Clarets might line-up on the opening day at home to Watford would have left left scratching their heads on Tuesday night.
Eddie Howe rested Chris McCann, Jay Rodriguez, Andre Bikey, Ben Mee, David Edgar, Dean Marney and Brian Jensen, as he looked to give other members of his squad a full 90-minute outing.
And with one pre-season game remaining, at home to Sunderland tomorrow, Howe’s starting XI is hard to call - but he will want to keep Sean Dyche guessing just yet.
At Boundary Park, we saw new signing Kieran Trippier play 80 minutes at right back in a dour goal-less clash, while Martin Paterson also, encouragingly, came through the hour and a half unscathed.
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And while a tetchy match delivered little excitement for the 2,153 crowd - including 884 travelling supporters - Burnley, with a new-look backline, with Brian Easton playing the full game at centre back, never looked like conceding.
They had the better of the sparse opportunities as well, although they were unable to make Latics keeper Sam Johnstone work.
Trippier, although he would probably have liked to have seen more of the ball, was neat and tidy when he did receive possession, and he possesses startling pace.
The 20-year-old used it to full effect early in the first half as he raced down th right and delivered a low, dangerous centre for Paterson, whose flick was deflected out for a corner.
Defensively he was asked few questions by Chris Taylor, but he was alert enough to clear a cross from Dean Furman with the defence stretched.
There was little chance for quality to shine, however, in a scrappy, bad-tempered encounter that followed on from last year’s niggly affair.
As both sets of players look for that optimum match sharpness, a number of late challenges raised the temperature, with referee Paul Graham surprisingly lenient.
Oldham - who mirror manager Paul Dickov’s energy and aggression on the pitch - didn’t allow the Clarets to settle into the passing rhythm they showed at Torquay on Saturday, but posed few problems defensively for Howe’s men - although former Chelsea youngster Filipe Morais produced one of the outstanding moments of skill in the game when his Ronaldinho-style “flip-flop” control bamboozled Danny Fox.
Even the Portugese became embroiled in the rough stuff, however, as he was booked in the second half for a late lunge on Fox, and subsequently substituted.
Burnley had the better of the early openings, after Paterson’s deflected effort, with Ross Wallace measuring a side-foot shot just wide of the far post from Paterson’s lay-off, after Charlie Austin’s headed flick on.
Paterson then tried his luck with a half-volley, but couldn’t generate enough pace to trouble the keeper.
Lee Grant was underemployed at the other end, watching an early Furman drive fly past the post, while Taylor headed Morais’ corner well over.
After the break there was even less to write home about, although Austin showed great desire to get on the end of Wallace’s clever quickly-taken free kick, only to head over.
Austin was the first Claret to depart, replaced by midfielder Steve Hewitt, as Howe switched from 4-4-2 to 4-1-4-1, but chances remained at a premium.
Former Oldham loan man Grant made his first save, a comfortable one at that from Matt Smith’s header, before Smith tried his luck from distance, his shot flying just over.
Kirk Millar fired across Grant late on, but the game, as it deserved to, finished goal-less, and the Clarets round off their preparations against Steve Bruce’s Black Cats at Turf Moor tomorrow (kick-off 3 p.m.).
BURNLEY: Lee Grant (Jon Stewart 89); Kieran Trippier (Kevin Long 79), Michael Duff, Brian Easton, Danny Fox; Alex MacDonald, Marvin Bartley (Wes Fletcher 79), Wade Elliott, Ross Wallace (Joe McKee 90); Martin Paterson, Charlie Austin (Steve Hewitt 63). Subs: Dominic Knowles, Alex-Ray Harvey