Tony Pulis lauded Boro’s spirit after the goalless draw against Stoke but acknowledges there is plenty of work to do going forward.
Pulis was on his old stomping group, looking to maintain his unbeaten run against the Potters.
Boro grew into the game after a slow start, in which they stood firm to Stoke’s attacking play in and around the box.
But in the second half their lack of composure in front of goal left them feeling that they could, and probably should, have left the bet365 Stadium with more than just a point.
“It was a tough game today,” he said. The conditions were very difficult. I thought both sets of players went about it in the right way.
“Second half I thought we had the better chances. Butland has made two good saves in the first half, but he made two excellent saves in the second half.
“I’m disappointed, in one respect, that we didn’t get the three points.”
“There’s not a more honest team in this league and they work so hard for one another.
“Dani Ayala could’ve had a weekend off but he’s come with us because he wanted to be with the group.
“Everybody has bought into that spirit I want as a manager and what I want the players to have and the club to have. Again, it showed today, spirit takes you all the way.”
Danny Batth was making his first league start for Boro tonight, and put in a dominant Man of the Match display
“I thought he was fantastic,” Pulis said. “He was so steady, and put himself in some really good positions. He’s a great talker too. I was really pleased with him, but I was pleased with most of the lads today.
It was very much a typical Middlesbrough performance; dogged and defensively astute, but the quality was lacking up front.
The game’s best chance came when Jordan Hugill managed to run clean through on goal, but his shot was saved by the excellent Jack Butland.
“Like I said, it’s just in the final third. Even Tav going through late on, if he shapes and pulls it back we’ve got two players in the box who could control it and tap it in. But at the moment, that’s the difference.”
The result leaves Boro third in an ever-changing Championship table, two points off leaders Norwich.
“I said after 15 games we’ll know where we are. We’re in a dogfight with about twelve other clubs – that’s how tight it’s going to be this year.
“We’ve played 20 games this year with the cup. We’re the only Championship team left in it and we’re up at the top of the table, so they’ve done absolutely fantastic.
“Yes, I want to improve it, the supporters want to improve it. But don’t forget what we’ve done so far.”