Middlesbrough need more quality, says Tony Pulis after four and half hours without home goal
Middlesbrough remain at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table, but they have now gone four and a half hours without a home goal after they were held to a goalless draw by Rotherham.
The Millers picked up their first away point of the season as they followed Swansea and Nottingham Forest in neutering Middlesbrough at the Riverside, and Paul Warne’s side were rarely troubled as they held the league leaders.
Marek Rodak saved from Martin Braithwaite after the Middlesbrough striker broke clear in the first half, but Rotherham might have claimed all three points had Darren Randolph not made a superb first-half save of his own to prevent Ryan Williams from side-footing home.
“We’ve had enough of the play and enough of the ball in the final third but you need that little bit of extra quality,” said Boro boss Tony Pulis afterwards.
“One or two breaks never went for us when it’s bouncing in the box, one of them doesn’t drop and with 49 crosses into the box tonight, we’ve got to be scoring goals and we had really good opportunities and chances as well.
“We’re in very good positions to make an opportunity and then not being good with that final pass or being good enough to finish it and that’s the difference between winning and losing and being up there and not being up there.
“You can’t fault the players, they kept going but we needed just that little bit of quality.”
Rotherham fashioned the first opportunity midway through the first half. Joe Vassell held off Adam Clayton to cross from the left-hand side, but while Williams must have thought he had scored when he side-footed towards goal from close range, Randolph somehow kept the ball out with a fantastic point-blank save.
The scare spurred Middlesbrough into life, and within a minute, Jonny Howson’s through ball was releasing Braithwaite into the area. The Denmark international had plenty of time to pick his spot, but his attempted chip was easily saved by Rodak.
Howson threatened at the start of the second half, only for his first-time volley from George Friend’s cross to be deflected wide, but while Rotherham were second best in terms of possession for much of the night, they continued to offer a sporadic threat on the break.
Ryan Manning hammered a drive narrowly over the bar in the 51st minute, although as the second half wore on, Rotherham’s defenders found themselves forced back towards the edge of their own penalty area.
Even so, Boro toiled for a breakthrough. Downing’s shot squirmed through Rodak’s grasp shortly before the hour mark, but Britt Assombalonga was unable to get a shot away as the ball rebounded towards him in the six-yard box.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Ayala, Flint, Friend, McNair (McQueen 72), Howson, Clayton, Besic, Downing, Braithwaite (Gestede 72), Assombalonga (Hugill 83). Subs Not Used: Saville, Batth, Konstantopoulos, Fry.
Rotherham: Rodak, Vyner, Ajayi, Robertson, Mattock, Vaulks, Williams (Wiles 61), Towell, Manning, Vassell (Forde 82), Smith (Proctor 90). Subs Not Used: Wood, Palmer, Price, Newell. Booked: Vaulks.
Att: 21,235 Ref: Darren Bond.