Jonathan Woodgate reveals key factor in Tottenham draw and reason for Aynsley Pears absence

Jonathan Woodgate highlighted his side’s team spirit following Middlesbrough’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham in the FA Cup third round.

Sunday, 5th January 2020, 5:32 pm
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate following his side's 1-1 draw against Tottenham.
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate following his side's 1-1 draw against Tottenham.

Boro held their own against Jose Mourinho’s strong Spurs side at the Riverside and will now play a replay at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium later this month.

Ashley Fletcher opened the scoring for the hosts in the 50th minute before Lucas Moura equalised with a header 11 minutes later.

Boro recorded just 29 per cent possession but posed a threat on the break and kept their opponents at arm’s length for large spells.

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When asked about his team’s performance, Woodgate said: “I thought we played well at times. We had to hang on as well, they have some really talented players, they are a really talented bunch.

“But we caused them real problems. I'm so proud of my lads because this season it has been difficult at times keeping the players' heads up but they've stayed with it, remained confident and remained calm and they've got a real team spirit.

“Speaking of the team spirit I've got two basically central midfielders playing centre-back in Paddy McNair and Jonny Howson who along with Dael Fry were exceptional.

“That is real team spirit and for them to do that against a top team is very good.”

Woodgate made four changes following Boro’s 1-0 win over Preston on New Year’s Day, with goalkeeper Aynsley Pears a surprising omission from the matchday squad.

Tomas Mejias was handed his first start of the season between the sticks, and when asked about the change, Woodgate said: “If you look at Tommy and how well he's played in cup competitions over the years – that was my view behind it.

“Aynsley has done ever so well but I thought I would give Tommy a run out and keep him going and he will play again at Tottenham.”

On returning to Spurs for the replay, Woodgate added: “It's going to be a really difficult game. I won't be thinking of that, I'll be thinking how we can win the game.”