Left-back George Friend admits that Middlesbrough missed a “killer instinct” as their hopes of an instant return to the Premier League ended last night.
A goalless draw at Aston Villa saw Tony Pulis’s Boro lose 1-0 on aggregate in their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final to Steve Bruce’s men.
Friend told mfc.co.uk: “We’ve not scored over the two legs, so we can’t expect to go through.
“But we believed we could come here and win, even at 1-0 down.
“We just needed the rub of the green at times. We’ve given it everything – you can’t question anyone’s work rate or desire, but we lacked that killer instinct.
“Credit to Villa, they managed to get through. It’s really disappointing for us.”
While Villa will head to Wembley for a play-off final date with Fulham, Boro will lick their wounds.
Friend is already thinking about next term, adding: “If you look at the early parts of the season, we probably weren’t good enough. We didn’t really put a run together.
“Credit to the manager – he’s come in and done a wonderful job. I think that’s what gave us the belief.
“We’ve stumbled at this hurdle, but I have to admit we’ve been here before – even all the way to Wembley, losing to Norwich. I remember saying then we’ll be back – and the following season we went and got promoted.
“I have no doubt we’ll start next season with the same positive attitude.”