Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis reveals what impressed him most after Boro's victory over Stoke
Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis was pleased with the courage and determination his side showed to claim a 1-0 win over Stoke at the Riverside.
The Boro boss was forced to make two changes to his starting XI following last weekend's win over Hull City - after defenders Daniel Ayala and Dael Fry were ruled out for the remainder of the season through injury.
It meant the Teessiders had to start the game with several players operating out of position, after Jonny Howson and George Saville were deployed as wing-backs and Paddy McNair came into a three-man defence.
Yet Boro were able to claim all three points courtesy of Britt Assombalonga's second-minute opener - a result which moves Boro back into the Championship's top six.
After six straight defeats in the second tier, Boro have now recorded three consecutive wins, against Bolton, Hull and Stoke, and Pulis is pleased with how his side have responded.
"I'm pleased with the win," said Pulis after the game. "We've played much better than that and lost games at this place.
“If you look at the six games we lost, particularly the home games against Preston and Bristol City and the likes.”
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“We've not been as fluent today. To have five players missing from the backline that we started with at the beginning of the season, it takes a lot of courage and determination from the players to go out there and play the way they played.
“They're having to do jobs they are not used to.
“Like I say, I think we've played better in other games than we have today but we just haven't taken our opportunities and chances.”
Boro have still played one game more than promotion rivals Bristol City and Derby County, who sit just one and three points behind the Teessiders respectively.
Even so, Boro's latest victory will provide renewed hope they can finish in the top six - with games against Nottingham Forest, Reading and Rotherham still to come.