If Middlesbrough do win promotion from the Championship this campaign, Saturday’s goalless draw with Swansea is unlikely to make the end of season highlights package.
Tony Pulis believes there's a simple explanation as to why an anticipated clash between two of the division’s fancied sides petered out into a forgettable stalemate, after his side received just three days rest following their 2-0 victory over Bolton on Wednesday.
“Were we as brightly and sparkly? I am not sure,” said Pulis after the Swansea game.
“I was last in the Championship working 11 years ago, you look at it now and there are more quality players, playing in better stadiums, the pitches are better, the quality is better, and there are better players who are playing international football.
“And yet we are asked to play eight more games than the Premier League, there’s more Premier League players playing international football, but someone has to look at it.
“To ask players to play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday. You look at the top teams, you ask their managers if there’s a little tiredness in there.”
Pulis’ honesty regarding performances and transfers has been refreshing, after taking over at the Riverside last year.
However, his comments are slightly peculiar when Boro have four games scheduled in the next two weeks and will have to stay on their game to stay in the Championship’s automatic promotion places.
There’s certainly no need to panic, despite the fact Boro have now taken just four points from their last four Championship games, and the Teesiders are joint top of the table with Leeds United after Marcelo Bielsa’s side slipped up at home to Birmingham.
However, yesterday felt like an opportunity missed, especially after Boro gained control of the contest in the second half, and Pulis was once again left to rue his side’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
“We have had the opportunities and chances again here, you need that spark in the final third to get what we needed. We had the chances in first half and second half, we needed a break," added Pulis.
“Swansea defended ever so well from set-plays. When things do go our way in the final third we win games, but when they don’t, that’s where games are won and lost.”
Against Bolton, Boro had to be patient with the ball, as the visitors sat deep from the off and set-up to frustrate.
Graham Potter’s side deployed a different tactic, as Swansea looked to dominate possession and win the ball back quickly at every turnover.
It nearly paid off as Boro were forced to repel some early pressure, which nearly resulted in a Swansea goal when Martin Olsson arrived late at the back post and forced a point-blank save out of goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
Boro also had chances during a watchable opening period, as George Saville hit the bar while Britt Assombalonga saw an effort saved by Swansea keeper Erwin Mulder.
But as the match wore on, the visitors appeared more content to settle for a point, and Boro’s lack of creativity and attacking spark was once again highlighted.
The Teessiders have plenty of options, as shown by the introductions of Jordan Hugill, Mo Besic and Sam McQueen off the bench.
However, they couldn’t make a breakthrough.