Stoke and Middlesbrough share points in goalless stalemate as Duncan Watmore produces a miss of the season contender
Middlesbrough made it three games without defeat with a 0-0 Sky Bet Championship stalemate at Stoke.
But manager Chris Wilder may wonder how rejuvenated Boro did not complete a hat-trick of wins against the play-off chasing home side.
Striker Duncan Watmore produced a miss of the season contender early in the first half in a closely-fought contest of few clear-cut chances.
Stoke should have punished the let-off with talismanic striker Tyrese Campbell through on goal after half an hour.
His finish too proved disappointing with neither side bettering those opportunities to score in the remaining 60 minutes.
Buoyed by his midweek goal at QPR, Campbell certainly posed several early scares for the visitors’ defence.
A reported target of Newcastle, his run provided strike partner Steven Fletcher with a shot on goal blocked for a corner by Paddy McNair.
Mario Vrancic’s deflected seventh-minute shot forced a save from Joe Lumley, restored to the side after missing the midweek win over Swansea.
Another Campbell surge drew a foul and booking for Anfernee Dijksteel before Boro fashioned and wasted a glorious scoring opportunity after 15 minutes.
Isaiah Jones’ right-wing cross was inch perfect for Watmore. But the former Sunderland forward slipped as he went to shoot inside the six-yard box and keeper Adam Davies gratefully fell on the loose ball.
Then it was Campbell’s turn to miss a great chance. Vrancic’s pass from halfway dissected Dijksteel and McNair but faced only by Lumley on the edge of his 18-yard area, Campbell’s left-foot attempt lacked power and quality.
Andraz Sporar’s 38th-minute right footer had both after Dijksteel’s ball but Davies was equal to the effort. Matt Crooks then blazed over as Boro finished the opening period on top.
Wilder’s charges also bossed possession at the start of the second but both sides lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
Middlesbrough introduced the first substitute after 71 minutes; an enforced change with Sol Bamba replacing the injured Crooks.
Watmore soon followed, leaving the field for Onel Hernandez, probably still wondering how he failed to register his fourth goal of the season and third in three games.
City boss Michael O’Neill waited until 10 minutes from time to try and break the stalemate and it was no surprise when Campbell, still finding his way back to full fitness after missing nearly a year through injury, made way for Jacob Brown.
A disappointing half finally momentarily sparked into life in the closing stages but Sporar’s left-foot attempt went high and wide after Hernandez’s cross.
Stoke huffed and puffed in search of a winner but the contest eventually petered out into a tame draw.