Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis seeks consistency in promotion push after cup exit - and reckons any incoming transfers will only be loans
Middlesbrough suffered last-gasp disappointment with Saturday's FA Cup fourth round defeat at home to Brighton.
But Boro have bigger fish to fry, with promotion back to the top flight the only focus for manager Tony Pulis.
In the final minute, George Friend’s last-minute clearance cannoned off striker Glenn Murray and flew past keeper Darren Randolph to give the Premier League club progress into the last 16.
Pulis was immediately disappointed, but he was quick to look ahead to tomorrow’s vital Championship game at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
He said: “We are fully focused on one thing now, and that is getting in that top six. With 18 games to go, we have got to now perform with a consistency that will take us there. Have the players got the consistency?
“They are a group of players that I’m still learning about, so we’ll have to wait and see, but that’s what they’ve got to have to get out of this league, they’ve got to have consistency and win – and if you’re not winning, you mustn’t lose games.”
Defender Ben Gibson was left gutted by the defeat. “We never should have lost the game, A 0-0 would probably have been fair,” he said.
“I thought, at times, we played very well. In the end, we were punished by a slice of luck, George has cleared the ball, made good contact, and it’s hit Glenn Murray and bounced in.
“Again, we looked more solid – we didn’t look like we were going to concede and it’s something stupid that’s cost us. We gave a good account of ourselves, we’re looking more solid and more like a team and that’s a good foundation to build on.
“We’ve got to move forward to Tuesday.”
Boro’s Martin Braithwaite headed over the bar and Ashley Fletcher might have done better when Adama Traore picked him out.
Daniel Ayala should have headed Boro into the lead on the half-hour when he met Braithwaite’s corner, but he directed his downward header straight at Tim Krul.
The defender then flicked on Ryan Shotton’s long throw to Patrick Bamford, who sent an acrobatic overhead kick just too high,
Krul managed to get his fingertips to Traore’s thunderous drive five minutes before the break, but still needed the help of the post.
Pulis said: “There were a lot of positives and there was a lot of good play. You can’t fault the players for the effort and commitment.”
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala (Fry 65), Gibson, Friend, Howson, Clayton, Traore, Braithwaite (Downing 56), Bamford, Fletcher (Assombalonga 56). Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Leadbitter, Johnson, Christie. Booked: Clayton.
Brighton: Krul, Rosenior, Goldson, Hunemeier, Suttner, Knockaert, Stephens (Propper 46), Kayal, Skalak (Izquierdo 61), Baldock, Hemed (Murray 72). Subs not used: Dunk, Maenpaa, Gross, Schelotto. Booked: Baldock, Propper, Izquierdo, Kayal. Goal: Murray 90.
Att: 20,475. Ref: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
* Meanwhile, Pulis is not expecting chairman Steve Gibson to spend again in what remains of the transfer window.
He said: “No, I’m not going to spend any of Steve’s money. If I’m going to do anything, it will be loans.
“I think he’s spent enough money on this squad anyway and we have got to give these people a chance.”