MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray was pleased with the attitude and application of his side in Saturday’s hard-fought goalless draw at Portsmouth.
The draw moved the Teessiders a further point clear of the Championship drop zone, with Rhys Williams the star of the show, making a superb clearance off the line to preserve Boro’s clean sheet.
Mowbray said: “I think we saw on Tuesday night (Boro’s 2-1 win over Derby) that the commitment to the cause is there, and the desire to go and turn around the five goals we lost at Reading last week.
“I’m disappointed with our ball retention, of course. The chances created were not what we would require.
“But sometimes football teams have to come and grind out results like that, particularly when we are at the bottom. The players will take a lot of confidence from the fact they could do that.
“I just felt the attitude of the team was right. We lost some early goals last week and the heads went down.
“This week we were always in the football match and (Marvin) Emnes could have won it late on when he went through one-on-one and the keeper made a decent save.
“The crossbar saved us in the first half from Hermann Hreidarsson’s header and Seb (Hines) cleared one off the line. But apart from that, we didn’t really get threatened. It was probably a fair result.”
Asked if the seven-point gap between Middlesbrough and the drop zone is enough, Mowbray added: “We’ve been seven clear before and then you lose a game, everyone below you wins and all of a sudden it’s four.
“We have to find the consistency like Portsmouth did. They won six on the bounce and they were talking in their programme about getting into the play-offs.
“If we can win three on the bounce somewhere down the line, we’ll be fine, but we’ll have to scrap our way out of it. And that means coming to places like this, being hard to play against and being hard to beat.”
Defender Tony McMahon hailed the impressive Williams: “Rhys has been different class – he has been thrown in at the deep end and has done really well.
“To come in at centre-back and play like that is fantastic.”
Portsmouth boss Steve Cotterill was disappointed with the draw, but insisted the referee hindered his side by not letting the game flow.
David Nugent, Joel Ward and Dave Kitson missed decent chances for Portsmouth, while Barry Robson and substitute Emnes went close for Boro.
Cotterill said: “It was a horrible stop-start game. Any foul or goal kick and it took an age before the game was restarted.
“The ref was very pernickety with absolutely everything. I thought the referee had swallowed his whistle at one point. Every time he breathed in and out, he blew. That’s just a joke for anyone who is reading, but it was one of those games.
“There was no benefit to us for it to be as stop-start as it was in the second half.
“Normally you put a couple or three pairs of fresh legs on and you’ll get a bit of an impact, but the game just never got off the ground.”
PORTSMOUTH: Ashdown, De Laet, Halford, Rocha, Hreidarsson, Cotterill (Kanu 69), Mullins, Hogg, Nugent, Ward (Lawrence 59), Kitson. Subs not used: Flahavan, Dickinson, Mokoena, Ciftci, Kilbey. Booked: Hogg, Kitson
MIDDLESBROUGH: Smith, McMahon, Hines, R Williams, Bennett, Robson, Bailey, Smallwood, Taylor, McDonald (Emnes 61), Lita (Zemmama 67). Subs not used: Ripley, Haas, McManus, Kink, Tavares. Booked: McMahon
Att: 16,447. Ref: Phil Crossley (Kent)