STOKE CITY chalked up a fourth clean sheet in six matches on Saturday evening but were forced to settle for a point against high-flying Middlesbrough at the bet365 Stadium.
The Potters came into the fixture having lost just one of their previous six encounters and on the back of an impressive 1-0 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate seven days earlier.
However, they weren’t quite able to follow that up with a triumph on home soil as Tony Pulis’ men maintained their reputation as being the toughest nut in the Championship to crack.
No side boasts a better defensive record in the Football League than Boro, having shipped just eight goals in league fixtures in 2018/19.
Whilst the home side started quickest off the blocks, there was always the likelihood of the incredibly blustery weather conditions impacting the game as a spectacle.
That said there were some real moments of quality, more sop from the home side, although the Potters didn’t quite have the panache to find a way through the Middlesbrough rearguard.
Saido Berahino, clearly relishing his run in the starting line-up, flashed two long-range strikes inches wide of Darren Randolph’s goal as he continued to impress with his tenacity and quality out on the left.
Academy graduate Tom Edwards was impressing once again, with his outstanding deliveries from the right-flank causing no end of issues to the likes of Aden Flint and Dael Fry.
DR Congo international Benik Afobe will feel aggrieved not to have fared better from 12-yards after being cleverly picked out by Tom Ince, although, his hesitancy in pulling the trigger enabled Flint to track back and divert his seemingly goal-bound drive over the crossbar.
Whilst City largely controlled the opening period, the second half was a far more balanced affair with Potters number one Jack Butland undoubtedly the busier of the two ‘keepers on show.
He had to be at his best to deny Adam Clayton from distance whilst he produced a far more impressive stop to deny former Preston North End striker Jordan Hugill, who managed to break through a stubborn City backline.
Butland’s second half work wasn’t finished there neither as he was forced into another smart save with 20 minutes remaining, denying on-loan Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Danny Batth, whose snapshot looked destined to ripple the back of the net.
The Potters, including skipper Ryan Shawcross and Peter Etebo - both of whom were welcomed back into the XI prior to kick-off, had late chances of their own to fashion a winner.
Shawcross saw a header well saved by Randolph, before substitute James McClean very nearly inadvertently stole all three points late on with a cross that very nearly caught out Boro stopper Randolph.