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Ref: Robert Jones



Nothing separated the two sides as Boro registered their first clean sheet in Stoke from our previous 11 meetings. 

Tony Pulis made three changes to the side that started the draw with Derby last Saturday.

Daniel Ayala was suspended having picked up his fifth yellow of the season in that game, while Paddy McNair and Britt Assombalonga dropped to the bench.

In came Danny Batth for his first league start in a Boro shirt, Martin Braithwaite and Jordan Hugill also returning to the starting 11. 

Gary Rowett made two changes to the starting line-up from the side that started the 1-0 win away to Bristol City last Saturday. Darren Fletcher, scored on 33 that day, but was replaced on 42 and began this evening on the bench. Erik Pieters missed out altogether as in came Peter Etebo and Ryan Shawcross to captain the side.

A solitary bugler helped everyone remember the fallen from the First World War, then a respectfully-observed minute’s silence preceded the game, shortly after both sides had warm-up wearing t-shirts showing support for the victims and their families from the helicopter tragedy that struck Leicester City seven days ago.

Results earlier in the day dropped Boro to fifth, but they began this game knowing a win would take them top on goal difference ahead of Norwich who won 4-0 at Sheffield Wednesday.

An even opening brought little activity in either penalty area, until the tenth minute when smart defending from Batth prevented Benik Afobe from having a clean strike on goal.

When Aden Flint bundled over Afobe on the edge of the penalty area Boro were under pressure. A tapped free-kick set up Tom Ince whose drilled shot was deflected for the first of two corners in quick succession.

The first goalkeeper in real action was Jack Butland, twice in a few minutes as first Braithwaite, then Stewart Downing went for goal from the edge of the box. The first save was routine, the second smart as he dived away to his left.

It took another excellent block from Batth to keep City at bay, then Saido Berahino flashed a shot across the face of goal.

Half-time Stoke City 0 Boro 0

A lively start to the second half regularly saw action at both ends with respective goalkeepers kept alert.

Butland went low to grab a cross from Jonny Howson, Darren Randolph high to his left to grab a header from Shawcross.

The clearest chance of the game fell to Jordan Hugill a few minutes later when a deft touch took him away from all pursuers and set him up with a clear run through on goal. Butland stood his ground, made himself big and blocked the shot.

City had seen a lot of the ball, won corners and looked lively, but Boro were resolute and looked sharp on the break.

The introduction of Lewis Wing almost led to the opening goal as his determination set up Howson whose snapshot was saved by Butland’s legs.

Marcus Tavernier, an earlier introduction, was sent away just left of centre but blazed a shot well over as Boro looked to take all three points.

City had other ideas and a triple change on 81 minutes gave Boro plenty to think about and soon after Randolph was at full-stretch tip away a teasing cross from one of the changes, James McClean.

*Three of the lads involved this afternoon, Adam Clayton, Aden Flint and Jonny Howson, together with Dimi Konstantopoulos, are fundraising for Teesside Hospice throughout November. Read here how you can help 

City: Butland, Edwards, Williams, Martins Indi, Shawcross (Capt.), Woods, Ince, Etebo (Bojan 81), Allen, Berahino (McClean 81), Afobe (Crouch 81). Subs: Federici (gk); Clucas, Martina, Fletcher. Order of subs on 81: 1) Bojan; 2) McClean; 3) Crouch  

Boro: Randolph, Fry, Batth, Flint, Friend (Capt.), Downing (Wing 72), Clayton, Howson, Besic, Braithwaite (Tavernier 65), Hugill. Subs: Lonergan (gk), McNair, Saville, Gestede, Assombalonga.

Referee: Robert Jones. Merseyside.
Yellow cards
City Shawcross 20, foul
Boro Clayton 23, foul

Attendance: 24,553 (1,152 Boro)

Conditions Cool with a stiff breeze