Boro were denied at the last in unfortunate circumstances against Brighton in the FA Cup. Here's how the media viewed Saturday's game...
But to just reflect on Saturday’s exit at the hands of Brighton as another defeat would be unfair. Middlesbrough, for the majority of the game anyway, looked more organised and passed the ball around better than their top-flight opponents. For a side that leaked goals all too often under Garry Monk, Pulis has tightened things up and the confidence is flowing through the defence again. What he must come up with is a way of getting his players creating more at the Riverside, having seen them score six goals in their last two away dates.
The hosts fashioned the better the few openings, only for both sides to be let down by ineffectual finishing, as Middlesbrough failed to exploit a seventh successive home draw in the competition. “We didn’t take our chances,” reflected Tony Pulis, who has won just one of his four home games at the outset of his reign. He added: “Then lady luck didn’t shine on us.” The woodwork came to Brighton’s rescue when, midway through the first half, goalkeeper Tim Krul applied the slightest of touches to divert Adama Traore’s shot on to a post at the culmination of a 70-yard counter-attack. Patrick Bamford, who failed to take a rare opportunity to impress Pulis, had earlier gone close with an overhead kick which landed on the roof of the net, while Daniel Ayala should have put his side ahead when he headed Martin Braithwaite’s corner straight at Krul.
Boro’s Adama Traore tried his best to liven a staid affair but the winger’s trickery was at odds with the rest of a game which, at times, had the feel of a pre-season friendly. Indeed, Brighton only showed ambition to win it in the last 10 minutes, such was their desire not to add another fixture to their calendar.
Traore has matured and was their most adroit performer against superior opponents on Saturday. He knows when to run, when to check, when to flick the ball around defenders, when to hold it. He is still not complete, not yet fully polished, but they have a player on their hands at the Riverside Stadium.
It has been quite a week for Glenn Murray. Fresh from his arrest, and subsequent release, on suspicion of involvement in £1.1m tax fraud, the Brighton striker stepped off the bench to earn Chris Hughton’s side a slightly undeserved FA Cup fifth-round passage. A tie dominated by Middlesbrough and their winger Adama Traoré seemed destined for an unwanted replay when George Friend’s attempt to clear Marcus Suttner’s cross prefaced the ball cannoning on to Murray’s knee before flying past a wrong-footed Darren Randolph.
Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis was keen to focus on the positives after a game where he could have been forgiven for cursing his side’s misfortune. Boro were knocked out of the FA Cup at the Riverside following a 90th-minute winner from Brighton substitute Glenn Murray - which ricocheted into the net off the striker’s thigh following George Friend’s attempted clearance. The hosts also lost key defender Danial Ayala to a groin injury midway through the second half, in a game where they created the better chances and the lively Adama Traore saw an effort tipped onto the post by visiting goalkeeper Tim Krul. Still, one month on from his appointment, Pulis has been encouraged by what he’s seen so far.
If Murray was Brighton's match-winner, he did not know a great deal about it. It came as he and George Friend closed on Markus Suttner's 90th-minute cross with the defender getting there first, but blasting the ball against the striker and looking on in horror as it cannoned into his own net. It was hard luck on Boro, who had hit the post through Adama Traore during an impressive first-half display, although the visitors were much-improved after the break.