Stoke 0-0 Middlesbrough: Boro miss chance to return to Championship summit

Stoke denied Middlesbrough the chance to return to the top of the Sky Bet Championship as they held Tony Pulis’ side to a 0-0 draw at the bet365 Stadium.

Boro – who boast the best defence in the EFL – were put through their paces by Gary Rowett’s men and had on-loan defender Danny Batth to thank for a series of crucial blocks.

Martin Braithwaite spurned a number of chances when he opted to strike from range and Potters ‘keeper Jack Butland made two smart saves after the break to preserve his clean sheet.

Player ratings

Stoke: Butland (7), Edwards (7), Williams (6), Shawcross (6), Martins Indi (6), Woods (6), Allen (6), Etebo (7), Ince (5), Afobe (5), Berahino (6)

Subs: Bojan (n/a), Crouch (n/a), McClean (n/a)

Middlesbrough: Randolph (6), Fry (6), Batth (9), Flint (6), Downing (5), Clayton (6), Howson (6), Besic (6), Friend (6), Braithwaite (5), Hugill (6)

Subs: Tavernier (5), Wing (n/a)

Man of the match: Danny Batth

Stoke’s sixth draw of the season leaves them 15th in table and six points off the play-offs while Boro are two points behind new leaders Norwich after 16 games.

Ex-Stoke boss Tony Pulis had never lost in seven meetings with his former employers, yet it was hosts who could have taken the lead on a number of occasions, were it not for the intervention of Batth.

Early on, he avoided conceding a corner despite turning Benik Afobe’s shot over the bar, while on the half-hour mark his brave block denied Saido Berahino, who had robbed Aden Flint on the edge of the area.

The Potters restricted their opponents to just one meaningful effort in the first half, though Stewart Downing swerving effort was powerfully beaten away by Butland.

After the break the game remained finely poised and Batth soon made his presence known once more as he put his body on the line to clear when Berahino had cushioned a header into space 12 yards out.

Team news

Gary Rowett made two changes from the side that beat Bristol City last time out, with Ryan Shawcross and Peter Etebo taking their places in the starting 11, in place of injured pair Darren Fletcher and Erik Pieters.

Tony Pulis rung the changes despite Boro’s midweek Carabao Cup win over Crystal Palace, with Danny Batth, George Friend, Martin Braithwaite and Jordan Hugill remaining as the sole survivors.

Stoke had a man mountain of their own to thank for keeping the scores level as Butland well from both Jordan Hugill and Jonny Howson.

But though Peter Crouch, Bojan and James McClean entered the fray in a late triple change, both defences held firm and their toils were rewarded with a point apiece.

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