Middlesbrough remain second in the Championship table after a frustrating 0-0 draw with Ipswich dented their promotion hopes.
Having ceded top spot to Burnley on Friday night, Aitor Karanka’s side were unable to reclaim it as they failed to break down the visitors.
Jordan Rhodes came closest to a breakthrough, but the in-form striker, who had scored three goals in his previous two games, could only direct a second-half shot against the post.
Rhodes and Emilio Nsue also failed to convert decent opportunities in the first half, but while things could hardly be tighter at the top of the table, Boro will still be promoted if they win their final two games against Birmingham and Brighton.
The Teessiders played well enough in what was their penultimate home game, but were unable to break down some solid Ipswich defending.
With Nsue playing as an auxiliary right midfielder from the full-back role and Stewart Downing looking to deliver as many crosses as possible from the opposite flank, Ipswich’s back four found themselves under a great deal of aerial pressure throughout.
They coped fairly well, although Rhodes only narrowly failed to connect with a dangerous delivery from Nsue and Downing drilled a shot straight at Bartosz Bialkowski after Rhodes nodded the ball into his path.
Ben Gibson also looped a header into the Ipswich goalkeeper’s arms, but Boro should really have been celebrating a breakthrough shortly after the half-hour mark.
Gaston Ramirez’s slide-rule through ball sent Rhodes racing clear, but despite having plenty of time to pick his spot, the striker aimed his shot too close to Bialkowski, who was able to turn the ball wide of the upright.
Moments later, and it was Nsue left frustrated as he turned neatly in the area, only for his shot to deflect behind after centre-half Paul Digby threw himself to the ground to make an excellent last-ditch tackle.
Ipswich, who were without the injured Daryl Murphy, created very little all afternoon, but the effort and desire of Mick McCarthy’s side could not be questioned despite them having little to play for.
The visitors continued to frustrate their opponents in the second half, although Daniel Ayala should have done better with a 54th-minute free header that he could only direct over the crossbar from Grant Leadbitter’s corner.
With the tension in the Riverside increasing, Boro remained the dominant side and Rhodes could hardly have gone closer to a breakthrough midway through the second half.
Having received the ball from Ramirez inside the area, the Scotland international turned neatly and drilled a crisp shot against the base of the left-hand post.
David Nugent came on with eight minutes left, but directed a stoppage-time header from Adam Clayton’s cross straight at Bialkowski.
Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka insisted they remain extremely well-placed despite what proved a second-successive draw - they were held to 1-1 by Burnley four days ago.
“We have to be positive. I said a month ago that we were in a good position, and I would say that we are in an amazing position now,” Karanka said.
“We have two games to go, one at home, and we are more mature now and have a better squad (than last season). We are going to be more rested than we were today. For that reason, I have to be positive and transmit a positive message.”
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