Coventry City 0 Middlesbrough 0: Fireworks still to come as Teessiders set up second leg

In part two of the trilogy between Middlesbrough and Coventry City, pretty much all the fireworks came outside Boro's hotel the night before.

The Championship play-off semif-final first leg was far from high-octane, Boro controlling the first half then perhaps fizzling out as their unwanted wake-up call took effect.

But they weathered the storm for the second draw between these sides in a week – this one was 0-0 – to tee up the second leg on Teesside on Wednesday.

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The game's only two shots on target came from the visitors, for whom Paddy McNair was a dominant presence at centre-back against Coventry's brilliant striker Viktor Gyokeres.

THREAT: Middlesbrough's Isaiah Jones (right) takes on Coventry City wing-back Jake BidwellTHREAT: Middlesbrough's Isaiah Jones (right) takes on Coventry City wing-back Jake Bidwell
THREAT: Middlesbrough's Isaiah Jones (right) takes on Coventry City wing-back Jake Bidwell

Having played more of it than most, former Champions League midfielder Michael Carrick knows what two-legged football is all about. It is nice if you can get the job done in the opening game but more often than not the explosions come late on.

His team hit the woodwork through Chuba Akpom in the 13th minute – Ben Wilson making an excellent save – but the second half was more about weathering a storm, and they did so successfully. With late-season injuries biting in the west Midlands, they will hope to be in better shape for the decisive game of this tie.

Boro started by passing the ball around neatly – Coventry did the same – and taking the sting out of a 28,874 crowd which had been pumped up before kick-off.

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Gradually their passes became more ambitious and incisive, often from central midfield down the channels for runners.

Riley McGree popped up in the inside-right channel to cause problems as the quarter-hour approached.

Hayden Hackney played a lovely pass to pick him out and the Australian checked back to pick out Tommy Smith, only for the cross to be overhit.

A minute later it was McGree playing in Akpom, whose delicate chip was brilliantly touched onto the frame of the goal by a falling Wilson.

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Hayden Hackney played a beautiful measured ball, only for Isaiah Jones's cross to be cut out.

Alex Mowatt, taking the midfield place of Jonny Howson in a game where Dael Fry and Marcuss Forss were only fit enough for the bench and Aaron Ramsey not even for that, was the next to play Jones in, but as he closed in on the near post, the space to beat Wilson reduced, and the goalkeeper came out on top.

The best pass of the first half came from Akpom but Jones was flagged for a very tight offside decision.

Jones would not have the same influence in the second half, and made way for Forss – the first choice on the right wing before his ankle injury – midway through it.

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But Coventry did not get into the play-offs by chance and they were never likely to panic under their unflappable manager Mark Robins.

They were careful not to get dragged into pressing Boro when it did not suit them, leading to a moment at the startof the second half when the game paused for a few seconds as Smith stood with the ball at his feet, no one in red or sky blue forcing him to play it.

With McGree's lust for creativity dragging him off the left flank, they too targeted the right flank, where former Rotherham United loanee Brooke Norton-Cuffy was the wing-back.

Coventry won a number of corners down that side without being able to make the most of them.

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Ryan Giles made a good tackle when Norton-Cuffy broke and a stretching Liam Kelly was unable to put his header on target from the flag kick.

The Sky Blues varied their angles of attack more as they started the second half with another spell of pressure following Akpmo's header flicked wide at the far post from McGree's cross in the opening 90 seconds.

Mowatt had to head a ball away at a corner and throw himself in front of a Gyokeres shot. In between time Jones had to defend well at the back post to stop Gustavo Hamer getting on the end of a cross. The midielder would also dray a shot wide, and Callum Doyle's long-range effort was wild.

But in terms of saves for Zack Steffen, there were none.

It was not the display many neutrals would have been hoping for as they watched from their sofas but one senses there is still a big bang – or two – to come.

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Coventry City: Wilson; McNally, McFadzean, Doyle; Norton-Cuffy, Hamer, Kelly, Eccles (Allen 66), Bidwell; Godden, Gyokeres.

Unused substitutes: Moore, Panzo, Wilson-Esbrand, Sheaf, Maguire, Dabo.

Middlesbrough: Steffen; Smith, McNair, Lenihan, Giles; Hackney, Mowatt; Jones (Forss 68), Akpom, McGree; Archer (Crooks 83).

Unused substitutes: Fry, Barlaser, Dijksteel, Roberts, Bola.

Referee: R Madley (Huddersfield).