Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis believes Aston Villa will be “big favourites” for their Championship play-off games.
He was speaking after his side grabbed a 2-2 draw with a 96th minute strike by substitute Patrick Bamford. The result kept the north east club’s four-match unbeaten run intact and retained their momentum ahead of the two games against the West Midlands side. The Suffolk side’s goals came from a wonderful Freddie Sears strike in the eighth minute and a penalty by Martyn Waghorn after 83.
The visitors replied through Stewart Downing in the 71st minute and an equalizer deep into injury time from substitute Bamford in a frenetic period when Daniel Ayala had a goal disallowed for offside and chances by Bamford and Britt Assombalonga were denied by the Ipswich defence. Pulis said: “If you had given me a play-off position when I took over the football club I wouldn’t have cared who we were playing so I can’t be judgmental or care or worry about who it is.
“We have got Villa who most probably have the strongest squad in the Championship and it will be a real tough game. They will be big favourites I’m sure.”
Reflecting on the game against Ipswich, he said: “I thought it was a real good game. I thought they looked dangerous more so second half on the break than what they did first half and we had loads of opportunities and chances and never created enough shots on goal if I was going to be critical. But they kept going and have got good spirit.”
He claimed Ayala was onside when he put the ball in the net towards the end and added: “He is in an onside position when it comes off the bar and he taps it in. He shouldn’t be offside.
“People make decisions and you have to get on with them. We have got more things to concern ourselves.”
Ipswich caretaker manager Bryan Klug was delighted with his team’s efforts.
He said: “They could not have given us any more. I thought the effort was fantastic.
“At the end of the day it would have been nice to win but you can’t deny that Middlesbrough played their part in a fantastic game and our goalie had to make some fantastic saves and there were blocks etc but we did at times play some good football and that was the pleasing thing.
“We asked the players to play with a bit of quality against a team who were very good and obviously Freddie scoring early was a great thing for us and obviously they got on top and we had a threat and second half.
“It was quite end to end with the majority of possession with Middlesbrough and we rode our luck at times.”