‘It’s now an eight-game season,’ says Middlesbrough chief Tony Pulis

Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis claimed it was a familiar tale of failing to take any of the numerous chances that came his side’s way.

On the ball: Norwich City's Teemu Pukki chases Middlesbrough's Paddy McNair.

Onel Hernandez’s 54th-minute strike, his seventh league goal of the season, earned in-form pacesetters Norwich a seventh successive victory and left them five points clear of Leeds and seven ahead of third-placed Sheffield United.

Being blunt in front of goal has hampered Boro all season and they have lost four games in a row to drop to eighth.

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Boro have scored the fewest number of goals in the top half of the Championship – 40 in 38 matches – and Pulis said: “It was a very good opening 45 minutes and we had very good opportunities to score. We need to finish the chances we are creating and we have been saying that since I came here.

“Goals change games but when we get opportunities we don’t put them away.

“We came back into it and we had three great opportunities to scorebut didn’t.”

Boro will aim to bounce back from when they face fellow play-off hopefuls Bristol City tomorrow. Pulis added: “The big thing is we dropped our heads when they scored and we can’t do that. It’s now an eight-game season and if we win on Tuesday we go back into the top six and players have to relish the challenge.

“We have to really really hope and pray things start to drop for us. Let’s bring it on and I hope the players feel the same as me. It is there for us and we have to make sure we graft.”

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Ayala (Downing 60), Flint, Fry, Shotton (Hugill 87), Clayton (Besic 72), Mikel, Friend, Fletcher, Howson, Assombalonga. Unused substitutes: Konstantopoulos, McNair, Saville, Tavernier.

Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Zimmermann, Godfrey, Lewis, Trybull, McLean, Emi, Stiepermann (Vrancic 84), Hernandez (Klose 90), Pukki. Unused substitutes: Leitner, Rhodes, Hanley, McGovern, Cantwell.

Referee: D Coote (Nottinghamshire).