JONATHAN WOODGATE was full of praise for Middlesbrough's efforts in an excellent 1-1 FA Cup third-round draw with last season's Champions League finalists Spurs - which secured a replay at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday week.
A fiftieth-minute opener from Ashley Fletcher in what looked a close offside call, with VAR not in operation at the stadium, saw Boro lead and briefly dream of a stunning fifth successive win.
But a leveller from Lucas Moura drew Spurs level 12 minutes later - yet despite late pressure, Boro held out for a deserved replay.
Woodgate, who confirmed that Marcus Browne and Marc Bola will go out on loan this month, said: "We met a team who were in the Champions League final last season and they have an incredible manager, so we knew it would be difficult.
"I thought we played well at times and had to hang on as well against a really talented bunch who caused us real problems.
"But I was so proud of my lads. This season has been difficult at times in terms of keeping their heads up. But they have stayed with it and remained confident and calm and they have got a real team spirit.
"I had got two centre midfielders playing centre back in Paddy McNair and Jonny Howson, who I thought along with Dael Fry were exceptional.
"That was real team spirit and for them to do that against a top team is very good."
It was an afternoon when Spurs badly missed the predatory nous of the injured Harry Kane and despite his side having enough chances to win the game and being on the receiving end of a controversial opener for Boro, Jose Mourinho was philosophical after the game.
He said: "It was a difficult match, a match that if one team has to win, it has to be us because of our last half hour.
"If football was about how many times you arrive in scoring positions, we would win by a huge score.
"Football's not about just arriving there as it's about the right assists, the right pass, the spin of the ball and direction of the cross. We missed so many of that. We were very dominant in the last 25-30 minutes, but we didn't capitalise. In the end 1-1 is not a disaster.
"It frustrated me to be in control of the game and to concede a goal. I know it is offside but that is football. It can happen."
Offering praise to Boro, he added: "First of all, I hope they do well. I like the club, I like the owner (Steve Gibson) and respect him a lot.
"Since (Aitor) Karanka was here, the club became even more important to me because of my connection with Karanka. Jonathan (Woodgate) and Robbie (Keane), I wish them the best."