Tony Pulis plans to make changes to Middlesbrough squad in January

Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson (left) and Middlesbrough's George Friend
Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson (left) and Middlesbrough's George Friend
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Steve Bruce was delighted to get one over on old friend Tony Pulis after watching Aston Villa leave Middlesbrough with three points.

Pulis cut a frustrated figure in the technical area as his first official game in charge of Middlesbrough ended in a 1-0 Sky Bet Championship defeat on Teesside.

Robert Snodgrass headed in the only goal with quarter of an hour remaining to leave Boro disappointed and three points adrift of a play-off spot.

Bruce said: “We’ve been in management a long, long time and for years we’ve been competing against each other. He’s a very good appointment, he knows what to do, how to get teams promoted – and he’s a good man, too.”

Pulis only took over on Boxing Day and revealed he could be offloading players next month to help with his selection dilemmas.

Pulis explained: “I thought Villa did well, they played with a back four and five in front and never let us get in behind.

“I wanted to play with two forwards, see what Rudy Gestede and Britt Assombalonga were like together with Stewart Downing and Martin Braithwaite – and the quality they’ve got you’d hope we’d create opportunities.

“I just thought we were very, very slow at times. We needed to move the ball quicker and Adama Traore when he came on livened it up.

“He carried the ball and he livened the crowd, which is important in home games. He was definitely a plus.”

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson ,Friend, Downing, Howson, Leadbitter, Braithwaite (Traore 57), Assombalonga (Fletcher 79), Gestede (Bamford 69). Unused substitutes: Konstantopoulos, Guedioura, Christie, Baker.

Aston Villa: Johnstone, Elmohamady, Elphick, Chester, Hutton, Jedinak, Snodgrass, Onomah (Grealish 37), Hourihane, Adomah (Bjarnason 90), Hogan (Hepburn-Murphy 75). Unused substitutes: Steer, Bree, Doyle-Hayes, O’Hare.

Referee: A Madley (West Yorkshire).