Rotherham manager Paul Warne claimed his side’s first away point of the season had been coming, and insists he was not surprised to see his players hold Sky Bet Championship leaders Middlesbrough to a goalless draw at the Riverside.
The Millers had suffered seven successive away defeats in all competitions prior to their trip to Teesside, but were rarely troubled as they became the third team in a row to claim a clean sheet at Boro’s home ground.
Marek Rodak made a fine first-half save to prevent Martin Braithwaite from converting Jonny Howson’s through ball, but while Middlesbrough dominated possession and delivered plenty of balls into the box, Rotherham’s back-line rarely looked like being breached.
Warne said: “We’ve actually started the season really well and I think we’ve deserved another six or eight points, which might surprise people. We’ve certainly been better than the league position suggests.
“Still, to come to the team at the top of table and keep a clean sheet and have a go, we’re really pleased. We also had chances ourselves to score.
“Middlesbrough are a great side who will go on and do really well. But I just thought we defended really well. I said to the lads we didn’t mind them going wide, we didn’t mind defending crosses. I asked the centre-halves to be men and they were.
“We dealt with crosses really well, we defended set-pieces really well, we were a threat ourselves. We didn’t get cut open in open play and we had a good chance in the first half when the keeper did well coming off his line.
“That’s not a criticism of Middlesbrough, it’s praise for our lads. I asked them to double team a lot and then if they switch the ball there’s trouble, but the physical efforts my team put in made it hard for them to score a goal.”
Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis admitted his side lacked a cutting edge as they extended their goalless run at the Riverside to four-and-a-half hours.
Braithwaite should have done better when he shot at Rodak before the break, and Britt Assombalonga wasted a couple of decent second-half openings when he was well-placed in the box.
Still, to come to the team at the top of table and keep a clean sheet and have a go, we’re really pleased. We also had chances ourselves to score.Paul Warne
Pulis has spent most of his Riverside reign bemoaning his side’s lack of success in front of goal, and he freely admits a lack of a cutting edge could begin to become costly.
Pulis said: “Again, we’ve had enough opportunities and chances. We talked about it before the game, but we needed to score a goal. We got chances nice and early on, but you need to take those chances.
“We’ve had a couple of clear-cut chances that, at this level, you have to take. If you take the chances, then it’s a completely different game.
“They’ve (Rotherham) done smashing. They’ve come here and sat in behind the ball and they used their big striker well. But we have to break things down. When we get our opportunities and chances, we have to make sure we take them. That’s what we didn’t do again tonight.
“It’s been the same since I came into the football club. I can remember playing exceptionally well in the first four or five games, but not taking the opportunities.
“I’ll never forget the Fulham game where we got beat 1-0 with a last-minute penalty and missed chance after chance after chance. We’ve got to be sharper in the final third.”