MIDDLESBROUGH are struggling for goals, particularly away from home, but they could have snatched a draw against high-flying Tottenham Hotspur.
Alvaro Negredo and Marten de Roon both went close late on, leaving striker Patrick Bamford to lament: “We had a couple of chances at the end.
“We had done so well to hang in there, we could have got a draw.
“If you looked at the boys in the second half they were all absolutely knackered. That was testament to how much running we were doing, but also how well Spurs kept the ball.
“The lads can take a lot from playing a top team like Spurs and almost coming away with something and we probably even should have.”
Harry Kane’s second-half penalty was enough to steer Tottenham three points clear of the Gunners and four ahead of Liverpool, who they play at Anfield on Saturday.
Middlesbrough, meanwhile, stay 15th and one point above the relegation zone, having failed to win any of their last seven league matches.
Their situation appears also to have become more urgent after Hull City and Sunderland both registered impressive wins over Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively earlier on Saturday.
“We have to think about ourselves,” said Boro head coach Aitor Karanka.
“We need to know that we are good enough to stay in the division, we have to forget the opponents and we have to be confident because the attitude and commitment the players put on the pitch every single day is amazing.”
Toby Alderweireld said Tottenham had been spurred on to beat Boro in Saturday’s evening game after seeing their title rivals drop points earlier in the day.
Arsenal’s defeat to table-topping Chelsea as well as the surprise loss for Liverpool against Hull allowed Spurs to move nine points behind the leaders with this win at White Hart Lane.
“You are always hungry before a game at the Lane, but other results gave us the feeling we could get more points than our opponents so it was important to get the three points, especially with Liverpool away being our next game,” said Alderweireld.
Liverpool have won only once in their last 10 matches.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Davies, Dembele, Wanyama, Eriksen, Alli (Winks 88), Son (Sissoko 81), Kane (Janssen 90). Unused substitutes: Vorm, Onomah, Wimmer, Carter-Vickers.
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Chambers, Bernardo, Gibson, Da Silva, de Roon, Clayton, Forshaw (Guedioura 62), Traore (Bamford 79), Negredo, Downing (Stuani 62). Unused substitutes: Ayala, Leadbitter, Guzan, Gestede.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).