Emi Buendia was sent off as Middlesbrough picked up a deserved point at Championship leaders Norwich.
Boro will maybe feel they should have taken all three following Buendia’s 66th-minute red card, although neither side forced either keeper into any saves of note in a drab 0-0 draw.
The Canaries failed to muster a single shot on target as Mario Vrancic dragged their best chance wide early on, while Jonny Howson’s tame header was the only time the visitors really threatened.
Daniel Farke’s Norwich remain top of the tree and have a healthy seven-point lead ahead of the 3pm kick-offs, while Boro remain three points outside the play-offs.
How Boro executed the perfect plan
Neil Warnock’s Boro came with a clear gameplan to frustrate their usually free-flowing hosts and they executed it perfectly.
The only chance the Canaries managed to create from opening play in the entire game came early on and it was down to a wonderful piece of individual brilliance from Vrancic. He beat two Boro midfielders with a neat piece of skill but could only drag his shot wide from just inside the box.
Apart from that, the only sights of goal for either side in the first half came from set-pieces. Neither Dimitris Giannoulis nor Lukas Rupp could direct difficult headers on target for Norwich, while Yannick Bolasie headed well over the bar for the visitors and Dael Fry’s volley was blocked by Teemu Pukki.
The first 15 minutes of the second half saw the game open up slightly as the visitors clearly believed they could snatch a winner. But despite the endeavour from both sides, Lukas Rupp’s blocked shot was the closest either team came to testing a keeper, let alone netting an opener.
It wasn’t until just after the hour-mark that Howson’s tame header registered as the game’s first shot on target and Tim Krul had to be alert moments after that to smother a deflected Marvin Johnson shot.
Boro’s belief was strengthened on 66 minutes as Canaries playmaker Emi Buendia was sent for an early bath. He was deservedly shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on George Saville in the middle of the park.
But despite their man advantage, they couldn’t force the issue. Norwich sub Przemylsaw Placheta’s low drive across goal from a tight angle was the best chance in the final 20 minutes, not that it was ever worrying Marcus Bettinelli in the Boro goal.
Former Norwich midfielder Jonny Howson bent an effort over from range for the visitors, who saw a Paddy McNair free-kick blocked by the wall with the last kick of a game that will not live long in the memory.
Man of the match – Darnell Fisher
Handed his Middlesbrough debut barely 24 hours after completing his move from Preston, Darnell Fisher’s man-marking job on Todd Cantwell was mightily impressive.
A full-back by trade, Fisher found himself in all sorts of positions as he never let the creative midfielder out of his sight.
It is unlikely to be his usual role under Neil Warnock but it was the perfect way to start his career on Teeside.
Norwich are next in action at 6pm on Tuesday, February 2, when they travel to The Den to face Millwall, while Middlesbrough host Brentford at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday, February 6 at 3pm.