BEFORE the travelling contingent of Middlesbrough fans had Storm Aileen to negotiate on the way home from Villa Park last night, Garry Monk and his players had their own challenge to overcome inside the famous old ground.

Courtesy of some incredible defending and resilience, coupled with some lady luck along the way, Boro headed back to the North-East with a hard-earned point against an Aston Villa side in desperate need of delivering three points for their own supporters.

Monk and Middlesbrough’s fans must have feared the worst when Adama Traore’s rush of blood on his first return to the club who sold him in the summer of last year earned him an early walk to the dressing room.

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That walk took place inside four minutes of the game kicking off, and the Villa fans had hardly had any time to boo him when he charged over to block a long ball from Connor Hourihane.

Given the sodden conditions – apparently the south tip of the UK’s first storm of the season – Traore’s needless dive deep in the Villa half and near the touchline saw his trailing leg and body wipe out the Irish midfielder.

It was enough for the officials, standing close by, to dish out the red card, just days after he showed all of his brilliance to help secure a victory over Bolton.

From that moment on Middlesbrough had to dig deep and they did. They battled away to keep out Aston Villa and keep a clean sheet, even after Steve Bruce saw his own midfielder Henri Lansbury stupidly dismissed in the 64th minute too.

Steve Bruce’s side had the best of the chances, but a combination of excellent goalkeeping, last-ditch defending and a slice of good old luck ensured Middlesbrough’s fifth clean sheet in seven games secured a well-earned draw away from home.

Given how early Traore’s dismissal happened, it completely changed how Middlesbrough approached things so a point was gratefully received.

Not only did they only have ten men for more than 86 minutes, Monk had to immediately reshape the system that had served him so well at Bolton three days earlier.

Having not made a single change to the side that brushed the Trotters aside with relative ease, the Middlesbrough boss suddenly found himself having to break up the system.

Rather than see Lewis Baker stay in the No 10 role, the Chelsea loan man was asked to move to the right to form a four-man midfield with Britt Assombalonga leading the line on his own.

Before that Middlesbrough had already looked confident in the final third. Baker had seen a free-kick deflect wide for a corner and Ben Gibson’s back post header had to be turned away by goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

But Traore’s needless lunge on Hourihane near the touchline deep in the Villa half, even if he was attempting to block a long ball into the Middlesbrough half, changed all that. Referee James Linington and his assistant, standing close by, deemed it was dangerous enough to warrant the red.

At first Villa struggled to make inroads to the Middlesbrough box. Darren Randolph, in the visitors’ goal, was not tested until 20 minutes after the game changing early decision. He soon found himself busier after that though.

After saving a low drive from Rob Snodgrass, there was an effort from distance which flew over the bar from Hourihane before the six yard box of Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper became more threatened.

The best two chances before the break saw Randolph get down low to stop a flick from Lansbury from Neil Taylor’s chip in behind the defence.

Snodgrass floated over a cross to the back post over the head of Randolph and Icelandic midfielder Birkir Bjarnason could only head over the bar from close range under close attention from Cyrus Christie.

Christie’s presence to distract effectively summed up the first half, with the shorthanded Middlesbrough showing resilience to keep Aston Villa at bay. Even though the Villans have struggled to get going so far this season, they still have the quality to cause problems.

On the only occasion Middlesbrough went close to scoring after Traore had left the field, Johnstone – who was under consideration by Middlesbrough this summer – tipped over a header from Assombalonga. In the end he was deemed to be offside anyway.

Villa knew something had to change, so Bruce introduced Scott Hogan and former Middlesbrough winger Albert Adomah for the second half. Monk had his own ideas, though, and asked Marvin Johnson to use his pace on the counter, so replaced Stewart Downing.

After a bright start from Middlesbrough, Adomah was soon involved. Home supporters had hoped to see him from the start and his pace got him into a position to deliver a cross, Randolph palmed it away but only as far as Snodgrass who hammered a rebound against the bar.

Middlesbrough defended strongly, though. Every time Villa attacked, they found the visiting defence in no mood to concede and they protected Randolph’s goal. So when things were evened up in terms of numbers with 27 minutes remaining, the away fans suddenly sensed a victory could be on the cards.

Lansbury was just as stupid as Traore. As Johnson countered through the middle, the former Nottingham Forest midfielder hacked at the £2.5m man from behind and then suddenly Villa had lost the extra man advantage.

But it was Villa who pressed the most, with Jonathan Kodija’s introduction key. Last season’s top scorer thought he had scored when his back post header was somehow saved by Randolph.

There was an even greater escape from the rebound. Hourihane’s first time half volley was on its way to the net when it was prevented from finding it by Villa’s very own Hogan on the line.

During the last quarter of the match Middlesbrough struggled to get out of their own half as Villa pressed. There was a desire and determination, though, to grind out a result and Monk’s men held on to return home satisfied.