TONY PULIS knows exactly how he wants Middlesbrough to play and now the players he inherited, as well as the club’s supporters inside the Riverside Stadium for his first game in charge, are a little clearer too.

After months of watching Garry Monk appear more calm and collected in his technical area, perhaps reflected by a team struggling for inspiration in the first half of the campaign, his successor was a lot more animated on match day one of his reign.

With every misplaced pass there was a turn in frustration as he watched the action unfold during the defeat to Aston Villa; a lack of intensity in the press seemed to get a verbal from the frustrated man in the cap on the touchline; and every time there was a lack of movement in the final third Britt Assombalonga seemed to get an earful.

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Assombalonga was not the only one, and it was refreshing to see. For the last couple of years Middlesbrough’s patient build ups could have done with more passion on the touchlines, particularly this season.

Touchline antics don’t necessarily make a good manager, but Pulis’ track record highlights he knows how to get results and to set a team up to get performances. It might not have worked against Villa, after just a few days in charge, but the early signs were there to indicate what he wants.

Steve Bruce, the Aston Villa boss, was certainly prepared for it. He said: “We knew we’d have to defend our box well and I think we did just that. Our defenders dealt with Middlesbrough’s physicality, they must have had seven players who were six feet four so we had to stand up to the challenge.”

It was certainly a sign of things to come. As soon as the teamsheet had been confirmed Middlesbrough’s line-up had a touch of Pulis about it.

For a manager who loves powerful defences, often playing with centre-backs as full-backs, he asked Ryan Shotton to play on the right instead of regular starter Cyrus Christie.

Shotton’s long throw into the box, his first arrived inside two minutes, is clearly going to be used by Pulis, just as he would tend to ask Rory Delap to throw into the area during his time at Stoke.

Target-man Rudy Gestede, back in the side at the first opportunity under the new boss, is obviously seen as someone with the aerial ability to benefit from Shotton’s throw, even if on this occasion Middlesbrough never really threatened Sam Johnstone in the Villa goal enough.

There was a straight-forward 4-4-2 and Stewart Downing, who Pulis has tried to sign twice, was used as a traditional winger and, after a decent cameo, Adama Traore on the opposite flank could certainly have worked his way into the manager’s plans for today’s trip to Preston.

Pulis said: “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 Gestede and Assombalonga were like together with Downing and Braithwaite and the quality they’ve got you’d hope we’d create opportunities.

“But I just thought we were very, very slow at times. We needed to move the ball quicker and Adama 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.”

Despite the change of manager, Middlesbrough were very pedestrian at times. They seemed happy just to keep the ball and retain possession rather than look for the quick pass forward and that seemed to infuriate Pulis.

Time and again he would try to get his frustrations across to his players, seeking improvements.

He is unlikely to get his team playing how he wants overnight, particularly with a lack of time on the training ground because of the number of fixtures over the festive period, but Middlesbrough’s players should be a lot clearer in their minds about what his demands are.

Downing, busy throughout the afternoon, said: “It’s difficult for him as well as us because the games come thick and fast. We have another game Monday so we couldn’t really do much on Sunday either.

“It will take time to get his ideas across. We have to do our bit. Bit by bit he will put his own stamp on the team. He would have wanted to win in his first game but he knows he has good players to work with here and we will get there.”

Neither side were completely in control but the tight affair did see Aston Villa create the better chances. They could have been ahead in the first half when Darren Randolph had to stop Albert Adomah’s effort when Ben Gibson had gifted him possession.

Randolph had also had to get down low to turn behind a low effort from Jack Grealish in the second half before Snodgrass hit the winner. Adomah, the man who effectively swapped places with Traore at Villa Park in the summer of last year, sent over a brilliant cross and Snodgrass was allowed to run in and dive to head into the bottom corner.

After that Traore’s speed and presence caused a few problems but nowhere near enough. Johnstone hardly had anything to do because of how well Aston Villa did to keep the home side at bay to end a run of five matches in December without a win.

Downing said: “They had the one bit of quality and scored. We kept their players fairly quiet but they got that goal. It was a difficult game to play in, a frantic first half. It’s fine margins against the big teams in this division.

“Albert has dinked it in and we haven’t defended it properly, but that was nit-picking because I thought we defended quite well and Darren didn’t have much to do either.

“There are a lot of positives still. They got the luck. We move on and the best way to bounce back is to win the game at Preston. There are a lot of games still to play and we can get back in there.”

After a ten-year absence from life in the Championship, Pulis would have preferred to have enjoyed a much sweeter reminder of how tough it is going to be. But nobody every said it was going to be easy to reive Middlesbrough’s chances of promotion.

Pulis, whose last managerial outing in the second tier was a goalless draw between Stoke and Leicester in May 2008, said: “One thing I remember is that you’ve got to turn up for every game. I can’t remember an easy game when we got promoted that year with Stoke – and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be like that again.”