TONY PULIS is determined to keep Middlesbrough in the Championship’s top six after edging the battle with predecessor Garry Monk at St Andrew’s – even if it means winning ugly more often in the run-in.

Boro reclaimed a play-off spot courtesy of Patrick Bamford’s seventh goal in his last four matches with six minutes remaining of the first half at Birmingham City.

The victory was achieved despite having to come up against a set of Birmingham players clearly intent on performing for Monk after his appointment on Sunday night.

Monk would clearly have liked to have started life at St Andrew’s – 73 days after losing his job at the Riverside – with a better result, but Middlesbrough had to work hard and struggled to create chances themselves.

Asked if the Monk factor will have come into his players’ thinking, Pulis replied: “I would hope not, they are my players now.”

Pulis was more satisfied with the way his team ground out the result without playing particularly well, having gone into the game by scoring three goals in each of their last three matches.

He said: “The first half we played OK, we got Jonny Howson and Mo Besic in a couple of times, but lacked that finish.

“Patrick gets the goal, which I am delighted about again. The second half it became a scrappy game. I never thought there was a time when they would score, but the lads remained resilient and pretty well set up.

“The new manager has taken over this club and it was against the last manager from when I walked through the door at Middlesbrough, so there was bound to be a bounce from the new manager. It was going to be tough. So I am delighted with the result.”

Middlesbrough are sixth going into this Saturday‘s visit of Barnsley to the Riverside, where Pulis will be looking for the four match unbeaten run – three wins – to continue.

He said: “We have to maintain this, the clean sheets, and we had scored nine goals in three games before this, so we have been potent going forward.

“We had opportunities, Stewart Downing missed a good chance first half, and clean sheets win you games, we have had to dig it out. Tonight we had to and we did it.

“There are ten games to go, 30 points to play for, and we mustn’t take our foot off the pedal. People have to understand that. There are no easy games. We will be tested after tonight.”

Monk lost his job with Middlesbrough sitting three points outside the play-offs in December following the win at Sheffield Wednesday; Pulis took over three days later.

The 39-year-old is now faced with the challenge of keeping Birmingham in the Championship, knowing they have played a game more and are two points shy of Barnsley sitting just outside the bottom three.

Monk, who won 12 of his 26 matches in charge of Middlesbrough and lost nine, said: “I'm very focused on Birmingham, I have seen a few faces but my focus now is only on Birmingham and the job I have to do here."

He added: “Tonight we limited their threats really well, unfortunate with the goal. We dominated the second half, tried to force the equaliser but I was very happy with the commitment and passion they showed.

“It reminds me a little here of when I was at Leeds, they are a group who can improve. It’s definitely a team who can improve and that is why I have come here.

“We deserved something. As often happens. We were very unlucky with the goal. We limited a very good side.”