IF Middlesbrough are going to go up this season then keeping things tight at the back in a typical Tony Pulis way is going to be the key.

And after a seventh clean sheet from nine matches in the Championship this season, the Boro boss has proof that he is clearly getting his ideas across.

A goalless draw with Swansea City at the Riverside Stadium might not have been the perfect result for the team or the fans who had turned up to watch, but it provided further evidence of the Pulis effect.

No matter what formation or system Middlesbrough play with, the former West Brom manager has his team organised, disciplined and they don’t look like conceding.

Even though Swansea had plenty of the ball and Middlesbrough didn’t hit top gear in an attacking sense, there was never any real danger to Darren Randolph’s goal and keeping the opposition at bay again was made to look easy.

Middlesbrough are yet to concede at the Riverside in the league this season, and have won four of those five games which has helped them to climb level on points with Leeds United in the promotion race.

The way they are going they will be pushing the record of 22 clean sheets when they last went up under Aitor Karanka in 2016; the year that Dimi Konstantopoulos also went on a record-busting nine-match run of recording a shut-out.

Randolph said: “Most teams can go up if they get 20 odd clean sheets. For any kind of success in football you need to stop the ball from going in. You then have to put it in at the other end. It sounds simple. Concede the fewest amount in the league is the aim.

“I don’t think about keeping clean sheets. Clean sheets seem to be falling for me. I can guarantee it will happen all 46 games. We will take it when we can.

“There is a lot going on with the team that stops a lot of the attacks and I am not having much to do in many games. The boys in front are cancelling out many threats.”

Randolph hardly had anything to do on Saturday. During the first half there was a routine stop from Oli McBurnie’s header and then the Ireland goalkeeper somehow instinctively stopped Martin Olsson from heading inside his near post.

Other than those, though, it was about showing good handling and communication with those in front of him and he did so, while the Middlesbrough defence stood up to the challenge of keeping seven-goal McBurnie and Wayne Routledge quiet.

Those chances arrived in the opening 20 minutes of the first half when it looked like Middlesbrough would be in for an even tougher afternoon.

Pulis, who did see Erwin Mulder make a strong save from Stewart Downing’s distance drive during that period, spotted that Swansea were enjoying the game too much so he switch things.

The Middlesbrough boss switched to a three at the back, with Stewart Downing moving to left-wing-back and George Friend moved inside as part of the three. From that moment the home side looked stronger for the rest of the half.

George Saville clipped the crossbar from 25 yards soon after, while Britt Assombalonga almost marked his return to the side when Mulder had to deny his volley at the back post from going in.

Those were the best chances of the game. Middlesbrough did bits and bobs after the restart without finding the sort of quality required to get the job done properly. Swansea, though, never looked like finding the net and that was testament to another effective defensive display since the departure of Ben Gibson to Burnley for £15m.

“You need a squad and we have got one,” said Randolph. “We could probably put out two different 11s. It was sad to see Gibbo go but others have stepped in and been brilliant. We keep on going. I think the boys can step in and fill positions.

“We do have a big defence, but most centre halves are. It is a perception people have when you see Aden Flint and the rest. It helps us. It makes teams think twice about throwing it into the box and causing us problems at corners free-kicks and long throws. Maybe mentally it gives us an edge because they start panicking.”

And there certainly will not be any sleep lost over failing to pick up three points.

Randolph said: “You can’t win every game. I don’t know a team who has won every game they have played. We are at the top of the league, at home teams will not come here and roll over. The Championship is not that kind of league. It is only going to get harder.”