A PROUD Jonathan Woodgate hailed his Middlesbrough players’ spirit and assurance as they matched Champions League contenders Tottenham to set up an FA Cup replay at the new White Hart Lane.

Boro threatened to pull off a huge cup shock as Ashley Fletcher fired home his fourth goal in five matches at the start of the second half, and while Lucas Moura headed home an equaliser 11 minutes later, the Teessiders withstood some frantic late Spurs pressure to secure a second shot at glory.

A replay was the least they deserved for their organisation and resolve, with Woodgate’s patched-up side matching their top-flight opponents for most of the afternoon.

Spurs finished strongly as Jose Mourinho rang the changes in the second half, but Tomas Mejias made two crucial late saves to ensure Boro’s name will be in the hat for tomorrow’s fourth-round draw.

“They are a team that were in a European final last year and who have an incredible manager in Jose Mourinho, so we knew it was going to be difficult,” said Woodgate. “I thought we played well at times. We had to hang on as well, they have some really talented players, but we caused them real problems.

“I’m so proud of my lads because this season, it has been difficult at times keeping the players’ heads up. But they’ve stayed with it, remained confident and remained calm and they’ve got a real team spirit. For them to do what they did against a top team is very good.”

Woodgate reserved special praise for Jonny Howson and Paddy McNair, with the midfield duo impressing for the second game in a row as they were pressed into emergency service at centre-half.

Howson, who has spent most of the last month playing in a central-defensive role, made a succession of crucial interceptions to deny Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son, while McNair, who played as a sweeper at the heart of the back five, looked perfectly at home in his new-look role.

“I’ve basically got two central midfielders playing centre-back in Paddy McNair and Jonny Howson, and along with Dael Fry, I thought they were exceptional,” said Woodgate. “That is real team spirit, and for them to do that against a top team is very good.

“They’re people who never knock on my door asking when they’re going to play in their best position. They’re players who are going to get on with it, putting the club first, putting the team first before anything.

“They’re both number eights really, but they’re doing an excellent job at the back. Jonny reminds me of an Italian defender how aggressive he is. Don’t forget, he was doing it against Premier League players. His reading of the game is exceptional, and because he’s got that spare man at the back, he can be that aggressive. I thought he was brilliant, but it was a brilliant performance from the whole team.”

Woodgate handed a debut to his two loan signings from Manchester City, with Patrick Roberts showing signs of promise before he was withdrawn midway through the second half and Lukas Nmecha easing his way into life at the Riverside with a 15-minute appearance from the substitutes’ bench.

At least one defensive addition is anticipated before the end of the month, but Woodgate has confirmed Marcus Browne and Marc Bola will be leaving on loan and dropped his strongest hint yet that Darren Randolph’s Boro career could also be coming to an end.

Randolph has not played since mid-November, and with Tomas Mejias’ performance yesterday having confirmed his ability to compete with Aynsley Pears for a starting spot, the Republic of Ireland international is likely to be jettisoned this month, with his former club West Ham United having made a number of inquiries since the transfer window reopened.

“I’m not sure about Darren yet,” said Woodgate. “I’ll probably know more after the game, but at the minute, not that I know of. But who knows in this game? I don’t know the situation. I know he’s here at the minute, so let’s see.”

Woodgate was more definitive on Browne and Bola, with both summer signings having been made available for a loan this month.

“I spoke to Browne two days ago and said he’d be able to go out on loan,” said the Boro boss. “I think it’s important Marcus gets games so there will be a few teams in for him. Likewise, with Marc Bola, he’ll be able to go out on loan and come back in pre-season and fight for his place.

“I think it’s important with those two that their careers don’t stagnate and they go out and play games. We’ll be watching them all the way through the season and monitoring their progress. They’re the only two at the minute, I’ll have to see what else happens in the window.”