BEATEN but not bowed, Jonathan Woodgate praised his Middlesbrough players’ resilience as their FA Cup hopes were dashed by a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham.

Boro looked to be heading for a hiding when early errors from Tomas Mejias and Jonny Howson resulted in goals for Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela.

However, the Teessiders dug deep to repel a series of Tottenham attacks and threatened to take the game to extra-time when George Saville fired home with seven minutes left.

In the end, Woodgate’s side were unable to claim an equaliser, but having feared the worst in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, the Boro head coach was left feeling proud of his players’ efforts.

“I don’t like losing, and if you gift Tottenham two goals like that then it’s going to be difficult,” said Woodgate. “But I tell you what, my players showed fight, desire and hunger because you go 2-0 down and you are thinking the worst.

“My players don’t give up, they kept on going right until the end. They kept pressing high up the pitch and, okay, at times they broke us down with some really good play. But I’m proud of them.

“Like I say, I don’t like getting beat, but if you get beat going down with a fight then that’s no problem at all. My players showed that today.”

In Woodgate’s first few months in charge, his side tended to fold at the first sign of distress. They are much more resilient now, so while Spurs continued to dominate possession after Lamela doubled their lead, they rarely looked like inflicting further damage.

If anything, it was Boro who shaded the second half, with Saville’s late strike a deserved reward for their character and effort.

“They’ve put up a fight haven’t they and they’ve given as good as they’ve got,” said Woodgate. “Spurs hit us with a few punches, we ducked and dived a bit, came off the canvas a couple of times but we really fought, we really worked hard and I’m ever so proud of them because it could have gone a bit pear-shaped after we went 2-0 down but they stuck with it.

“If you give a Premier League team chances like that through your own mistakes then it’s going to be difficult, but we stuck in there and I’m proud of them.”

Woodgate blooded yet another of his youngsters last night, with Ben Liddle making his first senior start as part of a midfield three.

The Durham-born midfielder did not look out of place before he was replaced shortly before the hour mark, with Woodgate delighted with his display.

“I had no problem in putting Ben in the team, he deserved his chance and it was a difficult game to come in,” he said. “But I had no nerves before the game putting him in, he deserves his chance.”

Woodgate was similarly supportive of Mejias, even though the goalkeeper’s misplaced pass enabled Lo Celso to open the scoring after just two minutes.

“We all make mistakes,” he said. “I’m not going to start berating him because we all make mistakes. What he did was he kept on going until the end and he still kept on playing even though he made a mistake. Mistakes happen in football - I’m not going to crucify my players for that.”

Mejias’ importance will increase if Darren Randolph completes his protracted £4m move to West Ham, and Woodgate expects the Irishman’s future to be decided in the next 24 hours.

West Ham continue to harbour concerns about the state of Randolph’s thigh, but their need for a new goalkeeper increased when Lukasz Fabianski sustained an injury of his own at Sheffield United on Friday night.

“He’s still having the longest medical in history,” said Woodgate. “He’ll have another scan and we’ll know more in the next 24 hours.

“I get on with it. Darren’s a top pro, an absolutely top-class pro, and if he goes to West Ham, good luck and I wish him all the best. If he stays here, he’ll be fantastic.”