West Brom 0 Middlesbrough 0
An afternoon full of frustration ended with the predictable sound of boos at the final whistle as the desperate need for new signings at West Brom was laid bare. Tony Pulis looked as exasperated as the home support, who endured 90 minutes of tedious action in a game where both teams were lucky to get nil.
Albion, who have completed only one permanent transfer this summer, were woeful as an attacking force. There was no creativity or spark and they looked totally devoid of ideas as to how to break down Middlesbrough.
Saido Berahino started on the bench and the reaction to his introduction in the second half – a chorus of boos – suggested that the Albion fans would have been happy for him to remain there. Berahino could not get off the pitch quickly enough at the final whistle.
The only bright note for Albion was the performance of the 18-year-old Sam Field, who looked composed in possession on his full Premier League debut and left the field to deserved applause when he was withdrawn with just under quarter of an hour remaining.
As for Middlesbrough, this will probably be viewed as a useful point, although Aitor Karanka’s team may feel that it could have been more if they had played with a bit more conviction.
Albion actually started reasonably brightly, with James McClean lively on the left flank – Antonio Barragan's well-timed tackle brought one promising run to an end and Brad Guzan smothered at the winger's feet after a fine pass from Darren Fletcher – yet the game soon slipped into a lull.
It was painful to watch at times and for a long period in the first half it felt as though nothing happened. Middlesbrough were dominating possession during that period but the neat and tidy passing at the base of their midfield, where Adam Clayton and Adam Forshaw were seeing plenty of the ball, rarely led to anything meaningful.
Albion flickered into life at the end of the first half when Brendan Galloway, who was making his Premier League debut for the club after joining on a season-long loan from Everton, made a couple of bursts forward from left back. A low, drilled shot from the edge of the area was held by Guzan and six minutes later an inviting cross picked out Salomon Rondon.
The Venezuelan failed to make decent contact with his header, however, and the chance was spurned. Pulis, throwing his arms around in the technical area, made his thoughts clear.
There was little improvement after the interval. Craig Dawson's header from a Matt Phillips corner dropped the wrong side of the post and that was as much as Albion mustered in the second half. Boro were no better. Barragan's sinuous run ended with Cristhian Stuani shooting tamely into the arms of Ben Foster. The final whistle could not come quickly enough.