OXFORD United held Sky Bet Championship side Middlesbrough to an entertaining goalless draw in a pre-season friendly on the Algarve.

There were plenty of encouraging signs for U’s boss Pep Clotet, who was on the touchline for the first time since taking over.

And with a touch more cutting edge in the final third, the League One side could easily have given their noisy fans a victory to celebrate at the Ferreiras Stadium in Albufeira, Portugal.

Minor knocks ruled out Wes Thomas and triallist Mike Williamson, while new signing James Henry also watched on from the stands.

Clotet was still able to name a strong starting XI, who were backed by hundreds of U’s fans, who comfortably outnumbered the Boro support.

After forcing a couple of early corners, United were let off the hook in the tenth minute.

Adama Traore, one of five players in the XI who played the U’s in the FA Cup five months ago, ran on to a through ball and flicked the ball over an onrushing Simon Eastwood.

The goal was was gaping, but to the Yellow Army’s delight the winger sliced the ball wide.

It was a rare uncomfortable moment for United, who looked sharper and found space on the ball.

First year professional Malachi Napa made the most of Hall’s absence to cause the experienced George Friend problems on the right flank.

Twice in quick succession the teenager got on the end of balls from Joe Rothwell, setting up Ryan Ledson to shoot over with the first effort before narrowly failing to connect with a high ball.

Connor Ripley, who played one game on loan for the U’s in 2012, was called into action to deny Jon Obika, while on the half-hour mark he saved Marvin Johnson’s glancing header.

The stifling conditions saw the game stopped briefly for a water break, but when play restarted the surprisingly high tempo continued.

Boro’s best spell of the half came just before the interval.

The Teessiders had a strong claim for a penalty when Gaston Ramirez went down under pressure from Aaron Martin in the box, but the referee waved away the protests.

Rudy Gestede should have done better a minute later, but he scuffed his shot from eight yards after good work by Traore.

While Boro, playing their first game of pre-season, changed their entire line-up at half-time, Clotet made a single change – Obika, who missed Saturday’s 3-0 win at Oxford City, was replaced by James Roberts.

The new-look Championship side forged the clearer chances early in the second half.

Only a terrific one-handed save from Eastwood kept out Dael Fry’s header from Stewart Downing’s 55th-minute corner.

Cristhian Stuani, whose late goal won the FA Cup fifth round tie between the sides last season, then cleared the crossbar with an overhead kick.

The Uruguayan missed a much clearer chance just after the hour mark, blazing over from close range seconds after Clotet made seven substitutions.

Three of United’s fresh faces tested Boro’s defence 19 minutes from time. Rob Hall’s low cross was threatening, but Shandon Baptiste and Josh Ruffels had shots blocked.

Goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos saved a swerving 25-yard effort from Rothwell, before keeping out a shot from Hall, after the winger beat two men out wide with the final clear chance.

Oxford Utd: Eastwood (Shearer 61), Ribeiro (Raglan 61), Nelson, Martin (Kelleher 61), Johnson (Carroll 61), Napa (Hall 61), Lundstram (Ruffels 61), Ledson (Baptiste 61), Rothwell, Obika (Roberts HT), Hemmings.

Middlesbrough 1st half: Ripley, Christie, Ayala, Mahmutovic, Friend, Clayton, Forshaw, Tavernier, Traore, Ramirez, Gestede.

Middlesbrough 2nd half: Konstantopoulos, Fabio, Baptiste, Gibson, Fry, Leadbitter, Howson, Soisalo, Stuani (Pattison 80), Bamford, Downing.

Attendance: Not given.