UNDER-PRESSURE Tony Mowbray has paid tribute to his Middlesbrough side.
This is despite bemoaning the fact they have now not won in eight matches following a 1-1 draw against Huddersfield.
Luckless Boro have taken all three points from a match on just one occasion this season – at Charlton on August 10 – although they have drawn on six occasions in their opening 10 Sky Bet Championship fixtures.
The winless run at the Riverside since mid-April continued, despite them overcoming a nervy start to largely dominate against the Terriers.
The hosts fell behind against the run of play just before the hour mark when Oscar Gobern’s strike took a vital deflection off James Vaughan, who bagged his 11th goal of the season.
Young defender Ben Gibson earned Boro a deserved share of the spoils after heading home from a corner and they could have snatched victory at the death, only for the underside of the bar to deny Dean Whitehead.
While Mowbray hailed his side’s spirit, he was ultimately left frustrated at their failure to turn a commanding performance into a much-needed victory.
“I thought the team worked extraordinarily hard to get a result,” he said.
“After the first 10-15 minutes where it was a bit anxious for us understandably, not having won at home this season.
“We then got right on top, I thought we really worked their keeper, we controlled the game after the first 15 minutes from start to finish and yet we don’t get the result again.
“As has been pretty common, we lost a preventable goal and had to fight our way back, which we did.
“We were unfortunate at the end not to win.
“I thought it was a fantastic effort from the team and yet ultimately we’re in the business of trying to win matches, particularly here at home, and we haven’t managed to do it again.”
Mowbray was also full of praise for centre-back Gibson, who may have been left out of the starting XI had the experienced Jonathan Woodgate shaken off a calf injury he sustained in the defeat to QPR at the weekend.
Instead, the 20-year-old produced a largely faultless display at the back, frustrating the in-form Vaughan.
Gibson did miss the target with a free header in the first half but atoned magnificently with his 79th-minute leveller.
“I’m delighted for him, he’s a fantastic personality, a real driven guy from this part of the world,” added Mowbray.
“He scored a great goal, stood his ground against what is the top goalscorer in the league and put in a real performance.”
It was the visitors who probed away in the opening stages although they failed to take advantage of lapses in defence from Boro, who may have been missing the experience of the injured Woodgate.
The home side’s run of form seemed to be affecting them at both ends of the pitch although Mustapha Carayol roused the supporters by bursting forward from midfield, exchanging passes with Kei Kamara, before shooting straight at Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
While Kamara fired over after Huddersfield failed to sufficiently clear the danger from Grant Leadbitter’s tame effort, Boro were given a huge let-off when Adam Hammill worked his way into the left side of the penalty area only for his chipped cross-cum-shot to rebound off the bar.
That acted as a wake-up call for Mowbray’s men, who immediately burst up field, with Carayol cutting in from the left and forcing Smithies down low with a shot across goal, while the Town custodian also had to palm away an effort from Kamara soon after.
Gibson should have done better after putting a free header wastefully wide from Leadbitter’s corner as Boro continued to dominate.
Terriers captain Peter Clarke then made a timely intervention to deny Albert Adomah an open goal from Frazer Richardson’s teasing ball along the box and ensure the score remained goalless at the interval.
Leadbitter then failed to apply the finishing touch from George Friend’s ball into the area before the Teessiders were hit with a suckerpunch in the 59th minute.
While it was no surprise in-form Vaughan was the goalscorer, the manner of the goal summed up the home side’s season and must have left Mowbray disgusted.
His defenders hesitated after Daniel Ward had hit the post and Gobern’s strike from the edge of the area took a telling deflection off Vaughan before nestling in the net.
Middlesbrough almost equalised immediately afterwards but again they were left to bemoan poor finishing, with Kamara heading wide from six yards when given plenty of space by Huddersfield’s defenders.
They continued to push forward and their endeavour was finally rewarded when Gibson atoned for his earlier miss.
The centre-back was once again given far too much room in the Huddersfield box but this time the young defender was on hand to head into the top corner from Leadbitter’s corner.
Ex-Sunderland star Whitehead then headed against the bar from Adomah’s cross from the right as Huddersfield held on for a scarcely-deserved point.