Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka suggested some of his under-performing players were running out of excuses after his side had to scrape a 1-1 draw at home to Blackburn.
Rovers earned a well-deserved point at the Riverside as below-par Boro had to come from behind.
The first 70 minutes we haven’t played with the intensity that we need to play.
Paul Lambert’s deadline day signing from Sunderland Jordi Gomez put the visitors ahead in the second half but David Nugent salvaged it for Boro 11 minutes from time.
And even though it ended back-to-back defeats for the promotion-chasing Teessiders, Karanka was unhappy with the display.
“The best example was the last 20 minutes because that was the only time we wanted to win the game,” he said.
“The first 70 minutes we haven’t played with the intensity that we need to play, especially after our last two defeats.
“I thought the reaction today was going to be better, but the last 20 minutes is the only time we wanted to win or draw the game when we had a few chances.
“I know the concern, now we try to motivate them as we were two or three weeks ago. So now we try to work more and try to pick the right players.
“The problem is the goalkeeper was completely lost because five or six players around him did nothing.
“It’s a difficult league, and when your team-mates do nothing it’s difficult to perform.”
Next up for second-placed Boro, who have a game in hand over leaders Hull, is tomorrow’s league match at MK Dons and Karanka admitted he has now switched his focus to that match.
He added: “I prefer to think about the last 20 minutes and to think about the game on Tuesday.
“With the players today thinking the reaction was going to be better. I had to be fair with them because we’re in the position we are because they have been playing well until two weeks ago.
“Now I’ve seen that reaction and I have to think about changing something.”
Blackburn’s Darragh Lenihan hit an ambitious 25-yard effort after 15 minutes which Dimi Konstantopoulos did well to smother.
Rovers had the ball in the net moments later when Gomez’s curling free-kick was turned in by Elliott Ward but he was ruled offside.
And they wasted a great chance in the 20th minute, with Gomez at the centre of it again. His ball found Tony Watt inside the left side of six-yard box but he poked his shot inches wide of the far post.
Rovers again looked the more threatening early into the second half as Tommy Spurr’s long throw-in caused problems in the Boro box. The loose ball fell to Lenihan but he shot wide.
Boro got going again after the hour. Albert Adomah forced a corner down the left and when Rovers struggled to clear, it fell to Ben Gibson but his snatched effort was well over.
Boro then had a glorious chance to break the deadlock in the 70th minute when Downing’s right-wing cross found sub Stuani in space but his header flew over Jason Steele’s bar.
Rovers grabbed the opener in the 72nd minute. Boro’s poor defending gifted Lenihan time to lay off for Gomez and the Spaniard drilled home a left-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Jordan Rhodes was introduced to make his Boro debut in the 77th minute and the home side drew level two minutes later when Nsue’s right-wing cross was headed in at the far post by Nugent.
Rovers were close to edging in front in the 89th minute when Boro failed to clear Marshall’s free-kick and it fell to Hope Akpan inside the box but he dragged his shot wide.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Ayala (Kalas 45), Gibson, De Laet, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah (Rhodes 77), Kike Sola (Stuani 46), Downing, Nugent. Subs Not Used: De Sart, Ramirez, Mejias, Forshaw. Booked: Kike Sola, Leadbitter. Goals: Nugent 79.
Blackburn: Steele, Marshall, Ward, Hanley, Spurr, Lenihan, Evans, Akpan, Gomez (Bennett 83), Graham, Watt (Jackson 74). Subs Not Used: Kilgallon, Taylor, Duffy, Conway, Raya. Booked: Marshall, Lenihan, Evans, Hanley, Gomez. Goals: Gomez 72.
Att: 26,244 Ref: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).