Joe Nicholson's verdict: Jonathan Woodgate's Middlesbrough faced a new problem at Blackburn and must find ways to address it
After the thrills and spills of Luton and promising first half against Brentford, it was hard to draw many positives from Middlesbrough’s 1-0 defeat at Blackburn.
Two months into the job, head coach Jonathan Woodgate is trying to reinvent a side which often looked toothless in attack and failed to inspire under Tony Pulis last season.
In their first two Championship fixtures, the difference was clear to see, yet Saturday’s performance at Ewood Park could easily have been mistaken for another run-of-the-mill Pulis display.
Some will even agree Boro wouldn’t have lost the game under their former boss, whose side recorded the joint best defensive record in the Championship last season.
And for all his positive ideas and plans to play an exciting brand of football, Woodgate must also find ways to grind out results in what he described as a ‘typical Championship game’.
Blackburn needed the points too. Like Boro, they had failed to win in their opening two league fixtures and Tony Mowbray’s side weren’t afraid to go direct.
The hosts pinned Boro back in the first half, bypassing the Teessiders’ midfield with a barrage of crosses into the penalty area.
As a consequence, the high-tempo, dynamic pressing game we saw against Brentford was far less prominent.
A goal was coming and on 25 minutes it came, as former Boro frontman Danny Graham converted from the penalty spot after Anfernee Dijksteel committed a needless foul.
When Boro were allowed to push up the pitch, momentum and possession was quickly lost, the side’s passing often wasteful.
Woodgate admitted after the game his players need to be braver on the ball and get back on it after making a mistake.
That will take time, though, given the change of approach and new instructions under Woodgate.
Another worrying sign at Ewood Park was the involvement of Britt Assombalonga – or lack of involvement for that matter.
The forward registered just 26 touches in 90 minutes and was often left isolated up top, while flankers, Marvin Johnson and Ashley Fletcher, were forced to retreat.
Boro are bound to face these problems again this season and must find ways to address them.