Joe Nicholson's verdict: Middlesbrough's situation is starting to look desperate after Derby defeat
Even when Britt Assombalonga went around the goalkeeper after just two minutes at Pride Park, you didn’t feel confident he was going to score.
That shouldn’t have been the case, this is a striker with a goalscoring record of one every three games at Championship level, yet the forward’s confidence is on the floor right now. The rest of Middlesbrough’s squad aren’t faring much better either.
Jonathan Woodgate’s side have now gone four games without a goal and are the lowest scorers in the Championship. Understandably, his patience appears to be wearing thin.
These are ‘easy opportunities’ said the Boro boss after his side’s 2-0 defeat at Derby, a result which extended Boro’s winless run to eight games. The situation is starting to appear desperate.
Like they did against Fulham last weekend, the Teessiders actually started on the front foot, pressing Phillips Cocu’s Rams high up the pitch as the hosts tried to play out from the back.
If Assombalonga had scored, he should have done before hesitating and seeing his effort blocked by defender Matt Clarke, it could have been very different.
When he didn’t, Boro were vulnerable. The Teessiders’ rearguard looks more secure with a reformed back three but is far from watertight.
A neat Derby move saw Tom Lawrence open the scoring on 22 minutes, before George Saville’s red card for a late challenge left Boro with a mountain to climb.
After changing shape to 4-4-1, the visitors beavered away to at least stay in the game. In truth, though, they barely threatened after the break.
Worryingly, when Woodgate looked to his bench there was little he could do to change things. Four of his seven substitutes played for the club’s under-23 side on Monday night. The squad is paper thin.
Of course Woodgate isn’t blameless for Boro’s recent plight but his lack of options is alarming.
If a senior player isn’t performing it’s hard to replace them. That’s not a healthy position to be in - it can lead to complacency and stagnation.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Boro are lacking a cutting edge.
And, if they can’t score goals, it’s hard to see where the next win will come from.