Joe Nicholson's verdict: Where Middlesbrough fell short against West Brom despite improved performance
On the plus side, Jonathan Woodgate got the reaction he desperately needed against West Brom Albion. Yet all is not well at the Riverside Stadium right now, with Middlesbrough sitting just one point above the relegation zone.
For 82 minutes Woodgate’s side went toe to toe with the Championship leaders on Saturday afternoon, yet it’s now four defeats in five games for the Teessiders who will be nervously looking over their shoulder ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Huddersfield.
This performance will at least give Woodgate hope he can turn the tide though. With just 12 of 46 Championship games gone, there is still a long way to go of course.
Boro looked far more secure at the back after changing their formation to start with Jonny Howson and Marvin Johnson at wing-back.
The pair performed well against a potent West Brom attack, yet the use of a central midfielder and natural winger in such roles was another reminder of just how unbalanced and thin the squad is.
As Woodgate pointed out after the game, despite recording just 33 per cent of possession, Baggies goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was actually the busier of the two shot-stoppers.
However, just like last season, the Teessiders are lacking that killer instinct in the final third, and it’s costing them dearly.
At the other end, West Brom, with their menacing speed and regular movement off the ball, appeared to pose a greater threat when they charged forward in their droves.
In the end, it told, after the lively Grady Diangana, who was linked with Boro in the summer, got the better of Dael Fry before his low cross was eventually stabbed home by Hal Robson-Kanu eight minutes from time.
When he was appointed back in June, Woodgate spoke about needing to add more speed to Boro’s attack, yet aside from Marcus Browne, still only a promising prospect, no one came in.
The other major concern is the amount of late goals Boro are conceding. This was the fifth time this season where Boro have lost points in the final 15 minutes.
It’s an issue which will need eradicating if Woodgate is to build on any shoots of encouragement.