MIDDLESBROUGH may have been looking like a new team under Aitor Karanka – but their old failings came back to hant them at Bolton.
Boro were just seconds away from making it four wins on the spin under their head coach and recording their first ever victory at the Reebok.
But substitute David Ngog scored a last-gasp equaliser for the Trotters after Boro had failed to deal with a home attack.
It was yet another addition to a catalogue of late opposition goals which has blighted the Teessiders all season.
Yet, earlier, two first-half howlers from captain Zat Knight looked like gifting a much-changed Boro three priceless points to climb further up the Sky Bet CHampionship table.
Mustapha Carayol made Knight pay for losing control of the ball with an exquisite finish before Curtis Main capitalised on a horrendous pass back to Andy Lonergan.
Alex Baptiste’s left-footed strike saw Wanderers hit-back before half-time and Ngog fired home the second at the end of regular time to seal a point in what has been a difficult week off the field, who announced that they were in over £130million of debt after their relegation from the Premier League two years ago.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka admitted his side did not deserve the three points, despite being moments away from victory.
Karanka was not happy with his team, despite making five changes in a bid to freshen up the side.
“I think that was the worst we have played since I came to the club,” said the Spaniard.
“I was disappointed that we could not hold on for the win, but I think that we didn’t deserve to go 2-0 up and I’m sure that we can play much better than we did [yesterday].
“We had five or six players who didn’t play the last game, so I thought because of this my team could be a lot better than we were.
“I made the changes because I believe that they are the best 11 that I have at the club.
“But we had no possession of the ball and we weren’t comfortable on the pitch.
“We need to have the possession of the ball to keep them away from the counter-attacks.
“We played thinking that we were better than we are and we needed to play like we did in the previous three games.”
Shay Given started in goal for Boro after the former Republic of Ireland international extended his loan from parent club Aston Villa for a further two months.
The visitors were creating the early inroads and just nine minutes in took the lead.
A defensive error from Knight saw the Bolton centre-half lose the ball at his feet when trying to play out from the back.
The impressive Carayol then took full advantage and beautifully fired the ball past Lonergan into the top right corner of the net from 20 yards.
Wanderers almost equalised on the counter, with Chris Eagles’ half-volley from inside the box just going wide.
But, just as the Trotters were looking to get back into the game, things went from bad to worse for Knight.
This time the former England international’s pass back to Lonergan was wildly over-hit. That gave Main a free tap-in on the line to double Middlesbrough’s lead, with deafening jeers now directed at Knight with his every touch of the ball.
Bolton then cut the deficit back to one goal shortly after as Baptiste curled his shot from just inside the penalty area past a helpless Given.
A poor pass out by the Boro stopper then should have resulted in Wanderers grabbing an equaliser before half-time.
Indecisive play made sure that was not the case, though, with Chung-Yong Lee’s poor effort blocked before Jay Spearing blazed the ball over the bar.
The Trotters came out for the second half the more motivated and the crowd thought that they had the leveller when Mark Davies’s found Mason in the box. However, Mason’s strike was fired into the side-netting instead of the back of the net.
Despite a strong Boro rear-guard action, the vital second inevitably – and predictably – arrived cruelly in the 90th minute as substitute Ngog rifled his shot past Given to ensure Bolton shared the points.