How did Middlesbrough draw a blank against Blackburn Rovers?

BORO BOSS: Aitor Karanka. Photograph by FRANK REID
BORO BOSS: Aitor Karanka. Photograph by FRANK REID

SHOT-SHY Boro’s search for a goal continued but Aitor Karanka and his players will still be at a loss at to quite how how they didn’t stop the rot up-top on Saturday.

January 18 was the last time a man in red managed to hit the net, Emmanuel Ledesma the scorer of the only goal in a home victory over Charlton Athletic.

Leicester City, Wigan, Doncaster Rovers and now Blackburn have since managed to keep Boro at bay.

But while Boro were blunt in attack and short of ideas at the Keepmoat Stadium, the scenario at a blustery Riverside on Saturday couldn’t have differed much more.

The home side took the game to Blackburn from the word go with flying flanker Mustapha Carayol at the helm of every positive Boro move.

He terrorised the back line in the opening 45 minutes and must have wondered quite what he had to to do to beat the inspired Paul Robinson.

“Robbo for England” bellowed the travelling fans. That time has been and gone for the 34-year-old but he proved his class again and again with a string of fine saves.

The Rovers right back, Todd Kane, was hauled off and out of the firing line during the interval, such was the torment Carayol had subjected him to for 45 minutes.

But the breakthrough never came for Boro and four games without a win leaves the Teessiders eight points short of the play-offs, not that Karanka would entertain the idea of making a push for the top six, claiming his only focus is on next weekend’s trip to Watford.

The Spaniard didn’t hold back his anger after a performance he labelled as “embarrassing” at Doncaster.

This week, it was more frustration which engulfed the manager.

“It’s frustrating for us today because against Doncaster we didn’t play well, against Wigan we didn’t deserve to win the game but today we had a lot of chances since the first five, 10 minutes but we didn’t score,” said the Boro boss.

“But this is football, I’m more confident than I was last game against Doncaster.”

Karanka had demanded a response from that performance and got one from the off.

It took less than two minutes for Carayol to unleash his magic wand.

He picked up the ball on the left and skipped past Kane, a sign of what was to come for the full-back, but his inviting cross evaded Danny Graham, making his second full début for the club.

Two minutes later and the flanker was at it again, collecting the ball wide left before bursting inside and unleashing a strike which was only kept out thanks to a top stop by Robinson. And the former Leeds and Tottenham keeper again saved well from the resulting corner, palming away a Chalobah header at his front post.

Boro were on top and dictating play.

But they were reminded they weren’t going to have it all their own way on 13 minutes. A hopeful ball forward looped over Woodgate’s head landing at the feet of dangerman Jordan Rhodes. The Scotland international attempted to lob Given but his effort didn’t have the substance required and the keeper caught with ease.

The game settled but Carayol soon brought it back to life. He met a loose ball in the middle of his own half. Kane approached and Carayol coasted past unhinged but unfortunately his final ball couldn’t match the quality of his run.

The hosts had a penalty shout waved away by Stuart Attwell but Blackburn couldn’t wave away the Boro attacks.

Leadbitter this time driving the ball into the box from the left, stopped by Robinson - just, but as Graham and Chalobah went to poke the ball home the referee spotted an infringement.

Boro started the second half as they had finished the first, on the attack.

They won three corners in the first five minutes before Blackburn skipper Grant Hanley sliced a George Friend cross agonisingly wide of his own goal.

Carayol was quieter in the second half but should have put Boro ahead on the hour.

His pace won him the race to latch on to a Danny Graham through-ball but he couldn’t win the battle with Robinson and the keeper saved well.

Shay Given had one of his quieter days but did what he had to when he was called into action. He stopped a Tom Cairney effort with his knees before being alert to clear an under-hit Dean Whitehead back-pass shortly afterwards.

Albert Adomah made a welcome return from injury with a little over 20 minutes to play and very nearly made an immediate impact, striking a vicious effort destined for the top corner had Robinson not palmed over.

Curtis Main also entered the fray. And, like Adomah, could have been the star of a late show. Adomah broke away down the right and whipped in an inviting ball across the face. Main made the right run to get to the front post but was unable to provide the touch required.

It rather summed up Boro’s day.

Boro: Given, Varga, Woodgate (C), Gibson, Friend, Chalobah, Whitehead, Leadbitter, Ledesma (Adomah, 68), Carayol (Kamara, 75), Graham (Main, 82). Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Butterfield, Hines, Omeruo.

Blackburn: Robinson, Kane (Henley, 46) Spurr, Kilgallon, Hanley (C), Lowe, Dunn, Taylor, Cairney, Gestede (Varney, 78), Rhodes. Subs not used: Eastwood, Williamson, Dabo, Evans, Conway.

Blackburn: Robinson, Kane (Henley, 46) Spurr, Kilgallon, Hanley (C), Lowe, Dunn, Taylor, Cairney, Gestede (Varney, 78), Rhodes. Subs not used: Eastwood, Williamson, Dabo, Evans, Conway.

Referee: Stuart Atwell

Attendance: 14,965.