Joe Nicholson's verdict: Johnson red card changed Hull City clash yet Boro were still in the driving seat
Middlesbrough just can’t seem to buy a win right now – even when the odds are stacked in their favour, something seems to conspire against Jonathan Woodgate’s team.
After 36 minutes of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Hull City at the Riverside – Boro looked destined to end a nine-match winless run dating back to the middle of September.
The hosts were excellent in the first half and took a deserved 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Marcus Tavernier and Ashley Fletcher. The second was a real sight to behold.
Yet it was a moment of madness which turned the tide. Marvin Johnson was the guilty party and rightly sent off for a reckless challenge on defender Eric Lichaj seven minutes before half-time.
Woodgate didn’t gloss over the incident either. “I've told him he's cost the team and he knows it himself,” said the Boro boss afterwards.
But while Johnson should shoulder the brunt of the blame, Boro were still 2-0 up and in the driving seat at half-time, even with 10 men.
At that stage, Woodgate made the call to bring on holding midfielder Adam Clayton in place of Ashley Fletcher and try to shore things up. But instead of consolidating what they had, Boro simply invited pressure.
Woodgate defended his decision to withdraw Fletcher by saying the striker wasn’t disciplined enough to track back in what became a 4-4-1 set-up.
Yet the forward’s withdrawal left Britt Assombalonga isolated up top. The hosts were content to try and defend their way to the finish line.
Once again Woodgate’s options were limited and, Clayton aside, Boro’s other five outfield substitutes had just 10 Championship appearances between them.
Even so, after the sides emerged for the second half it was hard to work out exactly who was playing where – with Marcus Tavernier at left-back, Paddy McNair on the left of midfield and Anfernee Dijksteel on the right.
Boro’s defence hasn’t looked stable enough to soak up pressure for long spells this season. So it proved, and eventually their backline cracked.