Joe Nicholson's verdict: Performances have levelled out since West Brom and Preston yet Middlesbrough and Woodgate are still progressing

In the build-up to Middlesbrough’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn, Jonathan Woodgate spoke about the lessons he’d learnt from Rovers boss Tony Mowbray.

Sunday, 2nd February 2020, 12:23 pm
Jonathan Woodgate applauds the Middlesbrough fans.

Mowbray was the man who brought Woodgate back to Boro as a player in 2012, and has since offered advice to the Teessiders’ new head coach.

Yet Saturday’s meeting at the Riverside was an indication that Woodgate is learning fast, his second-half substitutions helped Boro come from behind and almost snatch a late winner when Rudy Gestede’s header was excellently saved by goalkeeper Christian Walton.

At 1-0 down, Woodgate brought on Hayden Coulson, who transformed the game with his pace and energy, and Britt Assombalonga to try and force an equaliser.

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Even when Coulson drew the sides level in the 75th minute, the hosts continued to push forward, a bold move which almost paid off.

Yet if Boro had been caught out, there would have been more focus on the things which didn’t go well.

Woodgate’s side have now gone three Championship games without a win and were second best in a stop-start first half.

After a decent early spell, Boro gave too many loose passes away to mount any sort of pressure, while Blackburn, helped by the influence of Stewart Downing, controlled the midfield area for large parts of the first half.

The visitors created a couple of chances but didn’t really cut Boro open until Lewis Travis opened the scoring on 57 minutes.

Just like against Birmingham last time out, though, Woodgate’s men responded after falling behind – a useful trait in difficult circumstances.

Of course Boro don’t want to be chasing leads often, and after those impressive displays away at West Brom and Preston, performances and results have levelled out in recent weeks.

The Teessiders were unfortunate to lose some games at the start of the season but have deserved at least a draw in their last two fixtures.

When Boro travelled to Fulham a couple of weeks ago, they were given a reality check about the quality needed to compete at the top of the Championship.

Woodgate and his young side are showing clear signs of progress though.