Joe Nicholson's verdict: Positive signs for Middlesbrough at QPR but winless run can't be ignored
In the build-up to Middlesbrough’s Championship meeting with QPR, Rangers boss Mark Warburton described Boro as a ‘big club’ in a false league position.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard that this season, in fact the managers of Boro’s last four opponents have all said they expect the Teessiders to climb out of the Championship relegation zone.
But after 16 league games, Boro remain in the division’s bottom three with just two wins to their name. Results obviously need to improve.
Saturday’s 2-2 draw at QPR may have been another decent away performance, there have been a few this season, Bristol City and Luton immediately spring to mind. Even so, this was another game where Boro failed to convert a winning position into three points.
It’s now nine league games without a win for the Teessiders. That is simply not good enough.
Yet there have been indications that things will turn under Woodgate, we saw them again at the the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium as Boro rallied during an action-packed 2-2 draw.
Like in previous weeks, Woodgate’s side, boosted by the returns of captain George Friend, goalkeeper Darren Randolph and Ashley Fletcher, started on the front foot.
Daniel Ayala saw a goal wrongly disallowed for offside in the second minute, yet Boro kept up the pressure up and deservedly took the lead through a stooping Britt Assombalonga header on 23 minutes.
A criticism of Boro this season, though, is that they’ve folded when things go against them.
And when Nahki Wells equalised within minutes of the opener, the visitors looked vulnerable.
Set-plays were a particular problem for the Teessiders, who conceded from a corner on the stroke of half-time. QPR defender Grant Hall was allowed a free header inside the penalty area and the hosts eventually scored courtesy of a Jonny Howson own goal.
In a contrast to recent performances, Boro looked threatening going forward but frail at the back. Open games like this have suited them this season though.
Paddy McNair excelled after moving back into midfield while Assombalonga rediscovered his form with two well-taken goals.
But while Boro’s winless run continues concerns will continue to grow, no matter what opposition bosses say.