Joe Nicholson's verdict: What Middlesbrough were lacking during eventful Birmingham draw
Middlesbrough now have 10 days to recharge their batteries following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City – it’s a good job too with injuries beginning to stack up again.
Both Dael Fry and Patrick Roberts were forced off with hamstring issues in the first half against the Blues, the effects of this month’s heavy workload are starting to take their toll.
The Teessiders have played eight games in 27 days since the 1-0 win over Huddersfield on Boxing Day, and while some may argue that’s no excuse, Boro have been managing a thin squad since the start of the campaign.
Some players, like Fry, have played relentlessly in recent weeks and at times it showed.
Boro’s young squad have produced some excellent performances since the festive period, yet Tuesday’s stalemate was an arduous affair.
Aside from a few flashes, Woodgate’s side didn’t appear to have the same zip and energy in the final third, while both sides were sloppy in possession.
Wing-back Djed Spence put in another lively performance on the right flank, while Ashley Fletcher produced a tireless display up top.
Yet things didn’t quite click for the hosts until Fletcher’s late equaliser which cancelled out Lukas Jutkiewitz’s opener.
Boro shaded the second half and a draw was probably a fair result, even if Birmingham boss Pep Clotet believed his side’s late goal was wrongly ruled out.
The referee’s whistle had already gone for a head injury when Jutkiewitz converted from close range.
As Woodgate pointed out after the game, the visitors went direct at times to bypass Boro’s midfield. Even so, the hosts weren’t able to press with the same zest and intensity compared to recent displays.
That wasn’t helped by Roberts’ early withdrawal on 25 minutes, and the winger had enjoyed a lively start by winning a penalty.
Paddy McNair saw his spot kick saved before Jutkiewitz headed Birmingham ahead, but Boro responded well and made improvements after the break.
Woodgate will now hope to use a free weekend to help his side recover, with Britt Assombalonga, Ryan Shotton and George Friend all set to return soon.
Boro will also hope for reinforcements in the transfer market as they look to kick on next month.