Where Yannick Bolasie's arrival from Everton leaves Middlesbrough in the transfer market after Rotherham United defeat

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ANALYSIS: Joe Nicholson takes a closer look at Middlesbrough’s 3-0 defeat by Rotherham at the Riverside

Neil Warnock was surprisingly calm when he arrived for his post-match press conference.

“Now I have to speak to you lot after watching that,” joked the Middlesbrough boss after watching his side lose 3-0 against Rotherham United at the Riverside.

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This was one of Boro’s worst performances of the season – a rare off day after sustaining a play-off challenge for the first half of the campaign.

Rotherham striker Matt Crooks shoots to score the opening goal against Middlesbrough.Rotherham striker Matt Crooks shoots to score the opening goal against Middlesbrough.
Rotherham striker Matt Crooks shoots to score the opening goal against Middlesbrough.

Warnock has let his feelings known when his side have been narrowly beaten this campaign, calling out officials and berating bad decisions which have knocked the Teessiders back.

He couldn’t have any complaints here though. Rotherham deserted their victory and caused problems from start to finish, despite sitting 22nd in the table and the threat of relegation.

Matt Crooks’ opener, a Michael Smith penalty and goal from substitute Ryan Giles gave Paul Warne’s side the victory, leaving the Teessiders three points outside the play-off places.

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"They played exactly how I knew they’d play, nothing different. Genuine lads,” said Warnock when asked about his former side after the match.

Rotherham were hard-working, organised and posed a threat on the break with their two imposing strikers in the shape of Smith and Crooks.

Boro couldn’t match that desire as they suffered back-to-back league defeats for just the second time this season. They have now lost three consecutive games at the Riverside.

Yet it wasn’t all doom and gloom from Warnock who later revealed the club would be signing Everton winger Yannick Bolasie on loan, a deal which has since been completed.

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The Boro boss still believes they can make multiple signings before next week's deadline. He knows reinforcements are needed to have a chance of staying in the play-off hunt.

Key players missed

Warnock has always said that a couple of injuries to key players would stretch his thin squad this season.

Fortunately for Boro they have been able to name a similar starting XI for most of the campaign, particularly in defence where their foundations have been built.

Yet the absence of right-back Anfernee Dijksteel and Dael Fry left Boro exposed against Rotherham’s physically-strong forward line. Marcus Tavernier’s energy was also missed in midfield.

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Smith and Crooks stand at 6 ft 4 and 6 ft 3 tall respectively and were a real handful for Boro centre-backs Paddy McNair and teenager Nathan Wood.

Playing with a back three and wing-back, the visitors were content to concede possession and play the ball forward quickly on the counter attack, capitalising on the space when Boro had overcommitted.

It was a tactic which worked perfectly and Warne’s side could have taken the lead before they did, when Crooks volleyed home from the edge of the area following a tame headed clearance from George Saville.

Boro’s midfield trio of Saville, Sam Morsy and Jonny Howson were below their usual high standards too, with sloppy mistakes in the defensive third leading to Rotherham chances.

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Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli could also be questioned for all three goals, particularly the second when he was at fault for bringing down Matthew Olosunde to concede a penalty. It was a night to forget for Boro’s backline.

Attacking woes

There were also concerns at the other end of the pitch as Boro managed just one effort on target.

Sticking with the 4-3-3 system which has given his side balance and security for most of the campaign, Warnock made just one change to his forward line following the weekend’s defeat by Blackburn.

That saw Patrick Roberts replace the injured Tavernier for just his fourth league start of the season, yet, aside from a few early flashes, it was another frustrating evening for the Manchester City loanee.

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Roberts and Duncan Watmore, who was Boro’s brightest player going forward, were asked to play narrow to support striker Britt Assombalonga, creating space for full-backs Marc Bola and Djed Spence to attack.

Yet Boro have often found it difficult when facing teams who are well organised and sit deep while conceding possession. It was a similar story here.

Most of the hosts' attacks came down the right in the first half, yet Spence struggled to get the better of Rotherham wing-back Wes Harding.

Instead, the tactic left Boro exposed at the back and their defence couldn't cope.

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Hope for the future but action is needed

It’s been a miserable few days for the Teessiders who have suffered back-to-back home defeats, a handful of injury setbacks and seen two transfer deals collapse.

Yet Warnock cut a far more positive figure after the Rotherham loss and is hopeful for more good news ahead of next Monday’s 11pm transfer deadline.

The arrival of Bolasie will provide another attacking option out wide but the Boro boss knows he needs more support as we enter the second half of a long and arduous Championship campaign.

It’s also unclear just how long it will take Bolasie to get up to speed after not playing a competitive match for nearly a year.

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Warnock still wants to sign another attacking player who can contribute with goals and assists, it’s an area which has become even more of a concern following injuries to Tavernier and Marcus Browne.

The Boro boss also admitted he wants to bring in another defender who can provide cover for Anfernee Dijksteel and Marc Bola at full-back.

What that would mean for the likes of Djed Spence and Hayden Coulson remains to be seen.

After overachieving in many peoples’ eyes during the first half of the season, Boro have now hit a sticky patch and need lift.

Hopefully that will come ahead of Monday’s 11pm deadline.

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