Sunday, 20 January 2008

Boro rue missed chances

Wheat as a nut

Boro contrived to take only a point from yesterday's trip to Ewood Park. Having spurned a succession of openings, Blackburn inevitably equalised from one of their very rare attacks to gain a richly undeserved draw.

Its just one defeat from seven games on the road for Gareth Southgate and it wasn't hard to see why. Mark Schwarzer was unruffled and barely active as the back four again defended with aggression and composure. Luke Young quelled any threat from the anonymous Morten Gamst Pedersen, whose stock continues to fall after another vapid display. Despite the continued absence of Jonathan Woodgate, Jason Roberts and Roque Santa Cruz were comfortably contained by Robert Huth and David Wheater. Indeed, Wheater proved to be a more potent threat than the strikers on either side.

It was Wheater who gave Boro an early lead with a firm back-post header from Stewart Downing's free kick. If Blackburn could consider themselves unfortunate to concede that free kick, their luck improved after the break.

Fabio Rochemback replaced skipper Julio Arca, who took a kick and failed to emerge for the second half. The Brazilian made an impact immediately, arcing the ball over the Blackburn defence twice for the onrushing Aliadiere. On the first occasion, he dragged his shot wide of Friedel's far post. Sent clear again, he opted to slide the ball across the goalmouth for Tuncay. The Turk inexplicably miscued when presented with an open goal.

Wheater was extremely unlucky not to have a second goal, his header smashing against the crossbar from Gary O'Neil's flighted cross. Boro's profligacy was becoming farcical and the home side punished this wastefulness in one of their rare forays into red territory. Roberts' mishit shot screwed across the area allowing Matt Derbyshire, perennial goalscorer against Boro, to once again inflict pain with a simple finish.

Despite the frustration of losing the lead, Boro continued to push. Jeremie Aliadiere had the pick of the late chances in injury time but failed to hit the target with a close range header from Rochemback's centre.

Once again, Boro came out of a game feeling robbed. Despite turning in a performance worthy of the Premier League's better teams, the lead over the bottom three is a precarious two points. Few teams at the arse end of the division are capable of the quality shown yesterday but relegation will remain a concern until performance is turned into points, particularly at home. With Wigan, Fulham, Reading and Derby next up at the Riverside, the opportunity to improve our dismal home form is there. Several difficult away fixtures remain so victories on Teesside will be imperative to hopes of climbing the table.

Man of the Match: David Wheater

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