Disappointment:Stalemate Boro
By Rob Nichols
Wednesday 24 Oct 2018 09:38:00
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Boro toiled away but proved unable to put away Rotherham in a goalless game at Riverside last night. Despite the no score draw we remain top of the league. But three successive games without scoring at home suggests we have a problem, something we must correct quickly for Saturday's high noon showdown with Frank Lampard's Derby County. Yet we are still top.

It was a game many thought we ought to have dominated. Top of the league versus fifth from bottom but the team from south Yorkshire were competitive throughout and caused us significant problems. In fact only two superb Darren Randolph saves, one in each half, prevented the unthinkable from happening. In saying that though Boro were camped in the Millers half for much of the second half and the visitors had to repel attack after attack. Sadly, all without a cutting edge finish.

A Ryan Shotton injury inflicted at Hillsborough on Friday meant that pre season signing Paddy McNair stepped in for his first League start of the season. McNair was playing in the right back position he first made his mark at Man United. Paddy showed glimpses of the wing back form he has so impressed with at international level for Northern Ireland but in general it was a nervy display from the former Sunderland man. Early reports on Ryan Shotton's injury are disturbing.

Dael Fry stepped down for this game with Boro deploying Downing and McNair wide down the flanks. In the second half especially George Friend was also pressed into an attacking role. Jonny Howson also asked to skip forward along with Besic as Clayton mopped up and constantly recycled play.

Rotherham were a surprise package with the team playing an open, expansive game but allowing plenty of space for Boro's widemen Downing and McNair to exploit down the wide open spaces of the flanks. Sadly, despite having numerous opportunities we failed to really capitalise on this.

Randolph made an incredible save to deny Rotherham a speedy break away goal when he spread himself to block a point blank effort after Adam Clayton had been beaten for pace down our right.

Boro bounced straight back up the other end and Martin Braithwaite, playing his first game after scoring for Denmark, turned sharply, raced clear but failed to lob the keeper when in a one on one situation.

There were plenty of other first half chances for Boro, perhaps the best being a free header that Aden Flint planted wide. He was to do the same in the second period. You have the feeling Flint would have been threatening double figures already if still in a Bristol City shirt, hopefully he will start finding the target and range very soon for us.

Just before the break Boro peppered the Millers goal but despite flashing one effort just across goal and coming close on several more occasions the team from south Yorkshire survived. But surely just as at Hillsborough we would find the finish after half time.

Rotherham had a tiny following in a Riversidecrowd assessed officially at 21 000. You have to wonder if Sky's red button is having a really detrimental effect to midweek crowds! It may be cause for the EFL to have a rethink but also for football clubs to assess whether there is any more they can do to make live football more of a must-see event. Across a long Championship season this is not an easy thing to do.

In the second period Boro really started to string the passing football together. Mo Besic was now in full swing looking every inch the Premier player. I suppose it has to be indictment of the forward line that we cannot convert opportunities fashioned by Besic and Downing. Even when their giant keeper fumbled the ball following a centre by George Friend, Britt could not react quickly enough to put the chance away.

In the end Boro had to make changes. Rudy Gestede came on for the tiring Braithwaite and won everything in the air. But we still were not profiting from knock downs. Sam McQueen replaced McNair and looked to get behind Rotherham down the left. Eventually Jordan Hugill swapped over with Britt who had worked so hard but found little space or reward where it matters most, in the box.

There were a few scary moments for Boro late on as we pressed everyone forward and left gaps at the back. Yet for the most part we were piling on the pressure and winning corner after corner. Sadly, we could not test their giant custodian enough and every ricochet ran kindly for them.

Frustration then and many boos at the final whistle. We will need to find some answers quickly to this scoring conundrum at home but whatever happens you really only see the long-term solution being in the January transfer window with a winger and a goal scorer added to the pack. Pace is a real must.

Middlesbrough 0-0 Rotherham

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