Boro Pay the Penalty at Blackburn
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 18 Aug 2019 09:49:00
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Boro fell to another defeat away at Blackburn. A needless penalty conceded in the first half was all that separated the teams at the final whistle. Despite a brief second half revival when sub Marcus Browne hit the post Boro didn't have the craft or the muscle to rescue a point. It has not been a good first fortnight for new boss Jonathan Woodgate.

Boro started with two changes from the last league outing, the loss to Brentford. In truth, we could hardly make wholesale changes as the wafer-thin squad misfired badly in midweek against Crewe. Fit-again George Friend returned to add some experience to the defence. He replaced the injured Hayden Coulson. Adam Clayton was replaced in midfield for a reshuffle allowing new signing Anfernee Dijksteel to come in at right back and Jonny Howson to bolster midfield. It is fair to say that the change didn't work as we missed Clayton's presence and industry and Howson couldn't affect the game in any way from his position on the left. Dijksteel was to show his inexperience in the penalty incident.

It was good to see Tony Mowbray again and both he and Stewart Downing earned ovations from Boro fans. Most of our fans. In fact Downing was applauded and given the accolade as one of our own at every corner he took at our end and there seemed to be loads of them in the first period. It was at one corner where Dijksteel tugged at Danny Graham. Graham is always a physical presence and that pull back was exactly what he was playing for. Out on the edge of the area he wasn't posing a direct threat. Experience versus inexperience, I am afraid to say.

We had started quite brightly in the Lancashire sunshine. Fletcher and McNair were full of the confident running from their second half cup showing. George Friend was rampaging down the left and twice got beyond the Rovers defence to pull the ball back for chances. Marvin Johnson sprinted free but cut back inside for McNair and we lost the momentum.

So, we did have opportunities early on but Blackburn then put us under some pressure with that series of Downing corners. And if it wasn't Downing who would strike the goal it had to be Danny Graham didn't it. He tucked away his penalty with method and none of the madness of Britt Assombalonga. And in the end that was all that separated the teams and consigned us to another game without a win.

A second half reshuffle did recharge our game, Dijksteel was replaced with Tav going into midfield and Howson dropping in at right back. Marvin Johnson who had started brightly but then faded was replaced by Marcus Browne. Browne so disappointed against Crewe but very nearly got us back into this when he stole in at the back post and with a reflex effort put Howson's cross against the post.

Eventually Friend had to leave the field with an injury. Let's hope it is not a recurrence of the injury that has kept him out for so long. Boro brought on youngster Steve Walker who did have one effort, off target. In spite of five minutes added on Boro did not really threaten to get on the scoresheet. The closest we came late on was when Daniel Ayala headed into the side netting.

At the end of the match the big away following skulked off disappointed but we did stay to applaud the players for their efforts and Leo's clenched fists, stay together signs were appreciated and that is the prevailing mood amongst supporters watching the action.

But it clear that we are going to need to be patient. We really could do with something from the two home games next week. We need to quickly get this season up and running as Blackburn did with their first points. That will lift some pressure before it builds. There needs to be more of the spirit, endeavour and intensity not seen in droves since Luton.

Our passing was often poor at Blackburn and we looked really sluggish in the way we played the ball out of defence and switched it upfield. We lacked width and of course pace. The old problems. In fact it was Blackburn that played us at our own game. They got in our faces pressing our defence and disrupted our attempts to play the ball out from the back. That pressing also caused the error for the penalty and many errors that weren't punished.

Dijksteel did show enough glimpses of quality and will learn from his costly mistake. The other new signing, Marcus Browne played so much better than against Crewe, he was looking for the ball and was causing a threat with it. There is little time to drink it all in and react before the next game on Tuesday against Wigan. But we need to get back in to that start of the season groove that lit uo to the tv screens at Kenilworth Road.

As we slogged our way back up the hill to Darwen and home one fan turned to me and said it looks like being a long season. And it certainly looks like a struggle. It is nearly twenty years since we failed to win any of the first three league games of the season. There was a new Boro manager that season too, he weathered the early storm and went on to achieve a few things for us. His name was Steve McClaren.

Blackburn 1-0 Middlesbrough (Danny Graham pen)

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