MID­DLES­BROUGH ......................................................... 2 It’s tense but there was no in­ten­sity


Sunday Sun - - Football - Jonathon Tay­lor

AN­OTHER Sat­ur­day, an­other res­cue mission re­quired.

But Garry Monk will be tear­ing his hair out as his Mid­dles­brough play­ers again sleep-walked into the half-time break. Why is it com­ing to this?

Boro emerged with a point and twice showed char­ac­ter to come from be­hind, with Martin Braith­waite and Fabio da Silva on tar­get to give the Teessiders hope of an­other dra­matic late show.

But the win­ning goal didn’t come, un­like against QPR a fort­night ago, and Boro sup­port­ers head into the in­ter­na­tional break ul­ti­mately dis-spir­ited after an­other frus­trat­ing show­ing.

It’s now four games in a row where Boro have con­ceded the first goal, and the third con­sec­u­tive time it’s hap­pened at the River­side.

In fact, Boro have done so more of­ten than any top-half side in the Cham­pi­onship this sea­son.

While Monk will cling to crumbs of com­fort, he will know there’s a con­cern­ing trend that’s fast be­com­ing a ma­jor prob­lem.

In­ten­sity. That’s what Boro fans who made their way to the River­side de­manded be­fore the game after Tues­day’s no-show against Nor­wich.

And it no doubt will have been the pre-match mes­sage from Monk in­side the home dress­ing room, given Boro’s ten­dency to start slow in matches this sea­son.

But what­ever the mes­sage was, the play­ers didn’t hear it in what was com­fort­ably the worst first-half per­for­mance of the sea­son.

In came Ryan Shot­ton for his Boro de­but along with fit-again Martin Braith­waite in two changes from that Ca­naries de­feat, with Dael Fry and Lewis Baker car­ry­ing the can for a team dis­play that left much to be de­sired.

But the Cham­pi­onship’s re­lent­less sched­ule can be a pos­i­tive on the back of a poor re­sult. Here, the visit of a Brent­ford side who started the day out­side of the rel­e­ga­tion zone on goal dif­fer­ence, was a chance for re­demp­tion.

It didn’t start bril­liantly. The home faith­ful took a deep in­take of breath after just seven min­utes as Adam Clay­ton dan­gled out a leg in­side his own penalty box which mid­fielder Kamo­h­elo Mokotjo needed no sec­ond in­vi­ta­tion to stum­ble over - but ref­eree Paul Tier­ney waved away the muted protests.

That mo­men­tary fright looked set to be the in­ci­dent that sparked Boro into life - and it al­most looked like it would be the case as Clay­ton chipped a ball for­ward into the chan­nel for Britt As­som­ba­longa to chase.

And the striker’s clever move­ment al­most brought with it great re­ward as he found Braith­waite at the edge of the box, but his drilled ef­fort crept just wide of Dar­ren Bent­ley’s far post.

That was Boro’s best spell in the first half; Adama Traore looked lively and tested left-back Rico Henry at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. But he didn’t get the ball enough - or for a sus­tained spell.

When they did have it, it was la­bo­ri­ous, slow, lethar­gic - ex­actly the op­po­site of what was ex­pected.

And as the min­utes passed with­out in­ci­dent, the roars of frus­tra­tion grew louder - with an at­tack­ing corner even­tu­ally find­ing Dar­ren Ran­dolph with the ball at his feet in the op­po­site box.

Then came the in­evitable opener - the fourth game in a row when Boro have con­ceded the first goal, and the sixth in to­tal this sea­son. No top-half Cham­pi­onship side has done it more of­ten.

That’s now be­com­ing a ma­jor con­cern for Monk, and it was far too easy for Boro’s limited op­po­nents to seize the ini­tia­tive on 28 min­utes as Yoann Bar­bet ghosted into the area and glanced a header past Ran­dolph from a free-kick.

Monk may have been an­noyed by the de­ci­sion, given ad­van­tage had ap­peared to have been played, but he will have been more frus­trated with his de­fend­ers.

An­other game, an­other res­cue mission re­quired - and Boro’s first-half was best summed up as Braith­waite looked to break with As­som­ba­longa run­ning beyond - but the Den­mark in­ter­na­tional mis-con­trolled in full flight and the ball rolled out for a throw-in.

Brent­ford al­most got a sec­ond be­fore the break as Marvin John­son’s mid­field pass didn’t find its tar­get, al­low­ing Neal Mau­pay to be played in over the top - but he could only prod wide while un­der pres­sure from Shot­ton.

The half-time whis­tle was met by boos from the home fans and a look to the skies, no doubt, by Monk. Things could only get bet­ter?

There was a mo­ment in the sec­ond half when the River­side came to­gether in one voice; and it was Grant Lead­bit­ter’s name that rung around all four cor­ners of the ground.

For Boro’s mid­field was lack­ing bite, en­ergy and in­ven­tion.

But like he did against Nor­wich on Tues­day, Monk in­stead used his changes to throw on more at­tack­ers - strik­ers to get Boro back into the game.

Ash­ley Fletcher got the nod at half­time, re­plac­ing Traore, and that change did make a dif­fer­ence - with the for­mer West Ham for­ward stretch­ing the play in a nar­row 4-4-2 along­side As­somba-

Martin Braith­waite and, inset, Fabio da Silva cel­e­brate net­ting equalis­ers for Boro in a match the side again had to res­cue

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