IT’S JUST NOT CHAM­PION SAYS AI­TOR

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Colin Hen­rys To com­ment on this match go to http://boards.footy­mad.net/

WITH three Cham­pi­ons League medals as a player, Ai­tor Karanka is used to high stan­dards and the Spa­niard ad­mit­ted he was em­bar­rassed to see his Mid­dles­brough team fall be­low-par in a stale­mate at Don­caster.

Boro hit Rovers for four in the re­verse fix­ture ear­lier in the sea­son but on this oc­ca­sion nei­ther goal­keeper was re­ally threat­ened as both sides strug­gled to carve out chances.

The draw leaves Mid­dles­brough in 12th spot in the ta­ble and need­ing to find a spark if their sea­son is not to fiz­zle out.

And Karanka, whose side have now failed to score in three straight matches, ad­mit­ted Boro had let down their large trav­el­ling sup­port.

“We didn’t play, we didn’t fight, we didn’t do any­thing,” he said.

“We had a lot of sup­port­ers come down from Mid­dles­brough to sup­port us, but we didn’t play or fight and for this I find it a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing.

“Don­caster were bet­ter in their at­ti­tude. They were fight­ing, they were win­ning the sec­ond balls. They were al­ways ahead of us.

“In the cir­cum­stances I am happy be­cause one point is bet­ter than none.

“But I am not happy be­cause I think if we played like we had a month ago we would have won the game.

“We have not played well in the last few matches.We have lost our style.

“In th­ese last few weeks we haven’t played well and when you don’t, it will be dif­fi­cult to score goals.”

Chances were few and far be­tween but James Cop­pinger’s glanced header, from Marc Duffy’s left-wing cross, flashed just wide on six min­utes.

Only Chris Brown trou­bled on-loan goal­keeper Shay Given in the first-half though, when he shot straight at him on 23 min­utes from Billy Sharp’s lay-off.

An ex­tended half­time pe­riod en­sued, with fourth of­fi­cial Mark Brown re­plac­ing un­well ref­eree Andy Davies for the sec­ond-half, but the lengthy break had lit­tle ef­fect on the game.

Mustapha Carayol shot wide across goal on 53 min­utes af­ter a Nathaniel Chalobah through ball cre­ated a rare Mid­dles­brough chance.

Brown, at full stretch, then missed Rovers’ best chance of the game when he was un­able to turn in Sharp’s dan­ger­ous low cross from close-range on the hour.

Sub­sti­tute Kei Ka­mara al­most had an im­me­di­ate im­pact for Mid­dles­brough in the dy­ing min­utes of the match but he could only shoot wide af­ter show­ing some clever foot­work to beat two de­fend­ers.

In the end Don­caster held on for their third con­sec­u­tive home clean­sheet, with boss Paul Dickov pleased to see his side prov­ing their worth in the Cham­pi­onship af­ter turn­ing round a dif­fi­cult run of re­sults.

“It’s three clean­sheets in the last four games, and that’s what we’ve been striv­ing for,” Dickov said.

“That’s one big pos­i­tive for us be­cause five or six weeks ago we would prob­a­bly have lost that.

“I think there are a lot of pos­i­tives for us go­ing for­ward. It is now four games un­beaten and three clean­sheets.

“As I’ve al­ready said, we be­lieve we can com­pete at this level. I thought it was a scrappy game. It was dif­fi­cult for ei­ther team to get the ball down and pass it.

“We knew they were a good team so de­fen­sively we had to be sound, and I thought we were.

“Over the course of the 90 min­utes I thought we were slightly the bet­ter team, but a draw is the fair re­sult.”

PIC­TURE: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

HAND­BAGS: Tem­pers flare Inset: Ja­cob But­ter­field tries a shot

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