KARANKA CAN SEE THE LIGHT AT LAST

No goals but boss is re­laxed

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

THE score­line is be­com­ing all too fa­mil­iar for Mid­dles­brough but de­spite yet an­other score­less draw, this time against Black­burn, boss Aitor Karanka still found plenty of cause for op­ti­mism.

Boro have now recorded three con­sec­u­tive goal­less draws and scored just three times in their last seven games, de­spite creat­ing 14 shots and forc­ing 16 cor­ners in this one-sided af­fair.

Not even the re­turn of Sun­der­land loa­nee Danny Graham, play­ing his first Mid­dles­brough home game since leav­ing in 2006, could end their scor­ing drought.

But Karanka hopes the level of the per­for­mance, and hard work on the train­ing ground, will pro­vide a shot in the arm for Boro.

He said: “It was frus­trat­ing for me, be­cause against Don­caster we didn’t play well and against Wi­gan we didn’t de­serve to win the game but here we had a lot of chances.

“But this is foot­ball, and I am more con­fi­dent than I was last week af­ter the Don­caster game be­cause we have had a good week work­ing on the train­ing ground.

“We had a whole week to work to­gether.This is the first week we have had 20 play­ers, and for this it was good for me. It’s im­por­tant to build up this team day-by-day.

“The clean sheets are very im­por­tant. The de­fend­ers are much bet­ter than when I ar­rived here. Shay (Given) didn’t have any saves to make, and I’m happy not just for the de­fend­ers but ev­ery­body who worked so hard to re­cover pos­ses­sion.”

Mustapha Carayol forced a smart early save from ex-Eng­land keeper Paul Robin­son on four min­utes and the tricky winger’s header from the re­sult­ing corner was also par­ried clear.

Grant Lead­bit­ter was then un­able to con­trol his 23rd-minute effort which missed the tar­get, be­fore Ge­orge Friend saw a shot de­flected wide four min­utes later.

Carayol drew an­other good save from Robin­son on 29 min­utes af­ter bring­ing down Nathaniel Chalobah’s pin-point cross­field pass, ap­pear­ing mo­men­tar­ily to have wrong­footed the keeper.

Robin­son nearly un­did his hard work mo­ments later though, fum­bling Lead­bit­ter’s cross, but Grant Han­ley’s block tackle on Em­manuel Ledesma al­lowed him to re­cover. Chances were rare at the other end but Rudy Gest­ede beat Jozsef Varga to play in strike part­ner Jor­dan Rhodes on 31 min­utes, with Ben Gib­son pro­duc­ing a per­fectly-timed tackle to deny the Scot­land in­ter­na­tional.

Carayol con­tin­ued where he left off af­ter the break, out-sprint­ing sub­sti­tute Adam Hen­ley to reach Danny Graham’s long clear­ance on 55 min­utes, but again Robin­son saved.

Rovers con­tin­ued to hold firm de­spite Boro’s on­slaught how­ever, with sub­sti­tute Al­bert Adomah forc­ing a fin­ger-tip save from Robin­son with a ris­ing left-footed effort on 75 min­utes. And Karanka was left to rue the missed chances, kick­ing at the floor in his tech­ni­cal area as his team drew an­other blank in front of goal.

Op­po­site num­ber Gary Bowyer said: “We were dis­ap­pointed in how we played, but we did show a lot of char­ac­ter and re­silience.

“Paul Robin­son was ex­cel­lent, he just oozed in­ter­na­tional class. You don’t play for your coun­try with­out hav­ing some out­stand­ing abil­ity and he showed that.

“When­ever you come away and pick up points, they are al­ways points gained. We have been loads bet­ter with the ball but here we didn’t get go­ing.

“We had to with­stand some pres­sure from Mid­dles­brough from some set plays and over­all we have to be much hap­pier than them with the point. But we’re talk­ing about Robbo, and when called upon he did well, but there were ten in front of him who helped keep the clean sheet.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

FOOT IN: Black­burn’s Craig Con­way in ac­tion with Em­manuel Ledesma

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