The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

FULL credit to For­est. This was a de­fen­sive dis­play to ri­val any­thing Boro’s shut-out artists have pro­duced this sea­son.

Dis­ci­plined, or­gan­ised, ruth­less and smart – Dougie Freed­man’s men be a group ef­fort. I’m not hav­ing in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances be­ing praised when the team loses. I’m not hav­ing stars of the show. I want spirit, to­geth­er­ness and the work ethic you saw here.

“We de­fended bet­ter than Mid­dles­brough. And, in the end, we at­tacked bet­ter than MId­dles­brough. That’s why we got the re­sult.”

Three weeks ago, Boro de­stroyed ti­tle-ri­vals Derby with a dis­play full of verve and in­ven­tion, seem­ingly banishing mem­o­ries of last year’s tooth­less demise. were a model of con­cen­tra­tion for the full 95 min­utes and Jamie Ward’s op­por­tunis­tic win­ner was just re­ward for a per-

Against a For­est side with a game­plan and the brains to en­act it, those ghosts burst from the grave like Bela Lu­gosi.

Freed­man’s side are no mugs. Un­beaten in 11, they sat deep, de­ployed five de­fend­ers and ba­si­cally in­vited Boro to take their best shot.The re­sponse barely amounted to a ten­ta­tive jab, let alone the hay­mak­ers that felled the Rams. Gob­bled up by Michael Man­ci­enne, Ste­wart Down­ing was so in­ef­fec­tive that he was with­drawn at half-time.

“It was not a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion,” said a stony-faced Ai­tor Karanka. for­mance that sti­fled and frus­trated in equal mea­sure. But if a se­cond de­feat in suc­ces­sion is no call for alarm, it does leave Ai­tor Karanka with some wor­ry­ing is­sues.

On form and in front, the Teessiders are “When some­one is not play­ing well, you have to change him.”

Grant Lead­bit­ter, usu­ally such a lynch­pin for the home side, hit the bar with a beau­ti­fully crafted free­kick but was oth­er­wise swamped by Gary Gard­ner and Robert Tesche.

David Nu­gent found nei­ther space nor time. Passes went side­ways and back­wards, and even­tu­ally astray as frus­tra­tion took hold.

In the end, it took Mid­dles­brough an hour to craft their only solid golden chance, an Al­bert Adomah un­beat­able. But in tight games against de­fen­sive op­po­nents – and es­pe­cially when they fall be­hind – there is nei­ther a plan B nor a gen­uine No.10 will­ing to take on a man or play a killer pass.

The an­tic­i­pated ar­rival cross that Emilio Nsue some­how headed over from six yards.

It was a miss that would prove costly.

Just a few min­utes later, For­est coun­tered as Ward fed the charg­ing Ben Os­born out wide. Os­born, who had ear­lier rat­tled the post with a ven­omous strike, re­turned the com­pli­ment with a cut back for Ward, who opened his body to place pre­cisely be­yond Dimi Kon­stan­topou­los.

Bang out of ideas, Boro failed to mount any kind of re­sponse, with Karanka veer­ing be­tween blam­ing of Ross McCor­mack should help fill the void left by Lee Tom­lin’s sum­mer de­par­ture but, un­less Boro can ditch the inherent cau­tion that cost them so dearly last year, the run-in could be very ner­vous in­deed. him­self and de­mand­ing Jan­uary re­cruits.

“I needed to do some­thing and I didn’t have the right play­ers to make the sub­sti­tu­tion I wanted to make,” said the Spa­niard, whose side now trail Hull by a point.

“But I do not want to be too neg­a­tive. We have had a bad week but we are still at the top of the league. That is not an ac­ci­dent.

“My con­cern we are los­ing the games and not play­ing well but I have made mis­takes and they can be worked on. I know what is wrong.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

THREAT: Cristhian Stu­ani heads wide of the For­est goal. In­set: Ai­tor Karanka re­mon­strates with the as­sis­tant ref­eree




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