STUTTERING BORO RESCUED
Nugent strikes as Rhodes waits to face former club
AITOR Karanka refused to be too downbeat after watching his Middlesbrough side struggle to earn a point at home to Blackburn.
After spending £9million on striker Jordan Rhodes on deadline day, the Boro boss kept his new man on the bench for much of a frustrating afternoon at the Riverside.
It looked as though Rovers were going to pull off a smash-and-grab victory after Jordi Gomez’s late debut goal, but Karanka had David Nugent to thank for earning his side a draw.
“The main thing for me was the last 20 minutes,” said the Boro boss.
“For the over 70 minutes we did not play with our usual intensity and they wanted it more than us. We have to get back to playing with that intensity for the full 90 minutes.
“When they scored their goal they then decided to defend so that gave us more chances to attack.
“The Boro fans just have to look at the table.We are second in the table when two years ago we were just above the relegation zone.
“We’ve brought in five really good players and that should motivate the squad.”
Many thought the script was written pre-match for Rhodes to score the debut goal against the club that sold him, but he had to wait until late on to get his first taste of Boro action from the bench.
After a tepid opening to the encounter the visitors had the ball in the net on 17 minutes.
Gomez, signed this week from Sunderland, whipped in a free-kick and Elliot Ward flicked the ball past Dimi Konstantopoulos, but Boro were saved by the linesman’s offside flag.
Even that scare failed to kick the home side into life as they struggled to mount an offense.
Spaniard Kike Sola was the man trusted to partner David Nugent up front for Boro, but despite plenty of effort, it just was not happening for the striker and his debut was cut short when he was replaced at the break.
With a lack of cutting edge up top, Boro were relying on their defence to stand firm. Even that suffered a blow, though, as Daniel Ayala was forced off with an ankle injury prior to half-time.
The closest we came to an
opener throughout a dull first 45 minutes came from Blackburn’s Gomez, but his effort was deflected wide.
Cristhian Stuani was introduced at the break but the hosts were still struggling to create anything and they looked to set for a disappointing afternoon when Gomez struck with a low drive from 20 yards with 18 minutes left.
But Nugent was on hand to level the proceedings with Boro’s first effort on target six minutes later. Emilio Nsue’s cross found the striker at the back post as he headed home.
Rhodes had been introduced by this point, but his only involvement was a long distance shot that was easily collected by Rovers keeper Jason Steele.
Hope Akpan then could have nicked it for the away side with two minutes to go, but he dragged a shot wide when the ball fell to him on the edge of the area.
Despite seeing his side pegged back, Rovers manager Paul Lambert was delighted with the efforts of his men, and he reserved special praise for his backline.
Lambert said: “Some of the football that we played was excellent. They are a really good side but we played well.
“The back four were very impressive – they were very composed. I thought they were fairly untroubled and played well.
“I think that this result shows exactly what we are capable of.We just have to produce this level of performance week in and week out now.
“We have a lot of good footballers and it is up to us to sustain that level.
“The confidence is good and we are unbeaten in four, so we are doing OK.”
OLD BOY: Middlesbrough’s Jordan Rhodes celebrates David Nugent’s goal against his former club
FLYING START: Jordi Gomez hit the opener on his Blackburn debut