ANY hopes of a football fairytale unfolding for Mark Venus ended as Jason Lowe’s sizzler curled in. It wiped away the Doncaster dividend and left Boro looking as just as fragile on the road as they were before the axe fell on Tony Mowbray.
Not that Boro’s 1-0 defeat at Blackburn fell into the Barnsley category. It didn’t. It wasn’t a woeful display. It wasn’t even particularly bad. It was just a bit flat and ordinary and after the high of the ‘Spirit of Teesside’ it felt like Boro had lost some fizz and momentum.
The team had a couple of changes with shaky George Friend returning at left-back, perhaps unfairly for Ben Gibson, and Jozsef Varga in for one of last week’s heroes Muzzy Carayol to firm up the midfield for an away game. That may make sense in tactical terms but changing the team that dismantled Donny was always going to be a hostage to fortune.
Boro worked hard enough and closed and tackled ferociously in midfield and high up the pitch and tried to pick their way through patiently but it was creaky and laboured. And there was little end product. Apart from a Kamara header that was fumbled around the post in the first half, their keeper never had a serious save to make. Boro never had any real bite.
In contrast Blackburn were far more direct and got the ball forward very quickly and but for three very good saves from Jason Steele – and a good header after he dashed out of his box – Boro may have been in far more trouble. There were good last ditch tackles from Friend and Williams too plus an amazing second half go-go-gadget telescopic leg as Ayala snaked out a foot from behind Rhodes to somehow scoop away.
Yes, the goal was “a worldy” – but on the balance of play Blackburn threatened more, were more successful in imposing their style and tempo and the game and played the rain-lashed conditions better. It was a fair result. Still, worked hard and it came down to Mogga’s “fine margins.” Boro almost held out for a draw and what would have been a good point – they have now taken just two points from the last six games on the road – and apart from some scary moments (there should have been a penalty) look a bit more solid and organised at the back.
But once they were behind they never looked like salvaging anything. They huffed and puffed and made some positive substitutions – Carayol and Jutkiewicz who tortured Blackburn came on as Boro switched to 442 and went a bit more direct but still never really threatened. Then in the closing stages Jacob Butterfield added a little bit more guile but to no effect. That was disappointing. For all the late pressure Boro did not look like scoring, not normally the problem.
The result has took some of the wind out of the sails of the Good Ship Venus but probably hasn’t changed the bigger picture. A win would have been great but wouldn’t have sealed the succession. A defeat is a blow but won’t force Steve Gibson to change his timescale.
A quick word on the supporters… the best part of 2,500 Boro fans made the trip and were fantastic. Again. None stop racket for the full 90. That the real Spirit of Teesside.