FOOTBALL: Queudrue brings Boro's long hangover to an end

Middlesbrough 1 Queudrue 35 Blackburn Rovers 0 Half-time: 1- 0 Attendance: 30,564
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The Independent Online
After a very dubious January, Middlesbrough opened February with their first three points of the year - but it was stuttering, not stirring, stuff, and they limped to the final whistle with their 10 men clinging uncomfortably to victory following Ray Parlour's late dismissal.

Such was the gloom at The Riverside before kick-off that the programme listed 21 reasons why the Boro fans should be cheerful. A 22nd was the sight of Malcolm Christie starting at home for the first time for 15 months having had his legs screwed back together. A 23rd was the return of Stuart Parnaby from a leg broken at Blackburn in October, but there were plenty of negatives as the injury list was enlarged to include Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Blackburn, the least prolific scorers away from home bar Norwich, kept faith with the 11 that had lost narrowly to Chelsea in midweek. Garry Flitcroft was fit enough only for the bench.

Unsurprisingly as Blackburn's form - two games with neither goal nor point - was almost as poor as the home side's, the opening was only memorable for Parlour's booking. He took crude retribution on Robbie Savage who had just cleanly, although forcibly, won the ball from Bolo Zenden.

Middlesbrough just about had the upper hand - although Brett Emerton's pace and Paul Dickov's persistent peskiness unnerved them - with Stewart Downing cutting inside Andy Todd and clipping the outside of the post in the 31st minute, the first noteworthy effort of the game.

Three minutes later, Franck Queudrue, from a similar position, turned inside Aaron Mokoena and his shot arrowed across Brad Friedel and into the net.

Middlesbrough at last were on the up. Indeed they should have been two up when James Morrison - a promising striker pressed into emergency service at right midfield - demanded the ball from Joseph-Desire Job and with Christie unmarked beside him, the youngster elected to shoot at Todd's backside.

Middlesbrough's dominance did not last. Blackburn attacked - not a thing of beauty, but fairly effective. Mark Schwarzer smartly tipped over Dickov's header in the 54th minute and Gareth Southgate was pressured enough to fluff two consecutive clearances. Emboldened, the Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes, withdrew his defensive midfielder Mokoena in favour of a second forward, 20-year-old Jemal Johnson.

The game became more and more ragged the longer it wore on as both managers' tempers became increasingly frayed on the touchline.

Middlesbrough did create a smattering of chances, with Downing, who was largely anonymous despite his impending England call-up, slipping in Zenden for an air shot. The Dutchman followed it up with a long-range header, which had Friedel scurrying backwards anxiously for a moment. Best of all was the one-on-one opening for the teenage substitute Danny Graham, who could only hit Friedel's legs.

Blackburn, though, had worthwhile claims for penalties as Dickov collapsed under Michael Reiziger's heavy challenges.

The sending-off of Parlour, for a second bookable offence, made the final minutes senselessly frantic, but Boro held on to reclaim sixth place on the table.