Boro's revival gives division a bad name

Dearth of quality means Teessiders still in play-off hunt despite wretched form, writes Jason Mellor

The humble Championship is regularly lauded for being everything its bigger, more brash cousin the Premier League isn't, in terms of its refreshing uncertainty of outcome and evenly matched participants.

That may be true, but there is also a strong case to be mounted for its paucity rewarding mediocrity if a side that has endured such a wretched run as Middlesbrough can still be strong play-off contenders.

The thought of Gordon Strachan welcoming a victory with anything other than open arms just a few weeks ago was utterly unthinkable, so it perhaps hints at the progress the Scot is finally starting to make that he felt compelled to haul his players over the coals in the wake of this latest win.

Middlesbrough mustered eight points from Strachan's first 11 games, and after falling into the bottom half of the table last month, by all rights their hopes of securing an immediate return to the Premier League should have been extinguished.

Yet such was the plethora of utterly average teams above them, four fruitful weeks and six unbeaten games later, Middlesbrough sit just two points outside the top six with a growing belief they can bring about a swift end their top-flight exile through the play-offs.

It's now 12 points from the last 18 after Barry Robson swept home an early Jonathan Franks cross. The Teesside club are back in the promotion mix, partly through a long awaited upturn in their fortunes, but in equal measure to the opportunity afforded them to eventually get their act together by those sides in the rump of the table who have been unable to exploit what had been a quite terrible run of form.

Victory didn't prevent Strachan from delivering a stern dressing down to his players for a sloppy second-half display that almost gifted Peterborough a share of the spoils.

Having worked with him at Celtic, the manager's reaction failed to surprise Robson. "It's not a bad thing if you're not at your best and come away with a win," the 32-year-old said after his first goal since moving from Parkhead. "I've worked with the manager for a few years now and he sets high standards which we never reached against Peterborough. We know we need to up our game."

Strachan felt his side lacked the necessary respect for bottom-of-the table Peterborough, needlessly relaxing to such an extent that only a goal-line clearance from David Wheater prevented substitute Josh Simpson ending the visitors' seven-game away losing streak in stoppage time. "There's more to football than three points," said Strachan. "We showed them disrespect after our goal, and the level of our play wasn't acceptable."

Some 12 points adrift of safety, Peterborough's chastening nine-month experience of the Championship is set to end, for the time being at least, in May. "Staying up is an almost impossible challenge," Jim Gannon, their third manager of a season that is still to see an away victory, conceded. "It would take something incredible over the remaining games."

Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Coyne (gk); Naughton, McManus, Wheater, Bennett; Flood, Robson, Walker (Hoyte 59), Franks; Miller (Aliadière, 56), McDonald (Lita, 74). Substitutes not used: Steele (gk), Taylor, Grounds, Williams.

Peterborough (4-4-1-1) Lewis (gk); Lee (Reid, 53), Bennett, Morgan, Williams (Simpson, 53); Frecklington, Rowe, Whelpdale, Livermore; Boyd; McLean (Mackail-Smith, 81). Substitutes not used: McKeown (gk), Mills, Griffiths, Geohaghon.

Referee: J Moss (West Yorkshire).

Man of the match: Robson.

Attendance: 18,412.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players