Mackie gives 'Wee Gordon' rotten start at Boro

Middlesbrough 0 Plymouth Argyle 1
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The Independent Online

Different GS, same old Middlesbrough. Wee Gordon looks to have big problems if this display is anything to go by.

As one taciturn Scot to another, Strachan must have known his old sparring partner Paul Sturrock would do his utmost to ensure the new manager's first game in charge fell flat. And so it proved.

Middlesbrough dropped out of the play-off places after suffering a fourth defeat in five home matches. Perversely, the only victory in that rather depressing run cost Gareth Southgate his job last month.

"It was a wee bit frustrating I suppose," Strachan conceded in the aftermath of the latest defeat, sealed by Jamie Mackie's neatly taken 64th-minute effort after Plymouth's top scorer got the better of the usually reliable David Wheater to fire beyond an exposed Brad Jones.

Middlesbrough's lack of threat in front of goal was summed up by Adam Johnson's penalty miss 10 minutes from time, the midfielder's tame effort striking a post before thudding into the advertising boards after Sean St Ledger had been the unwilling meat in a Plymouth sandwich. "I think we all know what's wrong," added Strachan, alluding to his urgent need to bring in forward reinforcements.

He added: "You don't have to have your full Uefa Pro Licence to see what it is." Marcus Bent, who headed a glorious opportunity woefully wide after coming on as a second-half substitute following his arrival on loan from Birmingham City, looks to be far from the answer.

Kari Arnason cleared off the line from Wheater but genuine Middlesbrough openings were rare. Strachan added: "We had a week to try and find the formula and we came up with it in terms of making chances. But the problems were with scoring, that's the hardest part.

"As a unit if you're not scoring goals then you make sure they don't go in at the other end."

With the on-loan Aston Villa midfielder Shane Lowry leading a stirring rearguard action that earned Plymouth their first clean sheet of the season, and only their second away victory of the campaign, bolstering their chances of climbing out of the bottom three, Sturrock had words of comfort for his former Scotland team-mate.

"Gordon will get them promoted," he insisted, in a statement rather more bold than any regular Middlesbrough-watcher would care to make right now.

He added: "He's a good manager, they're still high up in the table and they've got some good players. I'm positive they'll be promoted at the end of the season."

But the gloomy outlook at the Riverside was deepened by a serious head injury to the defender Emanuel Pogatetz, carried off after an accidental clash with David Gray in the Austrian's first start for more than six months following double knee surgery. "He's on the way to hospital, and it doesn't look good," Strachan said.

He added ruefully: "He's got the physical scars. We have to deal with the mental ones."

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