Robson lifts Boro by getting off mark

Middlesbrough 1 Peterborough United 0
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The Independent Football

A month ago, becalmed in mid-table after two wins from Gordon Strachan's first 11 games in charge, Middlesbrough's season appeared all but over.

It depends on your viewpoint whether you applaud the taciturn Scot for finally orchestrating an upturn in fortunes, or simply despair at the paucity of a division that has allowed a club so seemingly out of sorts now to sit just two points shy of the Championship's top six despite such a wretched run. Whatever your take, spirits are soaring on Teesside.

Barry Robson's first goal in his fourth game in Middlesbrough colours after just seven minutes, looked as if it would herald an early St Valentine's Day massacre. But the hosts couldn't find a killer second for love nor money, and only a desperate goalline clearance from David Wheater prevented substitute Josh Simpson from claiming a stoppage-time leveller for the visitors.

"We showed a disrespect for the other side after our early goal, and the standard of our play wasn't acceptable," a far from satisfied Strachan admitted. "We'll enjoy the win, but there are things we have to work on."

The expected flood of goals once Robson swept home Jonathan Franks' inviting centre failed to materialise, and the hosts were left to hang on in stretching their unbeaten run to six games, courtesy of their first back-to-back home wins since September.

Peterborough recovered from a woeful opening quarter, and could put forward a decent argument for deserving a share of the spoils, but they succumbed to a seventh consecutive away defeat to see them remain bottom, 12 points adrift of safety. Despite their at times pleasing football, they are heading for an immediate return to League One.

Lee Frecklington was denied by a smart first-half save from Danny Coyne, but barring the late rally, that was as good as it got. "We're lacking a bit of presence," Jim Gannon, Peterborough's third manager this season, admitted. He added: "We're showing signs of improvement and I'm sure the results will come."