A Saturday night rerun of The X Factor provided Gordon Strachan's momentary escape from his mounting worries, but at this rate the Middlesbrough manager won't need to bother with the Sky+ to enjoy his TV fix. He could soon be having weekends off on a regular basis.
Unlike Simon Cowell, the Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, is not prone to knee-jerk reactions to appease the masses. But in unwisely dispensing with Gareth Southgate with the club a point off the top of the Championship table he set an uncomfortable precedent. Given the nature of Southgate's removal a year ago, Strachan could have little cause for complaint if he were to go the same way with his out-of-sorts side just two points above the relegation places, mocking their billing as pre-season title favourites.
They were given brief hope by Kris Boyd, who stabbed home a close-range leveller soon after the break, but once again Strachan's players did all their talking for the beleaguered manager off the pitch rather than on it.
David Wheater urged patience from supporters and chairman alike, though the defender's vote of confidence did seem to carry with it an air of finality. "He's a good manager and all the lads are totally behind him, he said. I'd be upset if the worst does happen, we don't want anyone to lose their job and I don't think he deserves that. He prepares us well for each game and we're the ones who go out onto the pitch."
As punchy as ever after he was jeered off by home supporters, Strachan said: "I can understand the fans' reaction. I've got no problem with it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I'm not asking them for patience or anything like that."
Strachan, however, was afforded a hero's send-off from the vociferous travelling support. The Leeds manager, Simon Grayson, cites Strachan as one of the influences at the outset of his Elland Road playing career in an era when the Scot was central in helping the club secure the old First Division title. He clearly retains his cult status in a corner of West Yorkshire.
Almost two decades on, Grayson could have unwittingly played a significant role in the 53-year-old's immediate future. He celebrated his 100th game in charge with a richly deserved victory which pushed his Jekyll and Hyde side back into the top 10 courtesy of goals in either half from Davide Somma, whose precision, angled drive after a Sanchez Watt cross found its way past four defenders, and Luciano Becchio, with a volley which glanced off Jonny Howson's backside on its way in.
Grayson, brushing sentiment for an old colleague emphatically aside, said: "We wanted to come here to add a little more misery for Gordon. He's going through a tough time but he's a fighter, he always has been. He has the players to turn things around."
Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Steele; Bates, Wheater, McManus, Arca; Kink (Lita, 66), O'Neil, Tavares (Halliday, 73), Bailey; McDonald, Boyd. Substitutes not used Miller, Coyne (gk), Bennett, McMahon, Smallwood.
Leeds United (4-4-2) Brown; Connolly, Naylor, Collins, McCartney (Hughes, 34); Snodgrass, Howson, Faye (Bromby, 86), Watt (Johnson, 38); Somma, Bechio. Substitutes not used Gradel, Kilkenny, Alnwick (gk), McCormack.
Man of the match Becchio.
Possession Middlesbrough 52% Leeds 48%.
Shots on target Middlesbrough 7 Leeds 5.
Referee CFoy (Merseyside)
Attendance 23,550. Match rating 7/10.Reuse content