Boro paying price for McClaren's safety-first philosophy

Middlesbrough 1 Portsmouth 1
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The cynic would say that Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, must be spending too much time with Sven Goran Eriksson.

What other reason could there be for the continuing low-risk, safety-first philosophy at the Riverside? With striking talent to call on that includes Aiyegbeni Yakubu, Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, not to mention Massimo Maccarone and Szilard Nemeth, Boro are none the less persevering with a formation that includes only one out-and-out forward.

Even when the fixture in question is "Portsmouth, home" - hardly one that inspires fear. Yet Boro began on Saturday with Franck Queudrue, the full-back, pushed into midfield, Maccarone marooned on the right wing and Yakubu isolated up front.

As McClaren himself admitted afterwards: "These are the sort of games we have to be winning." Yet at one stage it looked as though Boro might not even manage a point. Pompey created the best two chances of a low-key first half and deserved their lead when Gary O'Neil side-footed home just after the break. This was a much-improved display, with John Viafara screening their suspect defence.

So it was particularly frustrating for Alain Perrin, their manager, to see "a lack of concentration for a moment" allow Yakubu a free header to convert Fabio Rochemback's corner a few minutes later.

Immediately after that, Viduka, Hasselbaink and Gaizka Mendieta were introduced as Boro belatedly applied some pressure, but it was not enough.

"We couldn't establish a good tempo and it was hard to break them down," said McClaren. "But the same formation got us three goals and a win at Aston Villa and you don't throw that away. Our home form has been disappointing. But we know we've got the answers somewhere within the club."

Goals: O'Neil (46) 0-1; Yakubu (53) 1-1.

Middlesbrough (4-5-1): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Pogatetz; Maccarone (Viduka, 53), Boateng, Doriva, Rochemback (Hasselbaink, 53), Queudrue (Mendieta, 46); Yakubu.Substitutes not used: Knight (gk), Bates.

Portsmouth (3-3-3-1): Ashdown; Priske, Stefanovic, O'Brien; Griffin (Skopelitis, 46), Viafara, Taylor; O'Neil, Vukic, Robert (Vignal, 58); Silva (Todorov, 46). Substitutes not used: Westerveld (gk), Songo'o.

Referee: C Foy (St Helens).

Booked: Middlesbrough Pogatetz; Portsmouth Skopelitis, O'Neil, Vignal.

Man of the match: Viafara.

Attendance: 26,551.