Hasselbaink pops in on Hughes' week in hell

Blackburn Rovers 0 - Middlesbrough 4
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When Mark Hughes puts a face to a miserable eight days then Steve McClaren's features will come to mind. Not gloating, sympathetic even, but satisfied none the less.

When Mark Hughes puts a face to a miserable eight days then Steve McClaren's features will come to mind. Not gloating, sympathetic even, but satisfied none the less.

While Hughes has had to squirm with disappointment as manager of Wales and then Blackburn Rovers, McClaren has been sitting on the opposite and victorious bench in his roles for England and Middlesbrough, so if there is a photograph on Sparky's dartboard you can guess who it is. Shake hands? How about your throat?

McClaren was in no mood to dwell on Hughes' misery, however. Instead, he had the compassion of a man who could look back to last season and remember the dark days when Middlesbrough's start brought only a draw in their first five matches. They finished in mid-table and in Europe, courtesy of the League Cup, and his words were those of encouragement for his Blackburn counterpart.

"You have weeks in football that destroy you," he said, "but Mark's a very good manager, he's proved that with Wales and he's got a good staff. He's just come in and he's learning about his team - he'll have learned a bit more today - and I thought they were unfortunate in this game. Blackburn were the better team until Tugay got sent off.

"Club management hits you. It comes at you every day, and it's about coping with the lows. The highs are simple, it's how you bounce back. Mark had character as a player and he's showed it as a manager. He'll come through."

There was little doubt that Hughes was getting fully acquainted with a low after this game. Tugay's dismissal for two avoidable bookable offences did not help his cause, but Blackburn's defending was lamentable in the second half and they have two of the symptoms of relegated teams: a leaky back four and an attack that finds it hard to score.

Hughes' only consolation on a miserable Saturday night is he will get a rare full week to work on his back four, but what he can do to his attack before the January transfer window is less obvious. He appears to lack faith in Jonathan Stead and Jay Bothroyd, and the only time Paul Dickov looked dangerous was when he made the pathetic assertion that Gaizka Mendieta contributed in earning the second of Tugay's bookings. In one sense Dickov was right, but the Spaniard probably wanted the use of his legs on Saturday night.

Then there is Youri Djorkaeff, whose silken touches would have been ideal against 10 men, but who did not even make an attempt at a tackle when Blackburn were in reduced circumstances. Not surprisingly, his manager, a striker of endless effort, dragged him off after 77 minutes.

Meanwhile Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was the epitome of aggression at the other end, scoring three goals to take his tally to seven for the season. "Would we have won that game 4-0 last season?" McClaren asked. "I don't think so. The quality of the finishing was very high. None of those goals was easy but Jimmy made them look simple."

Put Hasselbaink in a Blackburn shirt and the team would be transformed but, unfortunately for Hughes, he does not have that luxury. It looks bleak at Ewood Park.

Goals: Hasselbaink (46) 0-1, Boateng (50) 0-2, Hasselbaink (57) 0-3, Hasselbaink (90) 0-4.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Friedel; Neill, Amoruso (Short, 63), Matteo, Gray; Reid, Ferguson, Tugay, Emerton; Djorkaeff (Jansen, 77); Dickov (Stead, 60). Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Pedersen.

Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; McMahon, Riggott, Southgate, Parnaby (Nemeth, h-t); Mendieta (Morrison, 80), Parlour, Boateng, Downing; Zenden; Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Ehiogu, Bates.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Blackburn: Tugay, Matteo. Middlesbrough: McMahon. Sent off: Blackburn: Tugay (second booking).

Man of the match: Hasselbaink.

Attendance: 20,385.