Middlesbrough 0 Blackburn Rovers 1: Harsh judges at Riverside start to turn on Southgate

Click to follow
The Independent Football

They are scenting blood at the Riverside, and it has nothing to do with Robbie Savage and his increasingly troublesome proboscis.

"I'm being judged on a game-to-game basis and that's difficult," Gareth Southgate, the manager, admitted after a fifth match without victory. Middlesbrough have scored once in that period, spanning more than nine-and-a-half hours. A Carling Cup exit to Notts County only fanned the embers of discontent smouldering on Teesside.

Even someone as Premiership-savvy as Southgate has been taken aback at the demand for instant gratification in his new role. He added: "Everyone likes to give you the benefit of their experience. I have to be strong enough to stand by what I believe in because even though it's difficult at the moment, those beliefs will see us through." Middlesbrough appointed the 35-year-old in full knowledge of the risks involved with any rookie manager, and the club's hierarchy are confident he will quickly arrest the slump.

Southgate's predecessor Steve McClaren endured an even less impressive start, and look where he is now. "Our first month under Gareth has been something of a roller coaster ride," Keith Lamb, the chief executive, said. "We knew it wouldn't be easy for him to succeed Steve without a few lows along with the highs."

Shabani Nonda opened his Rovers account on his first start with a powerful first-half header, as Jonathan Woodgate, making his home debut as captain, stood and admired David Bentley's cross. Jason Euell wasted two immediate chances to level, while Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Mark Viduka, who is growing increasingly frustrated after again being confined to the bench, went close after the break.

It took a fine late Mark Schwarzer save to deny compatriot Brett Emerton, and a doubling of the advantage would not have flattered the visitors, who enjoyed a gentle warm-up for Thursday's Uefa Cup return with Salzburg, which is poised at 2-2.

Savage was forced to ditch two kits in quick succession after bloodying himself in an accidental clash with Fabio Rochemback. "The same thing also happened at Sheffield United," Savage said of his injury. "With the size of my nose I'm surprised they didn't have to evacuate the Riverside," he added.

With thousands of home supporters having long since headed for the exits, it would not have been a major operation.

Goal: Nonda (27) 0-1.

Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1) Schwarzer; Davies (Johnson, 84), Woodgate, Pogatetz, Taylor; Parnaby, Mendieta (Cattermole, 46), Rochemback, Morrison (Viduka, 46); Euell; Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Bates.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2) Friedel; Emerton, Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Neill; Bentley, Savage, Tugay (Mokoena, 76), Pedersen (Gray, 90); Nonda, McCarthy (Gallagher, 85). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Peter.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Booked: Middlesbrough Euell; Blackburn Tugay, McCarthy, Bentley.

Man of the match: Tugay.

Attendance: 24,959.

Comments