"It reminded me of Austria", said the Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz in his assessment of a crucial success. It is presumed he was referring to the weather (sporadic snow showers), but he could have been describing the quality of football (sporadic passes to feet), since Austria have failed to beat Tunisia, Japan and even England in the past six months.
"Cold, wet and miserable", was how the Middlesbrough manager, Gareth Southgate, described the entertainment, but he could console himself with the knowledge that Tuncay Sanli's first-half winner had taken his side eight points clear of the relegation zone.
There was no such succour for the Derby manager, Paul Jewell, whose side now look unlikely to surpass Sunderland's record of picking up just 15 points in an entire Premier League season. Whether he remains around to find out if they can do is doubtful after newspaper revelations yesterday about his private life.
Derby are stuck on 10 points and, with games against Everton and Arsenal still to come, it would be a brave man who bet on them claiming a further five in their final seven matches – especially if their attacking hopes continue to reside in the hands of Robert Earnshaw. Presented with a golden chance for an 85th-minute equaliser at the Riverside, the Wales international directed a four-yard header wide. It was the kind of miss that makes even the most positive of managers despair.
"I may crack jokes, but I'm no comedian," said Jewell, who has now seen his side claim just four points from 17 matches since he replaced Billy Davies last November. "I will not be cracking open any Easter eggs; I'm more likely to be cracking my head open against the kitchen sink."
Middlesbrough fans could have been forgiven for doing likewise after their side went into their shell during a soporific second half, but the three points secured by Tuncay's 32nd-minute strike, a low shot after he cut in from the left, were more important than the level of entertainment.
Goal: Tuncay (32) 1-0.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Young (Shawky, 65), Wheater, Pogatetz, Taylor; O'Neil, Boateng, Cattermole, Downing; Aliadière (Alves, 86), Tuncay (Johnson, 86). Substitutes not used: Turnbull, Grounds.
Derby (4-4-2): Carroll; Todd, Leacock, Moore, McEveley; Sterjovski (Villa, 39), Savage (Ghaly, 62), Jones (Pearson, 62), Lewis; Earnshaw, Miller. Substitutes not used: Price, Robert.
Booked: Middlesbrough Cattermole, Tuncay; Derby Savage.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Man of the match: Cattermole.
For Capello's notebook
David Wheater The Boro defender, who was cut from the squad on Saturday, was given few chances to show if he is international class until Derby's late revival showcased his solid, uncomplicated style.Reuse content