Southgate fights for his kids

Middlesbrough 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
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The Independent Football

The statistics do not look good for Middlesbrough: no goals in three League games, one goal in their last seven, one win in 13, there is an obvious explanation as to why Boro sit second-bottom of the division. And next up there are two away games, at Manchester City and West Ham United.

One shot on target in 90 minutes against a Blackburn Rovers side also in the relegation zone was another fact to worry Teesside. There is an element of the Riverside already banging their cutlery on the table over this and manager Gareth Southgate did not shy away from that agenda.

"I can sense the mood here, you can feel it, you can cut it with a knife," he said. But Southgate needs support and will find it in his boardroom if not in the stands.

He is a young man with a young team and he is almost deliberately tranquil about a task where he has been asked to chop numbers and salaries. On Saturday that tranquillity stepped aside. "There is a time to stand up and fight for your players and that is today," Southgate said. "They gave everything. Maybe it is not silky but you need grit, graft and desire, and they have got that as a group.

"I have to help that team play, and today they withstood a lot both from Blackburn and the atmosphere. We came through it with an important point. People will look at me as a young manager, but I have had 20 years in football and have been through most things in life. I am older and wiser."

Boro's midfield came from their academy: Stewart Downing, Matthew Bates, Josh Walker and Adam Johnson. They competed effectively against more experienced opposition. As did Boro's defence; while Brad Jones demanded attention for a string of saves, the two from substitute Jason Roberts requiring the greatest agility. One of Southgate's forwards must click but they have to get the ball – Marlon King received little service on his home debut.

As for Blackburn, even if they lose Roque Santa Cruz, Roberts and Benni McCarthy provide a cutting edge, though one that manager Sam Allardyce lamented for being blunt. They will have to look sharper.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Jones; Wheater, Huth, Riggott, Pogatetz; Downing, Bates, Walker, Johnson; King (Emnes, 65) Tuncay (Alves, 65). Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Hoyte, McMahon, Arca, Shawky.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Emerton (Dunn, 50) Andrews (Tugay, 43) Grella, Pedersen; McCarthy (Roberts, 73) Santa Cruz. Substitutes not used: Bunn (gk), Simpson, Givet, Villaneuva.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Blackburn Nelsen, McCarthy, Pedersen, Ooijer.

Man of the match: Jones

Attendance: 24,303