Middlesbrough 1 Blackpool 1
IT was a frustrating night for Boro, but credit to Blackpool who did a job. Writes GORDON COX from the Riverside.
Aitor Karanka again made changes to his starting line-up. He recalled Ryan Fredericks, but replaced Kenneth Omeruo and George Friend as Emilio Nsue dropped to the bench and Ben Gibson and James Husband started – the latter for the first time for Boro in the league.
Grant Leadbitter returned to captain which included Emmanuel Ledesma who was starting a game for first time since the final game of last season at Yeovil. Kike started on the bench where for company, among others, he had Bryn Morris.
There was a warm welcome from the Boro fans for Tony McMahon as he returned as captain.
A positive start from Middlesbrough had Blackpool penned back for long periods with the notable moments coming when Ledesma shot low from 20 yards and clever work from Husband set up Lee Tomlin who shot just wide.
There was the occasional foray into Boro territory from the visitors, but they were met with stubborn resistance, most notably from Fredericks.
The opening goal came on 18 minutes and owed a lot to opportunism and a clever finish as Ledesma won a header a few yards up from the edge of the Blackpool penalty area. In attempting to clear, Ishmael Miller headed the ball backwards and it looped up nicely for Daniel Ayala who headed over Joe Lewis from eight yards.
It was a lead which lasted just seven minutes.
Attacking down the left Joan Oriol swung over an excellent low cross deep into the Boro penalty area where a crowd of bodies converged on the ball with Ishmael Miller credited with the final touch as he slid in at the back post, though the final touch could have come off Husband.
Just four minutes later Karanka was forced into a change as Adam Clayton, looking uncomfortable, was replaced by Kike.
It was the Tangerines who threatened next. A shot just up from the edge of the penalty area from Andrea Orlandi took a wick deflection and looped up menacingly. For a moment it looked as though the ball was going to drop over Dimi Konstantopoulos, but the goalkeeper produced as superb save to tip away.
Not to be denied and with renewed hope following a wretched run of results, Blackpool sensed they could cause what many would see as an upset and almost took the lead when David Perkins shot from the edge of the penalty area – an effort which thudded back off Konstantopoulos’s left-hand post and away to safety.
As Boro broke, Perkins tripped Patrick Bamford with none of the officials spotting the offence. The move ended with Boro winning a corner, but no more.
Half-time Middlesbrough 1 Blackpool 1
Boro encamped in the Blackpool half from the start of the second half with Adam Reach and Husband combining well down the left.
Kike was prominent but couldn’t find a finish to match his positioning and dogged defending meant this was going to be a game where Boro and their fans would have to be patient.
Whatever Boro tried wouldn’t work, they simply couldn’t find a way through.
Bamford shot from well inside the penalty area but into a crowd of bodies and a well-controlled low volley through a packed penalty area from Lee Tomlin was on target but well read by Lewis.
Blackpool were always a threat on the break and twice Miller thought he was in with a chance another goal. His first effort was the closest, a header which just cleared the bar.
Not for the first time on the night Boro were indebted to Fredericks as he cleared from deep inside the penalty area, then Edu Oriol shot low from 20 yards but straight at Konstantopoulos.
Concerted pressure inside the Blackpool penalty area brought three chances in quick succession, but neither Kike (twice) nor Emilio Nsue could prise a way through.
A low shot from Kike was on target and Lewis did well to read its path through a sea of legs, then entering injury-time a low cross from Husband was turned round for a corner by a well-organised side winning what was just their third point of the season.
Scorers Ayala 18, Miller 25.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Fredericks, Ayala, Gibson, Husband, Ledesma (Nsue 74), Clayton (Kike 29), Leadbitter (Capt.), Reach, Tomlin, Bamford. Subs: Blackman (gk); Friend, Omeruo, Morris, Wildschut.
Blackpool: Lewis; Daniels, J Oriol, McMahon, Perkins, Cubero (Lundstram 46), E Oriol (Zoko 89), Orlandi (Mellis 60), Delfouneso, Miller, Rentmeister. Subs: Parish (gk); Dielna, Cywka, Zenjov.
Referee Paul Tierney
Middlesbrough Leadbitter, 41, foul; Ayala, 45, foul.
Blackpool Rentmeister 58, foul; Perkins, 59, handball.
Attendance 15,213 (193 Blackpool)
Conditions Warm, dry and still.
Possession: Middlesbrough 65% Blackpool 35%
Boro Website Man of the Match Ryan Fredericks