With Aden Flint injured and Daniel Ayala suspended, Tony Pulis was forced into changes.

In came Mo Besic and Ashley Fletcher, while Britt Assombalonga was preferred to Jordan Hugill up front. Jonny Howson dropped into right back, with Ryan Shotton playing alongside Dael Fry in the centre.

Tony Mowbray made four changes to the Rovers side that lost away at Reading in midweek. Former Boro boy Richard Smallwood dropped to the bench, along with Amari’i Bell, Lewis Travis and Craig Conway. In came Derrick Williams, Harrison Reed, Bradley Dack and another former Boro Academy player Danny Graham.

Loud applause rang round Ewood Park prior to kick-off as everyone paid their respects to the families of two former players, both legends in their own right. World Cup winner Gordon Banks and Rovers England international striker Fred Pickering, Blackburn born and bred, both passed away in the week leading up to this game.

A positive start had Blackburn on the back foot as Boro dominated possession and might have taken the lead with eight minutes played as Fletcher rose to meet a Lewis Wing cross and forced Raya into a save.

Most of the football to this point had been played in the Rovers half, much of it in and around their penalty area and that’s pretty much the way it stayed until the opening which came with just over 18 minutes played.

Fletcher did well to control on the edge of the box and make room to cross. The delivery took a deflection, looping the ball up over David Raya and into the path of Britt Assombalonga who powered in a header from close range.

Looking for a quick second, Boro stayed on the front foot and Wing ended a passage of play in the Rovers box when curling a shot on the turn just over.

As Boro remained in control, well-worked interplay involving Wing and Fletcher approaching the Rovers box set up a half chance for the latter, one which he cracked into the side netting.

With home fans becoming increasingly frustrated, Boro continued their quest to give the scoreline a better reflection of their superiority and determination from George Saville in the closing minutes of a first half dominated by Tony Pulis’ side won a corner but little more.

For all that, it took a terrific clearing header from George Friend to clear from Graham as Rovers suddenly fashioned a chance.

In the final minute of normal time at the end of the first half Fletcher was sent through the middle and edged past Williams who brought him down right on the edge of the box. As Fletcher was the last man, Williams was shown the red card. Wing took the free-kick, but Reed effected a good block.

Tony Mowbray made three changes for the start of the second half. Jack Rodwell, Corry Evans and Ben Brereton replaced by Ryan Nyambe, Amari’i Bell and Lewis Travis.

The early exchanges of the second half suggested more of the same in the game as Boro pushed forward and a 20-yard shot from Wing thudded against the bar.

However once the changes began to take effect, Rovers offered more of a threat and a clearance from Shotton at full stretch only just went the right side of the post.

Bradley Dack flashed a header over when meeting a right-wing free-kick, before Tony Pulis was forced into a change adding to more defensive concern as Friend was unable to continue and was replaced by Paddy McNair. He slotted onto the right of the defence alongside Shotton, with Dael Fry moving to the left of what was now a back three, Howson and Saville dropping back when required.

Bell, who had earlier cut in between two defenders approaching the edge of the box and fired in a cross which momentarily looked as though may cause problems, again wriggled into a good position and tried to shoot.

Boro readjusted, settled and took the game back to their hosts, forcing them into more defensive duties.

Raya had to back-track to tip over a right wing-cross from Howson, though a curling effort from the same player was always going over a few minutes later. That chance came as a result of pressure from Assombalonga on the Rovers back line, which for a moment look like being breached once more.

Both sides squandered good chances within minutes of each other as first Graham uncharacteristically sliced wide, then Fletcher, set up with a terrific pass from Wing, curled a shot straight at Raya.

Wing shot with power but not sufficient direction, then as the game swung back into the other penalty area, Darren Randolph made an outstanding save away to right to deny Dack.

There was little let up in the action and Wing and a shot and a follow-up blocked, then Stewart Downing, on for Besic, shot just wide from the edge of the box.

It was then Raya’s turn for the heroics as Boro broke with purpose, Howson fed Assombalonga who in turn fed Saville. Returning the favour, Saville set up Assombalonga inside the box and a powerful shot was blocked by the goalkeeper then tipped round as it looked like dropping in.

Moments later, set up by John Obi Mikel, Downing thundered a shot inches over.

Scorer Assombalonga 18

Rovers: Raya, Bennett, Williams, Reed, Rodwell (Nyambe 46), Mulgrew (Capt.), Evans (Bell 46), Brereton (Travis 46), Dack, Armstrong, Graham. Subs: Leutwiler (gk); Smallwood, Nuttall, Conway.

Boro: Randolph, Howson (Capt. from 60), Fry, Shotton, Friend (Capt. to 60) (McNair 60), Besic (Downing 72), Mikel, Saville, Wing, Fletcher (Hugill 80), Assombalonga. Subs: Dimi, Clayton, Tavernier, Van La Parra.

Referee: Darren Bond. Lancashire

Red card Williams 45, foul on Fletcher (last man)
Yellow cards
Rovers Rodwell 32, foul
Boro None

Attendance: 13,249 (1,052 Boro)