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Full-time: Middlesbrough 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
PAUL Robinson produced a man-of-the-match performance as Rovers ground out a hard-earned draw at the Riverside to move within four points of the play-off places.
Robinson denied Mustapha Carayol on three occasions and also saved from Nathaniel Chalobah and Albert Adomah to ensure Gary Bowyer’s side made it 11 clean sheets for the Championship campaign – one more than they achieved in the whole of last season.
Rovers, who defended resolutely throughout, would have been happy to go in at half-time level after they came under sustained pressure in the first half.
Boro, defending a four-game unbeaten league run at home, were fast out of the traps and forced Robinson into action inside the first five minutes.
Firstly the former England number one made a flying stop to deny Carayol after the livewire winger barged past two challengers and made his way into the box.
From the resulting corner Robinson kept out a header from home debutant Chalobah.
With their raids down the left George Friend and – in particular – Carayol caused Rovers plenty of problems before the break.
And it was the latter who tested Robinson for the third time when he cut inside on to his right foot and let fly with a dipping 20-yard drive that the overworked goalkeeper pushed past his right-hand post.
The closest the visitors went in the opening period was when Rudy Gestede used his strength to win the ball on the byline before playing a clever reverse pass into the path of Jordan Rhodes, whose goal-bound effort was blocked behind by Ben Gibson.
Gestede, from the Tom Cairney corner that followed, then side-footed wide after he peeled away from his marker.
The momentum was with the hosts, however, and it came as no surprise when Rovers boss Bowyer replaced Kane with Adam Henley at the interval after his grilling by Carayol.
But the change did little to stem the tide and within the first 10 minutes of the second half full debutant Danny Graham saw a deflected header from an Emmanuel Ledesma corner – one of 16 Boro won – go just the post before Grant Hanley nearly turned an inviting cross from left-back Friend into his own goal.
Rovers breathed an even bigger sigh of relief in the 55th minute when the lightning-fast Carayol chased down a raking pass over the top, brushed off the challenge of Henley and went one-on-one with Robinson.
But once again the veteran stopper came out on top, keeping Carayol’s side-footed attempt out with his feet.
Robinson’s opposite number – and former Rovers keeper – Shay Given was then called into action for the first time as he turned aside a 20-yard shot from Cairney.
The save ensured Boro’s run without conceding a league goal at home stretched to 454 minutes.
But Jason Lowe – whose wonderful winner settled November’s reverse clash between the teams at Ewood Park – was not far away with an ambitious 30-yarder.
But it was Robinson who was worked for the final time when he tipped the ball over the bar from substitute Adomah.
Middlesbrough: Given, Varga, Woodgate, Gibson, Friend, Chalobah, Whitehead, Ledesma (Adomah 68), Leadbitter, Carayol (Kamara 75), Graham (Main 82). Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Butterfield, Hines, Omeruo.
Booked: Chalobah, Carayol.
Rovers: Robinson, Kane (Henley 46), Hanley, Kilgallon, Spurr, Lowe, Taylor, Cairney, Dunn (Conway 56), Rhodes, Gestede (Varney 76). Subs not used: Eastwood, Williamson, Dabo, Evans.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Attendance: 14,965 (691 away).
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