Karanka frustrated as Middlesbrough let lead slip away at the death again

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MIDDLESBROUGH boss Aitor Karanka disappointed and frustrated as his side conceded a last-minute equaliser to be denied three points.

It meant Boro have only won once in 23 games on their travels, picking up just seven points.

The Spaniard said: “We were playing and working very well only to lose everything in the last minute.

“We need to improve in this period of the match and not to concede such vital goals.

“We are only four points above the relegation zone and not in a very comfortable position.

“When I arrived the most important thing is getting the points as it makes the players and myself more confident.

“It is not the first time it has occurred – but we have made mistakes late in the game.

“This is the second time in a few days that we have lost vital points.

“We know it is a probable and we were aware before the game that Birmingham are very good at set-pieces.

“At half-time I told my players that we needed a second goal to win the game but Birmingham played very well in the second half to score two goals and earn a draw.”

Birmingham were certainly the more positive in their search for the opening goal with Dariusz Dudka and Jesse Lingard having early strikes. Dudka’s effort bounced wide, while Lingard, shooting on the turn, saw his effort effectively blocked by Jonathan Woodgate.

But was Middlesbrough who seized a 22nd-minute lead. Marvin Emnes created the cross from the left which bounced back to Mustapha Carayol to turn and fire his shot into the corner for the net from eight yards.

After five successive away defeats, the goal lifted the visitors who began to play with clear determination against a Birmingham side lacking any rhythm.

Boosted by their success they nearly increased their lead when Albert Adomah narrowly missed a right-wing cross with Darren Randolph floundering in Birmingham’s goal.

Surprisingly goalkeeper Shay Given was not seriously tested in a first half in which the north-east club appeared to be well in control. The only shots the Irishman had to save were long-range efforts from Riley and Caddis which the veteran handled well.

In an effort to inject more life into his attack, Birmingham boss Lee Clark sent on winger Chris Burke in place of on-loan striker Aaron Mclean, and it turned out to be an inspirational move.

There was certainly an improvement, as highlighted when Middlesbrough skipper Woodgate saw his back header from a Mitch Hancox cross hit the post, a whisker away from an own goal.

But it was Burke who was instrumental in Birmingham getting back on level terms as he went down in the area under a challenge from Ben Gibson, and Caddis stepped up to convert the penalty.

Middlesbrough maintained a high tempo and it needed a reflex save from Randolph to keep out a powerful header by Kei Kamara.

In the 80th minute Birmingham made several attempts to clear a corner but the ball bounced to Ayala who prodded the ball past Randolph.

But it was Burke who again engineered Birmingham’s late equaliser with an accurate corner which Kyle Bartley headed home four minutes into injury time – just four minutes after coming on.

Birmingham: Randolph, Caddis, Robinson, Burn, Hancox (Bartley 90), Novak, Dudka (Lee 53), Reilly, Lingard, Zigic, Mclean (Burke 46). Subs Not Used: Doyle, Shinnie, Brown, Gray.

Booked: Robinson. Goals: Caddis 59 pen, Bartley 90.

Middlesbrough: Given, Rhys Williams, Woodgate, Ayala, Gibson, Adomah, Leadbitter, Whitehead, Carayol (Jutkiewicz 62), Emnes (Butterfield 71), Kamara (Ledesma 90). Subs Not Used: Richardson, Konstantopoulos, Hines, Smallwood. Booked: Leadbitter. Goals: Carayol 22, Ayala 80.

Att: 13,454 Ref: Darren Bond (Lancashire).