Aitor Karanka’s challenge to Middlesbrough stars

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AITOR Karanka says Boro must now defend their position after going one point clear at the top of the Championship table last night.

Birmingham went 1-0 up through a Paul Caddis penalty and Boro were reduced to 10 men after Dimi Konstantopoulos was sent off for the challenge that resulted in the decision.

But they fought back after the break and earned a deserved point thanks to Patrick Bamford’s 74th-minute leveller.

Karanka said his side were poor in the first half, but was pleased with a spirited second half display that saw Boro earn a point at St Andrew’s.

“First half we played very badly,” he said. “We played without personality. It’s the second time we have played to go top of the table and in these moments I think we’re under pressure.

“In the second half with 10 men we played much better because we played with the intensity that we know we can.

“I can’t say anything about Dimi’s sending off because I was too far away.

“Also I can’t say anything about the referee because I’ve had problems with him before when he was fourth official at the Blackburn game, so I’d prefer not say anything about him again.”

The head coach said he was proud of his players to reach the Championship summit but admitted it will be a difficult position to hold on to.

“I’m very proud of all the players,” said Karanka. “They know that and I told them after the game that finally we’re at the top of the table and we are there because all of them deserve it.

“Now we have to defend this position and it’s going to be very difficult. After 31 games we’re at the top and I don’t know if anyone thought we would be in this position back in June or July, but we are and now we have to defend it.

“This league will be tight till the end.”