MIDDLESBROUGH may have finished 2011 in an automatic promotion place – but it did not stop Tony Mowbray feeling as though it was a “defeat”.
Boro were unable to make it a 100 per cent run in December when Tommy Rowe’s header three minutes from time ensured Peterborough, who Sunderland face in the FA Cup this month, left the Riverside with a point following a draw.
Scott McDonald had earlier nodded in Barry Robson’s corner and Boro seemed destined to earn all three points and move level with Southampton at the top of the table.
McDonald twice hit the bar after his opening goal and it proved to be crucial as Rowe snatched a point at the end.
Boro will feel they did enough to earn the victory as the visitors offered little attacking threat before falling behind.
But Posh were far more adventurous in the second period and the draw meant they extended their unbeaten run to four games.
Middlesbrough still moved into the automatic promotion places after defeats for Southampton and West Ham, but Rowe’s late goal meant they were unable to record their fifth successive victory.
It was the first time Mowbray’s side had dropped points in December after four successive victories.
“It’s very disappointing, it feels like a defeat,” shrugged Mowbray, whose side visited Blackpool today.
“We scored in the 87th minute to beat Hull in our last match, so we can’t complain.
“I’m going to sound like a long-play record, but we need that second goal.
“Saturday was another classic case of that – we dominated for long spells and hit the woodwork twice.
“I think we got in enough good areas to have scored more and get the win.
“The final third was frustrating – we didn’t really ask enough questions.
“They strung six or seven across the back and they were hard to break down, but when we did get in behind them, we weren’t able to pick anyone out.
“If we’d got the second goal I think the game would have been finished, but it didn’t come.
“We probably didn’t make their keeper work hard enough. In the last quarter of an hour they changed things and looked more of a threat.
“They made our keeper make a couple of saves and ultimately got the goal, which leaves us all frustrated.”
For all the despair at missing out on the three points, the bottom line was that Boro did overtake West Ham, who lost 2-1 at Derby.
“We’ve done all right over the last month, but the bottom line is that no prizes are handed out in December,” said Mowbray.
“We have to keep it going, find consistency and keep the results ticking along.”
Both sides remained unchanged from their respective 1-0 Boxing Day wins and it was Middlesbrough’s match-winner Robson who very nearly picked up where he left off against Hull.
The midfielder gave Boro all three points with a stunning strike three minutes from time and he looked lively again in the opening exchanges.
He found space in the 10th minute, but his lofted shot went over the bar before he tried his luck again with a blasted shot which produced the same outcome.
The nearest Boro came to breaking the deadlock came when right-back Justin Hoyte found some space in an advanced position.
The home supporters encouraged the former Arsenal man to try his luck and his shot across the face of goal only needed a touch, but it narrowly evaded McDonald.
It seemed as though Boro were destined to have an off-day in front of goal, but their persistence was rewarded six minutes into the second half.
Robson’s inswinging corner found McDonald at the near post and with little room to manoeuvre, he glanced his header into the corner of the net.
Posh boss Darren Ferguson responded by replacing Daniel Kearns with Joe Newell and that switch seemed to give the visitors more freedom.
A sweeping move ended in a George Boyd shot which Middlesbrough keeper Jason Steele had to palm away.
Scott Wootton and Paul Taylor then went close with fierce shots from distance, but Boro, buoyed by the arrival of top scorer Marvin Emnes’ from the substitutes’ bench, responded at the other end as McDonald twice struck the bar with thundering efforts.
It proved costly as Posh found an equaliser.
Steele made a terrific save to flick Taylor’s shot wide but Rowe planted a header into the top corner from the resulting corner to deny Boro victory.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Rhys Williams, Bates, Bennett, Robson, Bailey (Thomson 46), Arca (Zemmama 78), Haroun, McDonald, Ogbeche (Emnes 76). Subs Not Used: Hines, McMahon. Booked: Haroun. Goals: McDonald 51.
Peterborough: Lewis, Alcock, Bennett, Zakuani, Kennedy, Wootton, Kearns (Newell 53), Rowe, Boyd, Taylor, Sinclair. Subs Not Used: Jones, Thompson, Lawler, Grant. Booked: Kearns, Rowe. Goals: Rowe 87.
Att: 18, 899
Ref: Geoff Eltringham (Tyne & Wear).