Middlesbrough’s hopes of Championship survival were dented on Thursday night, as Neil Warnock’s side fell to a 2-1 defeat to relegation-threatened rivals Hull City.
After defeating Stoke City by two goals to nil at the weekend – Warnock’s first game in charge since taking over from Jonathan Woodgate – Boro would have been looking to kick on and build on that win.
But it wasn’t to be for the Teesside club, with Grant McCann’s side picking up an invaluable win in their fight for survival, putting the pressure back on Boro.
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Britt Assombalonga fired Boro into a 1-0 lead after just four minutes, with the striker firing in from the penalty spot.
Hull made an instant response, though, with Herbie Kane firing in a magnificent free-kick just four minutes later.
And, in the last minute of the encounter, Mallik Wilks smashed in from close-range to grab a late 2-1 win for Hull, with Boro dropping to 21st in the league table and only one point clear of the relegation zone.
Here, we take a look at three things we learnt about Middlesbrough after their 2-1 defeat to Hull City…
Spence injury proves costly
Boro were well on top for large parts of the first-half, enjoying plenty of success down the right-hand side through Djed Spence and Patrick Roberts.
Young full-back Spence was influential for Boro down the right, overlapping Roberts and delivering plenty of crosses into the area, and all of their job and space came down the right.
But at the start of the second-half, Spence came off injured after pulling up, which killed Boro’s momentum and swung the pendulum in Hull’s favour.
Out of nowhere, they had no real threat going forward and this gave Hull confidence, and they ultimately profited in the dying embers of the game.
Warnock will be hoping that Spence isn’t out for too long, but they need to find other ways of creating problems once they are dealt a blow like we saw on Thursday night.
Once Spence went off, as alluded to before, Boro lacked any real threat going forward. There was no overlap for Roberts, meaning that the tricky winger couldn’t cut inside onto his favoured left foot and cause danger before coming off soon after.
Britt Assombalonga may have scored, but overall, the striker didn’t receive anywhere near enough service on the night, and that is something that they will need to address as soon as possible.
Goals win games, and the fact that Boro looked shy in front of goal once their 19-year-old defender came off injured is a worrying sign.
No room for error
Boro have to be more clinical, it’s as simple as that, as they cannot afford to drop any more points at such a vital stage of the season.
After winning at Stoke, you could have been forgiven for thinking that that was the start of a climb up the table for Boro, and a start of something to look forward to under Warnock.
Heading into the clash at the KCOM Stadium, Boro were bound to be smelling blood, but after one defeat, they are back down to 21st and sit only point clear of Stoke in 22nd.
There is no margin for error at this stage of the season, and they aren’t safe yet by any means.