Middlesbrough and Millwall played out a draw in Chris Wilder’s first game in charge in a game that was steeped in controversy.
Boro made the stronger start and took the lead after 15 minutes after good work from Duncan Watmore who was able to find Matt Crooks who headed into the bottom corner of the net.
The lead only lasted 12 minutes though as Millwall got themselves back into the game with a controversial equaliser.
Boro looked to break through Duncan Watmore who went down under pressure from Scott Malone. The linesman flagged for a free-kick but was overruled by the referee and as play continued, Paddy McNair found himself on the floor after being caught in the face by Mason Bennett’s arm.
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Boro were unfortunate from there as Lee Peltier made a solid block to deny Benik Afobe, only for the loose ball to bounce off Sol Bamba and go in.
When asked about the incident, Wilder told The Gazette: “We’ve recovered quite well off the back of that – there are three things that have gone against us. The initial foul on Watmore, the foul on McNair and then the ricochet.
“Regarding the first one, the lineman’s got the best view in the house. He says that there is contact.
“I don’t think that’s the major one, though – the second one is.
“McNair doesn’t go down. Why does he go down? He goes down because he gets forearm-smashed right across the face. Whether it’s accidental or deliberate, it’s a foul.”
Following the equaliser, Wilder felt the Millwall goal took the sting out of the game for both sides: “But I did think there was a bit of a pin in the balloon after the equaliser because we were really on top, we were dominating the game, we were creating the chances and it quite easily it could have been two.”
The draw leaves Boro in 14th, six points away from the top six, ahead of the visit of Preston North End to the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday night.
It was a positive start for Wilder at Boro with plenty of promising signs on show.
However, you do have to question the decisions that lead to the Millwall equaliser and it’s quite surprising that Wilder wasn’t even angrier at the officials.
The referee should have given Boro a foul when McNair was caught in the face and unfortunately for Boro, he didn’t and Millwall capitalised on it.
Even so, there does seem to be foundations for ‘Boro to build on this season, on the basis of this first performance with Wilder in the dugout.