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Lowe wonder strike sinks Boro at Blackburn
MARK VENUS slipped to his first defeat as Middlesbrough's caretaker manager as Jason Lowe's long-range strike secured Blackburn a 1-0 win at Ewood Park.
In a game of few chances, Boro battled gamely throughout and looked like claiming a useful away point to go with last week's emphatic home win over Doncaster.
They defended much better than they had at Barnsley in their last away game, but were undone when Lowe was afforded too much room with 14 minutes left.
The Rovers midfielder drilled in an unstoppable shot from distance, and Steve Gibson must now decide whether the performance enhances Venus' claims for a permanent managerial position or whether the defeat diminishes them.
Venus made two changes to the side that beat Doncaster last weekend, with George Friend replacing Ben Gibson at left-back, and Jozsef Varga returning to solidify the midfield in preference to Mustapha Carayol.
Boro started reasonably brightly, although the opening 45 minutes witnessed precious few chances for either side, with defences in top.
With the rain pouring down, Blackburn's tactics revolved around pumping long balls towards Jordan Rhodes.
Boro attempted to play more football, but time and space was at a premium and with Kei Kamara surprisingly starting on the left of midfield, the visitors struggled to get balls into the box.
Jason Steele was the first goalkeeper to be tested, turning Alan Judge's 12th-minute free-kick over the top as it threatened to creep under the crossbar.
Boro's first effort came midway through the opening period, but Albert Adomah's glanced header from Grant Leadbitter's free-kick crept wide of the post.
Judge shot over as Blackburn carved out another chance shortly after the half-hour mark, and with the hosts finishing the first half reasonably strongly, Steele was forced to make two fine saves to keep the scoresheet blank.
The first was the best, with the Newton Aycliffe-born shot-stopper flinging out a hand to turn Rhodes' header around the post.
The second, which came in first-half stoppage time, prevented Josh King scoring after Leadbitter's mistake had presented the Blackburn midfielder with the ball in a dangerous position.
Boro went close themselves in injury time at the end of the first period, but Rovers goalkeeper Jake Kean turned Kamara's header around the post after the striker pulled away to meet Rhys Williams' cross.
The second half was every bit as low key as the first, with the two sides again cancelling each other out.
Boro continued to defend resolutely, and Daniel Ayala, who was every bit as impressive as he had been on his debut against Doncaster, produced an excellent overhead clearance to prevent Rhodes reaching Judge's cross.
The visitors' second-half opportunity came when Jonathan Woodgate rose to meet Leadbitter's corner, but the defender's goalbound header hit Marvin Emnes.
There was a major scare for Boro in the 69th minute, with Woodgate appearing to foul Matt Kilgallon in the area. Richie Smallwood and Kamara got in each other's way as they attempted to win a header, and after the ball dropped invitingly for Kilgallon, Woodgate looked to have bundled him over from behind. However, referee Carl Boyeson waved play on.
That was a close escape, but there was to be no reprieve when Blackburn eventually broke the deadlock with 14 minutes left.
It was a goal from nothing, with Lowe picking up the ball in a seemingly harmless position, only to crack a sensational 25-yard drive into the top left-hand corner of the net. Perhaps Smallwood could have closed the midfielder down more quickly, but it was still a magnificent strike.
Boro's only real chance of an equaliser came with three minutes left, but Lukas Jutkiewicz could only head fellow substitute Carayol's cross wide at the back post.
BLACKBURN (4-4-1-1):Kean; Kane, Kilgallon (Marshall 77), Dann, Spurr (Morris 21); Cairney, Lowe, Williamson, King; Judge (Taylor 74); Rhodes.
Subs (not used): Eastwood (gk), Songo'o, Marrow, Henley.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-1-4-1): Steele; R Williams, Woodgate, Ayala, Friend; Smallwood; Adomah (Butterfield 85), Varga (Carayol 72) , Leadbitter, Kamara; Emnes (Jutkiewicz 72).
Subs (not used): Leutwiler (gk), Richardson, Hines, Gibson.
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