Final Score: Derby County 2 Middlesbrough 1
AITOR KARANKA admitted he was proud of his team’s performance despite playing more than half of last night’s defeat at Derby County with ten men.
For the second away game in a row, Karanka saw one of his men sent off when Curtis Main was dismissed for two yellow cards in the 34th minute.
Both bookings seemed harsh on the 21-year-old and despite a spirited display in the second half the Teessiders left the iPro Stadium empty-handed after late goals in each half from Chris Martin and Connor Sammon cancelled out Dean Whitehead’s equaliser.
The defeat leaves Boro 16th in the Championship and they sit just four points above the bottom three despite improved performances under their new manager.
Even a man down, Karanka’s side battled hard to get back into the game and kept Derby quiet and even though they returned to Teesside beaten Karanka was happy with his team’s performance.
“It was unlucky,” the Spaniard said. “I just have one feeling. I am very happy because the team confirmed to me that they are together and again they played very well with ten men. We’ve lost but we must keep on working.
“It is one game which we could have won. The team was fantastic with ten men. We have made mistakes in other games but we made no mistakes in this game. It was mistakes of others.”
The turning point in the game was undoubtedly Main’s sending-off, but Karanka defended his young striker, who was unlucky to be given his marching orders by referee Andrew Madley.
He said: “I don’t understand the decision to send Curtis off. I didn’t like it. I’m not too sure why he was sent off.
“I like Curtis since the first day because he always works very hard and fights for every ball, but he’s young.
“He needs to improve and needs to learn, but I am very happy with him. He needs to learn, because when you have one yellow card you have to be more careful, but he was unlucky.”
Even with his side a man down, Karanka made a positive change at half time by bringing on Mustapha Carayol for Jacob Butterfield.
The change appeared to pay off when Carayol was heavily involved in Whitehead’s equaliser and the Spaniard was happy with the attacker’s contribution.
“At Leeds we had (Lukas) Jutkiewicz and Curtis Main to come on, but here we had no Jutkiewicz and Curtis had been sent off.
“The most attacking player I had on the bench was Muzzy (Carayol). Adomah and Kei (Kamara) had a lot of work to do when we went down to ten men so I thought Muzzy would be able to support them.
“He worked very well, he kept the ball and I’m happy with the work of all the team.”
Whitehead returned to the starting line-up in the absence of the suspended Grant Leadbitter and the former Sunderland midfielder turned in one of his best performances since joining in the summer.
He even got into advanced positions when Boro went forward and Karanka admits Whitehead’s experience was key to his side’s performance in the East Midlands.
He said: “Dean played a fantastic game. I spoke with him and he is a better player. He is an experienced player and when you have a lot of young players it is important to have players like him especially when we were without Grant.”