World-weary Middlesbrough supporters have long feared the stoppage-time sucker-punch – and now new manager Aitor Karanka knows exactly how they feel.
Karanka saw his spirited side pegged back at the death at Birmingham as a Kyle Bartley header four minutes into added time denied the Spaniard his first away point since taking over from Tony Mowbray.
That followed hot on the heels of leaking a last-gasp goal in a midweek 2-1 defeat with ten men at form side Derby, managed by ex-Boro boss Steve McClaren.
Kakanka, Jose Mourinho’s former Real Madrid assistant, admits the last-gasp leaks are dragging Boro towards the drop zone.
“We were playing and working very well only to lose everything in the last minute,” he explained.
“I thought we would win and we deserved that but we let in a goal in the last minute again. It was a lack of concentration.
“It is the same things, the same problems again. I’ve been here four games and seen the the same mistakes and the same lack of concentration in the last minutes. We need to improve in this period of the match and not to concede such vital goals. It is not the first time it has occurred but we have made mistakes late in the game when I warned against this.
“This is the second time in a few days that we have lost vital points. We know it is a problem and we were aware before the game that Birmingham are very good at set-pieces.
“In two games now we have done well and deserved more points, maybe a draw at Derby and maybe a win at Birmingham but we have made these mistakes.
“Maybe we should have had four points from these two games but we only have one.
“Now we are only four points above the relegation zone now and we are not in a very comfortable position.” wBoro had to weather an early storm before breaking out to snatch the opener on 22 minutes through Mustapha Carayol, turning sharply to drill into the bottom corner after good work by Marvin Emnes.
They almost grabbed a second on 37 minutes as former Sunderland man Grant Leadbitter and Emnes combined to send Albert Adomah into the box, but the keeper fumbled his low shot around the post.
After the break Birmingham almost levelled. Mitch Hancox powered a shot into the box, Jonathan Woodgate got a head to it and the ball glanced onto the post before being scrambled away. Then Chris Burke whipped a cross in from the right and former Gateshead striker Lee Novak stretched to stab a shot over from 10 yards. City levelled from the spot on 59 minutes after Ben Gibson stuck a leg out to bring down Burke needlessly, and Paul Caddis rammed home the resulting penalty.
Boro stepped up a gear and went close on 71 minutes when Adomah chipped into the middle for Kei Kamara to send in a powerful downward header. The keeper did well to fumble around the foot of the post.
Boro were back in front on 80 minutes. A corner was only half-cleared and when Dean Whitehead scooped it back into the box, substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz nodded it down for on-loan Norwich defender Daniel Ayalea to stab home his third goal in six games. But Birmingham clawed an equaliser deep into added time, City sub Kyle Bartley heading in unchallenged at the near post from a twice taken corner.
Karanka insisted his side should have won – but admitted Birmingham had done well to salvage a point. “I think we should have gone home with three points,” said Karanka.