Red-faced Aitor Karanka admitted his side let down a bumper Boro crowd with a drab display at Doncaster.
A huge travelling Teesside army of 4,254 – the biggest away following in the entire country at the weekend – had to endure a goalless grind which never threatened to show anything like the passion of the supporters.
Boro boss Karanka admitted his side let down the fans with a lack of fight and pride to match that in the stands.
He said: “No excuses, we should be better. With so many of our fans here I was a little embarrassed.”
“So many people from Middlesbrough came with us – they are always with us – but for them we didn’t play and we didn’t fight. That is not good enough.
“When you don’t play and you don’t fight it makes it difficult to win the game and is an embarrassment for our supporters.
“Doncaster were fighting, they were working, they battled for the second balls and they were on second or two second quicker than us.
“At half-time I told me team I was not happy with them. I told them when you have behind us that crowd then you have to play a good game. You have to deliver.”
Boro laboured through a dismal draw in which they looked solid enough at the back but never looked like scoring.
Karanka’s side have now clocked up an impressive run of seven clean sheets in nine games, a resolute rearguard which under-pinned a run of 16 points from a possible 18 which edged them to within touching distance of the play-offs. However, a stutter has seen shot-shy Boro score just once in four games and, after a defeat at leaders Leicester and goalless stalemates with Wigan then Doncaster, they have drifted back into mid-table and nine points adrift of the top six.
Demanding Karanka is far from happy at the malaise.
He added: “I was not happy just to get a draw. Yes, it is better to take one point than no points but I’m not happy because we played in a way I did not like.
“We did not play like we did a month ago when we beat leaders Burnley for instance.
“Then we played with intensity and good work as a team. We did not have that. We didn’t play, we didn’t fight and because of this it was very difficult for us to win the game.
“You struggle to score goals when you don’t play well.
“It wasn’t a tactical problem and if we had performed like we are capable of then we would have won.”
In a poor opening period which had plenty of huff and puff but little entertainment, both sides struggled to create chances.
Rovers’ best effort in the first half came as Teesside-born James Coppinger flashed a header wide, while Boro responded with a few flashes down the flanks but no final delivery and not a shot on target.
The game improved in the second and Boro went close as Mustapha Carayol sent a low shot just wide.
Rovers should have sealed it on the hour but missed a sitter as Sharp picked out unmarked former Sunderland striker Chris Brown six yards out – but he somehow scooped his shot high over the bar.
That was it. The game fizzled out into a stodgy stalemate which stretched Boro’s goal drought to five hours and 45 minutes.
Karanka gave a debut to former Boro Academy man Danny Graham, a deadline-day loan signing from Sunderland, as well as first starts to Chelsea pair Nathaniel Chalobah and Kenneth Omeruo.”