Aitor Karanka refused to blame the officials despite being denied a clear goal as Middlesbrough’s drought continued at Sheffield Wednesday.
Boro had a perfectly good goal ruled out when Jacob Butterfield’s first-half shot hit both posts, then bouncing along and over the line before being clawed back into play by Owls keeper Chris Kirkland.
Television replays confirmed that the ball had crossed the line and the relieved Owls keeper himself admitted after the whistle that it was “miles over.”
To add insult to injury Boro lost the game three minutes from time following an equally contentious penalty decision. Debutant keeper Tomas Mejias spilled a cross to spark a scramble and when former Newcastle United striker Leon Best fired it into the crowd it struck Dean Whitehead’s hand on the line. The spot-kick was given and calmly converted by Atdhe Nuhiu. But Karanka was quick to dismiss those key moments as excuses for another shot-shy show by his struggling side.
“I can’t say anything about these decisions because I couldn’t see the ball,” he said. “For me, the linesman couldn’t see the goal in our favour when he was one metre from the line and he could see the penalty from 40 metres. This is the problem.
“But we lost the game because we didn’t play well. I don’t have to put excuses on the referee or linesman. We had four or five good chances to score. We had the post chance and Danny Graham and Kei Kamara had very, very clear chances and if we had scored a goal we would have won the game.”
Scoring has been the problem for the toothless Teessiders. They have not leaked a goal from open play in seven games now – but they haven’t scored in the same time. Their goal drought now stretches back over 11 hours and 45 minutes of empty action. Middlesbrough haven’t scored in 705 minutes, their last coming in a 1-0 win over Charlton in mid-January.
“It’s a big concern for me,” he admitted. “This team, with the same players, scored a lot of goals in the past. So yes, I am worried. I am frustrated. I am disappointed. I am angry. We didn’t play at all. From the first minute we didn’t play and we didn’t fight. But we have not given up on the season. If any player thinks like this they will not play for me. We need to work hard and train hard.”
Boro had the edge in the first half of a scrappy game. Kamara cracked in a 15-yard volley that sent Kirkland full length to save early on, then the pivotal moment came on 12 minutes when Nathaniel Chalobah slotted to the edge of the box for Butterfield to rattle both posts and have his shot clawed from behind the line. Wednesday looked far sharper after the break and Boro keeper Mejias was kept busy.
He saved well from a dipping shot from Hutchinson and made a great reflex block from a Giles Coke shot – but he also had some nervous moments.
Boro could have snatched it on the hour as Butterfield sent on-loan Sunderland striker Danny Graham clear but his curling effort was saved by Kirkland.
But Wednesday snatched victory on 87 minutes with the penalty. Whitehead was sent off for handling before Nuhiu slotted home.