Boro are no strangers to a late-season wobble as they look to end their stay away from the Premier League, and Aitor Karanka will surely have seen Friday’s evening trip to Birmingham City as a potential banana skin en route to automatic promotion.
However, the fixture also provided an ideal opportunity for Boro—second in the Championship ahead of the weekend’s matches—to move to the top of the table before rivals Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley play on Monday evening.
Having drawn their last two matches—further evidence that all-too familiar self doubts are creeping back into Boro’s psyche—it will have come as a devastating blow when Stephen Gleeson opened the scoring with a long-range strike.
His 33rd-minute effort was neither particularly powerful nor particularly well placed, but Middlesbrough stopper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos—who had earlier made amends after an ill-placed parry—was unable to prevent the midfielder’s strike from creeping in for the opening goal.
Boro, a sign perhaps of their resolve and resiliency, responded seven minutes later when Jordan Rhodes tapped home after a glaring error from stopper Adam Legzdins.
Gaston Ramirez’s 57th-minute effort gave Middlesbrough the lead, but David Davis’s fine strike 11 minutes later took Birmingham level.
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Both sides had their chances to secure the victory during the final 25 minutes, and while Boro thought they’d bagged the winner when Daniel Ayala fired past Legzdins, the goal was ruled out after an erroneous decision by the linesman.
While the draw takes up to top spot on 88 points, Karanka will be aware that both Burnley and Brighton can pull clear with home wins over Queens Park Rangers and Derby County on Monday.