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Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Saturday, 31 January 2009

Middlesbrough 0-0 Blackburn

By Phil Harlow

Tugay battles for possession with Blackburn's Vincenzo Grella
Boro and Blackburn are still deep in relegation trouble

Middlesbrough and Blackburn cancelled each other out at the Riverside with a goalless draw that leaves both sides in the relegation zone.

Blackburn enjoyed the better of a first-half of few chances, with Keith Andrews and Roque Santa Cruz going closest for the visitors.

Boro offered more after the break, but clear chances were few and far between.

Jason Roberts twice went close late on for Rovers but Boro keeper Brad Jones rescued his side with fine saves.

With just one point separating the two sides in the depths of the relegation scap, it was perhaps no surprise that this was not a game for the purist.

Blackburn's Andre Ooijer was booked inside the first five minutes for a clumsy foul, but the resulting free-kick cleared the penalty area by some distance before bouncing out for a throw-in.

Southgate proud of Boro effort

Rovers welcomed Santa Cruz, the subject of a series of bids from Manchester City during January, back to their starting line-up and the Paraguayan provided plenty of quality.

Santa Cruz curled in a dangerous ball for Morten Gamst Pedersen, but the midfielder skewed his effort well wide.

Moments later, Santa Cruz conjured up another delightful pass as he put Brett Emerton through on goal but the chance was wasted by poor control from the Australian.

Blackburn had the upper hand, and Andrews showed a delicate touch on the edge of the box before firing in a low shot that Jones had to be alert to save.

Boro were largely restricted to efforts on the break, with Tuncay finding himself crowded out by Vincenzo Grella and Christopher Samba.

The visitors were playing much the better football, and a precise passing move saw Stephen Warnock force a decent save from Jones before Benni McCarthy put a curling effort well wide.

Grella was the next to try his luck with a well-executed volley from the edge of the box and Santa Cruz forced Jones into an improvised save with his legs.

Santa Cruz was controversially penalised for handball after getting on the end of a Tugay pass, although his method of control looked at least as legal as the one he employed to score against Bolton midweek.

The second half was a similarly hard-fought affair, with an early chance for Boro midfielder Josh Walker denied by Pedersen's tackle.

Allardyce rues Blackburn wastefulness

A nasty clash of heads between Samba and Tuncay stopped play for several minutes, but the blood-splattered Boro striker played on after receiving treatment.

Jones tipped over a long-range effort from Tugay before Boro substitute Afonso Alves added some spark with a dangerous run and low shot that Paul Robinson saved well.

Blackburn were still the more dangerous side though, and Boro were grateful to survive two goalmouth scrambles with McCarthy and Santa Cruz both finding their way blocked by desperate defending, while David Dunn also had two decent efforts saved.

And Jones made himself the hero for Boro late on with two fine saves from Roberts, the first from an acute angle, the second from a header inside the six-yard box.

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:

"A point is probably fair. It was a tense afternoon and a scrappy game.

"We knew we'd have to defend strongly and we did. But Brad Jones made some fantastic saves and everybody worked hard for us.

"In the long run that could prove to be a very important point for us."

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce:

"We produced several opportunities and we should have won the game and this is happening too often when chances are going begging.

"We are not burying the opposition when we are on top and as a result we have found ourselves in the bottom six.

"I'm pleased that we have kept out unbeaten run going but we should have far more wins in this period."

Middlesbrough: Jones, Wheater, Riggott, Huth, Pogatetz, Adam Johnson, Bates, Walker, Downing, King (Emnes 65), Sanli (Alves 65).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Hoyte, Shawky, Arca, McMahon.

Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Nelsen, Samba, Warnock, Emerton (Dunn 50), Andrews (Kerimoglu 42), Grella, Pedersen, McCarthy (Roberts 73), Roque Santa Cruz.
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Villanueva, Givet, Simpson.

Booked: Ooijer, Nelsen, McCarthy, Pedersen.

Att: 24,303

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Middlesbrough's Brad Jones 8.33 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Premier League as it happened
31 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
31 Jan 09 |  Football

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