Aynsley Pears earns Blackburn a point against former club Middlesbrough

Aynsley Pears thwarted his former club
Aynsley Pears thwarted his former club (PA Wire)
21:49pm, Tue 03 Nov 2020
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Middlesbrough made it nine unbeaten but could only manage a 0-0 draw at Blackburn in the Sky Bet Championship.

The visitors edged the chances in an uneventful game that never looked like bursting into life.

Neil Warnock’s side looked as solid as conceding once from open play this season would suggest, and posed a threat with deliveries into the box all evening.

Britt Assombalonga passed up a very presentable opportunity in the first half, while Aynsley Pears acrobatically denied his old club in the second half.

Boro remain two points off second place and have now conceded just once in five games.

Blackburn, deprived of their top scorer Adam Armstrong, created precious little, though Joe Rankin-Costello’s second-half cross deserved to be converted.

The hosts were light on numbers through a combination of injuries – Derrick Williams being the latest casualty – and Covid-related isolation, so it is perhaps no surprise they have now won only one in seven.

A hamstring strain kept Armstrong out of the game, and Sam Gallagher replaced him.

Dael Fry was fit to line up for Boro, who were without the injured Sam Morsy.

The visitors’ form over the six previous game is unmatched and it took less than two minutes to fashion an opening, after a corner caused havoc in the Blackburn area. The ball dropped to Jonny Howson, who fired straight at Pears.

Rovers settled into possession but it was Middlesbrough’s set-piece delivery causing the early problems, as a series of testing corners culminated in Assombalonga planting over a close-range free header.

As the half wore on, the hosts had to rely on last-ditch challenges from Rankin-Costello and Ryan Nyambe respectively to repel the dual threat of Djed Spence and Hayden Coulson.

Blackburn were reduced to long-range efforts, though Williams’ decision to go down that route late in the half was perhaps the wrong one given the space he was afforded.

Paddy McNair produced a dream of a cross six minutes after the break that fell to Howson at the back post, but Pears made a sprawling save to deny his former club.

Pears made an even better save just after, showing brilliant reflexes to tip over Marcus Tavernier’s improvised shot from another excellent cross.

It should have laid the platform for an opener for Blackburn on the hour mark when Harvey Elliott’s neat reserve pass found Rankin-Costell, who delivered the perfect low cross that begged to be tapped in but neither Ben Brereton or Gallagher could lay a limb on the ball.

Set plays looked increasingly like Boro’s salvation but Fry headed an inviting cross wide at the death.

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