Talk of Middlesbrough’s goal drought could be the ‘kiss of death’, says Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy

Middlesbrough striker Danny Graham (left) jokes with Leeds keeper Jack Butland. The Boro front man h

Middlesbrough striker Danny Graham (left) jokes with Leeds keeper Jack Butland. The Boro front man has failed to score in his five apperances since joining on loan from Sunderland. - Credit: Archant

Middlesbrough v Ipswich: One statistic jumps off the page when looking at Middlesbrough, but superstitious Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy was keen to avoid it when discussing his side’s game at the Riverside tomorrow.

Since a 16th minute Emmanuel Ledesma goal sealed a 1-0 win over Charlton on January 18, Boro have gone more than 700 minutes with scoring.

There’s been a dramatic change in playing philosophy at the Riverside since Aitor Karanka replaced Tony Mowbray in the hot-seat last November, an open and attacking brand of football replaced with an organised and pragmatic approach.

Four of their last seven games have ended goalless, there was a 2-0 defeat at table-toppers Leicester, while the 1-0 losses at Watford and Sheffield Wednesday came courtesy of a penalty decider.

“They haven’t scored for about 13 hours or something so that’s the kiss of death me saying that isn’t it?” joked McCarthy. “If they get one and we get two though then it doesn’t matter.

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“They play slightly differently to what they did. They are not scoring as many goals, but they are not conceding as many goals either. Maybe they have sacrificed one thing for another in being a bit more solid.

“I’ve looked at two games they’ve played recently. Tony (Mowbray) had a great way of playing and if they’d got to grips with that style of playing it can be very hard to play against. Being expansive though you can be wide open and need good defenders to cope with it.

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“They don’t look as expansive and that’s probably why they’ve got so many clean sheets. If you don’t concede you don’t get beat. That’s always a good starting point for me.”

While Boro’s own top six hopes have been ended by a seven-game winless run, the north east side down to 14th in the Championship table and now 12 points adrift, Ipswich are still very much in the mix.

The Blues are four points behind sixth-place Wigan with 13 games to go and, while Uwe Rosler’s side have a game in hand, they still have a trip to Portman Road to come.

Boro boss Aitor Karanka – who will be without first choice keeper Tomas Mejias and centre-back Jonathan Woodgate through injury – said: “The next two games are important because we are playing well at home, so I am very calm and relaxed about the next two games.

“If we play like we did in the last two home games we should win. There are a lot of points to play for and a lot of games but my mentality is only to look to the next match.

“Ipswich have been playing well, they are a good team, a strong team, but I’m concentrating on my team.

“I said after the Leeds game and the Sheffield Wednesday game that the goals will come if we continue to play the same way. We just need to concentrate more in the final third and keep believing in what we are doing.”

Following Shay Given’s return to Aston Villa following a loan spell, Spanish keeper Mejias played in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. He has injured his finger in training though, meaning either Greece’s Dimi Konstantopoulos (on the bench last weekend) and Luke Steele will start.

“We have had a very important injury,” said Karanka. “Tomas was injured on the training ground on Tuesday, saving a shot. I don’t know if it’s a break but it’s a problem with his finger. I think he will be out four or five weeks.

“It makes my decision easier because I have one keeper less. It will still be tough because the three keepers are training well and I have to choose the right one.

“Like I chose Shay when he was here, like I chose Tomas last week, I need to chose the right one.

“We have used four keepers in the last three months.”

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