Mowbray defends decision to stage Leicester game

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

MIDDLESBROUGH manager Tony Mowbray defended the decision to stage last night's 1-0 defeat at Leicester City, but conceded his players had suffered a nightmare journey prior to the game.

David Nugent's second-half strike condemned Boro to their third league defeat in succession, with Marvin Emnes spurning a golden opportunity to claim a point when his stoppage-time penalty was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

While the afternoon snow abated sufficiently for the pitch at the King Power Stadium to remain clear, Leicester city centre was completely gridlocked in the build-up to kick-off with cars unable to move for hours on end.

It took the Middlesbrough coach more than two hours to travel the two miles from the team hotel, and the kick-off had to be delayed to enable the visiting players to complete their warm-up.

In the end, fewer than 9,000 supporters attended the game, even though Leicester had sold more than 19,000 tickets, but Mowbray refused to criticise the home side's decision to stage the match.

“I knew we were always going to get here, it was just a question of what time we were going to make it to the ground,” said the Boro boss. “It took us two hours for a two-mile trip, but that's finished now and the football match is what was important.

“I thought it was a good game, wasn't it? It's not my decision (whether the match went ahead or not). People can talk about it, but it's down to Leicester City and the police, it's their decision.”

With the game getting the go-ahead, Boro began brightly and created a number of decent opportunities in the first half.

Leicester were the more dangerous side throughout though, and after hitting the woodwork four times, the hosts finally claimed the lead when Nugent clipped a crisp shot past Jason Steele from 16 yards.

Boro's fate was sealed when Emnes failed to convert his stoppage-time spot-kick, and Boro have now failed to claim a single point from their three league games in 2013.

“We've gone away from home again and haven't managed to get anything from the game,” said Mowbray, whose side are now three points off the automatic promotion places, a gap that will rise to five if Hull win at Peterborough this afternoon. “There have been quite a few games where we've done more than enough to get something – Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds – and now this can be added to the list.

“The bottom line is that the chances were there but we didn't take them. They had chances as well, and they're a decent, free-scoring side. But I think there was enough evidence to show why we're at the right end of the table. We carried a threat, and on another day those chances will go in.”

Last season, Boro's form tailed off at the turn of the year and the club was unable to recover to claim a place in the play-offs.

The fear is that history is repeating itself, although Mowbray claims the bare statistics are masking the quality of some of Boro's recent performances and the mitigating factor of the injury list.

“It's frustrating because we're in the business of trying to win matches and pick up points,” he said. “We've had a tough run of games and I understand why you guys (the press) are asking the questions.

“But I break down each game and look at the team that played at Derby with 13 players unavailable. We'll keep going, and once we get our full squad together I'm sure we'll be fine because there was enough evidence tonight that with a pretty healthy squad, we could have come to Leicester and won.”

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