STUTTERING Middlesbrough had to come from behind twice to avoid a second home defeat in a row at the Riverside after struggling against Brentford.

The Bees, who have been battling at the opposite end of the Championship, made life difficult for the hosts throughout and deservedly took the lead just before the half hour.

Brentford defender Yoann Barbet was allowed to jump unmarked in the penalty area to nod in Ollie Watkins’ free-kick from the right wing.

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There had to be question marks over the defending with the big centre-back afforded too much space in between Ryan Shotton, making his debut, and Ben Gibson.

Middlesbrough, who also included £9m striker Martin Braithwaite in a bid to rouse things after losing to Norwich on Tuesday, just couldn’t get going and there were plenty of disagreements between team-mates across the pitch.

It took until deep into the second half for them to really make inroads on the Brentford penalty area, with substitute Ashley Fletcher proving more dangerous than the man he replaced, Adama Traore.

Middlesbrough had a few chances. Braithwaite fired wide in the first half and there were occasional attacks which led to goalkeeper Daniel Bentley having to be alert.

But Brentford were not really put under much pressure until latter stages and actually looked just as capable of adding to the scoreline rather than conceding during that time, with far too many players in red shirts not performing like they can.

Brentford did eventually score a second but only after Middlesbrough had pulled things level in the 68th minute through Braithwaite.

The Brentford backline failed to deal with a free-kick into the box when Shotton and Gibson helped things along, and Braithwaite hammered in the volley at the back post.

But four minutes later the visitors reclaimed the lead too cheaply. Florian Mokotjo was allowed too much space down the right to send in a low cross for Watkins, after loads of bodies missed it, to convert.

With 14 minutes remaining Middlesbrough grabbed the goal which earned a point when Fabio da Silva was the man to pop up at the back post to fire in another pass across the face of goal.

There was a penalty shout in the closing stages when Watkins looked to have tripped Cyrus Christie as he burst to the line in the area but the referee waved play on and the scoreline remained level.

MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Randolph; Christie, Shotton, Gibson, Fabio; Traore (Fletcher 46), Clayton, Howson, Johnson (Bamford 64); Braithwaite (Baker 79), Assombalonga. Subs: Konstantopoulos (gk), Friend, Fry, Leadbitter.

BRENTFORD (4-1-4-1): Bentley; Dalsgaard, Mepham Barbet, Henry (Clarke 36); Woods; Jozefzoon, Mokotjo (McEachran 73), Yennaris (Sawyers 73), Watkins; Maupay. Subs: Daniels (gk), Archibald, Shaibu, Sorensen.