COPING with injury setbacks is part and parcel of life in the dugout but rarely does a manager have to deal with a situation quite like the one facing Michael Carrick at Middlesbrough right now.

So severe is Boro’s injury crisis, they literally had a full starting XI of senior players missing at Southampton: Tom Glover, Tommy Smith, Rav van den Berg, Dael Fry, Darragh Lenihan, Paddy McNair, Alex Bangura, Hayden Hackney, Riley McGree, Marcus Forss, Josh Coburn.

At least six of those players would be in Boro’s full strength starting XI, two or three could make a case for getting in any team in the division.

And as if Carrick didn’t have enough to deal with, Isaiah Jones then hobbled off with 10 minutes to play at St Mary’s. It’s a quick turnaround to Sheffield Wednesday on Monday. Another doubt, another worry.

And yet for Carrick, the overriding feeling leaving Southampton on Friday night won’t have been concern but instead pride, for his makeshift, beat-up and patched-up side managed to overcome all those injury issues and the setback of conceding an early goal to Adam Armstrong, hung on in there and salvaged a last minute point thanks to Emmanuel Latte Lath’s header.

Yes, they rode their luck at times, Southampton spurning a string of second half opportunities to put the game to bed. But it’s little wonder Carrick celebrated with gusto down in the technical area when Latte Lath headed substitute Alex Gilbert’s cross beyond the diving Gavin Bazunu.

What does it mean for the season? Well the gap to the top six is now nine points and even the optimists among the fanbase will be starting to accept the season looks extremely unlikely to extend beyond 46 games, but Carrick is still desperate to finish the campaign on a high and the spirit his side showed at St Mary’s will rightly delight the head coach. How would the table look had Boro managed to keep their key players fit?

As has so often been the case this season, Carrick was forced to tinker and tweak. With the defence ravaged, he switched to a back four and captain Jonny Howson had to play centre-half.

In fairness to Boro, they settled and coped relatively well in the first 10 minutes. OK, they didn’t threaten in attack but they did a good job of containing Southampton and keeping the home side at arm’s length. That was until a wild swing of Howson’s boot proved costly. The skipper made a mess of an attempted clearance of a cross – that should have initially been stopped by Ayling - and sliced the ball into the path of Adam Armstrong, who clinically found the bottom corner.

After Leicester’s slip-up at Bristol City earlier in the day, the pressure was very much on Saints but with the early goal came calm and confidence. They passed and passed and passed, making Boro chase. After 25 minutes, they’d had more than 80% of the possession – and could have had another goal, Armstrong going close to a second when he fizzed a strike just over the bar. At that stage, you feared for Boro.

But come half-time Boro will have felt frustrated to have been behind. Armstrong’s goal came from Southampton’s only shot on target in the first half and while the ball was still often at the foot of a man in red, Boro had done a good job of limiting the home side. And they’d grown in confidence themselves.

Howson – no doubt frustrated at his part in the goal – very nearly teed up an equaliser when he crunched into an interception in Southampton’s half. Azaz picked up the loose ball, darted into the box and came within inches of a leveller, his low shot bouncing back of the inside of the post.

That was the closest Boro came but they repeatedly advanced into promising positions only to be let down by poor decision making and final balls. Lukas Engel was the worst offender and he knew it, the left-back giving himself a talking to after one tame cross was cut out.

Che Adams should have won the game for Southampton. Just after having a goal disallowed for offside, he missed two sitters, first denied by Dieng and then blasting wide from close range.

Southampton didn’t know whether to push for a second or protect their lead, a dilemma not helped by a manic minute in which both teams had chances. First Dieng and Clarke somehow combined to deny Armstrong on the goalline then Boro broke at speed and Jones looked to be away but Jack Stephens did well to keep pace.

Boro stuck at it and got their rewards at the death when Latte Lath headed home, a moment for Gilbert - who teed up the striker - to enjoy after a season spent on the fringes.