Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock was furious with his players and claimed he had “never been so disappointed in the strikers” following their 1-0 defeat by Millwall at The Den.
Boro went behind in the first half to a Grant Hall own goal and although they did not concede again for the remainder of the match, they never looked like getting back into it themselves.
Warnock hooked his front three of on-loan Everton winger Yannick Bolasie, Chuba Akpom and Djed Spence at half-time but their replacements failed to make the desired impact, with midfielders George Saville and Paddy McNair registering the only genuine attempts on goal.
“I’ve never been as disappointed in the strikers as I was today. I thought they were absolutely non-existent in the first half. You can’t play without strikers,” said Warnock.
“I have to bite my tongue a bit but I didn’t see any effort from the three of them. I can’t tell you what it’s all about if I’m honest, but I changed it at half-time because I wanted people who were at least going to put their head in.
“It was like playing with eight men at times. We won’t chuck the towel in now but it’s disappointing – the first half today was just unacceptable. Crikey, I’m 72 and I could have put more effort in.”
Boro remain just above 10th-placed Millwall in the table but defeat will have dented their hopes of mounting a play-off push and it is the manner of the loss that is more troubling for Warnock.
“It’s the way we lost this game which is my disappointment,” he said. “I can accept things going against you and I can accept not getting the rub of the green et cetera but today was unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, Millwall boss Gary Rowett was chuffed to pick up another three points at home before the international break.
Defeat on Wednesday night could have knocked the Lions’ confidence but instead Rowett watched what he thought was an “outstanding” defensive display and is looking forward to welcoming more of his players back to full fitness.
“I thought after Wednesday night it was always going to be a difficult game. We had 24 hours less recovery and we’ve still got a lot of players battling through injuries so the break comes at a very good time for us.
“Defensively we were outstanding and, like any Neil Warnock team, they made us work – there’s never an easy three points against them.
“They are a team that always put you on the back foot because of their attacking options – they’ve been able to bring on a lot of different types of players and I knew that as the game went on, our challenge was going to be to match that.
“We had some good moments in the first half when we got it down and played – I’m thinking of the Danny (McNamara) chance, Jed’s (Wallace) chance when Mason (Bennett) put him in and two or three other opportunities – I’m pleased that we scored of course but you’re always worried going in at 1-0.
“We dug in and had to weather the storm for 15 or 20 minutes in the second half but I thought we came out of that well and the substitutes helped us to do that.”