Britt Assombalonga scored twice as the Teessiders drew 2-2 at QPR.

Jonathan Woodgate: 'I still have the backing of my players'

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  • 2019-11-10 03:05:53 3 days ago
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Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate insisted he still has the backing of his players after his struggling side earned a point at QPR.

Boro, third from bottom of the Sky Bet Championship and now without a win in nine matches, drew 2-2 at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, where Britt Assombalonga scored both their goals.

Woodgate's squad has been ravaged by injuries but he was boosted by George Friend, Darren Randolph and Ashley Fletcher making themselves available to play despite not being fully fit.

Keeper Randolph, who was this week included in the Republic of Ireland squad, produced a string of excellent saves.

Woodgate said: "Randolph was out, George Friend was back in training but I didn't think he'd be playing, Fletcher out – they come and knock on my door on Friday morning.

"They said, 'Gaffer, I want to play. I'm not 100 per cent fit but I want to play for you'. That's top.

"The situation we're going through at the minute, it's difficult and they could have taken the easy option and not played.

"Darren could have said, 'I'm not 100 per cent, I want to wait for Ireland'. He played today. George Friend played after three training sessions. Ashley Fletcher had a calf strain and played.

"They want to play. They want to play for us. That was really positive. It shows what the players are like – they want to stick together and they want to play for me.

"For the situation we're in, there's no negativity. Everyone's positive and that's really important for me."

Boro had not scored in their previous four matches and Assombalonga had only scored once since August.

But Woodgate said: "I've said all along that he will score goals.

"Every striker goes through patches and confidence dips. Stick with it. He's a goalscorer.

"Stay confident because he will score goals. Back him no matter what. No matter what situation he's going through, I back my number nine."

Assombalonga headed in a first-half opener but Nahki Wells equalised and an own goal by Jonny Howson meant Rangers led at half-time.

But Boro were handed a lifeline midway through the second half when Wells' appalling backpass went straight to Assombalonga, who took full advantage.

QPR manager Mark Warburton defended on-loan Burnley striker Wells, whose goal was his ninth of the season.

"It (the backpass) didn't help but he's also the man that's scored a lot of goals for us and got us out of some sticky situations and he's human," Warburton said.

"If we take responsibility at the other end and put the ball in the back of the net then it relieves that burden and that (the backpass) is not the main talking point.

"Nahki is a top pro and he came straight into the dressing room and put his hand up for it, but for me it's not about that – he's human and you learn from your mistake and move on.

"But we should have put the ball in and been far more clinical in front of goal.

"We defend as a team and attack as a team and today we had a lot of possession in the second half in a good position at 2-1.

"What then happened, it happened, but how many chances did we have to put the ball in the net and didn't do it?"

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Jonathan Woodgate: 'I still have the backing of my players'

Scott Parker describes Aleksandar Mitrovic as "an absolute animal"

Fulham manager Scott Parker branded Aleksandar Mitrovic an "animal" and saluted his side's character after they returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory at Birmingham.

Mitrovic's 12th goal of the season silenced the Birmingham boo-boys and moved the Cottagers up to sixth.

The Serbian striker, who had an effort disallowed and was booked for his part in a flare-up with Jude Bellingham, hooked home in the 52nd minute after Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp dropped substitute Cyrus Christie's cross.

Parker was delighted with the contribution of Mitrovic.

"He looks like an absolute animal, chasing things down, and if that is the base, the goals will come," he said.

"That's what we want from him; he is the talisman, the guy everyone looks to and the pressure is on him. He needs to understand what he gives to the team.

"For all his goals, for everything that goes round him, all I ask of him is forget the goals, just go and turn up and be the Mitrovic he can be."

Parker was also delighted with the character of his team after they bounced back from a 3-0 home defeat to Hull last week.

"We came here and showed real character in tough conditions and were worthy winners," he added.

"First and foremost you must show character, desire and passion and if you have that, you will be all right, because there's no doubt we have technical, gifted players."

Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak made superb saves from striker Lukas Jutkiewicz's point-blank header, Kristian Pedersen's early angled drive and Fran Villalba's flick as Blues were sentenced to a second successive defeat.

Blues caretaker head coach Pep Clotet felt his team was hard done by.

He said: "We had 16 shots, they had 10, we had four shots on target, they had three and from these three, two were valid, because I think the goal is a blatant foul on Marc Roberts.

"Mitrovic never wanted to head that cross – he thought the keeper was going to catch it and he just bashes against Marc Roberts who had the position won.

"Roberts was sent three yards outside then the ball dropped to Mitrovic, who was in that position thanks to a foul, so it's a clear foul.

"But those are margins. We had very clear chances as well that we should have scored.

"I thought we had everything there to have secured points, if not three then one."

But the visitors could have made it 2-0 at the death when substitute Aboubakar Kamara's shot hit the inside of the post on the break.

Fulham were denied by the offside flag in the 14th minute when Mitrovic pounced after Camp dropped Bobby Reid's shot.

There was a flashpoint off the ball at the end of the first half after Anthony Knockaert landed on Bellingham, apparently splitting the Birmingham midfielder's lip.

Mitrovic and Bellingham then shared a heated exchange and both players were booked.

Parker said: "I just see it as heat of the moment, and they just squared up – it's handbags really."

Clotet said: "It was normal emotions in the game – I don't think much happened. I don't know what Jude was booked for."

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Steve Cooper admits "a little bit of relief" after Swans salvage late draw

Swansea boss Steve Cooper was relieved after his side extended their unbeaten Sky Bet Championship away record with a late 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

Andre Ayew gave the visitors a first-half lead but Wednesday finally equalised through substitute Fernando Forestieri in the 81st minute after hitting the woodwork three times.

The Owls thought they had won it when Morgan Fox put them ahead but Ben Wilmot struck at the death to level.

Swansea are now unbeaten in 10 league games away from home and Cooper admitted he was happy to leave Yorkshire with a point.

Cooper said: "I guess there's a little bit of relief, having gone 2-1 down and thinking the last thing we deserved was not to get a win today.

"It's a difficult place to come and I thought Sheffield Wednesday started the better. They're a real threat with the way that they play, but we managed the storm and then just completely controlled the game in the first half.

"You just want to see the game out but we conceded a couple of soft goals from our point of view.

"I'm just pleased that we didn't lose because it would have been a travesty after the way we played.

"In the end, we're quite pleased that we got a point but we created some really good chances. We're having to work hard for every point."

Jacob Murphy saw his early effort saved by Freddie Woodman, who pushed the ball onto his left-hand post.

Steven Fletcher then headed against Woodman's left-hand post.

Swansea took the lead against the run of play when keeper Keiren Westwood failed to deal with a Matt Grimes corner and Ayew pounced on the loose ball, smashing it into the net from close range.

Wednesday hit the woodwork for a third time just after the hour mark when Murphy smashed the loose ball against Woodman's left-hand post after Fletcher's header was saved.

Ayew put his header wide and Wilmot then headed against a post.

Wednesday equalised when Adam Reach's low drive was parried by Woodman and the ball eventually fell for Forestieri to finish from close range.

Fox struck in added time after Dominic Iorfa headed down following a corner before Wilmot equalised with a far-post header from a Grimes corner.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk said: "It was very frustrating in the end.

"The effort and commitment is there and it's clear they're fighting hard for each other, but set-pieces in the last two games have cost us.

"You need to focus on what you've trained very hard to do. The roles are very clear and you need to focus on what you need to do but unfortunately we haven't done that in those two critical moments in the last two games.

"We probably should be stood here with six points from the last two games but we have the one.

"How the ball didn't go in for us in the first half is quite unbelievable. To fight back and get that lead shows there's a lot of effort and commitment.

"There's a lot of positives but of course there's work to be done during the international break ahead of our busiest period when we come out of it."

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