Middlesbrough were able to offer no further information about the future of Aitor Karanka after suffering their third defeat in four games on a chaotic afternoon.
Visiting supporters chanted the name of the Spanish manager, who missed the game after walking out on Friday, apparently following a heated meeting with the players. He had criticised them privately and publicly after a shock defeat at Rotherham in midweek but could hardly have expected them to suffer a second one to relegation stragglers in the space of six days with or without him.
Meanwhile hundreds of disenchanted supporters of Charlton, a club in equal disarray, walked out quarter of an hour from the end in protest at the Belgian owner Roland Duchâtelet. Congregating behind the main stand, they missed the second goal that brought their team a best victory of the season, and first at home since mid-November, but left them still five points short of safety.
Boro’s assistant head coach Steve Agnew declined to discuss Karanka’s position and insisted it had not affected preparation. “That’s no excuse for the performance,” he said. “We conceded two poor goals. Now we have to move on very quickly and look to the run-in, starting with Hull City on Friday.”
Hull are within two points of second-placed Boro and have a game in hand, making this week’s meeting at the Riverside all the more critical. Despite countless corners and abundant possession, Middlesbrough could not find a way through a stubborn defence, behind which reserve goalkeeper Nick Pope was required to make only competent rather than spectacular saves.
Not until the end of the first half was either goalkeeper troubled, when Pope did well to prevent an own goal by Rod Fanni off Emilio Nsue’s low cross.
The game turned in the 55th minute when an unmarked Jordan Rhodes put a header straight at Pope from eight yards out and Charlton broke to win their first corner. It was headed in by Portuguese defender Jorge Teixeira.
Home supporters had staged a mock funeral procession before the game and thrown black-and-white beachballs on to the pitch immediately after the kick-off at the start of each half. The walkout was followed only five minutes later by a second goal, driven in by Callum Harriott, and prompted the more pessimistic among Boro’s 2,300 followers to leave as well.
“Aitor Karanka, We want you back for good,” one of their banners read. Whether the club does remains to be seen, but a team that was six points clear at the top early in January needs to stop the slide.
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