Middlesbrough 1 Wigan 1

  • By: Damian Spellman, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: October 8 2012, 20:42 BST

Aiyegbeni Yakubu's fifth goal of the season spared Middlesbrough a third successive Barclays Premiership defeat as Wigan left Teesside with a point.

Chris Kirkland saves a header from Yakubu.

The Nigerian struck on 66 minutes, converting a James Morrison cross to give his side some reward for a vastly-improved second-half display following a first-half horror show.

Indeed, had it not been for the agility and determination of keeper Mark Schwarzer, the visitors would have had the points wrapped up by half-time.

The Australian produced a string of fine saves to keep his side in it either side of the 24th-minute penalty with which Henri Camara fired Wigan ahead and allow manager Gareth Southgate to get to work on his players during the break.

Whatever he said paid dividends as the Teessiders dominated the second 45 minutes to justify a point, all the time knowing they had Schwarzer to thank for any return for their efforts.

Nevertheless, it was less than they needed after taking just five points from their previous seven games, and they remain in uncomfortable territory.

Southgate insisted in the run-up to the game that he was not even considering the prospect of relegation after seeing his slide slip down towards the drop zone with a sequence of poor results.

Just 16 games into the season, that was an eminently sensible stance, although by the time his players trudged off the pitch at half-time, many of those among a sparse crowd of 23,638 at the Riverside Stadium were starting to think the worst.

It was not that the Teessiders did not play with some enterprise and create chances of their own, but a back four which contained England defender Jonathan Woodgate and the in-form Emanuel Pogatetz was taken apart by the pacy Camara and the combative Lee McCulloch.

Indeed, if it had not been for the brilliance of Schwarzer, Boro would have been dead and buried by half-time.

The Australian pulled off a superb one-handed save to keep out Paul Scharner's 11th-minute header, and proved equally resilient 10 minutes before the break after being left horribly exposed by his defence.

Camara could barely believe his luck as he was allowed to run into space in front of goal, but Schwarzer somehow blocked his volley from point-blank range.

Leighton Baines tested the keeper from distance seconds later and he was once again up to the task, although by then, Southgate's men were already behind.

Much has been made of Pogatetz's growing maturity and his efforts to rein in the more physical side of his game, but it was his uncompromising challenge on fellow Austrian international Scharner which handed Camara his chance to open the scoring.

Referee Steve Bennett had little hesitation in pointing to the spot and the Senegalese international sent Schwarzer the wrong way to convert.

Boro, with Mark Viduka back in the starting line-up after recovering from breaking two toes, had opportunities of their own, but Yakubu could not beat Chris Kirkland with a close-range header and Morrison fired straight at the keeper under pressure from Baines after latching on to the impressive Stewart Downing's cross.

Kirkland, who had received extensive treatment for a head injury before the break, was replaced by Mike Pollitt, while Pogatetz failed to re-appear as Stuart Parnaby was drafted into a reshuffled back four.

Boro should have been level on 49 minutes when Yakubu brushed aside Emmerson Boyce to run on to Viduka's through-ball, but he scuffed his shot straight at Pollitt.

Boro were belatedly starting to build up a head of steam with Downing particularly prominent, although he miskicked in front of goal when attempting an acrobatic volley and drilled one cross straight into the crowd.

The England winger kept Pollitt on his toes with a well-struck drive from distance on 64 minutes and the keeper had to get down well to claim Morrison's effort seconds later with Boro camped inside the Wigan half.

But the equaliser duly arrived on 66 minutes when Morrison found space down the right and fired in a low cross which Yakubu stabbed home.

The visitors' deflation was apparent and it seemed as though worse would inevitably follow.

But as Downing and Morrison continued to torment them out wide and Viduka and Yakubu threatened repeatedly in the middle, they rediscovered their resolve.

Boro had appeals for an 86th-minute penalty waved away after Josip Skoko had clashed with Parnaby, but Abel Xavier could have won it at the death, but fired over after a corner had been only half-cleared.

Teams:

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Xavier, Woodgate, Pogatetz (Parnaby 46), Taylor, Morrison, Boateng, Arca, Downing, Viduka, Yakubu.

Subs Not Used: Jones, Rochemback, Christie, Johnson.

Booked: Pogatetz, Viduka.

Goals: Yakubu 67.

Wigan: Kirkland (Pollitt 46), Wright, Boyce, Hall, Baines, Cotterill (Valencia 57), Scharner, Skoko, Kilbane, Camara, McCulloch, Valencia (Johansson 68).

Subs Not Used: Landzaat, Webster.

Booked: McCulloch.

Goals: Camara 24 pen.

Att: 23,638

Ref: S Bennett (Kent).