BOSS Aitor Karanka has had plenty to ponder in 2014 after his Middlesbrough side excelled and misfired in equal measure.
While clean sheets have surfaced with regularity, Boro’s failure to hit the back of the net has, to a degree, undone that good work.
The Teesside faithful must have wondered where a goal was coming from when they watched their team go no fewer than seven games without registering.
That run stretched from the back end of January to the start of this month and finally came to an end when Sunderland loanee Danny Graham bagged a brace in the 2-0 defeat of Ipswich on Saturday.
Karanka’s troops followed that up with a 1-1 draw at home to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, in which the visitors’ Darius Henderson netted a controversial late equaliser.
Prior to that, Boro endured a barren spell in which they failed to register against Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds, Watford, Blackburn, Doncaster, Wigan and Leicester.
It was only their defensive prowess that ensured they took any points from those fixtures, with four 0-0 draws coming out of that period.
In fact, Boro did not concede at all in open play for more than six weeks until Tuesday night, with Watford and Sheffield Wednesday both earning 1-0 wins from the penalty spot.
Despite the disappointing nature of their recent form, Karanka appears to have the backing of the majority of the Teesside faithful.
The former Real Madrid man was a surprise replacement for Tony Mowbray in November and has brought a disciplinarian style to the role.
Not afraid to make strong decisions, the Spaniard was active during the January transfer window with Graham being arguably his highest-profile signing, while midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah and defender Kenneth Omeruo were also brought in on temporary deals from Chelsea.
A significant headache has been the goalkeeping position, with Boro having used no fewer than five stoppers this season.
Jason Steele, Jayson Leutwiler, Aston Villa loanee Shay Given and Real Madrid loanee Tomas Mejias have all taken their place between the sticks.
Ex-Hartlepool veteran Dimi Konstantopolous is the latest man to don the goalkeeping jersey and appears the most likely choice to start against Cherries tomorrow.