City were lucky to escape with a point at the Riverside against the 10-men from Boro.
Following the 6-0 drubbing by Cardiff in midweek, Johnson picked a team with an eye on containing a mis-firing Boro side who had only won once at home in the last seven.
One change was made from the midweek debacle, Lewin Nyatanga returned in place of Danny Haynes as Johnson opted for five at the back.
Within seconds of the start, troubled ex-City striker Leroy Lita seized on a wayward Paul Hartley backpass only to be denied by a good, recovering challenge from Fontaine.
Both sides traded long range efforts there after before David Wheater and Chris Killen both wasted good chances for the hosts before Louis Carey was called upon to stop a jinking run from right-winger Willo Flood.
Skuse went off with a knock at the break as City, sitting deep for most the game thus far, replaced him with Marvin Elliott.
Moments after the re-start, Hartley was unlucky to see his drive from the edge of the box skim just past the post whilst the sought-after Adam Johnson was a cat’s whisker away for the home side following a trade mark mazy run on 53.
City’s’ chances of winning the game should have been boosted when ex-Celtic midfielder Barry Robson was given his marching orders for a clumsy clip on Maynard but, if anything, his dismissal seemed to galvanise the hosts.
Killen headed two glorious chances from close range over the bar with only Gerken to beat as the City defence looked increasingly fragile.
Campbell-Ryce nearly caught Coyne napping on his line with an audacious 35-yard lob that had the keeper scrambling whilst Elliott and Campbell-Ryce again warmed the keepers gloves.
The last minute curse nearly struck again as Wheater evaded Carey and headed a great chance to snatch it over the bar so City, and Gary Johnson, can head back south with a big sigh of relief.
BORO (4-4-2): Coyne, McMahon, Wheater, Grounds, Hoyte (Arca ’64), Flood, Robson, O’Neil, Johnson, Killen, Lita (Franks ’73).
CITY (5-3-2): Gerken, Orr, Carey, Nyatanga (Sproule ’85), Fontaine, McAllister, Skuse (Elliott ’46), Hartley, Campbell-Ryce, Maynard (Haynes ’71), Agyemang.
REFEREE: C Webster
Dean Gerken 5
Must have appreciated a quiter day at the office than Tuesday night. Had very little to do all game.
Bradley Orr 7
Was Adam Johnson’s shadow in the first half, to the extent that he neglected his duties at right-back, but looked more disciplined after the break.
Jamie McAllister 6
Solid, if not an unspectacular, return to left-back.
Liam Fontaine 6
Crucial tackle in the first minute to deny Lita and generally better than Tuesday, but that wasn’t hard!
Lewin Nyatanga 6
A few stray passes but defended soundly. He definitely looks more at home in the centre, alongside Carey.
Louis Carey 6
Had to cover at times for Orr going walkabout at right-back during the first half otherwise produced a few crucial tackles for the cause.
Paul Hartley 6
Unlucky not to score straight after the interval.
Cole Skuse 5
Went off with a knock at half-time.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce 8
Nicky Maynard 5
Looks to be struggling at the moment. Maybe the right time for a rest.
Patrick Agyemang 4
Worked hard up front but won little in the air and demonstrated a woeful first touch. Not impressed on what I’ve seen so far but it’s still early days for him.
Marvin Elliott 5
Did ok and maybe could’ve done better with a second half header that came his way.
Danny Haynes 6
Looked lively when introduced.
Only on for 5 minutes.
GARY JOHNSON – 6/10
Understandably set us up with an eye on damage limitation after the midweek mauling. We seemed to have no intention on winning the game, often we were very deep despite Boro’s poor home form. A decent point though and a welcome clean sheet.
GORDON STRACHAN – 7/10
Got a committed performance out of his team of ex-Celtic players and created a host of chances. He’ll probably more disappointed with the lack of an end product than anything else tonight.
Another Point Towards Safety
Decent point, but don’t read too much into it. We won’t be able to shut up shop like we did today in every game, and we might just come up against more clinical attacks than Boro’s.
Time To Rest Maynard?
He’s looking jaded at the moment and with the depth of strikers Johnson has at his disposal, now may be the right time to give him a deserved break, ready to come back stronger for the end of the season.