Saturday, March 13, 2010

Doggedness denies Smogs

Middlesbrough 2 - 2 Newcastle Utd

Following our focus on Bigger Lad's quest to claim the vacant number 9 shirt in February's Month Of Saturdays, it was once again Handy Andy to the rescue at the Riverside. We were trailing 2-1 to the Smogs with ten minutes remaining when he jabbed home to secure a valuable if barely deserved point. After last weekend's thrashing of Barnsley, this was very much a case of resilience over brilliance.

Mike Williamson's hand injury meant One Size stepped into the starting XI, but there was some cheer to be gleaned by the presence of both Jose Enrique and Wayne Routledge on the bench.

Middlesbrough started the better and could have been awarded a penalty when Fabricio Coloccini clashed with Scott McDonald in the area, referee Lee Mason thankfully and correctly concluding that Boro's Aussie striker had tripped over his own feet. But we took the lead against the run of play, a neat move and a very clever through-ball from Spidermag finished clinically by the in-form Peter Lovenkrands for his first goal on opposition turf this season.

Unfortunately, the goal roused the Smogs rather than deflating them and we were pressed back, forced to endure a barrage of corners and shots. It only seemed like a matter of time before they equalised, and sure enough it came on 36 minutes. Barry Robson - one of no fewer than four players in the Boro side poached from Gordon Strachan's former club Celtic in January - had been their most impressive performer in the middle of the park and had already had Steve Harper at full stretch to push a curling free-kick around the post when he combined with McDonald and rifled a rocket into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

All we could muster in reply was another effort from Lovenkrands, who beat the onrushing 'keeper Danny Coyne to Bigger Lad's headed flick-on but could only loft the ball into the stand. It was no more than a half-chance, though.

Stern words were needed at half-time, but Chris Hughton's plans were disrupted early in the second period with another unwelcome injury to a central defender, Coloccini departing to be replaced by Ryan Taylor with Tamas Kadar moving into the middle. The Hungarian youngster came as close as anyone to restoring our advantage, his header tipped over the bar by Coyne, who was also nearly caught out by a Spidermag cross.

But the impetus remained with the Smogs and it was they who looked the likelier to score next. The thickness of Harper's leg denied ex-Mackem Julio Arca, but our trusty custodian could do little when Chris Killen headed Robson's free-kick to his Antipodean strike partner McDonald, who swivelled to volley in from close range - Kevin Nolan inadvertently blocking our 'keeper's movement.

Predictably enough the natives celebrated like they'd discovered having six fingers was fashionable, so we took great pleasure in pissing on their parmos when Taylor's whipped cross fell for an unmarked Bigger Lad to prod past Coyne. "By our admission and his own, it wasn't one of Andy Carroll's better games today and the chance he had was very much a half-chance", said Hughton after the match. "But this is a lad who is in good goalscoring form and when you are in that type of form, they are the type of goals you score."

After spending most of the game trying to contain the Smogs, for the last ten minutes we were suddenly very much on the front foot and Bigger Lad could even have snatched a winner. On a day when we generally looked rather sluggish and complacent, though, a point was a decent return, just as it was in very similar circumstances at Swansea four weeks ago.

At one point - with us leading through Lovenkrands' goal and West Brom and Forest trailing to Blackpool and Preston respectively - the bigger picture looked very rosy indeed. As it turned out, we still increased the gap to third by a point, with Forest giving themselves too much to do to overturn a 3-0 deficit despite a rousing second-half comeback.

The Baggies, though, inched closer, having eventually run out 3-2 victors over the Seasiders. Their winner came from the penalty spot after a trip on Giles Barnes was bizarrely deemed to have taken place inside the area. Guess who the referee was...

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


Post a Comment

<< Home