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Match Reports
Middlesbrough v Spurs, 18.12.05


Middlesbrough scorers:-
Yakubu, 30, 43
Queudrue, 70

Spurs scorers:-
Keane, 25
Jenas, 63
Mido, 83

Referee: - Howard Webb

Attendance: - 27,614

Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Bates, Ehiogu, Southgate (Capt.), Queudrue; Morrison (sub Maccarone, 88), Boateng, Doriva, Rochemback; Yakubu, Viduka

Subs not used: - Jones; Pogatetz; Wheater, Johnson

Booked: - Doriva, Bates

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Jenas (sub Rasiak, 81), Carrick, Davids, Reid (sub Defoe, 55) (sub Brown, 90); Keane, Mido

Subs not used: - Cerny; Pamarot

Booked: - Dawson, Davids, Robinson

Spurs fans travelled in hope of a victory and a seven point lead over Arsenal for Christmas, and when Robbie Keane put Spurs in the lead mid-way through the first half, things were looking rosy. However, it wasn’t long before Yakubu got on the score-sheet not once, but twice, leaving Spurs to come back from behind twice in the game to take a point in an action-packed 3-3 draw. In those circumstances, a point taken from a team still competing in four tournaments was more than satisfactory. It was enough to keep Spurs in fourth place, and as Arsenal did fulfil the prophesised home defeat against Chelsea, we have extended our lead over our near neighbour and firm enemy.

One big factor that led to the result was the boldness of Martin Jol, firstly to have two strikers on the bench for an away game (Defoe and Rasiak), and then to use both of them in addition to the two already on the pitch, giving us 4 main strikers in play for most of the last ten minutes. Jermain Defoe had to be replaced by Michael Brown in stoppage time, and will reportedly miss next week’s games. Middlesbrough fans, and some Tottenham fans are convinced that Jermain’s injury was some sort of ploy to wind down some time, as that stoppage time was a scheduled 6 minutes, but was even further extended.

The cause of such a delay was what was considered a major injury to young James Morrison, whose 43rd minute shot that hit the back of Paul Robinson’s net was claimed as a Yakubu goal, as a result of the ball hitting the striker on the way into the goal. Morrison had gone down in the Spurs area, and urgent attention was immediately sought, as the youngster lay unconscious as a result of another accident (this one a strong challenge between Morrison and a Spurs player) Morrison was applauded off by all sections of the crowd, and made a good recovery in the dressing room.

There weren’t too many empty spaces in the stadium today, but clearly the Teeside public is unable to sustain Boro’s 4-pronged attack on glory. After a paltry 9,500 crowd on Thursday, the club is only opening two stands for Wednesday night’s quarter-final Carling Cup tie against Blackburn Middlesbrough’s programme makes interesting reading regarding their own travelling support and that of all visiting teams. Spurs will surely have one of the highest figures, despite the length of the journey and Live TV coverage. Boro have only managed to take a total of 1000 travelling fans to all 4 of their away European matches!

As for the game, Boro were keen to put Spurs under pressure from the outset, and despite their potential for success, they are still only three points above Everton of whom it is generally agreed they are having a dismal season. Viduka and Yakubu stretched the Spurs defence with lateral runs, whilst left winger Rochemback and Morrison on the right tested the full backs to the full. Michael Dawson got an early booking off referee Howard Webb who was easily convinced by Viduka’s dying swan impression just outside the Spurs area. Queudrue curled his free kick wide of Robinson’s corner, whilst Rochemback also shaped up as if to take the kick.

Doriva also saw yellow for a cynical foul on Michael Carrick who was racing down the right wing, as Spurs broke from defence. Davids then went into the book for what looked a harsh decision, and he is already due another suspension. At last, after 22 minutes, Spurs enjoyed a little bit of pressure in a move started by Davids. Reid’s goal-bound shot was blocked, and the move ended disappointingly, when Jenas lost his footing near the right corner flag. Reid featured again, as he retrieved what was a lost cause by chasing the ball to the left touchline, passing back to Lee, whose cross was dropped by Schwarzer under Mido’s pressure. Robbie Keane was on hand to sweep the ball home through a leg or two for what looked a rather unlikely lead. Spurs fans gleefully mimicked the Riverside Stadium’s usual celebration music.

The lead was short-lived though, as within five minutes Queudrue’s cross from the left was headed beyond the back post by Southgate, and Yakubu was unforgiveably left in acres of space, able to pick his spot as he fired past Robinson. This was Lee’s territory, surely, and Lee was to share culpability just before the break. First though, Paul Robinson had to save from a good effort by Viduka, collecting a head down from Yakubu, and then right back Bates got booked. Bates had been upset at not winning a penalty after Reid’s challenge in the area, and hacked Reid down as Spurs broke away. Boro’s second goal came in the 43rd minute, as Lee turned his back on Morrison, mis-reading his direction. Morrison was given yards to manoeuvre and it looked as if he had scored with a fine shot, but the ball hit Yakubu on the way in, and of course the striker will claim his tenth Premiership goal of the season.

After 54 minutes, Spurs lost the advantage from a throw just inside the Boro half, and were nearly made to pay for it as Morrison crossed for a great header by Yakubu, matched by Robinson’s save. Reid was replaced by Defoe, who played towards the left of the front three. Davids sent Lee away, and his poor cross was retrieved by Robbie Keane. The cross was half saved by Schwarzer and his defence, before Mido hit a shot on the turn over the bar from close range. Spurs got an equaliser in the 63rd minute after a free kick saga. The first kick was much prolonged as the referee paced out 10 yards, and when his back was turned the Boro defence snatched back two or three yards – un-noticed! Spurs “played for position” and as Davids raced across the outside of the area from the kick, he was brought down. This time Jermaine Jenas repeated his Old Trafford expertise and hit a beauty over the wall, which rebounded into the goal off Schwarzer’s right post.

Following a free kick five minutes later, Doriva hit a fierce drive from distance that Robinson saved low down to his left, but from the corner Queudrue rose and headed in, off the underside of the bar. Paul Robinson got booked for protesting too vehemently, thinking the linesman was signalling no goal, when the opposite was the case. It was end to end stuff now, and Jenas had a good dipping effort go just over, as he followed up a loose ball, before being replaced by Rasiak. The big men stayed in the middle as Keane and Defoe were on the flanks. Rasiak had hardly been on, when Keane won a corner, taken by Carrick, and headed home by Mido for his seventh of the campaign.

After Morrison’s disturbing injury, Jermain Defoe should have wrapped up the points as he was one on one against Mark Schwarzer, but allowed the keeper to make the save. A Spurs win would have been very cheeky though, and we were still able to make the return trip with a healthy smile, especially as we listened to events at Highbury:)

Although I intend to report on tomorrow night’s reserve match (away to Watford – being played at Borehamwood), may I take this opportunity to thank all readers for their interest and support throughout the year, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and the best of health and all you hope for in 2006. That includes some success for the team we all love!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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