Boro 1-2 Town
Monday, 16th Apr 2001 18:19
Two goals from ex-Boro man Alun Armstrong straight after the break saw Town beat a woeful Middlesbrough side on a very cold and windy day at the Riverside Stadium. The home team had gone ahead in the first half completely against the run of play through Dean Windass.
Town lined up with Titus Bramble returning in place of the injured John McGreal while Hermann Hreidarsson moved to left-back in place of Fabian Wilnis whose ankle kept him out. Mark Venus returned to the central defence.
Town started as they meant to go on, playing the kind of attacking football which had brought eight away victories already this season. In the first minute Jermaine Wright illustrated the positive attitude with a shot which went wide of Schwartzer’s post.
Alun Armstrong went close from a Hermann Hreidarsson cross before Matt Holland was almost put in from a Reuser cross. Boro were letting Town have most of the possession with seven of their players retreating into their area whenever Town had the ball in their half. It gave the impression that Town were the home team, something which didn’t go unnoticed or uncommented upon by the home fans.
Jermaine Wright had another effort on goal in the seventeenth minute before Boro had their first chance, from which they should have done better. A cross from the left by Gordon was missed by both Boksic and Windass as it flashed across the six yard box. Hermann Hreidarsson put the ball behind for a corner.
On 21 Mark Venus was booked when he failed to get out of the way when Karembeu slipped the ball by him and ran on. It seemed a bit harsh as the Town defender merely stayed exactly where he was as the Frenchman collided with him.
Town were continuing to pile on the pressure but weren’t really creating too many clearcut chances. The policy of packing the penalty area with defenders was paying off with most crosses being cleared by Boro heads. Jermaine Wright headed over from a Hreidarsson cross but wasn’t all that far away.
At the other end Boksic had a shot blocked by Bramble who was having a fine first half. Boksic was almost given a gift by Richard Wright and Chris Makin when Wright tried to play the ball to the defender but instead the ball fell to the Croat, but he was too far out to take a shot and Town snuffed out the opportunity.
Town still were dominant and almost went ahead when Schwartzer made a phenomenal save from Bramble after the defender latched on to a deep corner from Reuser. The Town youngster really got hold of his shot, but the keeper was equal to it and deflected the ball off a defender and the danger went.
On 38 Boro went ahead despite the Blues’ pressure. Dean Windass was put through beyond the Town defence and put the ball past Richard Wright. Windass himself was kept onside by Mark Venus, but there were perhaps questions over Hamilton Ricard’s role in the goal. He was stood still beyond the Town defence between Richard Wright and the Town defensive line. The referee clearly considered him not to be interfering with play, but the Town defence certainly appeared to assume he would be flagged as Windass ran past on to the ball.
Half-time came and Town’s fans wondered how they could be behind after a half where they had been so evidently the better side. George Burley made one change bringing on Jamie Clapham for Martijn Reuser on the left. Before Boro had touched the ball again Town were level. From the kick-off the ball was played forward to Armstrong who hit a stunning shot which curled inside Schwartzer’s right post. The player Bryan Robson sold earlier this season was clearly delighted to be showing his old fans what their manager had got rid of. To be fair to the Boro supporters they had given Armstrong a good reception when his name was read out at the beginning of the match and did so again when he was substituted late on.
Two minutes later Armstrong almost scored again. Schwartzer saved well as Town’s number 34 tried to tap home a Clapham cross. Another two minutes later and Armstrong had fed Bryan Robson some more humble pie. Jim Magilton made a good run forward, passed the ball wide to Marcus Stewart who played the ball in and Armstrong put the ball beyond Schwartzer. The game had turned totally in the five minutes since half-time and Boro would now have to come at Town.
Titus Bramble did well to cut out a cross before it reached Boksic and was continuing his good work from the first half. At the other end he headed over from a Magilton freekick while Alun Armstrong was close to getting on the end of a Stewart knockdown after Bramble had crossed from the right.
Richard Wright made a good save when Boksic got away from Hermann Hreidarsson. There appeared to be a hint of handball, but the Town keeper dived at Boksic’s feet and claimed the ball.
Town had a good call for a penalty when Holland played the ball past a defender and ran into the box and fell to the ground. It certainly looked to be a penalty and both Holland and Stewart looked very surprised that one had not been awarded by referee Bennett.
Substitute Richard Naylor came very close to getting a third when Holland pulled the ball back to Jermaine Wright. His cross-shot came quickly to Naylor and he couldn’t direct his shot goalwards.
Boro tried to push forward as the game neared the end, but created little of worth. Three minutes of injury time saw the home fans troop out disconsolately in massive numbers and the players on the pitch seemed as resigned to defeat as the crowd.
The whistle went and the Town players came over to celebrate with the fans. Alun Armstrong hugged Matt Holland as Town’s European place was all but booked. Third and only one point behind Arsenal, the Champions’ League is a very real possibility now.
Photo: Action Images
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