Looking Forward

 

MIDDLESBROUGH (Away)

Premier League

Saturday 30th March 2002

With Boro just having won at Manchester United and knowing how rarely we do well in this part of the North-East, there can be little hope of anything other than a point at the most.  The win at Fulham might make Spurs adopt a more confident attitude going into the game, but Boro will be in a similar frame of mind and with both clubs relatively safe in mid-table, the only thing to play for is pride.

With the two Marks in goal, Boro' have two capable keepers.  Aussie Mark Schwarzer has been the number one for a while, but McClaren has chosen the former Forest goal guardian Mark Crossley in more recent matches.  Both are big lads, but have trouble catching crosses, preferring to punch.  They do not have any difficulty in stopping shots with Crossley's size (i.e. width) and Schwarzer's height (i.e. length) their advantages.  However, Spurs have found ways past them before, but need to make sure that they hit the target and make them save, even if they don't score.

Dean Gordon has been farmed out to Cardiff on loan, but has returned, although is desperately out of favour with the manager.  McClaren tends to go with Ugo Ehiogu, Gareth Southgate, Ginaluca Festa and Franck Queudrue, if fit and not suspended.  For the Tottenham game he will be without the Italian Festa, due to suspension, but the other three will play with either youngster Jason Gavin or the experienced Colin Cooper filling his boots.  Ehiogu is long legged and pacy, but sometimes can be prone to mis-time a tackle, which can be fatal for his side.  He has suffered the red card a  couple of times this season and conceded penalties too.  Southgate is an England international and reads the game well, but has been encouraged by McClaren to bring the ball out a bit more.  He has been seen charging forward, which might suit Spurs to hit them on the break if they leave holes in the defence.  Queudrue was unheard of before Middlesbrough brought him to Teesside, but has proven a good find.  He has pace and is good at set pieces in the opponents box, while he adds flexibility to the system by pushing forward too.  Robbie Stockdale is the other option that Boro have and he can play in midfield too if required.

In that part of the team, the old warhorse Paul Ince is playing as well as ever and makes the side tick.  His ball-winning ability has never been in doubt, but his use of the ball has improved and he scores the most amazing goals (like the one that bounced over Nigel Martyn).  Carlos Marinelli adds a bit of invention to the side with his quick feet and silky skills, but has more often been used from the bench this season.  Veteran Robbie Mustoe still ploughs the furrow between boxes, while Luke Wilkshire is a newer face, who has been given a look in as Boro were hit by injuries.  There is a determination and effort in the midfield that now has an outlet under the new boss. Mark Summerbell will not be available after joining Portsmouth on a month's loan.

That outlet is the twin strike force of Alen Boksic and Benito Carbone, who have struck up an understanding very quickly.  Carbone, on loan from Bradford City, clicked with the strong goalscorer Boksic and they have provided the threat that the rest of the team was lacking.  With Joseph Desire-Job on his way back to France, wing man Allan Johnston behind Marinelli in the running and Szilard Nemeth still trying to get used to the team and only getting the odd appearance, the side rely on Boksic to stick the goals away.  Being without a goal for a year since he signed for Boro, Noel Whelan was looking a shadow of his former self, but now has been getting a few strikes on target and past the opposition keepers, thus building his confidence.  This has left Dean Windass sitting on the bench, coming on to try and save the situation if needed.  He is a strong, old fashioned striker and adds contrast to the delicate finishing of Boksic and Whelan.  Hamilton Ricard this week left Boro to join CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria on a free transfer, while England Under-21 striker Andy Campbell cost Cardiff City 1 million, leaving Middlesbrough light in this area.

Middlesbrough have Jonathan Greening doubtful, as are Phil Stamp and Mark Wilson, but there is enough in their squad now to pose a few threats, as Man U found.  As for Tottenham, they will have to hope that some of their injury problems have cured and that they can maintain the style of play that earned three points at Fulham.  Work as a unit and make sure that you don't allow the other side a half-chance.  With both sides looking better than a month ago, they will probably produce a scoreline of ...

PREDICTION : -  Middlesbrough  1  Tottenham 1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

 

 

Middlesbrough  1   Tottenham  1          (Half time score: 0-1)
FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Saturday 30th March 2002
Venue :  Riverside Stadium
Kick Off : 5.35 p.m.
Weather : -  Warm, dry
Crowd : -   31,258
Referee : -   Mr. P. Dowd  (Staffordshire)

Scorers : -   Middlesbrough  -   Queudrue 69
                  Tottenham  -  Iversen 32

CARDS

Middlesbrough :  None

Tottenham :   Poyet (foul) 8, Thatcher 72, Perry (foul) 82

TEAMS 

Middlesbrough :  Crossley; Stockdale, Ehiogu, Southgate, Queudrue; Whelan (Windass 90), Wilkshire (Murphy 58), Greening, Mustoe; Boksic, Carbone
Unused Subs : -  Beresford, Gavin, Marinelli

Tottenham :  Keller; Perry, Gardner, King, Thatcher; Sherwood, Anderton (Davies 78), Poyet, Etherington; Iversen, Rebrov (Sheringham 72)
Unused Subs : -  Hirschfeld, Richards, Clemence

COLOURS

Middlesbrough  :  Red shirts, red shorts, red socks

Tottenham :  White shirts, navy blue shorts, navy blue socks

With things going downhill since Feb. 24th, the changes made in the team were a welcome surprise.  Rebrov's start was one which many thought should happen as there is little to play for now and Keller in goal for Sullivan was a move that fans had been calling for over the last few weeks.  The fact tat it was injuries that kept them out had little to do with it.

The appearance of the Canadian Hirschfeld on the bench was a shock too.  On trial, it was unusual for someone who is not a contracted player being put in as a substitute.

As the match was about to start the home fans found their voice.  For those Boro fans singing "There's only one spotty German", they must have very short memories or very short sight, as no-one on the Spurs team looked anything like their description.  This arose from the victory that Middlesbrough had in their FA inquiry over the illegal approach by Liverpool to tempt Ziege away from Teesside, but the wing-back picked up a knock on international duty in midweek and took no part.

With a more traditional 4-4-2 adopted by Hoddle, the side looked more solid, but lacked a little in options when they needed an outlet from defence or midfield.  Etherington gave the Boro defence a torrid time with his pace causing problems, while Iversen looked lively but not deadly up front.  The game swung from end to end for the opening exchanges.  Spurs having a volley from an unmarked Poyet on the penalty spot saved and Boro causing Thatcher to clear twice when the goal was threatened.

Although hit by a virus that kept out Schwarzer and Ince, Boro knocked the ball quickly to Carbone, who was the hub that their moved revolved around.  Boksic also was enjoying the space afforded him and he took the ball past Keller on one occasion, but Anthony Gardner was there to clear from in front of the goal.  Ant also found time to maraud forward, hitting a long shot over the bar.

Shortly after, Spurs had a throw on the left wing, which Ben Thatcher launched towards the near post.  It was headed out, but Matthew returned the ball to Thatch, who obligingly gave it back to Etherington.  His first time cross went in low to the near post, where Rebrov and Poyet ran in to meet it.  Cleverly, Gus leapt over the ball confusing Southgate, Stockdale and Ehiogu, leaving Iversen unmarked at the far post to turn it in from five yards out, although Crossley got a touch on it.

Boro almost got back into the game when Sherwood tried to be too clever on the ball in his own box and was robbed by Boksic.  He chipped to the far post and Carbone met it on the volley, but hit the side netting from six yards out.  Spurs struck back with Iversen being sent clear of the Boro defence by a long pass from Thatcher and as Crossley came out to meet him, Ivo lobbed it over him, but wide and as he tried to get his shot in, Ehiogu closed him down and blocked his effort.  

At half-time, it was the general consensus that Spurs had just about deserved the lead although they were not playing the flowing football they had done prior to the New Year.  Early in the second half, they survived a clear claim for a penalty when the ball came off Boksic's chest and Ledley handled back to Keller.

Riding this piece of luck, Iversen broke clear again and his cross to Etherington at the back stick produced a shot that was well blocked.  A corner was given and from that Anderton swung in a good ball, met by Gus whose header crashed back off the bar (again).  

The Boro goal came form a dodgy free-kick awarded when Boksic went down under challenge from Gardner.  The only thing was the challenge had been about 30 seconds before he fell down.  When the kick was taken, Queudrue bent it into the bottom left corner expertly, but his job had been made easier by Robbie Mustoe dragging Steffen Iversen to earth to make a gap to shoot through.  how the ref missed that, I don't know.

Anyway, it perked Middlesbrough up and a corner shortly after found substitute David Murphy unmarked and his header was off target when it looked easier to score.  Spurs reacted by bringing on Sheringham and Davies and they started to knock the ball about a bit better.  One move down the right got Davies in to cross to Teddy around ten yards out.  The ball got stuck under his feet, but he dug it out to Matty, who hit a strong shot that bounced back off Crossley's chest.  Near the end, Spurs came close to winning it, but not close enough as Teddy could not reach Thatcher's inviting cross.  

In truth, the bad decisions did equal themselves out, so perhaps a draw was an equitable result.  The home side had lots of possession, but Spurs shaded it on chances and only the width of the bar stopped Tottenham taking all three points again.  The defence played well together and the midfield worked hard to try and contain Boro, who were strong in this area.  Both sides could have done with a better finisher to round off the opportunities created.

The presentation at the start of the game to Colin Cooper and his wife, who recently lost their son in a tragic domestic accident, put the whole thing into perspective.  Especially when the news broke that the Queen Mother had died today.  Two individuals who died at either end of the age spectrum, but made us realise that this is only a game ... something some people need to get into their heads when making demands in wages and TV deals.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  ANTHONY GARDNER

Aidensby Quernhow

 

BORO CANCELLED

 

The need for points between these two sides was necessary for differing reasons.  For Spurs, the push for a respectable end of season finish and for the hosts, a final win to ensure that they would not be dragged down into the relegation dogfight.  In the end, a draw suited neither club's purpose, but perhaps Middlesbrough would be happier with it than would Spurs.

With a first half lead taken by the opportunistic finish from Iversen, who found the ball at his feet at the far post following Etherington's left wing cross, Spurs again failed to hang on for the remainder of the game, although the equaliser came from a harshly awarded free-kick.  Gardner was sucked in by Boksic and the Croatian international fell to get the dead ball kick.  Frenchman Queudrue strode up to hit the free-kick past Keller from the edge of the box, while Mustoe was pulling in the wall.  It appears that free-kicks are not Kasey's forte after the Hasselbaink one in the first leg of the Worthington Cup semi and last week's Ziege strike in the friendly against the USA.  As far as the dubious nature of the free-kick, Spurs has escaped an appeal for a penalty, when Ledley was accused of handling the ball back to Keller in the box.  I have seen them given for less.

It was about the right result in truth, as Boro took the game to Spurs with Carbone especially impressive, twisting and turning the Spurs players at every opportunity.  He created chances and caused terror in the Tottenham defence and looked a completely different player to the one who played for Bradford City and Aston Villa.  Luckily for Spurs, Boksic failed to get on the end of any of the moves and when others did, they either hit Keller or missed the target altogether.  Kasey did well to deny Boksic with a diving save to push the ball out, but he needed the help of Gardner to clear his lines.  Thatcher got in the way a couple of times early on to stop Middlesbrough getting a lead.  His head deflected Carbone's shot for a corner and then he made a tackle to deny Whelan.

Poyet should have had a couple at least.  His early volley found Crossley, whereas, if he had hit it anywhere else in the goal and it would have been in.  He was unlucky when meeting Anderton's corner in the second half to see his header rebound off the bar.  What is it they say about luck evening itself out over the course of the season ?  We must be in for one helluva lot of it in the next six games then !!

In the Boro goal, Crossley failed to impress with his handling.  He spilled shots and there was never a white shirt to take advantage of the loose ball.  Etherington twice tested him with fierce drives and he got behind the ball, but when they came back off his body, no-one was following in.  Matty was especially lively and gave the home defence a torrid time when he went on runs.  He needs to look up before crossing though to make sure that the positions he gets into are not wasted with aimless balls into the box.  Conversely, Rebrov looked totally out of touch and when he came off, Teddy looked a bit better than him without setting the team alight.  He could have got on the scoresheet at the end with Thatcher's cross just eluding him by inches.

Anderton did well, but like many of his fellow midfielders was guilty of cheaply conceding possession.  Sherwood was particularly prevalent in this respect and although he gave a good foil for the back four, he did make more work than was necessary sometimes with misplaced passes.  Poyet was always involved, but picked up his seventh yellow card of the season and will be up for another suspension.

Hoddle was obviously willing to shuffle the pack with Richards, Davies and Sheringham left on the bench alongside the Canadian trialist, Lars Hirschfeld, who is being lined up as the number two for next season if Keller leaves, as is expected.  He must be viewed seriously as a signing by Hod, as he wouldn't have made the bench otherwise.  Strange as neither Wolves, Portsmouth or Hearts felt the need to keep him on longer than the week's trial they offered him.  Sullivan was given a rest, probably after being hit for five by France in midweek, he needed some R&R !!

A point from the match was a reasonable return and one which was not totally unexpected, but even now there is still not the ability to hold a lead and convert the chances that come along.  Iversen was once more t blame, but his goal did give Tottenham the advantage for a long while.  He might still be there next season, but who will be playing alongside him ?

Burton Coggles

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