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Middlesbrough 2nd Half

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 02/08/2003

NEITHER team made any changes at half time, though Groves moved down to dictate from the touchline, which he did, barking out instructions to each and every player. You will be happy to know that they all did what they were told.

Home > 2003-2004 Season > Reports > Middlesbrough (h)

Now this was a lot better, for from the start Town dominated, with the opposition happy to stroll around and have a couple of breakaways now and again. Or, in the case of Queudrue, practice kicking the opposition. Hamilton started to show off a couple of tricks, which were based around not touching the ball with his feet (a good idea as he sometimes has the touch of a clumsy mule). Disco Desmond left his barrel in the market place, dropping his shoulders to do a couple of nifty dummies which started attacks off nicely.

Crowe, after a mazy run down the touchline and then infield, smacked a left footed drive straight to Crossley from the edge of the penalty area. A couple of minutes later a super Town move. The ball was shuffled down the left, Anderson stepped inside and clipped a delicate chip over the defence to Ten Heuvel, beyond the far post and half a dozen yards out. Ten Heuvel let the ball roll down his chest and wellied a half volley just over the crossbar. Should have scored really, but what a lovely move. And again, another move down the Town left with Anderson dribbling to the by-line and dinking a cross beyond the far post to the unmarked Crowe who, about 3 yards out, headed firmly across goal. The ball hit Ten Heuvel (stood virtually on the goal line) on the back of the neck and was cleared. Hey, wow, like, cool man. Twice in one game a Town player had drifted into space at the far post. That's something that is usually done to us.

After about quarter of an hour, Bolder was replaced by Edwards, who went to right back. Crowe moved up to right midfield and Campbell took over in the centre. A well chosen phrase that, for Campbell controlled the game for half an hour, being the fulcrum of every bit of Town magic. He passed, he tackled, he ran - just about everything you need from a central midfielder. Except the pointing, which Hamilton did a lot. As well as squealing like a Premiership pig, for when touched he yelped and won free kicks, just like the spaghetti heads. Middlesbrough were not moribund as an attacking force, for Pettinger was required to make a diving flip away from his far post following a flicked header and a couple of brave blocks at the feet of on-rushing midfielders. Nor forgetting (as I almost did) a very good plunge to his left to claw away a curling cross shot. It wasn't until the very end that our very reserved opponents put any concerted pressure of the Town goal, with a series of corners, all of which were curled into the middle of the area and were all bundled away by Crane, Ford and Hamilton.

Edwards started a bit ropily, but improved, doing the sensible thing of simply standing near his opponent. He looked a decent utility defender, nothing fancy, someone making the most of his abilities. Not a first teamer, but an occasional emergency player. One should always have a band aid in the first aid kit. Crane got over his awkward fall in the first half, and didn't seem unduly perturbed. He is not silent either, being a big shouter, telling off many of his more senior colleagues for loose passing or lack of concentration.

Ah, the second goal. You want to know about that don't you. Marvellous magic meanderings through the centre. Town won possession, tapped the ball through the middle and Campbell played a perfect pass through the centre backs. CROWE belted in from the wing, just reached the ball before the goalkeeper and, from the centre right of the penalty area, poked the shot low into the bottom right hand corner. A very un-Town like goal in its execution. What did I hear you say? "A second goal is un-Town like, no matter how it's scored."

Town made a bunch of substitutions in the last quarter of an hour with Crowe, Ford, Boulding and Ten Heuvel being replaced by Young, Mansaram, Rowan and Hockless. It didn't stop Town being in the ascendancy, with Mansaram instantly confusing them with his party piece - the Human Octopus. Limbs everywhere and the ball suddenly near goal. Panic and only the plunging 'keeping stopped the ball trickling in at the near post. Town even indulged in some one-touch mickey taking, ending with Disco Des's shinned chip up the wing. His one word comment preceded the ball exiting the ground. No-one disagreed with his summary, which was more accurate than his pass. Hey, at least he's honest.

The game ended with Middlesbrough pressure, but no substance. In the end a deserved win, but those first 20 minutes or so really showed up the gulf in abilities between a premiership reserve team and a second division squad. There were a lot of good things to see, Ten Heuvel's flicking, Boulding's 1000% improvement from Boston (he was competitive and fighting for everything), Campbell's omnipresence, Barnard's overlapping, Crane's height, Pettinger's increasing confidence. Anderson did very little and Hamilton is clearly not yet fit. Big Des did enough to be interesting, with the jury half way out, but not minded to convict. Crowe is the tricky one, for he showed some pace when playing as a right winger and scored a very good goal, but nothing else much. He doesn't seem to have any tricks, nor any notion of defending. If we just want a fast right winger we already have Cas, who is taller and seems to be a better defender too.

So in all in all it was another brick in Groves' wall. The thumbs are up, we have a better squad than this time last year.

Nicko's Man of the Match

Stuart Campbell, it just has to be, especially in the centre. The competition for places in midfield has certainly concentrated his mind wonderfully.

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