Boro 0 - Bristol City 0
By Steven Byrne
After the midweek 4-1 demolition of Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat things were starting to look up for Boro and there was a feeling around the Riverside that we had finally turned the corner, maybe. Bristol City took at 6-0 beating at home to Cardiff City in the week and a win for Boro today would mean back to back wins for the first time since early September.
Barry Robson made his home debut in centre midfield in place of Julio Arca and Leroy Lita started up top in place of Jonathon Franks. Jonathon Grounds kept his place at centre back after an impressive display against Doncaster. With the end of the transfer window looming it could also be, as many feared, Adam Johnson’s last game in a Boro shirt. New loan signing Stephen McManus from feeder club Celtic took his place on the bench.
Boro started the game brightly with Gary O’Neil and Chris Killen both coming close early on. Leroy Lita was frustrating the home fans again as he spurned a series of half chances. Willo Flood was again putting in a busy industrious performance but Adam Johnson was finding it difficult to get into the game after being closely watched by City’s Bradley Orr. This resulted in Justin Hoyte constantly finding himself in loads of room down the left, but due to the fact he left his left foot at Arsenal nothing ever came off for him. Tony ‘one ball’ McMahon on the other side seemed as reluctant as ever to pass the half way line and tried his trademark ‘over the top’ a few too many times again with no end result.
Half time ensued and you got the feeling that one goal would win it. City were well organised and had virtually taken Johnson out of the game, leaving Boro short of ideas. The second half got underway and Boro again started brightly but on 56 minutes the until then impressive Robson was sent off after a second booking for a foul on Nicky Maynard, only moments after a final warning from the ref. The three points now seemed to be slipping away, but if anything this seemed to spur Boro on.
Julio Arca came on for Hoyte at left back, which seemed a strange decision considering Joe Bennett and Andrew Taylor were both on the bench, but Boro continued to press. Chris Killen headed over when it seemed easier to score and Adam Johnson came close with right footed shot which whistled past the post. Jonathan Franks replaced the disappointing Lita but his energy couldn’t help create that vital opening.
Late on Killen again found himself in space after a clever pass by Gary O’Neil but fired over. David Wheater had a great chance to win it in injury time but he seemed surprised by the amount of room he had and his diving header from Gary O’Neil’s corner flew over the bar.
Boro, despite being down to ten men for most of the second half, had the better of the possession and will feel that the three points were there for the taking, but once again due to a lack of quality in the final third the home fans are left waiting for what will be only our second home win since mid October.
Coyne - 6
McMahon - 5
Hoyte - 5
Grounds - 7
Wheater - 7
Flood - 7
O'Neil - 7
Robson - 5
Johnson - 5
Lita - 4
Killen - 6
Arca - 5
Franks - 5
Boro Man of the Match - David Wheater
Attendance - 17,865
Game Highlight - Promising performances from Flood and Wheater