Date:Sunday September 22 2013
21st September 2013, 3pm
A clear and easy drive up got us into Middlesbrough in plenty of time to have a look around, not that there's a huge amount to see mind, and get our bearings. A stroll into town gave the chance to sample some of the dirt cheap drink on offer, before getting back to the ground to see the players just completing their warm ups.
The team came through and it turned out neither Daniels or MacDonald started, the knocks they picked up Tuesday were obviously too much to recover from in the short time.
Elphick came into the middle of defence with Cook moved to the left, and Richard Hughes lined up in the middle alongside O'Kane. Pitman was playing deep behind Rantie, whilst Grabban was seemingly allowed to roam, sometimes popping up on the right and sometimes centrally. Pugh on the left.
With the first Cherries attack of the game just a few minutes in, we had a penalty. It was clear that Rantie fancied a run at the Boro back line, he would go on to cause problems throughout his hour. It was a clear trip by defender Williams on the South African that won the spot kick. Pitman smashed it down the middle for 1-0. A few late stragglers missed out there.
With Grabban and Rantie up top, the ball into the channel to get them racing against the defenders was clearly the way forward. Pitman was popping up here and there behind, and it was a Pitman ball into the box towards Grabban that won the second spot kick. The ball striking the arm of defender Frazer Richardson. Pitman stepped up and smacked it higher this time, to the keepers' right for 2-0.
Middlesbrough were shell-shocked, Bournemouth were jubilant. Elliott Ward went close from a corner, and all seemed to be going perfectly until 20 minutes, when Boro got one back with a rather scrappy goal. A cross into our box wasn't dealt with well at all, the scorer Kamara toe-poking the loose ball towards goal before finally bundling it into the net via both Allsop and Cook. The previously silent home fans suddenly found their voices and drums, and the pressure came on.
At this point, something changed. It was as if we thought, 'hang on, we're little Bournemouth, leading away at Middlesbrough, recently a top flight club' - we forgot that we deserved to be at that stage and be ahead, and we went right into our shell. Our high tempo and high pressing went out the window as we retreated into our own half, and Middlesbrough pilled on the pressure with all the space of their nice big ground to play in.
The equaliser when it came was somewhat fortuitous perhaps, but it was certainly coming. A cross come shot from some 25 yards deflected off Steve Cook and looped into the net, Allsop having no chance.
After half time little changed. We hoped Eddie would have shaken some sense into the players to get back that aggression from early on. But we continued to stay deep and Middlesbrough continued to do almost all the running. Bar the occasional break away with Grabban and Rantie, it was only Middlesbrough who were going to score again.
The hour mark ticked past with the Cherries just about keeping Boro at bay, but it couldn't last forever. Firstly there was the rather confusing substitution of Rantie for Thomas. We can only assume perhaps Rantie isn't quite fully adjusted yet and needs to be treated carefully. The introduction of Thomas didn't inspire a huge amount of confidence, but there were bigger problems to come.
With around 20 minutes left Boro's main man in midfield Leadbitter got into the box and into space to receive a cut back pass into his path, and tucked the ball away for a 3-2 lead, sending the 13,000 home fans crazy.
Howe immediately sent MacDonald on for Hughes. Whether it was that change, or the realisation that we had fallen behind after leading 2-0, but we suddenly came to life again.
Pugh started finding space on the left, and Francis started bombing down the right, both sending crosses into Thomas. We forced some corners and generally applied some pressure, and it didn't take much before Boro cracked. Jonathon Woodgate quite strangely bundled the ball into his own net to equalise for Bournemouth, and it was our turn to party as the home fans fell back into their sulk. Cherries players ran to the away section celebrating and they were met by a fair number rushing down the stand, much to the stewards annoyance.
And we kept pressing, and could have gone onto win. A ball down the middle for Thomas to chase saw him get the better of defender Williams, he who gave us a penalty earlier, and he completed his poor afternoon by bring Thomas down whilst through on goal. As the last defender, it was a red card and off he went. Pitman had a shot from the resulting free kick, that didn't look far wide of the bottom corner.
A chaotic end to end stoppage time saw both sides throw themselves at a winner but 3-3 it ended, with Howe no doubt going away the happier manager whilst Mowbray took stick from the home fans.
All in all, a patchy but at times rather good performance against a Middlesbrough side comfortable on the ball and possessing some quality in places. As a yard stick to see where we are at this level, that wasn't bad.
We do just need to remember that we earned our place at this level alongside some admittedly bigger clubs, but we're lining up against them as equals and we're capable of doing them as much damage as they are us. A little less respect shown, or a little less fear perhaps, and we could have done even better.
Boro fans weren't overly happy leaving the ground and a minority made their feelings known towards Cherries in slightly unsavoury ways as we made our way back. But hopefully that's a sign that we gave a decent away performance and were good value for the point.
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Date:Sunday September 22 2013
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