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Boro 0 Rovers 1


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Driving North into a Simpson Sky, you know the one, blue sky with cotton ball clouds, I considered the implications of another defeat and searched for some divine sign of hope.

Turning on to the A19 with the black clouds rolled in across the horizon, I noted the multi coloured rainbow arching it’s way into the distance and wondered was there really a pot of gold at it’s end. Could this be the sign I had been looking for, where we to find some reward at the Riverside Stadium.

After parking up (free parking) at the rear of McDonalds in the town centre, I visited a “The Central” for some light refreshment and watched part of the Hearts v Celtic game on the big screen, listening to the Boro fans planning their trip to Cardiff, amazed that none of them were discussing the days game against Rovers.

The walk from the town centre car park to the ground takes about 15 minutes, the route taking you across a police manned railway crossing and through two underpasses; emerging from the second underpass the cold North East wind cuts through you and the stadium zooms up in front of you. You cant miss it, as there’s nothing else there.

After the customary search, it was into the ground, which has reasonable facilities for the away supporter, including tv screens on the concourse. The seating itself gives good visibility to the whole of the stadium and for once there was reasonable leg room. One of the only failing I found was the limited exit stairways, which caused congestion at the end of the game. The other failing I noted was that the area for away disabled spectators, which appeared to be unprotected from the driving rain and cold weather.

It would appear that Souness is after a Ranieri’s title of “tinker man” for once again there was surprises in the team selection. Have we played the same team twice this season. Craig Short was brought back to play in defence and Todd was moved to play centre midfield along side Flitcroft; and the dynamic duo of Cole and Yorke were replaced by youngsters Gallagher and new signing Jon Stead.

Coles only concilation being that he was allocated a seat on the bench.

The Boro kicked off attacking the North Stand,(home supporters) and were the dominant team of the first half with Mendieta firing wide within the first 5 minutes. However despite their dominance Boro failed to capitalise and Friedel was seldom troubled during the first half, the only shot, a free kick by Mendieta going straight into Friedel’s arms at waist height.

Rovers rarely troubled the Boro defence, relying on breaking down Boro attacks and pumping balls up field for Gallagher and Stead to chase. It wasn’t until after the half hour mark that Rovers had a shot at the Boro goal, however Todd’s shot was a throw back to days gone bye, as it went out for a throw in, I was half expecting the chant of BEAMO, BEAMO.

With about 5 minutes to go before half time debut boy Jon Stead got his first goal for the Rovers. As Gallagher chased for the ball he was tackled by Mills allowing the ball to break free into the path of Stead, who calmly and confidently placed his shot pasted the Boro keeper.

Stead went close again on a couple of occasions before going in at half time with Rovers leading 1-0.

At the start of the second half Boro made two changes bringing on Job and Downing for Maccarone and Parnaby, which did make Boro more threatening. Downing who had been a Rovers target during the transfer window had the beating of Neill down the left, and Job was an ever present threat in the penalty box, although the later appeared to have caught the Cole/ Yorke offside bug.

The second half was very much a rear guard action by Rovers as the defended the South Stand where the Rovers supporters were sat, who were on their feet chanting FRIEDEL, FRIEDEL, when twice he made world class saves to first deny Juninho and the Zenden.

With the youngsters who had run their socks off tiring, Souness brought on Jansen for Gallagher in the 65th minute and Tugay for Stead 5 minutes before the final whistle.

With the game nearly over Boro nearly scored through Southgate, but Rovers cleared off the line.

When the final whistle did eventually go it was joy for the Rovers supporters more from relief than excitement, not exactly a game for the football purists, but at least it was the first win in 2004 and a step further away from the relegation zone.

Leaving the ground, the underpasses and railway crossings previously mentioned become a bottle neck and are police manned to control pushing. But with a win, the North East wind didn’t seem so cold and the trip home through driving rain, sleet and snow where forgotten as the results came through knowing Rovers had moved up the table to 14th.

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