Gallant Notts defeated on the Job

Last updated : 09 January 2005 By Rob Davies & Richard Brown

Ian Richardson's men produced undoubtedly their best display of the season though, and came close to upsetting the North East outfit - currently lying 6th in the Premiership.

Richo: Made two changes
Notts played the game in front of a bumper attendance - officially recorded at 13,671 but looking nearer to 16,000 - and certainly rose to the occasion, with a work-man-like display that defied the 82 places that separate these two sides in the footballing ladder.

Richardson made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Rochdale on Monday. Julien Baudet served a one-match ban, so teenage Kelvin Wilson moved inside to partner Mike Whitlow, with David Pipe - himself a doubt for the fixture - moving back to full back and Tony Scully coming in on the wing.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Richardson also brought back Matt Gill to partner Paul Bolland in centre midfield, with the often influential Stefan Oakes reduced to the role of a substitute.

Middlesborough boss Steve McClaren will have delighted the 'floating support' by naming a strong line-up to face the Magpies. Only Bolo Zenden and Gareth Southgate - both on the bench - were rested, while Mark Viduka was injured.

Joseph Job partnered goal machine Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in attack, while young talent Stuart Downing was given a chance to showcase his talents on the left wing. Former Barcelona full back Mikael Reizeger was also included.

Bolland: The new Ray Parlour?
Middlesborough didn't take long to get into their stride, forcing their first corner of the game with just 15 seconds on the clock through Downing.

But amazingly, it was County who were to take the lead with just 80 seconds on the clock.

Scully rampaged down the right hand side before looking to pick out Chris Palmer in the box. However, his cross was to take a massive deflection off the hapless Ehiogu and looped over the stranded Mark Schwarzer. Cue absolute mayhem among the cramped Notts supporters in the Jimmy Sirrel stand.

The goal, albeit amazingly lucky, appeared to put the fast starting Premiership side off their stride a little and although they were able to clock up a lot of possession they were able to create little in the way of chances at goal during the opening quarter.

Nervy Notts defending threatened to give them an opening though, when hesitancy from Rob Ullathorne, Wilson and goalkeeper Saul Deeney all threatened to gift the visitors an equaliser. Luckily though, all came to nothing and all three - the two defenders in particular - went on to have outstanding games.

Pipe had the next Magpies effort on goal, with a low left footed strike that was comfortably dealt with by Schwarzer.

'Boro then had their first real goal attempt with 20 minutes gone, when a dangerous Downing corner was flicked on at the near post by young winger James Morrison, but was excellently cleared at the back post by the lurking Matt Gill.

Gill: Goal-line clearances galore
There was doubt as to whether the opening goal belonged to Scully, or whether it was an own goal, but there would've been no doubt as to whose goal it was if the Irishman had managed to keep his 23rd minute half-volley down.

Gavin Gordon, enjoying a fascinating aerial battle with Ehiogu and Chris Riggott, headed down a free kick but in space Scully was unable to steer his effort goal bound.

One bleak mark on the first half - and the game in general - was the ineptitude of all three match officials.

Premiership referee Peter Walton pretty much summed up his afternoon on the half-hour mark when he first turned down penalty appeals when Ullathorne appeared to be tripped in the box, before booking Bolland for a perfectly fair shoulder barge when Boro looked to break. Just to rub salt into the wounds, Walton then marched the free kick forwards another 10 yards for good measure.

Gordon was continuing to make his presence felt, seeing a goal bound header deflected wide off Riggott before slicing a half volley into the arms of Schwarzer.

Boro's Brazilian midfielder Doriva then saw his name go into the book when he attempted to trip the rampaging Scully as he ran past him.

Scully is a frustrating character. Now playing for his 13th professional club, he showed yesterday that he has far too much ability to play at the level he is at, yet his inconsistency reaches such levels that he was recently voted Dagenhem & Redbridge's worst ever player.

Prior to the incident, the outstanding Gill had made his second goal-line clearance of the game.

Scully: Meance the Dennis
The referee blew for half time with Notts, quite amazingly, leading their opposition.

Worryingly though, Gordon appeared to pick up an injury the very moment Walton blew his whistle and had to be carried from the field.

HALF TIME: Notts County 1-0 Middlesbrough

Against the overcoming belief of Gordon – who’s size alone had been a thorn in the ‘Boro side – would be unable to return to the field of play, the ex Cardiff man emerged early for the second half alongside his team-mates to the roar of the Magpie’s faithful.

Despite having convinced the gaffer and physio that he was of a suitable condition to continue, Gordon looked half the player for it, even by going on his quiet, yet effective, first half performance.

A minute after the restart, the big striker was replaced with Shaun Harrad, hardly the ideal character to create a physical threat for Ehiogu and Riggott in the Boro back-line.

Harrad: on as a substitute
This came, however, not before Hasselbaink and Job were to only half-worry the Magpies faithful with two half-hearted attempts at shots, only for Wilson to clear off the line early in the second half.

The tactical change made at the interval by McClaren, that saw his side change to a 4-3-3 with youngster Danny Graham playing just off the pairing of Hasselbaink and Job up-front, seemed be taking effect.

With the Teesiders beginning to shift the ball around the park a lot more at will, an equaliser was only to be expected.

And shortly before the hour, their chance came.

When Saul Deeney could only parry a Reizeger effort and his defence only half-cleared, Brazilian midfield man, Doriva shuffled past Paul Bolland in the middle of the park before rifling home an unstoppable strike low to Deeney’s right.

With the quantity of Boro's breaks increasing despite for so long having been resisted, it proved to be quality that eventually broke the picket line that was the thrown-together Magpies defence, with the 25-yard piledriver breaking the airtight seal of the Notts rearguard.

Despite lacking conviction in forward areas, the Magpies side – hampered by injuries and suspensions – were, or having had so for much of the match, looking good to take the tie to a replay at the Riverside, even despite early second half pressure from the Premiership outfit.

Moments later, however, FA Youth cup star, Danny Graham came close to lifting his former glory into the senior competition when his header was lifted over the crossbar, shortly before Ehiogu followed suit.

For all of the Magpies devotion to the cause, it was the tactical guise of the Boro manager that was to provide the cutting-edge for the UEFA cup competitors.

However, acclaim must also go out to young Downing on the Boro flanks. His aptitude to loop perilously well-timed balls across the six-yard line from deep was proving ever difficult for the Magpies defenders to manage.

Former Barcelona man, Reiziger also came close to breaching the resistance from range, fortunately Deeney was equal to his shot, diving low to gather.

One area of the pitch where the Magpies, for much of the second half at least, were having much joy was in midfield. The sub-standard showing of one Ray Parlour was proving more liability than profit for the Boro boys, with Paul Bolland especially – as well as a much improved display from Gill – battling well to give the former Arsenal man little joy in front of a packed out Meadow Lane crowd.

‘Boro, however, we to – with fifteen minutes remaining – nick the game when a slightly fortunate free-kick, to say the least, managed to find its way into the net via Joseph Desire Job.

The Cameroon international side striker found the ball looped to his feet on the edge of the six-yard box before scuffing home the free-kick given away needlessly by the otherwise excellent, Mike Whitlow.

After being in front for nearly two-thirds of the match, the Magpies found themselves behind late-on despite having been guilty perhaps of nothing more than scoring too early on. Pity, that.

Joseph: Just the, ahem, Job
Moments later, however, and the Magpies were forced to clear from their goal-line for the FOURTH time of the afternoon, with Rob Ullathorne heading away the effort of Graham to keep the game insight. Just.

Although, with the game slipping slowly away, Richardson was quick to shake things up with the introduction of Oakes and Matty Williams, who I, personally, would have seen as the more obvious replacement for Gordon. Bolo Zenden, who netted last time out for Boro against Notts, was also to come from the bench, replacing Job with four minutes to go.

Late on, however, the Magpies could so easily have claimed a warranted replay when Shaun Harrad beat Mark Schwarzer but for the head of Stewart Downing. It was more a case of right place, right time for the young England hopeful who cleared dramatically late in the contest.

FULL TIME: Notts County 1-2 Middlesbrough

A welcome escape from the humdrum, the Magpies can now implement that all too common cliché of ‘concentrating on the league’. However, for the Magpies, it will take more than concentration to resurrect what has widely been branded a ‘write-off’ of a season.

This week, Hasselbaink. Next, Tes Bramble. Smashing.

More action and reaction to come from NCM.