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Not a game i was really looking forward to, a long trip and Boro would look to be a better team that us at the moment, would have settled for a draw before the game, disappointed with it by the end.
El Tel decided to sort out our midfield frailties by playing one less midfielder and leaving out the tallest and strongest of the previous 4 (Bakke) as we reverted to the 4-3-3 formation which inevitably turns into a 4-4-2 as Smith drops back to compensate for Kewells defensive disinterest. A few tackles flying in from the start and little discernible pattern from our lot and a decent chance for Boro led to the ball flying over the bar, but after 10 minutes a couple of decent passes leads to the ball breaking to Viduka in the penalty area and he glides past the defender and is brought down for a penalty that he comfortably puts away himself.
We didn't really capitalise on this though and Middlesboro though pretty average themselves looked more threatening than us for most of the first half. The inevitable equaliser was slightly unfortunate when it did come as a spinning ball broke to a Boro player but we weren't quick enough to stop the cross coming in and Job scoring. The over-zealous stewards dragged a couple of Boro fans out for celebrating too much, as they did for every goal that was scored. Smith got booked soon after for what looked like a clean tackle from our end and Boro were generally on top without really looking like scoring again.
Second half started out in much the same vain but totally out of the blue Kewell played the ball into the centre, Viduka held it up and flicked into Harry's path and after his cross shot was parried Bowyer got to the loose ball first to finish off a good goal. Suddenly we looked like a proper team, Kewell woke up and we made a few chances in quick succession, A Kewell header tipped over, Bowyer's header cleared off the line, Viduka's header well saved. We probably had the best 20 minutes of the season and looked set for victory - then Mr Stiles stuck his oar in. He'd made several strange decsions throughout the match and pissed off both sets of fans but Smith's sending off was laughable. Southgate attempted to control a long ball, it ran loose Smith challenged for a 50-50 and Southgate fell over him. No malice, no threat, not even sure it was a foul, but it was Alan Smith so as per usual the ref came running over with his hand in his back pocket.
This obviously changed the flow of the game - Viduka and McPhail were replaced by Bridges and Bakke as Dacourt remained benched but Boro were suddenly back in the game again, a Geremi free-kick hit the bar and then with about 5 minutes left Gareth (only scores against Leeds) Southgate scrambled in the equaliser from a corner. It looked like being a nervous finish but probably the best chance actually fell to us as Bridges showed his ring-rustiness by failing to control a clever Kewell pass that would have put him clean through.
With 5 seconds left the ref sent Queddrue off - like it made any difference and even after the final whistle there was a pushing and shoving match with the linesman getting knocked about as well.
Robinson 6 - Wasn't threatened that often
Copy from Football Unlimited of 28/10/2002.
Alan Smith turns 22 today and his reputation already precedes him. However, the picture that instinctively appears when the Leeds striker's name is mentioned is not of England's brightest attacking prospect but of a fiery, hot-headed youngster flying into a late tackle. It is an image problem Smith is failing miserably to shift.
Smith was sent off for the eighth time in his short career on Saturday and, though his manager Terry Venables justifiably claimed the dismissal was "ludicrous," there was an inevitability about it given the impassioned nature of the game, which spilled over into an all-in scuffle on the final whistle. Venables claimed the referee, Rob Styles, acted only because the offender was Smith but the striker seems unable to help himself.
This was Smith's second dismissal in three games - he was also sent off while playing for England against Macedonia, and he faces a crucial stage in his career. Venables's victimisation claim may hold true to an extent but reputations do not make themselves. Smith must rein in his reckless streak; the fear is that in so doing he will lose the edge that has shaped his rapid rise.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 27/10/2002.
As draws go this one was pretty exciting. A disputed penalty, two sendings off and a game that ebbed and flowed in favour first of Middlesbrough then of Leeds and finally of Middlesbrough again. Alan Smith and Franck Queudrue can have no complaints about their dismissals, but it hardly affected the result.
Middlesbrough, who played hosts to the seven surviving members of the North Korean side who beat Italy at the club's old ground, Ayresome Park, in the 1996 World Cup, were able to field one of their strongest sides with injury doubt George Boateng passing a late fitness test.
Massimo Maccarone soon put down a marker when he fastened on to a long clearance from defence and ran at the Leeds goal. A well-timed clearance by Lucas Radebe saved the day at the expense of a corner. That fell at the feet of Gareth Southgate in the clear 10 yards from goal, but he lofted it over the bar.