Boro Battle It Out At Stoke
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 04 Nov 2018 10:52:00
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Yet another draw for Boro and another no score draw as we failed to overcome Stoke City in the teatime kick off in the Potteries. It was a very physical, competitive, combative game, maybe exactly what you would expect from Tony Pulis return to the club he managed with such distinction. Boro had the better chances but Stoke maybe had the passing edge. Boro will need to start winning more games. We were left ruing a save from Jordan Hugill.

It was an extremely blustery evening on that hilltop and both teams initially struggled to come to terms with the conditions. There were a lot of misjudged passes and crosses before players eventually started to find their range.

Boro were without injured Ryan Shotton, the stricken Sam McQueen and suspended Daniel Ayala. Fortunately Dael Fry was clear of a bug and able to play at right back. Danny Batth made his first league start at centre back. Both players performed really well in a defence that restricted Stoke to only one effort on target. Actually that was two chances, Batth slid in brilliantly to divert Afobe's shot over the bar but the officials failed to spot the brilliant intervention and awarded a goal kick. Randolph's big save was holding a catch from a Shawcross header, coming after the umpteenth corner for the home side.

That was Stoke's best effort in the first period. Boro forced Butland into two saves as the sharp Braithwaite shot from the edge of the box. Then, with players on both sides distracted by a Howson penalty appeal Stewy Downing crashed in a snap shot that brought a flying stop from the former England keeper.

Both teams managed spells on top, Joe Allen very busy for Stoke with Afobe very mobile up top. Boro's best moments in attacks came when Jordan Hugill wrestled his way past the wily man-mountain Shawcross to chest the ball down and lay off for team mates.

The best chance of the match fell to Jordan Hugill and to be fair to him he largely made the opportunity himself. The former Preston forward timed his run to perfection and dummied the last defender to get a one on one with Jack Butland. The Stoke keeper spread himself and produced a superb block to divert the ball over the bar. What a difference for Hugill and Boro had he perhaps showed more composure and slotted it round the keeper and into the net.

But Butland did look a quality act yesterday. Not that I would swap him for Darren Randolph who dealt with everything so well including improvising a headed clearance to an overhit back pass.

Stewy Downing was one of those able to overcome the conditions and the hurly burly on the pitch with a deftness of touch. The former England winger's disguised pass to set Jordan Hughill away down the right was sublime. Hughill struck the ball across goal too hard as did Besic later in the game, not giving the Teesside born forward a hope of converting it.

Tavernier and then Wing came on late on in the second half to much applause. Wing was received like the goal-scoring hero he is after his midweek rocket v Palace. They were both to make their mark on the game. A wonderful throwball by Wing sent Tavernier flying away through the centre. The teenager was forced wide before shooting into the side netting off balance.

At the end it was no goals and honours even. Boro failed to take the opportunity to spring back to the top of the table. Yet we were playing a Stoke side that is finally finding its feet in the Championship and will pose a threat for the rest of the season in this ever tighter league.

On the day Stoke were commemorating Remembrance Day with a brass band and minute's silence many Boro fans appeared to have turned up as much to goad Stoke substitute winger, James McClean as watch the game. Personally, I think this takes rivalry too far and am not sure what that has to do with respect.

Before, during and after the game many Boro fans were chanting against McClean and the IRA. In fact at one point many of the away support were reacting to a battle over an Irish flag in the home stand rather than Boro only just thwarting a late Stoke raid on the Boro box.

At the end of the game McClean walked the gauntlet with some Boro fans hurling abuse as the Stoke player left the field at the tunnel in the corner, next to the away fans. He reacted angrily and had to be restrained as did several Boro fans, sad to say. Incidentally, I didn't see many of those Boro fans that were chanting against McClean (and the IRA) wearing poppies themselves, which appears to be McClean's major crime.

Anyway, I was there for the football. And another draw, a goalless draw keeps Boro in third spot but with the pack closing in. We need to win against Wigan.

Stoke City 0-0 Middlesbrough



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