New Year Cheer From Boro
By Robert Nichols
Wednesday 02 Jan 2019 16:34:00
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It was a very happy New Year for Boro fans watching the team draw away at in-form Derby at Pride Park. The New Year's Day fixture saw the teams placed 5th and 6th and locked on equal points finishing with a share of the spoils. The same result as at the Riverside last year. Can Boro now build on this as a platform to launch another campaign towards promotion? That won't be easy but neither was this fixture.

There do not come much harder games to start a New Year than playing Derby County away. The team and fans were absolutely buoyant after coming from behind to defeat table topping Norwich City 4-3 at Carrow Road. This was there big home coming infront of over 28 000 fans and when the Rams took an early lead just a minute into the game it looked as if they would be celebrating a New Year massacre.

We were demolished once before on New Year's Day at Pride Park in 2013, the scoreline of 3-1 that day flattered us. I feared there could be a repeat on the first day of 2019 but all credit to Tony Pulis side the way we steadied ourselves and gradually got back into the game before scoring an equaliser early in the second half. Aftre scoring we could well have gone ahead from Danny Batth's diving header minutes later but in the end we would be happy to settle for a share of the points and hopefully cement the end of the bad spell. That was 2018 and now in 2019 we can start up the challenge again.

The Boro defence was probably still not settled after big Aden Flint pulled up injured in the warm up and was replaced just minutes before kick off by Danny Batth. Derby cut us apart before top scorer Harry Wilson pulled the trigger and fired past Darren Randolph.

It had been a combination between Derby's two starlets, Marriott with the centre, Wilson with the finish. But once we steadied ourselves Boro's own young midfielders Besic and Wing started to create and push Derby backwards. The George's Saville and Friend provided massive injections of workrate and Hugill tormented the home side defence throughout. Jonny Howson has been epic of late, returned to his early season form he provides the high tempo threat out of midfield. The defence stood firm, Danny Ayala an absolute rock throughout was given an ovation more than once by the Boro fans chanting his name.

Boro won many corners and provided plenty of goal mouth action to worry the home fans but it was George Friend's superb centre and Hugill's powerful header that gave us the equaliser breakthrough early in the second period. What a moment for the Boro born forward. Can he start to really have an impact now and build on the 5 league goals to help us push on?

A superb reflex save from Scott Carson prevented Danny Batth putting us 2-1 ahead. In saying that, former Boro striker, David Nugent struck a shot straight at Darren Randolph when the goal had opened up for the sub late on.

Both teams tired towards the end, the result of a hectic schedule of late and Boro had to dig deep to defend the draw. But at the final whistle Boro fans were in no doubt this was a draw worth celebrating, with captain George Friend cheer leader in chief for the away corner.

A draw at Derby following a win at home to Ipswich has taken the sting out of a bad situation for Boro. With a new signing offering pace and width in Huddersfield's Van La Parra there could be the promise of brighter new beginnings for 2019.

There appeared to be a chasm opening up between us and the teams at the top of the league. But how much of that is about confidence, rather than ability or tactics? Can we now play with a bit more belief as well freedom that width and pace might offer?

Christmas was cancelled but it was a Happy New Year for planet Boro.

Derby County 1-1 Middlesbrough - Hugill

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