Last Gasp Heartbreak for Boro V Leeds
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 10 Feb 2019 13:22:00
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Leeds broke Boro fans hearts with an equaliser an amazing 10 minutes into time added on. Boro had defended Lewis Wing's finely worked goal so well. Darren Randolph produced some brilliant goal line stops. But surely we were good value after our tactical and physical mastery of the first hour of play. Only for Leeds to win their first headers of the whole day to grab a point that felt like three right at the end. Yet surely Boro fans could feel encouraged by watching their team be more than a match for the title chasers.

Boro had the worst possible preparation with the giant killing at Newport, player injuries, delays in transport back and then the social media storm following the final whistle in the rain in Wales. But fair is fair, Tony Pulis did get the players to focus and he did bring everyone together again. After all every Boro fan loves to beat Leeds and Leeds and Leeds.

It was the Tees/Aire derby or non derby. A near sell out with 5000 official Leeds fans and goodness knows how many others under cover around the stadium. That was as well loads of once or twice a season Boro football junkies, all making it a red and white atmosphere. Even the early 1pm kick off did not dissipate the atmosphere. This one really mattered.

The first half was Boro unusually defending the South Stand, probably Bielsa mind games, disrupting our early rhythm from kick off. Yet Boro gave as good as they got in early exchanges. There were plenty of chances at both ends. Saville going close with a shot from his “wrong” foot.

Boro started pretty much with the team of last weekend in the superb 3-2 win away at West Brom. It looked very defensive on paper but just as then Mikel sat in midfield and acted as a pass master allowing the other midfielders Saville, Howson (a change for Besic from WBA) and Lewis Wing to get forward as well as the wing backs. Even Aden Flint positioned himself as a centre forward at one point and squandered a great opportunity to head us in front.

Shotton and particularly Friend were stationed well up-field. George Friend ram raided round the outside and Shotton threw himself at the cross which narrowly evaded him.

There was an emotional minute's applause on 22 minutes for Luke Jobson, so cruelly taken from us at the tender age of just 22. Everyone stood to applaud, right around the stadium. We hope that gives his family and friends some comfort to know Luke is in everyone's thoughts.

It was early in the second half that Boro made the breakthrough and what a move it was leading up to the goal. Mikel was strong in winning the ball in midfield, Saville played a peach of a diagonal out to George Friend who raced to the line but had the presence of mind to look up and pull the ball back to Lewis Wing on the edge of the box. The former Shildon man took a touch and sold a dummy to the entire Leeds defence before passing into the net. A sublimely worked goal and the Boro fans erupted.

A turning point in this game would be when Lewis Wing injured himself trying to convert a second goal. His replacement Mo Besic could not make the same impact through midfield. Hugill had battered away so well all day and when he came off exhausted we lost another player holding the ball up from our opponents. Mind you his replacement Britt caused so many problems on the break.

George Saville, on a booking and with socks rolled down, was probably also running on near empty but his replacement Clayton couldn't offer the same counter attacking threat.

Still, with Randolph making a string of remarkable goal line stops we were keeping Leeds at bay. It was like having Stephen Pears back in goal, in one of those moods where he would just not be beaten.

With less than ten minutes left, play was halted when Leeds youngster Jack Clarke suddenly took ill after being subbed to the bench. There was a lengthy delay as Clarke was given oxygen before being taken to hospital. Fortunately he is OK now.

Play finally resumed and a whacking 12 minutes was added on. Leeds fitness now came into the equation, no midweek exertions and bus rides back from Wales for the team in Sweden colours. There was still time for a couple of moments of controversy. The officials had been good in making allowances for the physical derby and allowing hearty challenges. Even so Britt was surely fouled as he raced away deep into the Leeds half. Tony Pulis had to be warned after spilling over into the pitch with his protests. It wasn't long later that the referee played on only to change his decision to award a free kick and booking against Jonny Howson for handball. Then for the first time in the entire match the Boro defence went to sleep and allowed Leeds to win not one but two headers in the box to break our hearts with an equaliser right at the death.

The atmosphere was crushed in an instant and what would have been a glorious and memorable victory snuffed out. An opportunity to pull to within 4 points of Leeds lost and just as importantly a confidence boosting win at home was thwarted. But we did bounce back from that cup humiliation and we did put on one helluva tactical and physical show v a top team in the division. Can we now build on that platform with our two tough away games coming up then take out Steve McClaren's QPR in our next home appearance? Come On Boro

Middlesbrough 1-1 Leeds United – Lewis Wing

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