Boro Held by the London Lions
By Rob Nichols
Sunday 25 Aug 2019 12:12:00
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Boro were held at home by Millwall on Saturday but the display and football standard was a big step up from the scrappy midweek win against Wigan. I don't know what you thought but I left the ground far more optimistic about the season in terms of both entertainment and Boro's league chances than I did after that nervy, error-strewn midweek victory.

I thought there were lots of positive signs and performances out in the Saturday sun. It was a good contest throughout between two outfits playing very different styles. Millwall shaded the first half but we were unlucky not to turn second half dominance into a win. Am not quite sure what game Lions boss Neil Harris watched after being sent to the stand. But to describe Millwall as unlucky not to have won by 3 or 4 goals he was clearly still suffering from the rush of blood to the head that caused him to be red carded.

Yes, if you did not get to the Riverside do not be fooled by Quest tv highlights package that claimed the match was totally one-sided in favour of the visitors, sometimes it is glaringly obvious that the commentator hasn't been to the match either.

That was a good Boro performance with plenty of slick interplay, particularly after the break when Johnson came on to join Fletcher and Britt and combine with the cross field runs of Paddy McNair to stretch Millwall. They were on the back foot and looking vulnerable to the forward forays of Bola and Howson. Yet the giant presence of Matt Smith and a new sub not picked up undid Boro just when we were on top and threatening to seal the points.

Dael Fry was back in the Boro squad for the first time but for the starting eleven, George Saville came in with Lewis Wing rested. Otherwise we were kicked off with the same team, so Johnson again bowing out for Browne to start, although once again the new signing would struggle and Marvin would replace him after the break.

Boro started brightly, looking to capitalise on doubts sewn in the Millwall ranks by their 4-0 trouncing from Fulham. Britt headed straight at the keeper. Then Fletcher's low cross only just evaded the number nine flying into the centre. In other areas of theb park Howson and McNair combined to good effect.

Millwall weathered the early storm and only a phenomenal flying finger tip save from Randolph prevented a pile-driver from scorching our net. Giant sized Matt Smith was worrying our defence and causing major disruption from corners. Clayton hacked one effort away off the line.

Probably fortunate to still be on even terms Boro recovered and turned defence into attack and it was the visitors turn to come under pressure.

At half time Woodgate again replaced Browne with Marvin Johnson and Boro were now far more dynamic across the forward areas. McNair made runs diagonally across the box. Fletcher skipped over a forest of feet and Howson steamed forward. We were combining well and there were none of those individual errors that blighted Tuesday's game when the ball was like a hot potato. Ironically the main mistake was a scuffed Randolph clearance straight to Matt Smith but the keeper redeemed himself with a save.

The Boro goal was a really elegant and rapier move. A fast improving Bola moved forward to where Fletcher took over and shot up the gears before splitting the defence with a wonderful diagonal pass for McNair who calmly side footed home past the wrong-footed keeper. Our first league goal at the North Stand end for aeons. Which means a rarity for Boro a second half goal at home.

Sadly, we did not hold onto that lead long. Matt Smith won another header from a corner and sub Bradshaw scored with his very first touch in the middle. The new man not picked up and the header had been all too easy for Smith. A disappointing goal to concede, Millwall caused us problems from set-pieces all day long.

There would be chances at both ends in the remainder of the game. Earlier in the half a Britt header appeared to be blocked by not one but two outstretched Millwall arms. A wonderful saving tackle by Shotton saved a probable goal at the other. Shotton had a fine game actually and Neil Harris saying this should have been a penalty only serves to underline that he had lost his reason yesterday. Something that was obvious for everyone to see when he saw red for trying to manhandle Leo to get the ball back.

Wing came on as we pressed for a winner. Fletcher, Howson and McNair were all off target before another game of pinball ended up with a shot that was beaten away by a mixture of body and arm. The North Stand screamed for a penalty but once again nothing was given.

Honours even then and a good contest really. Boro played well after the break and in general played to a much higher standard than the the last two League games.

After the game the Twe12th man bar and FanZone were buzzing. Little Doves played a Beatles-esque rooftop gig in the sun. Two points dropped then but you know what, there were promising signs there. Woodgate sad this week there would be winter showers at times this season but for this Bank Holiday it was sunshine and a little more optimism. Whether we have the strengths and resources to compete at the top seems open to question but a few more goals like Paddy McNair's will only excite the supporters.

Middlesbrough 1-1 Millwall (McNair)

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