Boro Hold Spurs
By Rob Nichols
Monday 06 Jan 2020 10:02:00
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Boro turned in an impressive performance to hold Jose Mourinho's Spurs side to a draw at the Riverside yesterday. Mid way through the second half Ashley Fletcher latched onto a Saville throughball and raced away to score and Boro fans could dream of a giant killing. An equalising header from Lucas Moura meant that we can instead look forward to a replay at Tottenham's new stadium and we go into this evening's 4th round draw.

It was a big occasion attracting a big crowd, the atmosphere buoyed up by thousands having made the trip from North London. The larger away contingents help make the FA Cup a real event. The prospect of a giant killing meant the tie had real edge to it.

Spurs paid the competition and opposition real respect by naming a full first team. The injured Harry Kane was of course missing but it meant Boro would be facing a Champions League finalist side that was going all out for the trophy.

Boro were giving an opportunity for Tomas Mejias to make his first start of the season in goal and also to blood the new loan signing Patrick Roberts, starting out in the hole behind Fletcher with Tav rushing around between the two flying wing backs, Spence and Coulson.

With all the confidence of those successive victories behind us Boro snapped at the heels of the Spurs defence right from kick off. A kick off delayed by a minute to get across an important message about mental health on the big screen.

After weathering our early storm the first period settled into a pattern of Spurs possession and Boro organising strong lines of defence. Players like Howson and Coulson were hungry and snapping at heels, looking for any opportunity to tackle and intercept and rapidly turn defence into attack. Clayton and Saville put up a screen protecting the back line and it was Boro that looked the more dangerous.

For all their first half dominance Jose's side had little to show in terms of clear cut chances. In fact it was Boro that almost struck first. Stand in centre back Paddy McNair's free kick found Dael Fry who headed down at the back post. The header was denied by a save from Paulo Gazzaniga but Fry connected with the rebound, also saved by the keeper. The ball spooned out into the middle and George Saville dug it out but saw his effort cleared away off the line.

At half time it was all square, there had been a few early nerves from Tomas Mejias and loan signing Patrick Roberts, both rusty having not featured properly this season. The duo really made their mark after the break. The diminutive, tricky Roberts was a constant irritant for the Spurs backline and should prove a very useful addition to the squad. Mejias would go on to make several excellent saves and was only beaten by a close range header which left him no chance to react.

The opening goal came after the hard-working George Saville spotted an opportunity to release Fletcher with a ball over the top. The in form forward raced away and kept his nerve to slip the ball under Gazzaniga and into the net. How we celebrated.

And how we dreamed. Spurs were rocking at this point. If only we could have converted a second goal but instead the opponents made tactical and personnel changes and started to find joy down their right flank. A superb Serge Aurier cross was flighted just over Howson and picked out Moura ahead of Spence, Moura made no mistake planting the perfect header into the corner. The Spurs crowd bellowed as the equaliser went in.

Both teams had chances to win. Djed Spence intercepted and sub Gestede flicked the ball through to Fletcher with his very first touch but Fletcher shot tamely. Mejias had to make a couple of superb saves to thwart Lemella and Moura but Serge Aurier had the opportunity of the game that he blazed over running in towards the back post. Second new Boro loan signing, striker Lukas Nmecha, put in a late appearance as sub (for Fletcher) and made an impression, looking strong and not afraid to run at and past opponents.

So, Boro fans now get an opportunity to watch the team play at Spurs new stadium. That is a fair prize for the team's labours. And it does mean we are still in tonight's 4th round draw. Woodgate's Riverside revival is working well and there are so many reasons to think that 2020 could be a very interesting year down by the Riverside.

Middlesbrough 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur – Fletcher (Moura)

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