Middlesbrough 1 Fulham 0
Twice I`ve just tried to type the score and twice I did it wrong! The first time I had it as 1-0 to us and the second as 1- 1, wishful thinking perhaps?
It`s the morning after the night before, I`ve a foul taste in my mouth after doing the typical male thing and downing too much beer to drown my sorrows. I`m not sure what hurts the most, the defeat or my thumping head!
I was convinced, after the victory against Aston Villa, that we`d leave Teeside with something, that we`d put to bed that awful record that has now seen us not win away from home for 30 Premier League games or indeed win on Teeside since 1984, but it wasn`t to be.
The statistics show that we had more of the possession but, at times, we looked pretty toothless going forward and in the end a soft goal was to prove to be our downfall.
For the trip north, Roy Hodgson made a couple of changes to his starting eleven. There was no Aaron Hughes in the sixteen and Clint Dempsey was relegated to the bench. Their places were filled by Paul Stalteri coming in for his Fulham debut and Diomansy Kamara adding a bit of pace to the attack. Well that was supposed to be the plan!
Unfortunately, our first half performance never gave us the platform to build upon and in that first forty-five minutes Middlesbrough showed more attacking endeavour and spark.
The home side could have taken the lead early on but Robert Huth, the ex-Chelsea defender, headed wide from a good position. Respite however was short lived as with just eleven minutes on the clock Middlesbrough did take the lead.
The goal came as a result of some calamitous defending when an O`Neil ball saw Hangeland and Baird sucked somehow underneath it leaving Aliadiere to pounce and drill the ball past Niemi from all of six yards. The goal should have prompted a response from Fulham but it wasn`t the response that was going to drag us back into the game.
Instead we remained troubled by the power of Huth at set pieces and in that first forty-five minutes we had to rely upon one sparkling drive form Simon Davies (apologies for predicting his suspension was for this game it is off course for the West Ham game) that fairly flew past the upright with Schwarzer stranded.
With everything still to play for and the reward of possibly a point if Fulham could score in the second forty-five minutes, the performance was a little better but without carving out that one glorious half chance we needed.
Hodgson had replaced Diomansy Kamara at half time with Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride was to later come on for Erik Nevland but probably our best hope of an equaliser fell to Konchesky when we were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box.
Unfortunately, his effort, although clearing the defensive wall, was directed straight at Schwarzer.
With another barren week on the road, our position remains perilous but what gives me cause for concern is a little period in March, a period that will define our destiny, a period whereby we play Manchester United, Everton and Blackburn.
Those three games will shape our season, our future and our aspirations for 2008-2009!
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