United Held By Middlesbrough



United: Given, Ramage, O'Brien, Boumsong, Elliott, Carr, N'Zogbia, Milner, Ambrose, Shearer, Dyer (Ameobi 35)  Subs (not used): Kluivert, Harper, Robert, Brittain

Boro: Jones, Davies, Ehiogu, Southgate, Queudrue, Boateng, Doriva, Parlour, Zenden (Downing 65), Nemeth (Graham 83), Hasselbaink  Subs (not used): Reiziger, Wheater, Knight

UNITED were back on home soil after five straight defeats on the road when they welcomed Middlesbrough to St. James' Park on Wednesday evening.

Graeme Souness made one change to the side that lost at Old Trafford, with Kieron Dyer returning in place of Shola Ameobi.

That meant Peter Ramage made his full home debut, with Stephen Carr in a more advanced role again.

Middlesbrough, like Newcastle, had plenty of their own injury problems. Young goalkeeper Brad Jones played in the absence of Mark Schwarzer, while Szilard Nemeth continued in attack with Mark Viduka ruled out for the rest of the season.

Boro boss Steve McClaren rested Stewart Downing, naming him among the substitutes.

Shearer and Dyer got the game underway with Newcastle attacking the Gallowgate End, and there was a shout for a penalty after a minute when Dyer tumbled under a Davies challenge but mark Halsey waved play on and indicated the Boro youngster had won the ball.

Hasselbaink then fired wide from distance in Boro's first attack, then on nine minutes parlour tripped Dyer to give newcastle a free kick 30 yards out on the left channel but Ehiogu cleared Milner's inswinger.

Ehiogu had to stab a Dyer cross clear after the midfielder skipped past Davies on 13 minutes, then at the other end O'Brien headed a Zenden cross away with hasselbaink looking to get on the end of it.

Milner scuffed a shot straight at Jones on 20 minutes after the ball fell for him after a tussle between Shearer and Southgate, then Ehiogu swept a low cross from Ramage out for a throw in when The Magpies broke down the right wing.

A foul on Parlour by Dyer gave the visitors a free kick on the right side of the penalty area on 23 minutes level with the penalty spot, but when Doriva played the ball in low Hasselbaink made a mess of the shot and the chance went begging.

Around the half hour mark Dyer appeared to be struggling after pulling up following an earlier challenge with Ehiogu, and he seemed to indicate to the bench that he wanted to try and run the problem off.

O'Brien then Ramage both headed clear Zenden crosses as Boro pressed, then when Newcastle broke Jones held a Milner cross at his near post.

With 35 minutes on the clock, Shola Ameobi replaced Dyer when it was clear the midfielder couldn't continue. 

Milner won a corner off Queudrue on 36 minutes after a surging run down the right, and when N'Zogbia swung in the flag kick Ameobi's header bounced wide of Jones' goal.

O'Brien headed a Queudrue cross away on 38 minutes, then Given punched the ball away from the head of Hasselbaink before running the ball out for a throw in.

O'Brien almost sent Shearer free when he pushed through midfield on 41 minutes but his pass was too strong for the striker, then when Boro won a dubious free kick Ramage had to nod the ball away for a flag kick which Shearer booted clear.

One minute of time was added on at the end, and a disappointing half ended all-square at 0-0.

Boateng went down injured inside the first two minutes of the second period, and he limped off for treatment to leave the visitors temporarily down to 10 men. Three minutes later he returned to the field but still appeared to be in some discomfort.

Nemeth fired wide when he should have done better when Parlour's cross reached him on the edge of the box on 53 minutes.

Ameobi took an Elliott pass on the chest before turning and shooting over the bar on 54 minutes, then when Zenden tried to weave his way through the midfield Boumsong got a toe in to poke the ball away.

Hasselbaink tried to chip Given after some hesitancy between Boumsong and O'Brien but his effort lacked height and the goalkeeper saved, and when play quickly switched to the other end a low cross from Milner flashed across the face of goal without anyone getting a decsiive touch.

United then won a corner, their second of the game, on 57 minutes and when the ball fell to Ramage at the back post he couldn't direct his header on target.

Another flag kick followed when Milner and Zenden tussled in the corner on the right, and Hasselbaink had to head N'Zogbia's set piece away for another corner on the left. Milner played this one diagonal to N'Zogbia who was positioned on the edge of the box, but his measured effort hit the sidenetting.

Ambrose got the first yellow card of the game on 63 minutes for a lunge on Queudrue, then two minutes later Boro made a switch when Downing came off the bench in place of Zenden.

On 71 minutes it looked like it was going to open up for N'Zogbia when a loose ball from midfield was threaded through to him, but he was eventually crowded out by red shirts and when he played it out wide to Ramage, his pass to Ambrose resulted in the midfielder drilling a shot over the bar.

A foul by Ehiogu on Shearer gave United a free kick 30 yards out on the inside left channel, but Milner's chipped cross into the crowded penalty area was hacked away by Southgate.

N'Zogbia won a left wing corner as the volume level increased inside St. James', but Boro half cleared, then when the ball ended up back at the feet of Milner he jinked inside along the byeline but the visitors cleared again.

Milner was then denied by a great save by Jones after Shearer flicked on an Elliott centre, and the flag kick that followed came to nothing.

Nemeth then had time and space to get a cross in on 76 minutes after beating the offside trap, but he shanked the ball for a goal kick.

Ehiogu headed a teasing cross from Milner away on 80 minutes, then his defensive partner Southgate ended up with a gaping head wound after an aerial collision with Shearer and there was a lengthy delay while he was treated. He eventually got bandaged up and changed his shirt before resuming.

Boro made a change on 83 minutes with Danny Grahgam replacing Nemeth in attack.

Ehiogu hooked the ball over his shoulder for a corner on 85 minutes, and Queudrue gave another one away when the ball was swung in but this time Boro regained possession with a free kick after referee Mark Halsey saw some pushing and shoving in the box.

Hasselbaink was booked for a foul on N'Zogbia on 87 minutes, then yet another Newcastle came to nothing a minute later.

Doriva pulled back Shearer as he tried to muscle his way through on the 90 minute mark, and before the free kick was taken five minutes were added on following the injuries to Boateng and Southgate. Ambrose rolled the free kick to Shearer and he teed up Ramage, but the youngster lost out to Parlour as Boro regained possession.

Shearer headed an Ameobi cross straight at Jones on 92 minutes, then moments later Ameobi's cross was gathered by Jones as the home fans streamed to the exits.

With seconds left Shearer fired a low cross into the middle, and N'Zogbia got ahead of Southgate but stabbed the ball over the bar in the last chance of the game.

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