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Match Analysis: Middlesbrough 3 Bournemouth 3
AGONY: Kei Kamara, scorer of Boro’s first goal on Saturday, rues a late missed opportunity to win the game
Middlesbrough 3 AFC Bournemouth 3
TONY MOWBRAY may feel that the side he has built at Middlesbrough is the strongest in his three-year tenure on Teesside, but their tendency to leak goals at will is threatening to undermine any chances of promotion from the Championship.
In midfield, Boro have their strongest line-up yet in the second tier. Grant Leadbitter, Jacob Butterfield and Dean Whitehead have experience, guile and tenacity. Up front, they have pace and power in Mustapha Carayol and Albert Adomah, workrate in Kei Kamara and strength on the bench.
In defence, they should be just as confident of success. Jonathan Woodgate has experience oozing out, an international centre-half in Rhys Williams next to him, and two solid, dependable full-backs in Frazer Richardson and George Friend.
But on Saturday, despite being seldom tested defensively, Middlesbrough's backline leaked three times – twice from the penalty spot, one through a Woodgate own goal – and threw away three points once again.
Was it a bad day at the office? Probably. Is it indicative of a wider problem? The results suggest so. Boro have drawn three out of the four games at the Riverside Stadium this season against teams they should be picking off if promotion is to be seriously considered.
Is it too early in the season to make a judgement? Yes, probably. The season does not end in January. Although, considering Middlesbrough's now-traditional New Year collapse, Tony Mowbray might wish it did.
Middlesbrough's manager will today be working on his defence, but admits that he is scratching his head as to why so many mistakes continue to banjax his backline.
“We have to continue working on the aspect of trying to keep clean sheets,” said Mowbray, after his side drew 3-3 with Bournemouth in a hugely entertaining fixture for the neutral. “We’ve only had one in eight games. Going forward the ability to create chances is evident for us to see as well so there are lots of positives but we have to work very hard to restrict the opposition in a tough league.
“In this moment we’re not finding the answers to keep the ball out of our net but we’ll keep going, keep believing and keep working hard for each other, as they do every game and we’ll get our rewards I’m sure.”
Boro went 2-0 down after 12 minutes after Brett Pitman scored twice from the penalty spot after Williams – who was later dismissed – hauled Tokelo Rantie down in the area, then Richardson handballed from Lewis Grabban's header.
The hosts fought back, though, scoring through Kei Kamara on 19 minutes before Mustapha Carayol scored an equaliser on 32 minutes. Grant Leadbitter's 74th minute goal looked to have won it for Boro but Jonathan Woodgate scored an 83rd minute own goal to hand the Cherries a share of the points.
“The overriding emotion is disappointment and frustration,” admitted Mowbray, who will look to Ben Gibson to fill in for the suspended Williams against QPR on Saturday.
“To be 2-0 down after ten minutes all the hard work and preparation and positivity of a dressing room could have been washed away but they showed what they’re made of to get back to 2-2 by half-time and then to get the noses in front it’s hugely disappointing to throw the points away like we did and it’s a pretty down dressing room.
“The last two games 2-0 up and to lose two goals and to lose three goals at home, we’ve done well to take two points but we’re hugely frustrated. To score three at home we’ve got to take three points.”
Middlesbrough had early trouble in containing Bournemouth's new signing Rantie, despite knowing more about him than the average team having chased the youngster's signature throughout the summer. Williams tripped the striker after Leadbitter had lost the ball in midfield and Pitman made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Pitman repeated the trick minutes later when Richardson handballed, this time Jason Steele got a hand to the shot but could not prevent it going in.
In terms of pressure from the visitors, that was about it for 45 minutes. Middlesbrough settled down, and went on the attack.
Kamara, on his home debut, managed to stab over the line at the second attempt after a classic goalmouth scramble, before his side got on level terms when Carayol's dragged shot cannoned off Steve Cook and looped over Ryan Allsop in the Bournemouth goal.
Boro were comfortable after the interval, and looked to have won it when Leadbitter slotted home from Kamara's pass, but Bournemouth grew back into the game and Elliot Ward's run was finished off inadvertently by Woodgate.
Moments later, Williams saw red for a foolish challenge on substitute Wes Thomas. Arguably, referee Salisbury should have awarded a penalty earlier in the game when Williams fouled the same player. This time, his luck ran out.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Boro worked hard to get the winner, with Kamara going close with a header which Allsop saved at the death.
The pre-match build-up focused mainly on Rantie, who looked dangerous for the visitors, no more so than in the early stages, but Kamara took the plaudits with an all action display.
Who got the better deal? Mowbray feels it is way too early to judge.
“I tried to buy their new striker,” said Mowbray, whose club baulked at the £2.5m offered by Bournemouth for the Malmo striker.
“I went over there and had discussions with the club and they paid an amount of money we didn’t want to go to and time will tell over who got the best deal on the strikers. You’d be rash to judge on one game.
“Kei brings a great composure to the position, he’s got great physical presence as well and allowed the rest of the team to get up. Once our wide players understand how dominant he can be in the air I’m sure we’ll see more running beyond him as well. He has to settle in and he has to learn about the other players but he’ll be a big asset for us going forward.”
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