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Bailey thunderbolt not enough to secure points
Final Score: Middlesbrough 1 Leicester City 2
CLOSE encounters have become something of the norm at the Riverside Stadium, but Nicky Bailey’s flying object was not sufficient to edge Middlesbrough to a fourth successive win on Teesside this season.
Instead, despite Bailey’s 30- yard thunderbolt and an outof- this-world save from goalkeeper Jason Steele, Boro’s proud 100 per cent record was ripped up by Leicester City’s ability to finally win away.
After hard-earned victories over Burnley, Crystal Palace and Ipswich Town, which were far from comfortable, Boro fans had another tense afternoon against the Foxes.
This time there was no happy ending. In a game manager Tony Mowbray always felt would be difficult to call, Leicester proved him right by pinching all three points in the last minute, even if there was a justifiable complaint about the visitors’ winner.
“In the home games we have had this year we have managed to nick it a couple of times, but we just couldn’t do it this time,” said Bailey. “It was a tight game, we have managed to nick the tight ones before and this time we didn’t.
“Leicester will be right up there and we gave them a really good game, so if we can play like we did here we will be all right this season.
“I don’t think there will be or should be an over-reaction, we went to Blackburn and turned them over, we showed that night we can beat the best sides in this division.
This is a bit of a blow, but we have to get on with it.”
Bailey, asked to play on the left of midfield following the knee injury suffered by Mustapha Carayol, looked the most likely Middlesbrough player to score.
He may not resemble the most agile winger, yet he was full of endeavour and purpose despite the fact he spent the majority of last season as a holding midfielder.
He had already forced Kasper Schmeichel into a couple of saves with his runs inside before he struck his second of the season four minutes after half-time. Grant Leadbitter handed him possession, Bailey got the ball from out of his feet and with space in front of him he hit a stunning drive into Schmeichel’s top left from a distance he had no right to score from.
“Before I came here I used to score a few goals and shoot, you know?” joked Bailey, referring to when he was regarded as one of the hottest goalscoring midfielders outside the Premier League at Charlton.
“This time I just hit it and it flew in the top corner. You can see what can happen when you hit the balls these days, anything. It looked like it would go into his hands and then it curled away from him and into the top corner at the last minute.”
When Lukas Jutkiewicz turned Justin Hoyte’s cross on to the crossbar from inside six yards seconds later, Middlesbrough looked the only likely winners, even if they did struggle to break in behind the Foxes’ defence.
But David Nugent’s run and shot hit Justin Hoyte then Lloyd Dyer before falling kindly for Jamie Vardy and the Leicester wide-man hammered in the equaliser just after the hour, despite calls for offside, which looked unwarranted on replays.
Then only Steele’s heroics kept Middlesbrough level. He had already made two high quality saves to deny Anthony Knockaert’s cross-cumshot and Andy King’s effort before he made a a stop that would have been replayed over and over again had it been in the Premier League.
When a corner floated over, former Middlesbrough defender Sean St Ledger jumped to powerfully head towards Steele’s bottom right corner from close range. The Middlesbrough goalkeeper, full of confidence this season, somehow dived full length and turned it behind for another corner.
It was a stop that even had Leicester’s Wes Morgan claiming it was “the greatest save ever”. That said, not even inform Steele could do anything to prevent the winner in the dying seconds.
Moments after referee Andrew Madley unfairly ruled a 50-50 free-kick in Leicester’s favour, Knockaert fed substitute Dyer. The winger’s shot ricocheted off George Friend’s leg and looped over the goalkeeper into his net.
Bailey said: “The first goal was definitely offside, I think the gaffer has seen it and he says it was offside. The second one drops under the bar, you can’t do anything about goals like that. We just have to make sure we are ready to go again.”
And with Derby County up on Wednesday, Bailey and the rest of the Middlesbrough squad will not have to wait long to try to make amends.
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