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McDonald scores winner on return
SCOTT MCDONALD scored the winning goal on his return to action as Middlesbrough beat Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road.
McDonald, who hadn’t featured for Boro at all this season before today, grabbed the winner after Marvin Emnes’ first half goal had cancelled out Troy Deeney’s opener after 26 seconds.
As they had two years ago, Boro got off to a dreadful start at Vicarage Road and found themselves 1-0 down inside the first minute.
Then, former Boro striker Danny Graham put the Hornets in front 16 seconds after kick-off, but this time it was Troy Deeney after Andre Bikey lost possession on the edge of his own area.
Initially, Matej Vydra nicked the ball and drilled a low shot at goal. Jason Steele did well to parry his shot, but the ball fell to Deeney, who fired in to an empty net.
Boro were all at sea in the opening stages, failing to put a passage of play together or conjure up a meaningful attack. Watford, on the other hand, helped themselves to no fewer than six efforts on goal in the first quarter.
Lukas Jutkiewicz eventually had Boro’s first effort when he headed Nicky Bailey’s cross over, but Watford continued to dominate.
However, just before the half hour mark, Boro got themselves back in the game thanks to Marvin Emnes’ equaliser.
George Friend won a corner after a pulsating run down the left and from the resulting set piece, Emnes finished after Andre Bikey had headed the ball down.
It was more than Boro deserved for their early display, but the goal gave Mowbray’s men a wake up call.
Josh McEachran saw a long-range effort tipped round the post by Manuel Almunia, before substitute Scott McDonald, who replaced the injured Justin Hoyte, saw his header go over.
Then, two minutes before the break, Boro were given a further lifeline, although the hosts couldn’t be blamed for feeling hard done by.
Vydra put in a fair challenge on Nicky Bailey on the far touchline, but referee Steve Rushton felt the Watford striker had stamped on the Boro midfielder in the aftermath and was subsequently shown a red card.
Watford went close after the break through Ahmed Abdi, but Jason Steele got a finger-tip to his shot and sent to ball out for a corner.
Boro responded, though, and McDonald came close to giving his team the lead when he wriggled past two defenders and stabbed the ball towards goal only for Almunia to get in the way.
The second half was a much more even affair than the first with both sides pressing forward. Daniel Pudil broke down the left and sent the bal across goal, but Bailey managed to divert the cross into the hands of Steele.
Then, in the 77th minute, Boro went ahead and it was McDonald who got the goal on his return to the team.
The striker found space inside the area and shot. That effort was blocked, but he collected the ball again and drove a low shot past Almunia into the bottom left corner.