Boro Get Fighting Draw With Cherries
By Rob Nichols
Saturday 19 Sep 2020 20:10:00
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Substitute Marcus Browne stooped to head home a late equaliser for Boro at home to Bournemouth this afternoon. The game was watched by 1000 Boro fans but sadly not quarantined boss, Neil Warnock. The fans provided a real atmosphere that helped lift the home team to a deserved equaliser against the team just relegated from the top flight. So, a first goal and a first point and a new signing this morning. Can Boro make this a launch pad for the season ahead?

The fans were back at the Riverside this afternoon, albeit in a test game of 1000. Socially distant in the main West Stand, supporters were guided throughout after entering ticket checkpoints at car park entrances. Middlesbrough Council wardens handed out free #UTB face masks. Everyone masked up as they were about to enter.

There were hand sanitisers inside and outside turnstiles and clear direction and social distancing reminder signs on walls. Then it was follow one way system through concourses which had no refreshment facilities open (they will remain closed through the season) and out onto the seating blocks. Fans stayed in their seats and didn't move around. Constant guidance and reminders of safe practice were provided both on the big screen and from regular announcements through the PA from John Foster. At the end of the match John Foster asked us to remain in our seats as the stand was emptied one tier at a time, everyone donning their masks as they exited through the stand to the exits.

Back to the match and what a thrill to finally see the players out on the pitch. Fans starved of live football for 6 months applauded the players coming off the pitch from pre-match warm up. There was further applause after the players took the knee and then a real roar for kick off. It had been such a long time, what a thrill to be involved again. Because that is how it feels, being involved and part of the event. Part of the match.

Oh and I hope everyone brought a jacket because by half time the summer sunshine had been replaced by an autumnal blast and we knew full well that football had restarted very late in this very out of kilter year. But we were warmed by the news of a new signing, ex Arsenal forward, Chuba Akpom. Sitting in the stand today the striker will hopefully be challenging for a start in future weeks.

Boro kept faith with the team that took the second half on points away at Watford, although of course lost the real points. That was down to our inability to find a cutting edge to equalise the Hornets smash and grab. Our old failing.

The crowd warmed to a fine first half passing display. The industry of the team started from the very front from skipper Britt and ran right down through the team. There was so much movement as well, on and off the ball, as Boro pressed the Cherries back to defend their goal. Hall had the best chance from a corner but as with his second half set-piece header he didn't cause their keeper any real problems. Then wouldn't you know it, against the run of play in the half, Bournemouth only went and scored. The visitors had a little spell of pressure and after a succession of corners, Solanke drifted to the front post and the ball riccocheted off a Boro defender into the net. Soft goal and to be honest, very unlucky for us.

So, half time and a bit of a downer really though there was plenty of applause and encouragement for the players because it was not deserved.

Second period and Boro continued to press. Tav was a hive of industry, Saville pressing on through the centre, Howson back and forth, back and forth. Then a long ball and a burst away through the middle from Britt. Keeper just gets there. Boro crowd let the referee know what they think about the fact Britt was possibly being held back. There had been a lot of that going on. Their no.17 had to be withdrawn in the end as his shirt stretching exploits threatened to turn yellow into red.

Sadly, Ashley Fletcher went down and had to leave the field. Lots of applause, he had been full of nice flicks and tried to work combinations with Assombalonga all match long. Hopefully this will not be a bad injury, we cannot afford to lose him.

A chance for Marcus Browne then, our only forward on the bench. He got involved immediately. But time was running out and Bettinelli had to come to Boro's rescue as Bournemouth hit us on the break. Step forward into midfield, Paddy McNair and suddenly we started to get behind the Cherries and deliver into the box. A great centre by McNair, Britt stretching and cannot quite finish but Marcus Browne arrives to head it firmly and squarely into the net. Yeeeesss.. At last a Boro crowd gets to celebrate a goal in person. And it is a delight.

Boro had to weather a late storm from the visitors. A dangerous free kick is deflected away and Bettinelli makes a full length save from a corner. But we make it. A draw, not a win but it is a point rescued and just like the test with 1000 it is a start and something to build on.

So, a first goal and a first point of the season. A lucky 1000 Boro fans there to witness a start point. Let's hope we can take more points, get more signings and that we can see the gates open for more fans. And get well soon Neil Warnock.

This weekend is a time for guarded optimism. I know we might be sliding towards a further lockdown autumn but after all that has happened this year we need to grasp at any rays of hope that we can. We performed well against two relegated teams as yet still stuffed full of Premier players. And finally we got a goal and a point. A thousand fans returned and played a real part in cheering the team to an equaliser. can we go one better next time .. here's hoping.

Middlesbrough 1-1 AFC Bournemouth – Browne

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