Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Heerenveen 4, Boro 0 - No Luck and No Reprieve

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Heerenveen 4, Boro 0 - No Luck and No Reprieve

Article excerpt

Gareth Southgate must have broken a mirror minutes after landing at Schipol Airport for Boro's pre-season tour of Holland and Germany, such has been his misfortune both on and off the pitch.

Hopefully, the new Boro boss will only suffer seven days' bad luck rather than the usual seven years, because things need to improve rapidly before the season starts at Reading on Saturday week.

A glut of injuries marred the early days of this ill-fated tour, while a refereeing decision ruined last night's final tour friendly.

Following the letter of the law, Dutch official Rene Temmink was justified in sending off David Wheater for a ninth-minute professional foul, but he ruined the match as a spectacle and as a useful exercise for both sides.

Heerenveen coach Gertjan Verbeek pleaded for clemency on Boro's behalf, but the referee would not budge.

Searching for a first goal and a first win of the trip, Southgate resisted the temptation to turn to his major stars for the tricky-looking clash with Heerenveen.

The rookie manager instead named a starting XI that included nine players aged 22 or under.

He had been planning on fielding Malcolm Christie alongside Massimo Maccarone in attack, but the unlucky former Derby hitman suffered an overnight stomach bug and was ruled out prior to the team's departure from their training camp near Arnhem for the 90-minute drive north.

Realising leaving either Johnson or Downing on the bench would deprive the team of a potent attacking weapon, Southgate road-tested a 4-5-1 formation with Downing playing to the left of centre inside winger Johnson.

Jason Kennedy was given the central role with Gaizka Mendieta to his right and James Morrison, selected in place of Christie, playing as a wide man.

At the back, Wheater partnered fellow 19-year-old Seb Hines in the middle, while Tony McMahon and Andrew Taylor took the full-back berths.

Hines had to make a timely early block to thwart Rob Friend and the skilful Afonso Alves cut Boro open down the left bfore cutting the ball back to Lasse Nilsson, who fired straight at Ross Turnbull.

Seconds later, Nilsson sent Alves clear and Wheater pulled the Brazilian down inside the area. …

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