Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Boro Loving Life on a Knife Edge

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Boro Loving Life on a Knife Edge

Article excerpt

Byline: PHILIP TALLENTIRE

TONY Mowbray insists you can't read too much into pre-season friendlies, but one conclusion you can take is Boro suddenly seem to have worked out how to edge tight games.

Against Carlisle on Friday and York less than 24 hours later, they won 2-1 despite being second best for significant spells in both friendlies.

Each game followed a similar pattern with Boro taking the lead before being pegged back and, with a draw looking inevitable, finding a late winner.

In both matches Mowbray selected a mix of first team regulars and fringe players and the manager learned that some are looking more ready for the coming season than others.

Jonathan Woodgate looked extremely comfortable against York and Adam Reach has arguably been the stand-out player in pre-season.

However, Emmanuel Ledesma and Mustapha Carayol may need another game or two to establish themselves at their new club.

That said, Ledesma provided the cross that set up Scott McDonald's headed opener at Bootham Crescent.

But he will need to learn when to lay the ball off to a better-placed team-mate and when to take the responsibility himself.

By beating York, Boro extended their unbeaten pre-season run to five games, including the 5-0 victory over a Tottenham development XI.

Mowbray rang the changes ahead of kick-off on Saturday, naming a completely different starting line-up from the side that started the win at Carlisle.

Summer signing Woodgate made his long-awaited Boro first team return with Rhys Williams captaining a strong team that also included Spanish keeper Jacobo Sanz, who flew in just hours before the game for a trial.

The match was a testimonial for York's 29-year-old Middlesbrough-born defender David McGurk, who walked out to a guard of honour.

Lacking match fitness after a long injury he was replaced in the 11th minute.

There was little to choose between the sides in a tight first half and there were few genuine scoring opportunities.

Patrick McLaughlin wasted a good chance for York when he screwed a shot wide from a promising position and Reach forced a superb reaction save out of Michael Ingham when he cut in from the right and powered in a low drive which took a deflection off Chris Doig.

Boro took the lead in the 22nd minute when Ledesma received a short pass from Reach before sending over a delightful cross from the inside right channel and McDonald evaded his marker to head home impressively from 15 yards out.

York worked hard to level but, despite creating several half-chances, were unable to test Sanz before the break.

It was always Mowbray's intention to give as many players as possible 90 minutes over the weekend so, while the home side made five changes at half-time, the visitors remained unchanged. …

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