Latics took 20 minutes to get into the game at the Riverside Stadium but whilst we were getting into it, Middlesbrough didn’t really take advantage of the situation. It took a very hard tackle from Lee Cattermole on Didier Digard to get Latics going and the Boro crowd reeling.
The home fans were straight on the Catter’s back after this fantastic challenge, he won the tackle and got straight up to join in the ensuing attack, but Digard was left in a heap in agony after both players knees had clashed, but the Boro player came off the worst and was stretchered off.
Latics then started to get on top but shots in the first half were hard to come by. Julio Arca was lucky to stay on the pitch, even luckier not to get a yellow card after he pulled back Michael Brown with his shirt before giving him a kick in the back of his calves, but for some reason the referee saw no need to book Arca.
This decision by the referee became more bewildering as he later in the game booked Zaki, Cattermole and Watson for very little. Downing managed to have the first real shot of the game, but Kirkland saved the long range effort easily down to his left and the ball went out for a corner.
Just after this, Melchiot was hacked down by Robert Huth on the edge of the area, Charles N’Zogbia stepped up to take the free kick which he struck really well but the Jones in the Boro saved well at full stretch.
There were six minutes held up by the fourth official, which signalled a cheat fest from the Middlesbrough players. Just after Cattermole was booked for nothing, O’Neil blatantly dived in the vain attempt to win a penalty, but luckily the referee didn’t buy and booked O’Neil for the dive.
Next to have a totally outrageous dive was Alfonso Alves, who didn’t even bother to pretend anybody was anywhere near him when he went over, again it was Cattermole who was the nearest player, but he got the same treatment as O’Neil for trying their best to get Catters sent off.
The second half started quite scrappily with neither team taking the game by the scruff of the neck. The majority of the early exchanges were in midfield but at least Latics were getting into the Middlesbrough half, even if we couldn’t quite get our shots off.
Melchiot did manage to find a way through but his shot was well blocked and Boro cleared. Tuncay was the next diver to get nothing out of the referee and it seemed to get the message across to Southgate’s team that Mike Dean wasn’t in the mood to buy any of these attempts.
Rodallega put in a great cross to Brown on the edge of the area, but the midfielder fired wide when he should have done better. Zaki got himself into position to shoot but the Egyptian’s shot was deflected by Wheater which took all the sting out of it and made it an easier save for Jones.
Rodallega himself then had two efforts in two minutes, his first was a header from Watson’s cross, but he got too much on it and the ball flew over the bar. The second was a shot which he should have taken more time over as he rushed it and it skied into row Z.
Downing was the next to try his luck with the referee, but as with the previous attempts, Downing’s lame attempt at a dive after he knocked the ball out for a goal kick was waved away. Melchiot had been given the slip but gained back the ground and combined with Kirkland to stamp out the danger.
This last ten minutes was a good time for Latics as we sent everything in, including Antoine Sibierski yes the Frenchman is back. Brown was firing in some good crosses which called for the Boro defence to be on top form. Rodallega had the ball taken off his head as he was about to put it into the net, whilst N’Zogbia’s shot called on Jones to make another fine save.
The game ended with Sibierski putting a fine ball in to N’Zogbia but his shot was not the best and went sailing out for a goal kick. 2 points dropped, but at least we didn’t get the sting like at the JJB.
Report by Jason Taylor