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Edgy Boro hold on for three points.

Byline: ADAM STEEL

IT was more like a game of three thirds than two halves, but Boro made the numbers add up in the end.

For what seemed set to be a smooth afternoon jolly turned into a bit of a bumpy ride in the closing stages.

Boro dominated so completely for the best part of an hour that their two-goal lead should have been doubled against a pointless Palace side who appeared to be desperately short of confidence.

But it all got a bit messy from the moment the low-flying Eagles pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.

It was game on all of a sudden.

Boro looked like they were wading through treacle following the exertions of Tuesday's emotional come-from-behind win against Burnley.

And yet a rejuvenated Palace, given further spark by their substitutes, were unable to get back on level terms as Boro's back five - Jason Steele included - dug in and the kids once again proved they are alright.

Tony Mowbray made four changes to the Boro side which downed the Clarets - two of them enforced.

New loan signing Ishmael Miller started up top in a solo striker role for his debut, with powerful youngster Curtis Main dropping to the bench.

Argentine playmaker Emmanel Ledesma did likewise as Merouane Zemmama was drafted into the hole behind Miller.

Faris Haroun came into the midfield in place of Nicky Bailey, who tore a hamstring against Burnley.

And Seb Hines started in central defence in place of the rested Jonathan Woodgate.

Some questioned the ambition of lining up with a 4-5-1 formation at home but it was a ploy that worked for the most part while Miller was on the pitch.

Miller's sheer physical presence kept the Palace rearguard permanently occupied.

And the initially tentative visitors gifted Boro time and space that they revelled in, allowing them to implement Mowbray's blueprint of positive, high tempo football throughout a first half which flew by.

Full-back George Friend was an almost constant menace down the left, producing his most attack-minded display to date in a Boro shirt despite being up against Palace dangerman Wilfried Zaha.

And Chelsea ace Josh McEachran showed his full range of skill and no little defensive steel in the centre of the park as he had Palace's engine room pairing of Kagisho Dikgacoi and Mile Jedinak chasing shadows at times.

It took until four minutes before the interval for Boro to make the most of one of their numerous chances, after a combination of wasteful finishing and inspired Palace keeper Julian Speroni had kept them out.

Faris Haroun missed a golden chance to put Boro in front early on, heading against a post when it looked easier to score after Justin Hoyte served the ball to him on a platter.

Miller was then denied a dig at goal by Arron Martin's blocking challenge and was inches away from getting on the end of a dangerous Friend cross minutes after Speroni got lucky when he fumbled away an Adam Reach shot for a corner.

Jedinak tried to rough up Reach when he double shoulder-charged him on the byline, a naughty move which left the emerging winger curled over a barrier after he had been forced to hurdle the hoardings.

But if that was supposed to intimidate him it had the opposite effect.

The confident flanker unleashed a piledriving shot which required a Hollywood save from Speroni, and Boro went in front from the resulting corner as Hines bundled in from close range after Miller headed down Grant Leadbitter's corner.

Zemmama put Boro two up shortly after the break with a moment of Moroccan magic, cheekily 'fezzing' in direct from a free kick at Speroni's near post.

It should have been game over but instead Palace swiftly pulled a goal back from an emphatic Jermaine Easter penalty, following a foul by McEachran after Rhys Williams had failed to put a clearing foot through the ball.

Steele then made a vital save with his legs from Palace sub Kwasi Appiah, with Williams blocking Andre Moritz's follow-up.

Main's bustling runs after being brought on took the sting out of some of Palace's attacks, although they remained lively until deep into stoppage time, to the exasperation of an animated Mowbray.

It was edgy and nervous at times, but overall a new-look Boro missing quality players like Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz showed they are gelling and can repel pressure after dropping off the pace. Better teams might have punished them, but you can't quarrel with two home wins in a week.

Verdict BORO produced a fantastic first half but made it difficult for themselves after the break as they ran out of gas, doing well to hold out when Palace scored and came on strong.

How the others did GIANFRANCO Zola is certain his Watford team are on the right path to becoming a force in the npower Championship.

The former West Ham manager saw his players make it two wins from three as they beat Birmingham 2-0 at Vicarage Road, with the goals coming from on-loan Udinese pair Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra inside the first 20 minutes.

Zola said: "I was really pleased with the performance. We scored two goals, created plenty of opportunities and played plenty of good football."

Blackpool are the only team in the top tier of the Football League with three wins from three after Ian Holloway's side laid waste to Boro's next Riverside opponents Ipswich in a 6-0 home win.

Sought-after midfielder Thomas Ince scored two of the Tangerines' goals.

Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn are two points behind the early leaders.

Wednesday beat Millwall 3-2 at Hillsborough, while Blackburn won by the same margin at home against Leicester, with Morten Gamst Pedersen firing the winner. Pedersen celebrated by using a walking stick on the touchline - in reference to Blackburn's global advisor Shebby Singh branding him a "pensioner".

Luciano Becchio scored twice as Leeds won 2-1 at Peterborough, while Ashley Barnes and Craig Mackail-Smith did likewise in Brighton's 5-1 win over Barnsley. Wayne Bridge scored from 35 yards for the Seagulls.

Huddersfield's in-demand Scotland international Jordan Rhodes scored in the Terriers' 2-0 home win over Burnley, and manager Simon Grayson said: "Like any other player in the world, Jordan Rhodes has his valuation but we don't want to sell him."

Bristol City beat Cardiff 4-2, with Martyn Woolford scoring twice.

Wolves had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Derby after Theo Robinson scored with the last kick of the game for the Rams.

Charlton and Hull could not muster a goal between them at The Valley, even when a wild storm in the second half added spark to the occasion.

Hull assistant manager, former Boro coach Steve Agnew, said: "It was entertaining, the thunder and lightning brought the game to life."

The key moments 8 min: Faris Haroun misses a great chance to put Boro in front, heading against the base of the right-hand post from Justin Hoyte's cross after Seb Hines pushes forward. 17 min: Danger man Wilfried Zaha weaves into the Boro box but referee David Coote waves away Palace appeals for a penalty after the winger goes down in a heap in a collision with Hoyte. 23 min: Boro spurn another chance to take the lead as debutant Ishmael Miller narrowly fails to get on the end of George Friend's low ball across the face of goal.

40 min: Palace keeper Julian Speroni makes a spectacular save to push Adam Reach's fierce shot over his crossbar for a corner.

41 min: Boro take the lead from the resulting corner as Hines bundles in from close range after Miller nods on Grant Leadbitter's inswinging cross. 52 min: Boro go 2-0 up from another set piece as Zemmama beats Speroni at his near post with a right-footed free kick. 56 min: Jermaine Easter pulls a goal back with a penalty, ramming the ball into the roof of the net after Josh McEachran shoulder charges him to the ground. 70 min: Palace go close as Jason Steele saves a shot from substitute Kwesi Appiah with his legs.. 90+4: Zaha breaks from deep but can only scuff a weak shot at Steele.

Match stats Match rating: ..... Weather: Mild and overcast. Shots on target: Boro 10 Burnley 8 Shots off target: Boro 9 Burnley 2 Corners: Boro 9 Burnley 3 Goals: Hines 41 mins, Zemmama 52 mins, Easter (pen) 56 mins.

. ??? George Friend ?? Josh McEachran ? Rhys Williams Ref's log REFEREE: David Coote (Notts) RATING: 4 out of 5 Offsides: Boro 2 Burnley 2 Fouls: Boro 9 Burnley 15 Red cards: None Yellow cards: Boro 0 Burnley 2 Zaha dissent 43 mins; Martin foul on Main 88 mins.

Next match Away to Gillingham, Capital One Cup, Second Round, tomorrow (7.45pm) Top scorers M Zemmama ......................... 1 S Hines ................................. 1 L Williams ............................. 1 A Reach ................................ 1 N Bailey ................................ 1 M Emnes ............................... 1 E Ledesma ............................1 Assist kings G Leadbitter .......................... 3 I Miller .................................. 1 C Main .................................. 1 Star men G Friend .............................. 3 R Williams........................... 3 A Reach .............................. 3 J Steele .............................. 3 J Woodgate ......................... 3 J McEachran........................ 2 J Hoyte ............................... 2 G Leadbitter ........................ 2 N Bailey .............................. 1 M Emnes............................. 1 K Thomson .......................... 1 Boro's 20-20 vision BORO'S LAST 20 GAMES 21 Millwall (League)............................................. W 3-1 25 READING (League) ......................................... L 2-1 MARCH 3 Portsmouth (League) ........................................ W 3-1 6 BARNSLEY........................................................W 2-0 11 LEEDS UTD ...................................................... L 2-0 17 Birmingham (League)..................................L 3-0 20 West Ham (League) ....................................D 1-1 24 BRISTOL CITY (League) ............................ D 1-1 27 Ipswich (League) ........................................D 1-1 31 Brighton (League) .......................................D 1-1 APRIL 7 CARDIFF (League) ............................................ L 2-0 9 Hull (League) ..................................................... L 2-1 14 Derby (League) ............................................... W 1-0 17 DONCASTER (League) .................................. D 0-0 21 SOUTHAMPTON (League).............................W 2-1 28 Watford (League)............................................ L 2-1 AUGUST 11 Bury (Capital One Cup).................................. W 2-1 18 Barnsley (League)............................................ L 1-0 21 BURNLEY (League)....................................... W 3-2 25 CRYSTAL PALACE (League).........................W 2-1 Boro's best GEORGE FRIEND: The former Doncaster captain showed he is more than just a one-dimensional defender as he put in a bright attacking display, causing Palace problems with surging runs down the left.

Sign him on WILFRIED ZAHA: The winger with the telescopic legs was largely kept under lock and key by Boro but showed he could grace any Championship team with his skill and surging runs.

CAPTION(S):

ON TARGET:Merouane Zemmama strokes home his free kick EYE ON GOAL: Adam Reach takes a shot against Palace FIRST GOAL: Seb Hines bundles home for Boro CLOSE: Ishmael Miller has his shot deflected by Julian Speroni
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2012
Words:1754
Previous Article:Opposition view.
Next Article:IN MEMORIAM.

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