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Match Report


Posted Tue 08 Apr 14 at 21:30 PM

The Report: Middlesbrough 3 Blues 1

Emyr Huws' latest contender for goal of the season couldn't stop Birmingham City slipping to defeat at the Riverside Stadium.

A madcap three minutes had seen Danny Graham and then Jacob Butterfield put Middlesbrough 2-0 up against the run of play by the half-an-hour mark.

However, Huws' 40-yard thunderbolt six minutes later gave Blues hope that was rocked by an injury to the influential Lee Novak on the stroke of half-time.

Blues struggled to get into their rhythm in the second-half and, despite both Kenneth Omeruo and Ben Gibson being sent for early baths for two bookable offences late on, they couldn't find another way through.

A defensive mix up between Paul Robinson and Tom Thorpe allowing substitute Lee Tomlin in for a third only rubbed salt in the wounds.

Afterwards, Lee Clark labelled this result his side's most frustrating defeat of the season and it was easy to agree with the Blues boss. Having dominated in large spells of this Sky Bet Championship fixture, Blues were undone by the lack of cutting edge up front, with defensive lapses still rearing their ugly head at the other end of the field.

It had been another solid start from Blues despite Darren Randolph being called into action after six minutes to tip away Nathaniel Chalobah's lofted effort and Novak being in the right place at the right time to clear Gibson's close range header from Grant Leadbitter's corner. 

With Boro forced into a sub after only 20 minutes with George Friend hobbling off to be replaced by Jonathan Woodgate, Blues pressed and Chris Burke almost opened up a 25th minute lead only to see Omeruo head off the line and over. Shinnie then found space for a shot from the right that fizzed across the face of the Boro goal. 

Three mad minutes soon arrived to present Blues with a mountain to climb. In the 28th minute, Leadbitter's corner from the right met the head of Woodgate and the ball fell for Graham to prod home from six yards. 

With the home fans' cheers still ringing in their ears, Blues were quickly two down; this time Randolph being given no chance with Butterfield's speculative effort from the right that found the far corner.

If Huws' stunning effort against Burnley at St. Andrew's a month ago was a front runner for goal of the season then this one in the 36th minute will push it all the way. From a cleared corner, the Wales international regathered the ball on the right, drifted inside and let rip with a rocket from all of 40 yards to find the left corner.

That looked to be the spark to reignite Blues in this match and, with three added first-half minutes showing on the fourth official's LED board, Callum Reilly's cross from the left was almost turned in by Shinnie from six yards.

Yet a suspected knee injury moments later that left Novak in a heap while play continued around him was a bitter blow that hit Blues hard just before the half-time whistle. With Novak stretchered off, Nikola Zigic was introduced with Blues changing to a 4-4-2 formation and from that moment onwards, the visitors never really looked the same.

Blues, not for the first time this season, were indebted to Randolph. The Republic of Ireland international thwarted Graham twice either side of keeping out a hopeful effort from distance from Luke Williams. 

Jordon Ibe was introduced for Shinnie in the 66th minute and the Liverpool loanee's best chance came in the 70th minute when he drifted in from the left only to find himself off balance as he sent a low effort wide of the far post. 

Randolph was again alert to deny Boro sub Emmanuel Ledesma from eight yards in the 73rd minute before Tomlin fired his first warning shot with an effort that cracked the left post before rebounding off the goalkeeper's back and out for a corner that came to nothing.

Middlesrough suffered their own mad spell in the closing stages by losing Omeruo and Gibson to a second yellow cards, for fouls on Federico Macheda and Zigic respectively, but that didn't stop them delivering an 89th minute knockout punch.

Robinson and Thorpe both went for the same long ball from the back, collided and ended up in a heap on the edge of the Blues box gifting Tomlin with the simple task of slotting beyond Randolph. 

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