Button; Fredericks, Kalas, Ream, Sessegnon; Norwood (Cisse 90th), McDonald, Ojo, Johansen (Kamara 70th), Ayite (Kebano 42nd); Fonte
CYRUS CHRISTIE went from zero to hero as he snatched a late equaliser to give Boro a hard-fought draw at Fulham yesterday.
With the ball bouncing around the Fulham box, Christie kept his nerve to volley under the body of home keeper David Button with two minutes to go. Moments before, the full-back had allowed Ryan Sessegnon to send a deep cross on to the head of Aboubakar Kamara, and the Fulham sub nodded the ball in off the post to put the home side ahead.
And they had hoped it would be a late matchwinner – until Christie pounced.
The buzz of excitement in the closing stages made up for the opening 75 minutes which had been short on goal-scoring chances.
It took just 14 seconds for the first attempt on goal with Middlesbrough midfielder Lewis Baker skipping through but failed to connect properly with a
Randolph; Christie, Fry, Gibson, Fabio (Friend 76th); Howson, Clayton, Bamford (Fletcher 76th), Baker, Johnson; Assombalonga (Downing 89th) 20-yard effort. Seven minutes later, he tried again and connected more sweetly but Cottagers keeper Button tipped his rising shot over the bar.
The next chance came when Oliver Norwood spotted Boro keeper Darren Randolph had drifted away from his near post at a free-kick.
The Northern Ireland midfielder tried to catch him out but Randolph scrambled back to shovel the ball away just in time.
If ever there was a game which summed up the home side’s fortunes it was this one.
Exciting in possession with runners pulling Boro defenders in different directions, the home side also had Floyd Ayite, Sheyi Ojo and Sessegnon running at the visiting full-backs and flashing low cross after low cross into Boro’s penalty box.
But that only left lone striker Rui Fonte in the area to try to finish the moves.
It meant that for all their possession, Fulham’s only serious attempts on goal came from just inside the area – with Ayite foiled by the legs of Randolph – or from outside with Norwood twice shooting just over in the first half.
At the other end, Christie, who was more effective going forward than trying to stop Sessegnon galloping past him, jinked his way into the Fulham area.
But from his pass, Baker’s shot was always rising as it flew over the bar.
The second half followed a similar pattern as another Norwood free-kick came close, this one landing on top of the net.
Fulham were guilty of overplaying the ball after 65 minutes, allowing Jonny Howson to set up an attack which ended with Patrick Bamford striking a left-foot shot just wide of the post.
Similarly, Marvin Johnson was just off target soon after with a low drive from just inside the area.
Neither opportunity was as clear-cut as the chance that fell to Kamara 15 minutes from time, where he fired over from the middle of the penalty area – to set up a breathless finish to the game.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic has now seen his side concede late equalisers three times at home this season.
He said: “We deserved all three points but you don’t always get what you deserve.
“We will always try to win games in this way but this time it killed us at an important point in the game.”
But Middlesbrough boss Garry Monk saw this as a point gained as Boro extended their unbeaten record in all competitions to seven games.
He said: “We haven’t hit our full stride yet but it’s coming. When it clicks, there won’t be many teams who can stop us. We are still improving.”
FULHAM: MIDDLESBROUGH: STAR MAN: REF: