NORWICH ................................................................. 1 Boro get bird as Ca­naries fly away with un­beaten run

Sunday Sun - - Football -

MID­DLES­BROUGH’S un­beaten run had to end some­time but Tony Pulis will be might­ily dis­ap­pointed with how it hap­pened.

The vis­i­tors only briefly threat­ened to grab a goal and while Dar­ren Ran­dolph wasn’t ex­actly over­worked at the other end, Boro’s usu­ally rock-solid de­fence was guilty of a rare lapse in con­cen­tra­tion to al­low Norwich City to score.

It was the first goal Boro have con­ceded in the league since the open­ing day at Mill­wall.

Pulis kept faith with the play­ers who kicked off that El­land Road en­counter and the play­ers look com­fort­able in the 5-1-3-1 sys­tem.

Of course, it’s play­ers who make for­ma­tions work and the mo­bil­ity of the wing-backs and the three mid­field­ers be­hind Britt As­som­ba­longa are crit­i­cal to its suc­cess.

The im­por­tance of Ge­orge Friend and Ryan Shot­ton was il­lus­trated in­side the first five min­utes at Car­row Road.

Friend de­liv­ered a long throw into the box from the left touch­line in line with the edge of the 18-yard box.

Then Shot­ton did ex­actly the same thing mo­ments later from the op­po­site flank mo­ments later.

Shot­ton’s throw to the near post was headed be­hind for a cor­ner which Besic played short to As­som­ba­longa, who was un­able to re­tain pos­ses­sion with his back to goal.

On the quar­ter-hour mark, Boro went ag­o­nis­ingly close. Shot­ton de­liv­ered a su­perb cross from the right which flashed in front of As­som­ba­longa in the mid­dle. The striker was just mil­lime­tres away from ap­ply­ing the fin­ish­ing touch.

Norwich came close to grab­bing a goal came in the 22nd minute when Alex Tettey hit a dip­ping half-vol­ley from just out­side the penalty area Mid­dles­brough’s man­ager Tony Pulis dur­ing the Sky Bet Cham­pi­onship which Dar­ren Ran­dolph safely gath­ered. Keeper Tim Krul made his first cru­cial save of the game in the 32nd minute to keep out Jonny How­son’s shot on the turn from a po­si­tion near the an­gle of the six yard box.

The chance stemmed from As­som­ba­longa’s square pass and How­son did ex­tremely well to cre­ate space for him­self by smartly shuf­fling wide of de­fender Christoph Zimmerman. The re­sult­ing cor­ner was curled in from the right by Down­ing and it looked for a mo­ment as though the ball would float directly into the net but, at the last sec­ond, Krul slapped it away at full stretch. Boro did let their guard down briefly in the 37th minute when Ja­mal Lewis ended some nifty foot­work by loft­ing a well­judged cross from the left to the un­marked Tettey who, for­tu­nately for the vis­i­tors, volleyed a spec­u­la­tive ef­fort over the bar.

Pulis won’t have been happy with As­som­ba­longa when he failed to hold the ball up as Boro tried to end a pe­riod of pres­sure, al­low­ing Stieper­mann an op­por­tu­nity to shoot.

Pulis waited just eight min­utes into the sec­ond half to make his first change and it was a sig­nif­i­cant one. Mid­dles­brough’s Ryan Shot­ton

Sav­ille, mak­ing his Mid­dles­brough de­but, re­placed Besic, whose pass­ing radar ap­peared to be on the blink.

The Bos­nian was guilty of a sev­eral un­char­ac­ter­is­tic sloppy mo­ments of play. Sav­ille slot­ted into space va­cated by Besic in cen­tral mid­field.

There had been lit­tle to choose be­tween the sides for the first 55 min­utes of the game but Norwich sud­denly took charge.

In the 56th minute, Tettey was able to find a wor­ry­ing amount of space out­side the penalty area and he forced a de­cent save out of Ran­dolph with a 25-yard shot. Play briefly

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