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