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Middlesbrough v West Ham Utd

Filed: Tuesday, 24th February 2009
By: Preview Percy

Next up a replay return to the Riverside where Boro’ await as we do battle for the right to visit Everton in the quarter-final, whenever that gets to be played.

The match is an 8.10pm kick-off on Wednesday and will be covered by ITV, which means those of you not making the long journey North-East might like to check those dodgy internet feeds for back-up. They may freeze from time but at least they won’t break off half way through an attack to flog you some golf-playing mints.

The Boro’ squad was covered in detail in my preview for the first match and, lazy so and so that I am, I don’t intend to revisit that preview – though you may do so if you really want to. Since the first match we went down to a distinctly average Bolton side that managed to score twice in the ten minutes that they played well in. The result might have been more interesting had the referee remembered the meaning of the words “Persistent Foul Play” and actually cautioned Kevin Davies for any of the 7 yellow card offences the player committed but there you go. Boro’ on the other hand managed to achieve what maybe a unique feat by featuring in a 0-0 draw with Wigan, a match so dull, it actually managed to get our match moved away from its traditional “just after the credits” slot on Match of The Day.

The match was primarily notable for a challenge on Didier Digard by former Boro’ player Lee Cattermole. The tackle saw the Boro’ midfielder stretchered off clutching an oxygen mask. Replays showed that, despite the home side’s protestations, Cattermole had taken the ball and that it was the after-collision that had done all the damage. Also worthy of note was the fact that no fewer than two Boro’ players picked up yellow cards for diving from Mike Dean, who, in all his years of refereeing, has never once shown any signs of ever having seen a football match in his life, let alone read a copy of the Laws of The Game. I suppose this may have been why O’Neil and Alves tried it on in the first place.

Somehow in all the tediousness, Wigan boss Steve Bruce managed to get excited enough to enter into a heated exchange with baldy Boro’ coach Steve Agnew, accusing him of whipping the crowd up into a state of frenzy. This will, no doubt, have amused the home support who, in a letter from the club, have been told to be quiet. Bruce later admitted “On reflection I was a bit of a prat” – thus finally catching up with something the rest of us have known for about 25 years.

Alves has four goals this season – poor return by anyone’s standards for £12 let alone the £12m the Brazilian is supposed to have cost. At the Boleyn he was clearly short of confidence, something that, according to reports, didn’t improve this weekend when he was barely able to muster a shot on target. He was not alone amongst the Smoggie squad and, in the league anyway, they have gone over 8 hours without scoring. Poor return though those four goals may be, the Brazilian is still their top scorer, a statistic that tells its own story.

For the Wigan match Boro’ were unchanged from the eleven that started at the Boleyn. Whether or not this will be the case for the replay will depend upon how Digard’s X-rays look when they get them back from Boots. Joshua Walker came in to deputise at the weekend and may start the replay. Also pushing for a recall on Wednesday may be Jeremie Alliadiere, who came on early in the second half to replace Julio Arca who, reports suggest, was less than impressed with the change. Marlon “Soho” King will miss his third consecutive match having been cup-tied for the first match and ineligible to face his home club against Wigan. Options are short so we are likely to see a similar line-up in a 4-4-1-1 formation that will see Downing employed just behind the hapless Alves.

As for us, we will need to make at least one change as James Collins is likely to be out for a fair while with a hamstring strain on which a scan has been ordered. This should mean a start for young Tomkins, who was far from disgraced when thrown in at the deep end on Saturday. Despite his fine role in setting up Parker’s goal at the weekend, Spector is likely to drop to the bench in favour of Neill whose one match ban for reaching five bookings was served at the Reebok. Other than that I don’t expect the boss to make any other changes unless more bad news arises from Chadwell Heath sick parade before the match.

We undoubtedly deserved more out of the visit to Horwich than we got and, the 10 minute nightmare apart, the match represented a bit of a return to form. However if you have 10 minutes off at the start of the game you will end up having to chase it as we discovered to our cost. On the bright side it was good to see the heads stay up despite the early setbacks – it’s not that long ago where two early goals might have been merely a precursor to some sort of horrible collapse.

This one will, of course, be played to a finish whether or not that involves extra time and/or penalties. Penalties are not something we have a good record in over the years and the mere possibility of their use in a match in which we are involved always makes me nervous. However, and even allowing for the fact that this is the cup and so the pressure will be off the home side to a certain extent, I’ll still take us to win 2-1, hopefully in normal time to keep our collective blood pressure within acceptable levels, though if it goes to the extra half-hour I may have to revise that one.

Enjoy the match!

Danger man: Afonso Alves – There’s an unspoken tradition in football that. If someone is having a poor run or hasn’t scored in months, we are the team against whom they end up breaking their duck. Let’s hope the Brazilian hasn’t acquainted himself with our Cup traditions just yet!

Look out for: Home supporters sitting in silence having received letters from the club suggesting that they should be seen but not heard.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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