Barmby relaxing down by the Riverside

Middlesbrough 2 Blackburn Rovers 0
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The Independent Online
What Blackburn lack, Middlesbrough have in abundance. Nick Barmby and Craig Hignett are already known as "Teesside's Terrible Twins" because they play alike and look alike. Full of ideas and invention, the two used guile and skill to pick their way through a crowded midfield and pick off the goals that brought the First Division champions victory over the Premier League champions.

The only difference between the twins is their background. Barmby is Boro's record signing at pounds 5.25m, while Hignett came from Crewe three years ago and this summer took a pay cut to stay at the club.

The contrast between the two champions' midfields was evident as early as the 13th minute when Hignett turned beautifully to leave David Batty snapping hoplessly at fresh air before releasing the quiet but effective Robbie Mustoe to shoot over the bar.

But Barmby is the hub around which Middlesbrough revolve, tigerishly tackling back and forever foraging forward. "He's got really good qualities, enthusiasm for the game and lovely skills," a proud manager, Bryan Robson, said. "The other lads are doing well around him with Mustoe and Jamie Pollock keeping things together and [Jan Age] Fjortoft holding the ball up well for him and Hignett to run on to."

How Alan Shearer must wish for such service. Stuart Ripley was dropped for the visit to his home town, leaving Tim Sherwood and Batty to paddle backwards and sideways. Matty Holmes did scurry forward but only into blind alleys and Shearer could not muster a shot all day.

Ray Harford said many of his players were off form and tired. "Our next game is the eighth in 24 days," he said. "There are too many games and it is unfortunate as we have changed the system and it is fragile when you only have a day to work at it."

Meanwhile rumours persist that Celtic's John Collins could come to the Riverside. "I haven't been in touch with Celtic over the last few days but I am trying to build a squad that can challenge for trophies," Robson said.

Goals: Barmby (45) 1-0; Hignett (71) 2-0.

Middlesbrough [3-6-1]: Walsh; Pearson, Vickers, Whyte; Cox, Pollock, Mustoe, Hignett, Barmby, Morris; Fjortoft. Substitutes not used: Hendrie, Whelan, Moore (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (3-5-2): Flowers; Pearce, Sutton, Hendry; Kenna, Sherwood, Batty, Holmes (Warhurst, 64) Berg; Newell, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Makel, Mimms (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill, Surrey).