Football: All working but no class

Middlesbrough 0 Leicester City 0 Attendance: 34,631

FULL MARKS all round for work-rate, but zero for finishing in a blood-and-guts draw that was short on thrills.

Leicester at least had an excuse. Returning to the North-east for the second time in five days, they were forced to make four important changes to the team that beat Sunderland in the Worthington Cup with Muzzy Izzet, Emile Heskey and Neil Lennon all missing - and all badly missed.

"With the alternatives we had available, in terms of resilience it was one of our best points of the season," their manager Martin O'Neill said.

Middlesbrough, though, had no excuses. Returning to the Riverside after a week in the Holy Land, where presumably they had been seeking divine assistance in arresting a run of two points from a possible 15, they were at full strength, but only Paul Gascoigne looked likely to have the mental power to force a path past the inspired Kasey Keller.

"We missed three very good chances, that's why we haven't got three points," said Bryan Robson, making an excuse.

Leicester started with Matt Elliott up front and he gained early aerial dominance. They finished with Steve Walsh there to protect him from a second booking which would have ruled him out of the second leg of the semi-final against Sunderland. Walsh, too, had an immediate impact in his unfamiliar position, heading just wide in the 46th minute.

In between these Leicester moments, Middlesbrough had almost a monopoly of possession but Keller kept them at bay.

Gascoigne's deep 30th-minute free-kick was met by Colin Cooper, who headed over the keeper but Keller performed wonders to scoop the ball from beneath the bar. Three minutes later, Hamilton Ricard bulldozed into the box but Keller blocked the blast.

After half-time Middlesbrough came at Keller again. Gascoigne stepped up a gear and set off on a run of yesteryear. Driving at the heart of Leicester's defence, he left all-comers trailing in his wake but with only the final touch required he ran out of gas.

In the 68th minute, a series of ricochets broke to Brian Deane who slid in and Keller performed wonders once more, this time with his left leg. Two minutes later, Ricard terrorised Taggart down the right and whipped in a delightful cross which Deane couldn't convert.

He was replaced by Mikkel Beck but, also unsurprisingly, Middlesbrough's increasingly frantic high balls were of no use to him. Leicester almost stole it when Gianluca Festa stopped Theo Zagorakis' 60-yard run with an illegal embrace. Typically of the game Steve Guppy steered the free- kick into Mark Schwarzer's hands.

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