Football: Boos add to the Middlesbrough blues

Middlesbrough 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Online
AFTER THIS scrappy stalemateGeorge Graham contended that the Premiership is in good health. "After the top two or three teams, everybody else is capable of beating everybody else. Even the top boys can't go away from home and expect to pick up results," he said.

It is a contention that cannot be allowed to go unchallenged because at the final whistle the record crowd did not know whether to boo or cry. So they booed because the home team had never looked like adding to the one goal they have scored in nine hours of top-flight football; they booed because in the second 45 minutes there had been just two moments when it looked as if a team game was taking place; they booed because haphazard refereeing had dished out seven bookings and they booed, of course, because David Ginola had been involved, intermittently weaving like an angel only to tumble flamboyantly as if his wings had been clipped from behind.

Applause never came into the crowd's head, although many were relieved that Middlesbrough had at least collected their third point from a possible 24. "We didn't deserve to win," admitted Bryan Robson, "but it was pleasing to keep a clean sheet."

But the sheet should have been spoiled in the third minute when Steffen Iversen presented Mauricio Taricco with the game's only clear-cut chance.

For Middlesbrough, it fell to Paul Gascoigne to create. He tried manfully but aside from an 87th minute run he failed, much to his own frustration. His 11th booking means a third suspension and the first blot on Kevin Keegan's "clean sheet".

Middlesbrough (5-3-1-1): Schwarzer; Stockdale, Cooper, Vickers, Pallister, Gordon; Mustoe, Gascoigne, Townsend; Moore (Ricard, 58); Beck (A Campbell, 74). Substitutes not used: Beresford (gk), Maddison, Kinder.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, S Campbell, Vega, Taricco; Anderton, Sherwood, Freund, Ginola; Iversen, Ferdinand (Armstrong, h-t). Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Nielsen, Sinton, Young.

Referee: R Harris (Oxford). Bookings: Middlesbrough: Gascoigne, Townsend, Stockdale, Cooper. Tottenham: Carr, Vega, Iversen.

Man of the match: Iversen.

Attendance: 34,687.