Football: Boro are shaping up

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The Independent Online
Swindon Town 1 Ndah 12 Middlesbrough 2 Merson 22, Emerson 75 Attendance: 15,228 Middlesbrough's aim of an immediate return to the Premiership could be taking shape by this time next week. Goals from Paul Merson and Emerson enabled them to replace Swindon in second place and wins over their next opponents, the leaders Nottingham Forest and West Brom, could leave them in a healthy position in the next seven days.

Bryan Robson's side are now on a run of just one defeat in eight games and are moving inexorably to the top of the table. They did not outclass Swindon, but battled their way to a victory which could just have easily been a defeat.

"We didn't deserve to lose," said the Swindon director and former jockey Willie Carson when he bumped into the manager Steve McMahon in the tunnel afterwards. "Won? We dominated that game and lost by two sloppy goals," was McMahon's valid reply after his side's first home defeat of the season.

"Lucky? Not us," retorted Robson. "We stuck at it and got the winning goal when we weren't playing so well."

George Ndah, signed from Crystal Palace for pounds 500,000 on Friday, marked his debut by putting Swindon in a 13th-minute lead when he shot past the advancing goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer from 10 yards out.

The lead lasted exactly 10 minutes thanks to a mishit clearance by the Swindon goalkeeper Fraser Digby. Merson controlled it on his chest and volleyed into an empty net from the edge of the penalty area. The winner did not come until 15 minutes from time and only after Swindon could have regained the lead at least three times.

But class told in the end when Merson swung in a deep corner, Mikkel Beck headed back towards the near post and Emerson nodded the ball in from a yard. Middlesbrough look ready to take on the nation's best already and their frustration with last season's relegation must be growing by the game.

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