Football: Gascoigne giveaway

Bradford City 1 Mills 60 Middlesbrough 1 Ricard 13 Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 17,708
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The Independent Online
A GOAL apiece was a modest return from a match in which both sides created an abundance of chances, but the points they earned through Lee Mills' second-half equaliser was the least City deserved for another battling display.

On the day that the first round of Premiership matches was repeated, Bradford could at least look back through the sleet to the sunlit optimism of the opening afternoon of the season and their morale-boosting victory over Boro.

There had been only two further wins to cheer since then and the scorer of the winning goal at the Riverside, Dean Saunders, was only a substitute for the return game.

Middlesbrough, on the slide themselves recently, opted, in the absence of the injured Paul Ince, for a midfield including both Juninho and the increasingly peripheral Paul Gascoigne.

That midfield's defensive capabilities were soon tested by City, who could have been a goal up after a couple of minutes. Mark Schwarzer's punch fell for Stuart McCall, whose shot was goal-bound until Brian Deane's head intervened.

Deane was soon in action at the other end, meeting a smart cross from Phil Stamp in a manner that had the Middlesbrough fans a hundred yards away hailing a goal. His header, though, was into the side netting.

Two minutes later, they could celebrate in earnest. Juninho's pass caught Jamie Lawrence unawares and the overlapping Christian Ziege whipped in a low cross, dispatched on the far post by Boro's leading scorer, Hamilton Ricard.

A game that was settling down into a contest between two distinctly dodgy defences almost produced an equaliser after 16 minutes, Dean Windass stretching to connect with Andy Myers' centre and steering it on to the post.

The ball sent in from wide positions continued to threaten goals at every turn and Schwarzer had to make a wonderful reflex save to deny Mills from Robbie Blake's cross.

The Middlesbrough goalkeeper also had to save instinctively from Peter Beagrie as yet another ball into the box caused consternation. The miracle was that the game reached half-time without another goal to punish either fallible defence.

The second half, with the pitch becoming more difficult and gloves a popular fashion accessory, took longer to warm up, although Deane volleyed past the post when well placed.

On the hour, Bradford finally got the equaliser they deserved on the balance of play. Gascoigne's back header from a throw-in fell invitingly for Mills, who controlled the ball and put it past Schwarzer with Boro appealing in vain for hand ball.

It was fair reward for the example set by old stagers like Beagrie and McCall, who drove Bradford in search of a winner. If either side had the momentum to take all the points, it was they, but the nearest they came was when Mills had a header blocked and Boro could have snatched it but for Matt Clarke's save from Neil Maddison.