Football: Gazza matches Ince for bite

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The Independent Online
Huddersfield Town 2

Beech 31, Schofield 82

Middlesbrough 5

Campbell 30, 36, 74, Ince 45, Gascoigne 90

Half-time: 1-3

THE TWO Pauls - Ince and Gascoigne - renewed their old England midfield partnership and scored a goal apiece while the home-grown 20- year-old striker Andy Campbell collected a hat-trick as Boro completed their pre-season preparations in style.

Afterwards their manager, Bryan Robson, confirmed that he had completed the signing of the German defender Christian Ziege for pounds 4m on a five-year contract. With that kind of quality in defence, midfield and attack, Boro could be a force to be reckoned with during the forthcoming Premiership campaign.

The England coach, Kevin Keegan, who last week dangled the prospect of an international recall in front of Gascoigne, could have found no fault with his fitness, commitment or skill.

Gascoigne lasted the full 90 minutes in blazing heat that would have removed any surplus weight that was still clinging to him, and he even scored a goal in the dying seconds with a diving header.

There was, however, the occasional sign that he has not shed his temper along with the pounds. He reacted to a couple of clumsy challenges with flailing arms, but Gazza's strengths more than outweighed his weaknesses.

"He has got to control his temper or retaliation could get him sent off," said Robson after the game. "But his fitness was excellent. He had more touches than anyone on the pitch and when he was keeping things simple, he was outstanding. He only gave the ball away when he tried to be too clever."

Robson also had high praise for Campbell who, he said, had returned stronger from a loan spell with Sheffield United last season. "He has improved tremendously and put himself in the frame to make the starting line-up for our first league game," he said.

The ink was barely dry on Ince's pounds 1m transfer from Liverpool before he was in Boro's starting line-up at the McAlpine Stadium. It was obvious that Ince's determination and bite, coupled with Gascoigne's inspiration and flair and captain Andy Townsend's poise and tactical awareness, will give Boro a well-balanced and potent midfield when they play to their potential, as they did yesterday.

Ince may have swapped one red shirt for another but he has not changed his determination to be in the thick of the action and he announced his presence with a rising drive from the edge of the box that stung the fingers of Huddersfield's goalkeeper, Nico Vaesen.

The Boro midfield was soon running the game, with a slim-line Gascoigne matching Ince stride for stride in his coverage of the pitch as well as finding space on the wings to deliver crosses and tracking back into his own penalty area when his defenders were pulled out of position.

Campbell's hat-trick began with a cool chip over Vaesen after he had latched onto a long clearance from his own goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer. Huddersfield hit straight back, however, after Schwarzer and defender Keith O'Neill collided and let in Chris Beech, but Campbell restored Middlesbrough's lead by dribbling round Vaesen to stroke the ball into an empty net.

Ince scored the best goal of the game just before half time, glancing up when he received the ball 25 yards out and driving it into the top corner.

He did not reappear after the break but Gascoigne continued to torment the Huddersfield defence with his penetrating runs, one of which produced a penalty which gave Campbell his hat-trick.

Then the Terriers' substitute, Danny Schofield, reduced the arrears but, on the stroke of time, Gascoigne picked out Robbie Stockdale on the wing and was perfectly placed to head home his cross.

Huddersfield Town: Vaesen, Edwards, Lucketti, Armstrong, Vincent, Donis, Beech, Sellars, Irons (Mattis, 60), Wijnhard, Stewart (Schofield, 74)

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Gavin, Vickers (Maddison, 60), Gordon, Stamp (Stockdale, ht), Gascoigne, Ince (Mustoe, ht), Townsend, O'Neill, Deane (Ricard, ht), Campbell.

Referee: T Heilbron (Newton Aycliffe).