Middlesbrough, who have spent half the season getting the cold shoulder from strikers, unearthed one from their past yesterday to move into second place in the First Division.
Fabrizio Ravanelli, Dion Dublin and Rod Wallace - they have all rejected a Riverside residence this season and it is a safe bet to say that if any of them had chosen to go to Teesside then Jaime Moreno would not have been in the team. The Bolivian was there yesterday, however, albeit as substitute, to get the winner.
It had all been going so well for Stoke. They were comfortably holding Middlesbrough and, if anything, they looked more likely to get the three points. Then everything fell to pieces in the last 10 minutes.
Moreno, on loan from Washington DC United after being sold to the US club 18 months ago, put the lacklustre Boro ahead and any hope that Stoke had of recovering disappeared when Tosh McKinlay was sent off for crassly raising a hand to Craig Hignett. As he is also on loan, you could say that Boro are happier with the repayment schedule.
The net result is that Middlesbrough will go top of the First Division if they beat Tranmere on Wednesday while Stoke are even deeper entangled in the relegation thicket. New manager Chris Kamara has presided over two defeats while the team have won just once in 14 outings.
Bryan Robson, the Middlesbrough manager, perceived a tiredness in his team that derived from their Coca-Cola Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool on Tuesday and certainly this was a jaded performance. "We lacked a brightness and our passing was poor," he said, "but sometimes you have got to grind out results away from home in this division."
The grinding process began after 16 minutes when Nigel Pearson lost his marker, Justin Whittle, to head in Andy Townsend's corner. Boro had been poor but they were ahead and Stoke had to spend the remainder of the afternoon chasing the game.
A low shot from Graham Kavanagh, a former Middlesbrough player, that Mark Schwarzer tipped around a post after 27 minutes was the first hint they might succeed and his penalty seven minutes later after Steve Baker had tripped McKinlay reinforced the impression.
Instead, with 10 minutes remaining Moreno scavenged on the scraps of McKinlay's tackle on the edge of the area and beat Carl Muggleton with a left-foot shot into a corner.
Moreno, largely disappointing in his first spell at Boro, is due to end his loan at the end of the month but he may yet prove more permanent. "We'll have to have a look at the sort of fee they want," Robson said.
Goals: Pearson (16) 0-1; Kavanagh pen (34) 1-1; Moreno (80) 1-2 .
Stoke City (3-5-2): Muggleton; Tweed (Gabbiadini, 87), Holsgrove, Whittle; Pickering, Keen, Wallace, Kavanagh, McKinlay; Scully, McMahon. Substitutes not used: McNally, Tiatto.
Middlebrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Baker, Pearson, Vickers, Kinder; Hignett, Mustoe, Summerbell (Beck, 69), Townsend; Merson, Campbell (Moreno, h/t). Substitute not used: Moreira.
Bookings: Stoke: Pickering. Boro: Vickers. Sending-off: Stoke: McKinlay.
Referee: P Richards (Preston).
Man of the match: Pearson.
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