Football: Robson paying the price for errant Gascoigne

Charlton Athletic 1 Middlesbrough 1
THE MOST significant contribution Paul Gascoigne made on Saturday was when he gave away a penalty, and although occasional touches showed why he might still make some future England team, it was the moments such as the unnecessary kick at Keith Jones eight minutes before half-time that stood out in his performance.

Gascoigne's manager, Bryan Robson, had excuses ready, as if he really still needs to explain why a man with such big problems might still be struggling so soon after emerging from so short a period of rehabilitation.

He said his errant midfielder had taken a knock on the calf early in the first half and it had troubled him until his substitution at half- time. He also refused to blame his player for kicking Jones, saying those kind of incidents "happen all the time."

But then someone asked the Boro manager: "Did you miss Gascoigne in the second half?" His response spoke volumes. "That's a hypothetical question," Robson answered. "How do you know whether you're going to miss him or not?" he said. Instead of the usual "you always miss a player of his calibre" or "Paul Gascoigne can do things with the ball that other players only dream about" Robson relegated his Wayward Genius to Just Another Player in one sentence.

Robson knows Gascoigne can still split a defence with an inch-perfect pass - as he did once on Saturday, only for Briane Deane to waste by failing to meet the ball - but perhaps he is also realising Gascoigne is never going to be as good as he used to be. He is always likely to act as he did when he fended off a Jones challenge with an arm in the face. Or when he fouled his marker to earn a yellow card and give away a penalty, which Clive Mendonca converted.

Increasingly - unless Gascoigne controls his frustration and find new ways to do old tricks - his outbursts will affect his team. He will already miss next week's match for picking up five yellow cards, and should his tally grow by one more he will be suspended again.

In the circumstances, Robson was not unduly unhappy with the result, pleased at least his side's equaliser was good - a Curtis Fleming cross met by a Phil Stamp header. "I suppose I was happy with the point as we didn't create many chances," Robson said.

His counterpart, Alan Curbishley, said much the same thing. "We're not getting beat," was about the most positive thing he could muster.

In truth, it was an extremely dull game, sporadic forages by Danny Mills and John Robertson aside, best forgotten by a Charlton team who can play much more attractive football. Not unlike, we all hope - for his sake as much as anyone's - a certain Mr Gascoigne.

Goals: Mendonca, pen (39) 1-0; Stamp (75) 1-1.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Ilic; Mills (Redfearn, 61), Rufus, Youds, Powell; K Jones, Robinson, Kinsella, Tiler; Hunt, Mendonca (S Jones, 72). Substitutes not used: Brown, Holmes, Royce.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Fleming, Vickers, Cooper, Gordon; Festa, Gascoigne (Stamp, h-t), Townsend, Mustoe; Deane (Beck, 79), Ricard. Substitutes not used: Beresford, Summerbell, Blackmore.

Referee: M Riley.

Bookings: Charlton: Robinson, S Jones. Middlesbrough: Gascoigne.

Man of the match: K Jones.

Attendance: 20,043.