Mansfield Town 0 Middlesbrough 2: Lee finds scoring touch at last as errors spoil Mansfield's day

Dearden's side let down by defensive slips after matching lofty Middlesbrough

Mansfield Town's leading goalscorer and most valuable player Michael Boulding, a former professional tennis player, had compared his team's task to facing Roger Federer. Even the Swiss master loses occasionally, as Novak Djokovic proved in Melbourne, but as in tennis an opponent 78 places higher in the rankings tends to come through on the day.

Yesterday, Mansfield suffered the equivalent of a service break after a bright opening and might have pulled it back, but in the end were unable to prevent the seeds progressing.

For a side bottom-but-one of the Football League and therefore in danger of dropping out of it for the first time in their existence, however, the Town showed up remarkably well. Boulding, with 15 goals this season in a struggling team, ran like a true Stag and Stephen Dawson was an energetic midfielder. Unfortunately there were two crucial lapses in defence that gifted goals to a Middlesbrough side who have scored fewer of them than any Premier League team except Derby. Those mistakes tempered the satisfaction of Billy Dearden – at 63, second oldest manager around to Sir Alex Ferguson – who said: "All in all I'm quite pleased with some aspects of our game but I'm very disappointed with the goals we conceded."

Gareth Southgate was just grateful to have seen two go in, especially as the first came from his Korean striker Lee Dong-gook, who has yet to hit the mark in more than 20 League games.

Tuncay Sanli, having livened up the forward line recently, was rested but Mido returned as a second-half substitute for a first appearance since October and the prolific Brazilian Afonso Alves may yet be signed from Heerenveen. Jonathan Woodgate seems likely to depart to Tottenham Hotspur but the evidence is that Middlesbrough would do well served by selling a defender to buy an attacker.

This was a proper FA Cup tie in pitting a Mansfield team that cost a princely £50,000 against opposition with half a dozen players whose acquisition forced that most supportive of chairmen, Steve Gibson, to write a cheque with seven figures on it. At the beginning and end of the first half and for much of the second, the chasm seemed bridgeable. Unfortunately, the home side lost concentration at a bad time, after 15 minutes in which Middlesbrough had looked unsettled by a series of vigorous challenges and flummoxed by the strong wind.

When the visitors finally won a corner, the 39-year-old goalkeeper Carl Muggleton could only prod it out; David Wheater mis-hit his shot but it skewed off a defender to Lee, who knocked in only his second goal in 27 games. Twice Town came close to equalising within a minute. A quick throw-in on the right caught Emanuel Pogatetz out of position and Boulding's strong drive was just touched on to the crossbar by Mark Schwarzer. Before the resulting corner was cleared, the goalkeeper made an equally good one-handed save from Boulding's header.

Middlesbrough suffered unexpectedly badly from having to take off Pogatetz with an ankle injury at half-time and for half an hour Julio Arca, dropping to left-back, was given a runaround. Matthew Hamshaw regularly went past him but he found no one to take advantage of his crosses.

The Premier League side created almost nothing at the other end until, with three minutes to play, a good move spread the play from left to right and George Boateng's cross was headed into his own goal by the unfortunate home captain Jake Buxton. Game, set and match.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue