Boyd rescues 'desperate' Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough 1 Sheffield United 0

For the second season in a row, the empty seats at the Riverside are proving more of a talking point than the football played in front of them. Last autumn, Gareth Southgate was dismissed after the Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, became concerned at the falling attendances that accompanied the club's relegation from the Premier League.

Twelve months on, and the figures are even worse. Yesterday's attendance of 14,633 was the lowest for a league game in the Riverside's 15-year history, beating the previous low, against Swansea last season, by almost 2,000.

The Teesside economy has been hit particularly hard by the recession and the television cameras were present yesterday, offering a cut-price alternative for stay-at-home fans. Nevertheless, the falling crowds are a concern.

Gordon Strachan, the Middlesbrough manager, said: "I've been looking at TV all weekend and there's big gaps everywhere. In an area like this, where unemployment is huge, you're not going to get people turning up to a game that's on TV.

"The recession's hitting hard now, especially in this area. It's only footballers who seem to have money. It's a business that just seems to have completely ignored the recession. "

Of course, supporters are more likely to turn up if they know they are going to be entertained, something that is far from guaranteed at the Riverside at the moment.

Strachan said: "It was two nervous sides desperate not to get beaten. The managers were desperate, the supporters were desperate, the players were desperate, and the game was desperate as well."

An insipid first half certainly fitted that description. Sheffield United striker Ched Evans shot at Jason Steele's legs, before Middlesbrough winger Tarmo Kink shot narrowly over the crossbar from 25 yards, but the bulk of the opening period was a messy combination of poor control and passing.

The second was not much better, but at least it contained a goal. Scott McDonald flicked on David Wheater's clearance and, when defender Chris Morgan slipped, it afforded Kris Boyd a clear run on goal. The Scotland international, who arrived on a free transfer from Rangers this summer, duly opened his account with a low strike.

"Chris wins you ten games a season," said Gary Speed, the Sheffield United manager. "It's just one of those things."

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Steele; Bates, Wheater, McManus, Kilgallon; Kink (Arca, 46), Robson, Bailey, Halliday (Taylor, 78); Boyd (Lita, 70), McDonald. Substitutes not used: Coyne (gk), Hoyte, L Williams, Miller.

Sheffield United (4-2-3-1): Simonsen; Nosworthy (Quinn ,76), Morgan, Bartley, Taylor; Montgomery, Ertl; Ward, Britton, Cresswell; Evans (Bogdanovic, 66). Substitutes not used: Aksalu (gk), James, Chappell, Kozluk, Yeates.

Referee: D Whitestone (Northampton).

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Boxer Amir Khan will travel to Pakistan in bid to 'make a difference' in the wake of army school massacre
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
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.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture