Carroll denies Boro in 'cracker'

Middlesbrough 2 Newcastle United 2
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The Independent Online

Time is running out for Middlesbrough to join the Championship promotion pack headed by their North-east rivals, but they should draw encouragement from yesterday's pulsating local derby.

Having lost three of their previous four games, Boro could ill afford to concede Andy Carroll's late equaliser here, but the manner in which they had taken charge of a match full of flowing football suggested that they may yet work their way back into a play-off place. "It was a cracking game," Gordon Strachan, Boro's manager, said.

Newcastle, in contrast, had won their previous four games, scoring 15 goals, but for long periods Chris Hughton's team were on the back foot, despite a confident start. Jonas Gutierrez's languid skills repeatedly threatened to open up Middlesbrough's right flank, and he set up the opener after 16 minutes with a defence-splitting pass to Peter Lovenkrands, who scored from 10 yards.

The goal might have been expected to knock the stuffing out of the hosts, but it proved the stimulus they needed. Barry Robson, Julio Arca and Gary O'Neil pushed forward in support of the lively Scott McDonald as Fitz Hall and Fabricio Coloccini looked increasingly uncomfortable at the heart of the Newcastle defence.

Steve Harper denied Robson with a flying save from the midfielder's free-kick but was powerless to prevent his splendid equaliser. Following a clever interchange with McDonald, Robson struck a beautiful curling left-foot shot from just outside the penalty area into the far corner of the net.

Middlesbrough's domination continued into the second half. Arca wasted a glorious chance to score before McDonald put the home side in front, hooking the ball home from close range after Chris Killen had headed Robson's curling free-kick across the penalty area.

Newcastle were looking spent, but they conjured an equaliser when Carroll, taking advantage of some slack marking, had time to pick his spot from eight yards after Ryan Taylor's driven centre.

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