Kevin Keegan lives just up the road from the Riverside, but the Manchester City manager took the neighbourly approach a little too far as his side proved ideal doormats for two Middlesbrough players in desperate need of a goal.
Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink have grown somewhat uncomfortable at the increasing regularity of manager Steve McClaren's endorsements of their goalscoring credentials in the face of lengthy droughts, in the Australian's case a three-month barren run which has proved by far the most barren of his time in this country.
However, all that was put right as Viduka claimed goals in each half, the prelude to Hasselbaink curling home a stunning 30-yard free-kick after 65 minutes to end a nine-game non- appearance on the scoresheet.
"It's been a long run without a goal," said Viduka of his 12-match purgatory. "It's difficult when things are not going for you, it can hit your confidence. But Jimmy and I are working well together, the manager has stuck with us and he's been very supportive and it was good to do the business."
Hasselbaink's impotence in front of goal has been a mere two months, and he revealed: "I'm happy that we both scored, it was very important for us to keep going through the drought, and even more importantly we gained another three points."
There was a telling domestic sub-plot to this tale of Antipodean-Dutch redemption, in the shape of Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing, whose latest display of artistry down the left finally persuaded the normally reticent McClaren to concede to the growing clamour for the midfielder's inclusion in the full England squad.
McClaren said: "If he keeps playing like that, Sven Goran Eriksson's got to pick him, because he was tremendous. He was a great outlet for us."
That glowing endorsement was backed Keegan, who resides in the millionaires' estate of Wynyard, six miles from the Riverside: "I don't think either side performed, but Viduka was the difference along with the young lad Downing, who everyone is tipping for England.
"From what I've seen here, the sooner they get him in there, the better. He looks to be the answer to me and he's learning very quickly."
Viduka pounced nine minutes into either half, deftly chipping the opener over David James after being teed up by a powerful Downing burst, before propelling his seventh goal of the season into the top corner via the outside of his right boot following a clinical exchange of passes with his forward partner. Robbie Fowler restored parity six minutes before the break, taking advantage of sloppy marking to fire a crisp shot into the roof of the net as Middlesbrough failed to deal with a route one punt by Sylvain Distin.
Bradley Wright-Phillips upstaged brother Shaun by scoring his first Premiership goal within five minutes of his introduction, wrong-footing goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with a neat close-range finish which had Keegan drawing inevitable comparisons with the teenager's step-father, Ian Wright. It set up a needlessly nervy end to a first win in three games for the hosts, who closed to within two points of fourth placed Manchester United. McClaren added: "It was a bit nervous at the end, and I didn't need that. We shouldn't have been hanging on and we nearly paid for it."
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; McMahon, Southgate, Cooper, Reiziger; Parlour, Zenden, Nemeth (Doriva, 46), Downing; Hasselbaink (Bates, 90), Viduka. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Job, Davies.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Distin, Dunne, Jordan; S Wright-Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Sibierski (Flood, 76); Fowler, Macken (B Wright-Phillips, 76). Substitutes not used: Waterrus (gk), Sommeil, Onuoha.
Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).Reuse content