Graham saves stuttering Boro

Middlesbrough 2 - Charlton Athletic 2
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The Independent Football

A year ago it was Middlesbrough celebrating victory in the Carling Cup final, and with it a place in European competition for the first time in the club's history.

Qualification for the Uefa Cup again, this time via their League position, remains within their sights after yesterday's draw with Charlton Athletic, but their uninspiring Premiership form in 2005 - only one win in eight games - will have to improve if they are to sustain their position in the top six.

An insipid first-half display may well have had something to do with Thursday night's game against Graz AK in the Uefa Cup. Charlton were well worth their lead through Matt Holland's deflected drive, but Boro were vastly improved after the break, even though Chris Riggott was offside when converting the first of their equalisers 16 minutes from time.

In just about their only notable attack of the second half, Charlton went ahead again through Shaun Bartlett, but a first Premiership goal for teenager Danny Graham, who had been on the pitch for less than five minutes, meant Boro retained their three-point advantage over the London club.

"A point here is a good result and with a game in hand and three successive home games coming up after Saturday [when they travel to Fulham] we're in a good position said Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager.

Their opening goal stemmed from Talal El Karkouri's long pass to Bartlett. He fed Holland and the Irish midfielder's shot deflected off Franck Queudrue to leave Carlo Nash wrong-footed.

Boro would have been level within a minute but for Dean Kiely in the Charlton goal repelling Szilard Nemeth's close-range shot. Kiely was called on repeatedly in the second half but even he was powerless to prevent Boro's equaliser when he could only push Queudrue's shot to the feet of Riggott.

Hreidarsson was the instigator of Charlton's second, crossing from the left for Bartlett to fire home. But Boro drew level for a second time when Queudrue's long ball allowed Graham to out-pace Chris Perry and head beyond the advancing Kiely.

"It always takes a while to get going after you've played in Europe," said Steve McClaren, the Boro manager. "But the players responded with a magnificent performance in the second half. But for Kiely we'd have won the game easily."

Goals: Holland (14) 0-1; Riggott (74) 1-1; Bartlett (80) 1-2; Graham (86) 2-2.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Nash; Reiziger (Graham, 82), Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Parlour (Job, 86), Doriva, Zenden, Downing; Hasselbaink, Nemeth (Parnaby, 87). Substitutes not used: Knight (gk), Cooper.

Charlton Athletic (4-1-4-1): Kiely; Young, El Karkouri, Perry, Hreidarsson; Kishishev; Thomas (Johansson, 72), Holland, Murphy (Euell, 78), Konchesky; Bartlett. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Fish, Jeffers.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Charlton Athletic Konchesky, Hreidarsson, Perry.

Man of the match: Kiely.

Attendance: 29,603.

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