Juninho opens his account

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The Independent Online

JUNINHO RESCUED Middlesbrough's reputation as Worthington Cup specialists, and clinched a fourth-round meeting with Arsenal.

JUNINHO RESCUED Middlesbrough's reputation as Worthington Cup specialists, and clinched a fourth-round meeting with Arsenal.

English football's original boy from Brazil struck after 64 minutes to banish the torture and tedium inflicted on the Riverside's lowest-ever attendance of 8,843.

Unlike some Premiership managers, Messrs Robson and Taylor did not use the tie to rest their better players. Surprising, then, that in the main there was little evidence of the sort of football which could reasonably have been expected.

Perhaps the shape of things would have been markedly different if Alun Armstrong had snatched a first-minute chance to put Middlesbrough in front. Instead of punishing Paul Robinson for a lax piece of defending, Armstrong allowed the opportunity to go begging.

Whatever qualities Watford have brought to a higher level of football at least they are nothing if not stern defenders. Thus demands on goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain were minimal.

Watford gave Charlie Miller, newly recruited from Glasgow Rangers for £500,000, his first start, and he lost no time in announcing his arrival to Paul Ince - an introduction that brought the Scot a booking.

The game cried out for a spark of ingenuity but it was a long time coming. If only the gaps in either defence had been as wide as those presented by row upon row of unoccupied seats then the wait might not have been so painful.

Finally, the goal did arrive after 64 minutes, courtesy of Juninho, who cut in from the left to drive low under Chamberlain. It was his first goal since returning from Spain.

Kennedy, though, had a golden opportunity to equalise when Watford were controversially awarded a spot-kick following a challenge by Gary Pallister on Michel Ngonge. Mark Schwarzer guessed correctly and dived to his right.

Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Schwarzer;, Vickers, Pallister, Cooper; Fleming, Ince, Juninho, Maddison, O'Neill (Ziege, 75); Deane, Armstrong (Ricard, 66). Substitutes not used: Mustoe, Beresford (gk), Campbell.

Watford (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Gibbs, Page, Palmer, Robinson; Hyde, Miller (Smith, 87), Johnson, Kennedy; Ngonge, Wooter. Substitutes not used: Wright, Day (gk), Easton, Ward.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffs).

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