Middlesbrough 1 Newcastle United 2: Boateng's unlucky own goal sinks Boro

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The Independent Online

If, as the cheeky banner suggested, Geordies spend their nights at home watching The Bill, then they will have had few problems in recognising a quite criminal display from the hosts.

The implication that their North-east rivals have to settle for more mundane ways to pass the evenings, while casting envious glances towards Middlesbrough engaging in their increasingly dramatic assault on Europe, fell flat as Newcastle cantered, largely untroubled, towards securing local bragging rights.

In terms of the League, this has been a season to forget for the self-styled hotbed of English football, so Newcastle's likely accolade of the region's top Premiership finish - they lead Middlesbrough by five points having played a game more - carries similar kudos to winning a House of Commons sincerity contest.

Only in the final 11 minutes after George Boateng, the best player on the pitch who was unlucky to be awarded with an own goal as Newcastle took the lead just before the half-hour, pulled one back to make it 2-1, did Middlesbrough begin to scale anywhere near the heights that saw them through to the Uefa Cup semi-finals at the expense of Basle. There was to be no breathtaking injury-time exploits on this occasion.

Otherwise, the after-effects, both physical and mental, of their exploits on Thursday night, were laid bare by a Newcastle side who themselves rarely rose above the mundane.

"Newcastle caught us on a good day for them," admitted Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager. "It's always difficult after a big European night, and especially so following the euphoria of Thursday. It's disappointing to lose, but we have bigger priorities, and everyone knows that."

This was Middlesbrough's 53rd game of the season, with at least nine more to follow, starting with Wednesday's FA Cup sixth-round replay against Charlton Athletic. McClaren's selection options are likely to be further eroded after Franck Queudrue required eight stitches in a head wound and Andrew Davies was carried off after a collision with Lee Bowyer.

Boateng's deflected effort, off the knee of Titus Bramble after Mark Viduka chested down a Fabio Rochemback free-kick on the edge of the box, heralded the only period of sustained pressure the visitors came under in a contest they had sewn up with two goals before the interval.

A Rochemback free-kick that required Shay Given to produce a fine fingertip save aside, Newcastle negotiated the final minutes against their rivals from down the A19 with few alarms. "They couldn't do to us what they did to Basle," Glenn Roeder, the Newcastle caretaker manager, said.

Shola Ameobi atoned for two awful early misses - the second a particular embarrassment as the striker reached the upper tier of the stand with a free shot from 10 yards which left several team-mates clasping head in hands - by playing a pivotal role in Newcastle's goals, making the first and scoring the second.

Ameobi beat Chris Riggott in the air to redirect Nol Solano's corner back into the six-yard box, where Boateng, tussling with Bowyer, deflected the ball into his own net off the back of his arm from virtually under the crossbar.

Shortly after having strong penalty claims ignored when he was brought down by Riggott, who was captaining the hosts in the absence of Gareth Southgate, one of four changes from Thursday's victorious side, Ameobi settled the issue in first-half injury-time.

One of several impressive passes from Solano found the run of Stephen Carr into the box and although the full-back lost possession, the ball broke kindly for Ameobi, whose angled drive easily beat Mark Schwarzer for a seventh goal of the season.

Roeder added: "I was very strong with them that we had to come out of the blocks fast. We stood up and were counted, which is something we've been accused of not doing this season."

Goals: Boateng og (29) 0-1; Ameobi (44) 0-2; Boateng (79) 1-2.

Middlesbrough (4-5-1): Schwarzer; Davies (Maccarone, 62), Ehiogu, Riggott, Queudrue (Taylor, h-t); Morrison, Boateng, Doriva, Rochemback, Johnson (Viduka, h-t); Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Parnaby.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Moore, Bramble, Elliott; Solano (Dyer, 66), Emre (Faye , 81), Bowyer, N'Zogbia; Shearer, Ameobi. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Clark, Ramage.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Middlesbrough Rochemback, Maccarone; Newcastle Emre, Ameobi, Moore, N'Zogbia.

Man of the match: Boateng.

Attendance: 31,202.

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