Middlesbrough 4 Bolton Wanderers 3: Parnaby's late strike earns win for Boro in thriller

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The Independent Football

Middlesbrough versus Bolton Wanderers was never was going to be a spectacle, was it? Not unless seven goals, two penalties, running feuds and countless near misses are your scene.

Middlesbrough are meant to sparkle only in the Cups or when the big teams come calling. But here they were, recovering from an awful start to lead 3-1, being pegged back to 3-3 and, in a game featuring two goals in the opening eight minutes, finally secure a first victory in five matches through Stuart Parnaby's stoppage-time winner.

It was vibrant, heated, exhilarating stuff that had their manager Steve McClaren struggling to make any sense of it. "It was a manager's nightmare but the fans and TV will love it," he said. "We tear our hair out for conceding too many goals but the squad showed fantastic resolve and when you have [Jimmy-Floyd] Hasselbaink, [Mark] Viduka and Yakubu, you are going to score goals."

Bolton's unlikely challenge for Champions' League football is being threatened by a "poor travellers" label. They have lost four consecutive away games and exited the FA and Uefa Cups while their opponents advanced in both.

Like Middlesbrough, the favourable imprint they left on this breathless contest was all of an attacking nature. Some of their defending was shocking and Allardyce moaned, "We gifted them all four goals. In possession... fantastic. We created some great opportunities and 3-3 would have felt like a win. It's difficult to take."

Middlesbrough have played more games this season than any Premiership club apart from Liverpool and match No 49 started badly for them.

Ugo Ehiogu, Andrew Davies and Franck Queudrue all failed to deal with a long goal-kick, leaving the prolific Stelios Giannakopoulos to drive past Mark Schwarzer.

Bolton's defence was equally accommodating five minutes later. Joey O'Brien stupidly handled as he jumped for Fabio Rochemback's free-kick and Hasselbaink's penalty squeezed apologetically across the line.

The invigorating tone was set. Gary Speed and Jay-Jay Okocha brought excellent saves out of Schwarzer from distance before Viduka missed one clear chance and manufactured another which he hit against Jussi Jaaskelainen. The Australian duly made it four goals in four Premiership appearances, though, just past the half-hour. This was not one of his spectacular 2005-06 variety; well-worked none the less as he slotted home after Hasselbaink chested back Rochemback's cross.

When Viduka challenged for Queudrue's long free-kick which allowed Hasselbaink - 34 today - to launch the second half by running clear to brilliantly lob in off the post, Middlesbrough's fifth successive home win looked assured.

Then came further self-destruction. Bolton, having survived near misses from Viduka and James Morrison, exposed the short comings of a defence sorely missing the rested Gareth Southgate.

Ehiogu, playing at times as though his head bandage was covering his eyes, looked especially uncomfortable and laid a careless hand on Jared Borgetti - an action that brought a theatrical dive from the substitute and a penalty award from Howard Webb.

So long had Okocha gone without scoring that he saw his kick saved by Schwarzer before he tucked the rebound away for his first goal of the season.

Middlesbrough's mood was not improved when Radhi Jaidi headed the equaliser following a disputed 81st-minute corner, nor when Kevin Davies escaped punishment following a stray elbow that left Emanuel Pogatetz with a cut eye and a booking for some retaliatory shoving.

Pogatetz was not shy therefore about milking the moment when Parnaby slid home Yakubu's perfect cross in the second of three minute's added time.

Goals: Giannakopoulos (3) 0-1; Hasselbaink pen (8) 1-1; Viduka (30) 2-1; Hasselbaink (47) 3-1; Okocha (58) 3-2; Jaidi (81) 3-3; Parnaby (90) 4-3 .

Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Schwarzer; Davies Ehiogu, Queudrue; Parnaby, Morrison (Cattermole, 62) Boateng, Rocheback (Downing, 83) Pogatetz; Hasselbaink (Yakubu, 72), Viduka. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Mendieta.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Ben Haim, Jaidi, Gardner; Nolan (Nakata, 72), Okocha, Speed (Faye, 85), Pedersen (Borgetti, 53); Giannakopoulos, Davies. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Diouf.

Referee: H Webb (Yorkshire).

Booked: Middlesbrough Hasselbaink, Pogatetz; Bolton Wanderers Giannakopoulos, Jaaskelainen.

Man of the match: Hasselbaink.

Attendance: 25971.