O'Neil stokes up Middlesbrough for derby response

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The Independent Football

Gary O'Neil is promising a derby-day response from Middlesbrough to their humiliation by Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, when a stunned home crowd saw the Teessiders slump to a 3-1 defeat at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro have won only three of their last 11 Premier League games, two of which were away to Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa, and have lost at home to West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea and Bolton in the same period. However, Joe Kinnear's Newcastle United are due at the Riverside this coming Saturday, and O'Neil is convinced that things will change.

"Next week, I think it will be different," he said. "I think the fans will see a more end-to-end game. Newcastle will play a lot higher [up the pitch] than Bolton. They dropped right off us. Hopefully we can play our game and get our noses in front this time. We played quite well after the start we had on Saturday. But they put 10 men behind the ball and threw everything in the way, as I found out twice."

O'Neil had two shots cleared off the line as Boro desperately fought for a way back into the game, although even Emanuel Pogatetz's goal at 2-0 counted for little as Johan Elmander restored the visitors' advantage within seconds.

The midfielder said: "Ten minutes at the start killed us. We were slow out of the blocks and got heavily punished. Bolton probably had four attacks and scored three goals.

"It's a strange one. We were left scratching our heads a little as to what went wrong. I don't know why it was such a slow start. We need to look at ourselves and we will do that this week," added O'Neil.

Boro are among several Premier League clubs linked with the young Belgian duo Steven Defour, 20, and Axel Witsel, 19. Boro are understood to have watched the midfielders in action for their club, Standard Liege, and their country in recent weeks.