Svensson compounds Middlesbrough woes

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The Independent Online

Bryan Robson has had one of those weeks he will want to forget in a hurry. Last Monday, the Middlesbrough manager saw his side thrashed by their North-east neighbours Newcastle in front of a disgruntled home crowd, and five minutes into this game Ugo Ehiogu, his record £8m signing, limped off.

Bryan Robson has had one of those weeks he will want to forget in a hurry. Last Monday, the Middlesbrough manager saw his side thrashed by their North-east neighbours Newcastle in front of a disgruntled home crowd, and five minutes into this game Ugo Ehiogu, his record £8m signing, limped off.

Then, to add insult to injury, Mathias Svensson ended Boro's six-month unbeaten away record with a soft touch of a goal after 68 minutes to push Charlton into seventh place. The Swede, who had only been on the pitch for two minutes, crept in at the far post to head in Claus Jensen's free-kick with what was Charlton's only shot on target all game long and kept their unbeaten home record intact. And the thought that Ehiogu would probably have been the man to pick up Svensson, who was making his first Premiership appearance for Charlton, having recovered from a broken arm, would only have made Robson's journey back to Teesside feel even longer.

As debuts go, it was a depressing one for Ehiogu. The central defender joined Boro after a protracted transfer from Aston Villa was wrapped up on Thursday, and was brought in to be the linchpin of an ageing Boro defence that has not kept a clean sheet in any of its 12 league or Worthington Cup games this season. He will have to wait a little while longer to fulfil that role, however, as he exited with a calf strain that Robson said afterwards could rule him out for up to a month.

With play going on in a different part of the pitch, Ehiogu ended up on the ground in a crumpled heap before hobbling off to the sounds of Charlton fans shouting "What a waste of money." Robson added: "It's unfortunate for us and for him. He'd been looking forward to some first-team football." But despite his having to reshuffle his line-up so unexpectedly, it was Robson's side who had the best chances in a scrappy game where both sides swapped possession with embarrassing frequency. With 19 minutes gone, Boro had two opportunities to take the lead but were denied by the acrobatics of Dean Kiely. The Republic of Ireland international first kept out Paul Ince's volley with a diving save and then pushed out Hamilton Ricard's header from the rebound.

In those circumstances Robson must have been crying out for the presence of Alen Boksic, but his Croatian striker is another one on the injured list. By the same token, Charlton's Andy Hunt, their joint-top scorer, was out again with a mystery virus, and the absence of such important players largely explained why both sides struggled for most of the game.

But Robson, while annoyed with the way Svensson crept in for the goal, also felt the decisions of the referee Mike Riley went against his side. Curbishley, for his part, felt the result had gone against Boro, saying: "Middlesbrough were very unlucky not to get anything from this. But this was a massive win for us. Two years ago, [when we were last in the Premiership], we would have lost 1-0."

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