Brave Robins hold Boro
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Bristol City earned an FA Cup replay with Middlesbrough after a dramatic 2-2 draw.
Bristol City came from two goals down to earn an FA Cup replay with Premiership side Middlesbrough after a dramatic 2-2 home draw.
Things did not look good for The Robins in Saturday's fourth-round tie, as Boro claimed a 2-0 half-time lead following goals from Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Malcolm Christie.
However, City were a changed side in the second half, and goals from Richard Keogh and Scott Murray meant a replay at The Riverside.
City came into Saturday's cup tie on the back of a 17-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and with the best home record outside the Premiership.
Despite the form, Robins boss Gary Johnson had problems up front, as strikers Brian Wilson and Wayne Andrews were cup-tied, while Phil Jevons was out with an ankle injury and Steve Brooker had a knee problem.
Defender Jamie McCombe was suspended for the League One high-flyers, so Keogh, Liam Fontaine and David Noble were included in Johnson's starting XI.
Boro boss Gareth Southgate was without the suspended George Boateng and the injured Robert Huth (foot) and Mark Viduka (hamstring).
Viduka's absence meant Christie partnered Yakubu in attack for the in-form Teessiders.
In front of a sell-out crowd at Ashton Gate, there was plenty of anticipation among the home supporters, but Boro showed their Premiership pedigree by punishing City's defensive errors.
It took Southgate's side just four minutes to take advantage, as Robins captain Louis Carey attempted to play an ambitious cross-field ball for Bradley Orr, but only for the fleet-footed Stewart Downing to intercept the pass.
The England winger then side-stepped the retreating Orr before firing in a shot that City's Brazilian goalkeeper Adriano Basso spilled in front of Yakubu.
With the goal at his mercy, the Nigerian hit-man knocked the ball into the roof of the net and hand Boro an early lead.
The goal took the wind out of City's sails and Boro looked dangerous going forward, with Christie nearly finding Yakubu with a dangerous low cross moments later.
Christie should have doubled the Premiership club's lead after beating City's off-side trap to latch on to a Downing through ball, but his goal-bound strike was well saved by Basso for a corner.
From Downing's ensuing corner on the right, Abel Xavier's header found the arms of Basso.
The home side then had a decent spell of possession, but failed to make it count at the critical stage.
Noble saw a couple of efforts sail high and wide of Mark Schwarzer's goal before the Australian goalkeeper made a good save from Cole Skuse after a neat give-and-go with midfield partner Lee Johnson.
It looked like The Robins were working their way back into contest, but another defensive error suddenly allowed Boro to double their lead on 23 minutes.
A slip from Liam Fontaine allowed James Morrison to knock the loose ball to Yakubu who, in turn, played Morrison down the right flank.
He then picked out Christie with a low cross in front of goal and the former Derby County hit-man neatly clipped the ball over the diving Basso and into the net for 2-0.
Despite being two goals down, the League One side kept with their neat passing game, with Johnson unable to find the target from an indirect free-kick.
Boro remained a threat in attack, with Downing striking a deflected shot right at Basso before a cross from the winger struck the chest of Carey and allowed Andrew Taylor to shoot from close range, but he rolled his effort wide.
City's struggles to create decent chances before the break were summed up by two Enoch Showunmi headers that sailed over Schwarzer's crossbar, with the striker booked by referee Graham Poll for protesting an offside decision just before the break.
For all the woe that City endured in the first half, the home side turned the game around with two goals in six second-half minutes.
From a Johnson free-kick into the Boro box, Keogh found himself unmarked in front of goal to flick the ball past Schwarzer and bring Ashton Gate to life on 53 minutes.
The goal rattled the visitors, and after Jonathan Woodgate slipped in possession in his own half, Noble failed to punish the error after shooting wide of goal.
But the home side pulled level and in spectacular fashion just before the hour mark, as another Johnson free-kick into the Boro box was punched clear by Schwarzer.
The ball fell to Murray, and with Schwarzer off his line, the Scot brilliantly half-volleyed the ball into the net to send Ashton Gate into raptures.
It was a remarkable turnaround by the League One side and they pressed for a third goal, with Skuse seeing a header from a City corner cleared off the line before Noble struck a shot right at Schwarzer.
Jamie McAllister then went close with a rasping volley after Schwarzer just tipped away a dangerous Orr cross from the right.
It was a pulsating cup tie at this stage, and to their credit, Boro contributed with chances of their own from Downing, Morrison and Xavier, while substitute Jason Euell caused City's back-line problems late on.
Yet, the West Country side looked the more likely to claim the winner, but Murray was unable to get his strike from the left on target in the late stages.
In the end, both sides had to settle for a draw and a fourth-round replay in the North East.
|Team Name||Bristol City||Middlesbrough|
|Shots On Target||6||8|
|Shots Off Target||13||3|