Scott McDonald celebrates his goal against Peterborough - Photo by North News

Middlesbrough 1 Peterborough 1

Both sides were unchanged from their 1-0 Boxing Day wins, but Marvin Emnes was fit enough to take a place on the bench.

It was the visitors who fashioned the first attempt of the game after just 54 seconds, a long, floated ball over the head of Rhys Williams allowed Emile Sinclair to chip for goal, but his connection was weak and Jason Steele was comfortable with the save.

That proved to be a rare chance for United in the opening exchanges as Boro went for an early breakthrough to set the tone.

It didn't come, but that wasn't through lack of effort, although perhaps eagerness was the enemy of finesse as Joe Lewis in the Peterborough goal wasn't overworked.

His defenders were, though, as Scott McDonald, Bart Ogbeche, Faris Haroun and Barry Robson all saw plenty of the ball approaching the edge of the box, the latter clearing the bar by half a yard when trying a delicate chip.

Twice before this season Boro have dominated long periods of games against United, yet have found it difficult to break through efficiently organised massed ranks. And so it was this afternoon, with Posh at times forced to pull eight and nine men behind the ball.

Rhys Williams attempted to take things into his own hands with 18 minutes played, carrying the ball from inside his own half to within shooting range at the other end and forcing a save from Lewis with a low drive.

When a loose clearance fell at the feet of Justin Hoyte the fans yelled for him to shoot from 21 yards. A drilled low drive flew through the penalty area and needed a simple tap in from McDonald, but he seemed unsighted and was left ultimately frustrated as the ball whistled just behind him and out for a goal kick.

Suddenly United broke, a superb ball from Paul Taylor picking out Emile Sinclair, who looked poised for an effort on goal until an excellent tackle from Williams inside the penalty area - one which had to be timed to perfection, and was.

Back came Boro, chipping, drilling, battering at times, but the final ball inside the box always seemed to find a black shirt.

A mazy dribble was overdone by Robson as the game entered the final five minutes of the half. Making his way into the penalty area he skipped passed two challenges and headed for the line, but a low pull-back evaded all team-mates.

Half-time: Middlesbrough 0 Peterborough United 0

Tony Mowbray was forced into a substitution at half-time with Nicky Bailey, who took a knock towards the end of the first half, unable to continue and being replaced by Kevin Thomson.

It was one-way traffic from the start of the start of the second half and Boro finally made the breakthrough with 51 minutes played with a goal simple in delivery and deadly in execution as Scott McDonald met a Julio Arca corner at the near post and flicked a shot past Lewis from a narrow angle.

The goal forced a substitution from Darren Ferguson, who also changed the shape from a midfield diamond to 4-4-2.

For a while it caused Boro problems, although Haroun missed a difficult chance to increase their lead when meeting a corner with his head.

It wasn't a surprising move from Posh - these were tactics employed after going behind in the two previous meetings this season.

McDonald went for a spectacular second, but there was enough distance between ball and bar to make a 25-yard shot nothing more than worthwhile effort.

The Australian was seeing a lot of the ball - and not just in a defensive position. His determination nullified what was just the second corner Peterborough had won, with 65 minutes played, as he chased a short delivery and forced possession from the visitors.

Their second shot on target, three minutes later from George Boyd, forced a decent save from Jason Steele.

As the game swung back into the Peterborough half, McDonald cracked a left-footed shot from the edge of the area that bounced back off the bar.

Shortly after Scott Wooton had volleyed just wide from the D, Mowbray made his second change as Emnes returned to an enthusiastic reception as he replaced Ogbeche. who left to handshakes from team-mates and warm, deserved applause from the stands.

Substitution number three followed three minutes later when Arca, also leaving to generous applause, was replaced by Merouane Zemmama.

Again the woodwork came to the rescue for Posh and frustrated McDonald as he cut in from the right and curled a left-footed shot past Lewis but off the goalkeeper's right-hand post.

Following up, Emnes drilled a low shot just wide, then minutes later saw a similar effort from further out deflected for a corner.

With just under four minutes remaining Boyd shot low from the D and Steele produced an excellent full-length save to concede a corner. But he may not be happy with the way he was beaten when coming for the corner that was headed in by Tommy Rowe from the edge of the six-yard box.

The game became really stretched in the final minutes and it needed another decent save from Steele to block a shot from Taylor as the game entered injury-time.

Despite going in to second place there was an element of frustration at the final whistle, which brought to an end a game Boro had pretty much dominated, outshooting their opposition three to one and hitting the woodwork three times.

Scorers: McDonald 51; Rowe 86.

Middlesbrough: Steele; Hoyte, Bates (Capt), Williams, Bennett, Robson, Bailey (Thomson 46), Arca (Zemmama 78), Haroun, McDonald, Ogbeche (Emnes 75). Subs McMahon, Hines.

Peterborough United: Lewis; Bennett, Zakuani, Wooton, Alcock, Kennedy, Boyd (Capt), Sinclair, Rowe, Kearns (Newell 53), Taylor. Subs Jones (gk); Thompson, Grant, Lawler.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham, Tyne and Wear


Middlesbrough: Haroun
, 74, foul
Peterborough United: Kearns, 41, foul; Rowe 81, foul

Attendance: 18,899 (343 Peterborough)

Conditions: Cool, clear, still and dry.

Website Boro Man of the Match: Scott McDonald




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