The battle for a place in the PL2 play-offs is set to go down to the wire after our Under-23s went down to an injury time defeat at Crystal Palace.
The two sides meet again on Friday at Bishop Auckland in a game Graeme Lee’s side can’t afford to lose if they are to finish in the top-five in PL2. Palace are now only a point behind Boro, but as things stand, the Eagles must win again on Friday if they are to qualify.
Whatever happens, Boro will reflect on the Selhurst Park defeat as the one that got away. Connor Malley scored twice and Boro dominated the first half, but a goal in stoppage time secured the home side a 3-2 win to set up a final day showdown.
Joe Gibson fired an early warning shot when he was denied by Oliver Webber after good play by Isaac Fletcher and Abdi Sherif and Boro were deservedly ahead inside the opening 20 minutes.
Palace midfielder James Taylor was caught dwelling on the ball and Malley seized on to his poor back-pass before showing a cool head to apply the finishing touch.
Moments later it could have been 2-0. Rumarn Burrell stayed on his feet well to go clear on goal, but while his shot beat Webber it came flying back off the upright.
But the home side were level with their very first attack of the game shortly after the half-hour. The experienced Nathaniel Clyne was the provider with a strong run down the right and David Boateng converted the cross to make it 1-1.
But it should have been 2-1 before half-time. Burrell did well to hold off Premier League veteran James Tomkins, the ball fell nicely for Fletcher who rounded the goalkeeper, but his goal-bound shot was blocked on the line.
Yet it took a great save from Sol Brynn to ensure that the scores were level at the break. Sion Spence found the space to hit the crossbar and when Rob Street followed up, Brynn had to react quickly.
Brynn’s opposite number was called into action to keep his side in it at the start of the second half, Webber making a good save to deny William Kokolo, who delivered a good strike on goal.
But the home side were in front moments later though. Jake O’Brien found the space to power home a header from a Spence corner to make it 2-1.
In reply, Boro had a couple of efforts off-target and Hayden Hackney had a shot blocked. Burrell also shaved the bar, but the leveller finally came with six minutes left.
Fletcher was denied by Webber and Malley seized upon the rebound before showing great composure again to rifle the ball home to make it 2-2.
But with the game in stoppage time it was the home side who had the final word when O'Brien powered home his second header of the game to make it 3-2.
Photo courtesy of @ppauk.