Gallant Boro suffered a narrow Premier League Cup final defeat at the hands of a strong Manchester City side on Thursday evening.
An even contest was settled by a goal in City’s favour moments after half-time as Boro more than matched the illustrious Etihad youngsters in a game which could have gone either way.
Boro had shown class to beat league leaders Everton in the quarter-finals, and terrific resilience to edge past Derby in the semi-finals by a solitary goal coming in the final minute of extra time, but City were expected to provide an even sterner test.
The visitors did create the first chance of the game – Ben Knight heading wide after good play by Felix Nmecha – but it was Boro who went closest to breaking the deadlock when Stephen Wearne worked himself an opening, cutting in from the left, before curling a shot over the bar.
Moments later, Boro carved City open again. Alberto Balde played in Hayden Hackney, but an offside flag was raised as the Boro youngster clipped the bar after chipping the goalkeeper.
It was telling that Boro goalkeeper Sol Brynn, who was outstanding against Derby in the semi-finals, didn’t have a serious save to make until shortly before half-time when after denying Nabil Touaizi, he had to react well smother the ball in the box after some great passing play by City.
The game was finely balanced at half-time, but within minutes Nmecha bagged when he cut in from the left before drilling a shot across goal from the tightest of angles.
While that gave City the advantage, there was still nothing to choose between the two sides as Boro sought for an equaliser. Hackney, scorer of our winner in the Checkatrade Trophy at Burton earlier this season, lifted a shot over the bar and Ste Walker, who is currently playing senior football for MK Dons during a loan spell in League Two, warmed the hands of visiting goalkeeper Louie Moulden.
Brynn was called upon to make a good saves from Bernabe and substitute Henri Ogunby, while Knight hit the underside of the bar from close range before blazing over from close range.
Boro battled for a late comeback but our cup run ultimately ended in defeat by the most slender of margins.
Boro: Brynn, Dodds, Hood, Wood, Robinson, Balde (Stephenson 55), Spence (McGill 73), Hackney, Sykes (Fletcher 85), Wearne, Walker. Subs: Gibson, Flatters.
Man City: Moulden, McDonald, Harwood-Bells, Amankwah, Diounkou, Doyle, Knight, Dele-Bashiru, Touaizi (Ogunby 81), Nmecha, Bernabe. Subs: Robinson, Bazunu, Wright-Phillips, Sobowale.
Referee: J Urwin