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Middlesbrough's Pre-Season: Game Two

Tuesday 19th July 2011
Middlesbrough's penultimate friendly abroad ended 3-2 to the Teessiders against Croatian cup finalists, NK Varazdin.

Maloury Martin, Boro's newest summer addition, made his debut coming off the bench to put in a strong 30 minute shift in midfield.

The Frenchman replaced the versatile Rhys Williams, who had a wonderful game at both ends of the pitch.

Boro's starting XI was considerably stronger than the previous match against BB Istanbul. Cameron Park (slight strain) wasn't risked, but youngsters Ripley, Smallwood, Main, Luke Williams and Reach, all got a run out mid-way through the second half. 

Leroy Lita and Scott McDonald (the two top scorers from the 2010/11 season) started for Boro, with Estonian international Tarmo Kink, and academy product Jonathan Franks on the wings, but it was Rhys Williams who inspired the first attack of the game on 10 minutes, sending a long ball forward to McDonald, who made the keeper work.

The game was similar to the previous warm-up game, very open and littered with scoring opportunities.

Kink then sent in a cracker towards goal with his left foot, but it was straight down the throat of Krklec.

Just two minutes later Boro had the opener and it was Williams again providing the inspiration. After a thundering run, he managed to steer the ball into the direction of Scott McDonald, whilst being tackled.

However, it was Karlo Simek who reacted first, but only for the 23-year-old Croatian to bundle the ball into his own net from six yards.

Boro had the ball in the back of the net again through Leroy Lita, but it was ruled offside and you would think that the momentum was strongly in the Red's favour.

But NK Varazdin fought back with a number of close-range set pieces, which were handled well by the Boro defence. Varazdin then broke when the offside trap failed, but Croatian international Nikola Safaric failed to convert the chance, and Danny Coyne saved low at his feet.

Lita's disallowed goal was not in vain as he converted a cross by Justin Hoyte on 28 minutes. After being sent running by Franks down the right, Hoyte hurdled one challenge and put in a delicious ball from the by-line for Lita to prod home from close range.

Just after the restart Varazdin replied.

Danny Coyne was wrongly judged to have fouled the home town favourite Davor Vugrinec  inside the area and a penalty was awarded on 30 minutes.

Coyne dived left, the ball went right. 2-1.

Before the half there were a spattering of chances for both sides, but both keepers were equal to whatever came their way.

Shortly after the restart, Varazdin pulled level. Numerous substitutions were made, and two of them were involved in the goal. On 52 minutes  Mario Sacerm who has played at every youth level for Croatia, struck a thunderbolt of shot which beat Coyne all ends up. But the shot crashed off the post and what seemed to be to a safe area of the pitch.

Another substitute Marko Trojak, latched onto the loose ball and converted the chance from what was an extremely difficult angle.

But Middlesbrough's club captain Matthew Bates rescued the victory in the 80th minute. A looping one-two with target-man Lee Miller resulted in a one-on-one chance, which Bates dispatched comfortably by chipping the ball over his head which bounced into the goal. A finish any striker would have been proud of.

The win could have been made safe five minutes later after some delightful passing between Tony McMahon, Lee Miller and Luke Williams resulted in McMahon striking the ball across the face of goal, and out of harms way.

There was one last chance for the home side. Varazdin broke after a Middlesbrough attack, but youth goalkeeper Connor Ripley was sound and composed with his handling.

Final score: a boosting 3-2 which means Boro are unbeaten in their first two games of their training camp.

Boro's next and final abroad game will be against Turkish Super Lig side Antalyaspor at the  Dravograd Stadium in northern Slovenia.


Matty's MoM: Rhys Williams for running the midfield. Mowbray has said he wants to play Williams in the centre of defence, but Williams showed how he can help at both ends of the pitch with a marvelous performance.
Matthew Norman
20-year-old Multimedia Journalism student at Teesside University. Die-hard Middlesbrough supporter and all-round sports fanatic.

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