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Plenty of striking options

By Chris Kirwan
September 19 2003

The Blues travel to Middlesbrough for Sunday's pay per view offering. Fortunately this will save on an unbearable journey through grim places, unfortunately it means having to put up with the commentary of Alan Parry....

Last season a last-ditch tackle from Gareth Southgate prevented Wayne Rooney from snatching all three points at the Riverside. But the point from the 1-1 draw was a marked improvement from the previous visit to Middlesbrough, Walter Smith’s last game in charge of the Blues, and Moyes will be demanding his players carry on the progression.

Middlesbrough have made an extremely poor start to the season, and will be hoping to fare better than their last televised game at the Riverside, their thrashing at the hands of Arsenal. Once again Middlesbrough have taken the route of signing unsettled expensive ‘stars’. Middlesbrough may have added Mills, Zenden, and Mendieta, but they still rely heavily on the defensive duo of Ehiogu and Southgate. Luckily for the Blues Ehiogu is injured.

After allowing Steve McLaren to import a string of highly-paid players Boro chairman Steve Gibson must be looking for an improvement in performance and attitude. Too often Middlesbrough look like a side who don’t like a challenge, and who are just content to collect their pay packet. They need the likes of Boateng and Southgate to drive the side on, but all too often a lack of leadership is apparent. Strangely McLaren has chosen to combat this by bringing in more players who are talented individuals who need to settle down. If they don’t live up to their potential they may be working for a different boss come the end of the season.

The Blues desperately need to get a run of results going if they are to build on last year’s success. The key to last year was that the team got into a good position prior to Christmas, and were able to defend that position. One of the key moments last season was the away victory in front of the Sky cameras at Upton Park. Lee Carsley’s goal in the 1-0 victory set the benchmark for a series of resilient away performances; hopefully somebody in Blue can provide an equally pivotal moment at the Riverside.

Team news: Nigel Martyn will deputise for Richard Wright, with Iain Turner providing cover on the bench. Moyes will have Tomasz Radzinski, Duncan Ferguson, Francis Jeffers, Wayne Rooney and James McFadden as his attacking options, while Lee Carsley looked sharp for the reserves. Moyes will be hoping that Duncan can make a similar impact on the game as he did against Newcastle, while Rooney is fully fit. Moyes said about Rooney on "He only missed the start of the week and he's trained the rest of the week so I see no problem with him".

Boro have Malcolm Christie and Chris Riggott back from injury, while Franck Queudrue returns from suspension. Ehiogu, Parnaby, Maccarone and Murphy are all sidelined.

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