MIDDLESBROUGH are taking their empathy for the region’s ailing heavy industry too far, because at present they are a dying football club.
Steve Gibson is helping orchestrate the campaign to prevent Teesside’s Corus steelworks becoming the latest major employer to close. However, the Middlesbrough chairman might like to concentrate his efforts a little nearer to home to prevent the club he saved from extinction 20 years ago from emulating Leeds United and their opponents here, Manchester City, in making the journey from top to third tier with indecent haste.
Having dispensed with the services of Gareth Southgate when Boro were a point off top spot on the premise that crowds were falling to unacceptable levels, Gibson must shoulder much of the blame for less than 10,000 home fans turning out for this match.
Middlesbrough have won just twice since the Scot took charge, and it’s hard to believe it was the same City who were put to the sword 8-1 here a little over 18 months ago. Strachan conceded: “I don’t imagine four years ago our fans would’ve thought we'd end a game like this with two teenagers up front and a loan player who’d come back to do us a favour.”
The match was decided by Benjani’s first goal for more than a year and City keeper Shay Given later indicated he had already seen enough from new manager Roberto Mancini to suggest the rancour over Mark Hughes’s acrimonious departure will be short-lived.
“I’ve been impressed,” the Irishman insisted. “His English is not perfect but he’s learning quickly and I like the way he knows what he wants from his teams. He’s just changed little things here and there and it’s worked.”
Middlesbrough (4-5-1): Coyne; McMahon, Wheater, Riggott, Hoyte; Franks, O’Neil, Williams, Arca (L Williams, 71), Johnson (Emnes, 32; Yeates, 57); Bent. Substitutes not used: Steele (gk), Grounds, Bennett, Shawky.
Manchester City (4-3-2-1): Given; Zabaleta, Richards (Barry 46), Boyata, Garrido; Weiss (Bellamy 73), Kompany, De Jong (Tevez 46); Petrov, Sylvinho; Benjani. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Trippier, Tutte, Vidal.
Referee: S Attwell (Nuneaton).
Booked: Middlesbrough O’Neil; Man City Garrido, Barry.
Man of the match: Petrov.