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Gibson saves Boro with a late header, but his uncle chairman is left to ponder
Final Score: Middlesbrough 1 Huddersfield 1
IT WAS a bittersweet night at the Riverside Stadium for two members of the Gibson family.
While one, Ben, sealed his boyhood dreams with an equalising goal on his first start in the ground, his uncle Steve, the club's chairman, was left to ponder what to do with the situation on the pitch as Middlesbrough's winless run stretched into its eighth game with a draw against Huddersfield Town.
Gibson nodded home ten minutes from time to cancel out James Vaughan's 59th minute opener in another poorly-attended game at Boro's home.
The draw piled more pressure on Tony Mowbray, who has presided over just four league victories in 2013, and only one this season. Boro's chairman has regular contact with his manager and while he can appreciate Mowbray's situation, the results are going against them and there is a growing feeling against the manager on the terraces.
With another home game on Saturday, against Yeovil, Boro simply need to win or Gibson may have to act.
The mood at the Riverside since Boro were relegated from the Premier League has been seldom upbeat. The ground has been full on the odd occasion but with four league victories in 2013, and none at home this season, the stayaway fans could feel justified in their decision – and that number is growing.
An attendance of 12,793 last night saw Boro set a new, unwanted record – the lowest league crowd at the Riverside since it opened in 1995.
You can throw as many reasons as you like for this – expensive tickets, midweek game, unglamorous opponents – but the fundamental reason for the low attendances is a simple one. Results, performances, and the fact that Boro have been plugging away in English football's second tier for five consecutive seasons.
Boro's younger fans have seen the club plummet from a UEFA Cup final, Carling Cup win, top-half Premier League finishes, to their current position, and Boro are struggling at this level to attract new fans while persuading the older ones to stay.
On the pitch, Mowbray has spoken of progress, but a desperately poor performance at Queens Park Rangers has threatened to undermine this.
Kei Kamara tries his luck under pressure
There were times against QPR where Boro were listless, failing to lay a glove on their opponents, and they struggled to shake off that lethargy in the opening exchanges against Huddersfield.
However, it took a shot across the bows by one of their old boys that really shook Middlesbrough into life after 35 minutes. Adam Hammill, lining up for the Terriers and formerly on loan at the Riverside Stadium, skilfully wriggled his way past Frazer Richardson before chipping a left-footed effort on to the crossbar.
Boro, perhaps inscensed that Hammill did not show anything like that ability while at the club in 2012, woke up and began to attack with real purpose, with Mustapha Carayol's shot diverted towards goal by defender Anthony Gerrard, then Kei Kamara drew a fine save out of Alex Smithies from the angle.
Ben Gibson, making his first league start at the Riverside Stadium, headed into Smithies' hands from the resulting corner before repeating the trick a moment later but only heading wide.
As Boro attacked, Richardson was given plenty of time and space on the right flank and floated a cross-cum-shot that Smithies had to tip over, before the full-back fizzed a low cross into the six yard box that Huddersfield defender Peter Clarke diverted out for another corner.
Middlesbrough started the second half in the same manner as they finished the first, but it was Huddersfield who were celebrating on 59 minutes with a scrappy goal which seemed to sum up the hosts' recent problems at the back.
Hammill swung in a cross that substitute Danny Ward touched on to the post, before Oscar Grobern's shot on the rebound went in off Vaughan, for his ninth league goal this season.
While the crowds may be dwindling, and the atmosphere fractious, the Boro fans were keen to provide a tribute to lifelong fan Frankie 'Bam Bam' Bointon who died this week at the age of 65. In the 65th minute, there was a minute's applause while a banner reading Frankie Bam Bam, Number One Fan was paraded around the ground.
Boro forward Kei Kamara with Jonathan Hogg
Steve Gibson was one of those applauding, and he was on his feet again in the 79th minute when Boro equalised.
Regardless of the fact that it was his nephew who scored the equaliser, Gibson would have felt the same relief that the crowd - plus Mowbray - felt when the 20-year old centre-half rose highest in the area to head into the top corner from Grant Leadbitter's cross.
And it was almost two in the 85th minute when Rhys Williams headed Justin Hoyte's cross against the post after starting the attack from the back, before Grant Leadbitter's shot in injury time took a deflection for a corner which the hosts failed to capitalise on.
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