5:05pm Saturday 1st February 2014
By Richard Mason
Doncaster Rovers 0 Middlesbrough 0
MIDDLESBROUGH came away from Doncaster Rovers with a point in an anti-climactic draw at a blustery Keepmoat Stadium.
It was always going to be a case of the day after the transfer deadline before and, with Boro leaving it until very late to do their business, a hangover seemed inevitable.
There was considerable surprise before kick-off that Aitor Karanka was firstly able to field Danny Graham, who signed from Sunderland on loan late on Friday, and secondly that he named him on the bench, after saying in the build-up to the game that he would make no changes to his squad despite the late signings of Graham and Lee Tomlin – who is suspended after receiving his third red card of the season while playing for Peterborough United.
Middlesbrough warned that there was a 'small question mark' over the condition of the Keepmoat Stadium pitch overnight, but the forecast rain did not materialise and it was the wind, not the rain, that caused problems for both sets of players in South Yorkshire.
In the first half, Doncaster, despite playing into the wall of wind, coped. Middlesbrough did not.
That said, there were few chances afforded to either side. James Coppinger headed wide after six minutes, while Billy Sharp nodded wide of the post on 26 minutes, only to be flagged offside. Three minutes later, Paul Keegan volleyed over Shay Given's crossbar.
For Middlesbrough, Mustapha Carayol whipped in a cross for Curtis Main that just evaded the former Darlington striker, while Grant Leadbitter saw a shot blocked by a Doncaster defender after running much of the length of the pitch unimpeded.
The start of the second half was delayed after referee Andy Davies picked up an injury, leaving fourth official Mark Brown to step into the breach while a fourth official was sought from the crowd.
Once the game got under way again, it brought the afternoon's first clear-cut chances. Firstly, Rovers' Mark Duffy brought a good save out of Given at the near post, while, at the other end, Nathaniel Chalobah, on his first Boro start, found Carayol with a perfect pass, and the winger could only curl around the post.
Main headed into Sam Johnstone's hands, before former Sunderland striker Chris Brown missed a simple tap-in from Sharp's cross when it seemed easier to score.
Main's miss summed up his afternoon in South Yorkshire, and on the hour mark, he made way for the player who will surely be Boro's first-choice striker in the second half of the season.
Graham's introduction prompted the 4,200 travelling Boro fans to sing “he's one of our own” with the striker making his first appearance in a Middlesbrough shirt since November 2006.
Graham, who left Boro for Carlisle United in 2007 before spending time at Watford and Swansea before moving to Sunderland a year ago to the day, was not provided with any meaningful chances for much of his 30-minute involvement at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Instead, it was the hosts who set up camp in Middlesbrough's half with the wind behind them, leaving the visitors unable to get forward.
Kei Kamara was introduced with 180 seconds left on the clock, and fired a shot just wide of the post after a powerful run down the left flank, while Brown's volley was blocked at the other end at the death.
DONCASTER ROVERS (4-4-2): Johnstone; Tamas, Khumalo, Meite, Husband; Coppinger, Wellens, Keegan (Furman 46), Duffy (Cotterill 79); Brown, Sharp. Subs not used: Quinn, Maxted, De Val, Petersen, Stevens.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Given; Omeruo, Gibson, Ayala (Kamara 88), Friend; Chalobah, Leadbitter; Ledesma, Butterfield (Whitehead 64), Carayol; Main (Graham 64). Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Varga, Hines, Brobbel.
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