Date: 11th August 2007 at 7:17pm
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It was a story of super-subs and a super debut as Rovers marked the new season with a victory away at Middlesbrough. However, things were tainted by a worrying injury to star striker Benni McCarthy and a fracas at the end of the game.

Manager Mark Hughes refrained from using new signing Roque Santa Cruz from the off, preferring the partnership of best friends Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts. David Dunn was also included alongside Robbie Savage in the Rovers engine room, an indication that Hughes will put his faith in Rovers favourite son.

The game began at an open and adventurous pace as both sides sought to strike first. Both teams forced corners and Rovers in particular were looking hungry, however, it wasn`t long until the home side imposed their personality on the game, ultimately taking control.

‘Boro should have taken the lead when a mistake by Stephen Warnock allowed Yakubu to present debutant strike partner, Jeremie Aliadiere, with a glorious chance on a silver platter. Just six yards out and with the goal gaping the Frenchman contrived to miss, with the aid of a timely intervention from Robbie Savage, demonstrating his worth.

Rovers hit back with a goal, only to see it chalked off by the referee`s assistant`s flag. David Bentley played in Morten Gamst Pedersen but he had drifted offside and the flag went up as he squared for McCarthy to tap home.

That was to be the highlight of a derisory first half Rovers display as ‘Boro continued to press limiting Roves to some unimaginative long ball football. The home side duly took the lead on 31 minutes when England winger, Stuart Downing, whipped a free-kick through the Rovers wall and into the bottom corner from 30 yards. Suffice to say the poor structure of the wall riled Brad Friedel in Rovers goal and he let his team mates know this in a rant. It smacked of the unprepared and out-of-shape early season Rovers we have become accustomed to.

Hughes also vented his frustration at the poor showing and received a talking to from referee, Andre Marriner. The rest of the half was played out under the control of ‘Boro.

Rovers went in a goal down and looking flat. Unfortunately things didn`t appear to change much after the interval as Gareth Southgate`s charges continued to dominate and control the game at a leisurely pace.

However, there is usually a turning point in each game and controversy appears to be a pre-requisite of this. As the hour mark approached a ball played into the area by Bentley was aimed at McCarthy but he appeared to take a blow. After appearing to be dazed he proceeded to walk away only to collapse in a heap. Physiotherapists rushed to the scene to help Rovers` main striker and after a prolonged delay McCarthy was stretched off with his neck in a brace and with the aid of an oxygen mask. Concern was apparent on the faces of all the players.

However, there is always a silver lining, the optimists among us would have us believe, and there certainly was one today. McCarthy`s replacement was new boy Roque Santa Cruz and he took a mere two-and-a-half minutes to announce his arrival in Premiership football.

He rose majestically to superbly power home a header from Bentley`s smart cross. Rovers were on level terms and had their tails up.

The headlines were all set to lavish praise on Rovers` debutant striker, especially after he spun his marker before teeing up Bentley in a showcase of sublime technical ability and pace.

However, Rovers local lad Matt Derbyshire wasn`t about to let his place slip away from him without a fight and when he came on after 79 minutes for Roberts he sensationally scored the winner.

Picking the ball up in a wide position within seconds of his arrival he then bore down on goal before whipping a delightful curling strike beyond the helpless Mark Schwarzer and into the net to give Rovers the lead. Total time on the pitch at this point,; 23 seconds!

‘Boro then understandably responded by throwing everything at Rovers in a desperate attempt to restore parity but it wasn`t to be. Even after they made their way through Rovers resolute defence they were thwarted by the excellence of Friedel.

The game came to a close, which signalled the fireworks as a massive medley of players clashed in a bizarre hand bags at five scene. It is unclear why the pushing and shoving began but reports suggest it was a clash between Derbyshire and George Boateng.

Nevertheless, Rovers have started the new season with a win and with the abundance of striking options seemingly brimming with confidence; optimism is bound to be high.

Player Ratings

Friedel 8
Made some more remarkable saves to prove that a really good goalkeeper is woth extra points each season.

Warnock 6
A few mistakes but didn’t dwell on it to put in a sound enough display.

Ooijer 6
Pace lacking and even positioning questionable at times.

Nelsen 7
Sound as.

Samba 7
A towering influence who seems to have put a few of those pre-season jitters behind him.

Bentley 8
Wonderful variety to his service again.

Gamst 7
Energetic and involved.

Savage 8
Worked tirelessly and showed his importance with some timely interventions.

Dunn 7
Looking good and signs that the Dunny we know and love is almost back.

McCarthy 6
Couldn’t make much of an impact before the injury. Let’s hope he is okay.

Roberts 6
Appeared lost at times.

Santa Cruz 8
Resoused the Rovers with his fairtale debut introduction from the bench. A lovely headed goal.

Derbyshire 8
Brilliant goal.


24 Replies to “Boro 1.v.2 Rovers”

  • Well we are very much up and running. Wasn’t the greatest of performances but we now have numerous match winners on the pitch capable of producing the quality demonstrated by Santa and HDM’s boy! Excited about Santa.

  • Blue is the colour – Cheers dude.
    WHAT did I say guys, Rovers to win 2-1 after going behind!!! I also sais that Santa would score, the only thing I got wrong was saying Benni would score as well.

  • just watched the game. scrappy at times but pretty solid. two top class goals. man of the match? roque for the boost when he came on. good performance by samba too.. he was unlucky to give away the free kick that led to their goal and made some key tackles. warnock looked good too after a shaky start. Dunny is getting better and better with every game too. Roberts was the only really quiet player I think, didn’t make a real impact in spite of a couple of nice touches.

  • Wasn’t the best performance by any stretch of the imagination, was it, but a win is a win, and we’ll take that. Bit concerning that the midfield seemed to go AWOL for the first 65-70 mins and we were forced to play the long ball. Still, we can improve, and will…Wasn’t Roque fantastic when he came on – the guy has a terrific presence, and lifted the whole team…can’t wait to see him starting the next game.

  • Agreed Sasman, Friedel is superb & just keeps on doing the business, but Roque’s impact should give Friedel competition for motm…I’ll go for Rocky. Who was it in the first half that surged forward from fullback, and passed the ball straight to the opposition, leaving us horribly exposed and outnumbered at the back with boro on the counter..? Surely not God…

  • Most defo a game of two halves. Wasn’t a great display but if we can do that now, ie win without playing amazingly, then we are in for a successful season.

  • I though we performed well as the away team but what is most encouraging is the quality that we can produce with little sign it is coming…. I am very happy as two years ago we would of lost that game.

  • Right if you are reading this between 7pm & 9pm on Sunday Evening why are you not taking part in Walkerbout (if you aren’t already lol!) in the Walkerbout Forum!!!

  • Santa Cruz did what Sparky bought him for. Getting his head on on crosses. He did exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak. Derbyshire’s goal was, as he says, the best he’s scored. Not bad for your first three touches in the game. Control, set up, and a cracking finish. Good to see the boys rally back from a goal down. Encouraging.

  • I cant believe ive had to wait 5 days to say this but MATT DERBYSHIRE OMG!! he just keeps on getting batter and he is a real talant who should START some more games.

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