FIGHT Night. For those who couldn’t wait for Bolton battler Amir Khan’s bout later on there was a tasty undercard at the Riverside. A tedious end of season trudge was flat-lining when it all kicked off. Big style. Ding, ding; Seconds out.
With little evidence of any previous needle in the game, suddenly a furious fist swinging 18 man brawl erupted that involved players from both sides shaking each other warmly by the throat and staff wading in from both dug-outs to haul away the combatants while Mowbray watched philosophically with the ball under his arm as the wild west brawl spilled off the pitch and through the advertising hoardings. It was fantastic fisticuff fun and high octane entertainment. Far more than the tired match offered, that’s for sure.
The flashpoint came on 69 minutes as Barnsley’s Paul ‘Slugger’ McShane and Kevin ‘Tackler’ Thomson tussled over a ball near the touchline in front of the technical areas. McShane came steaming through the back of Thomson as he shielded the ball and the Boro man reacted by picking himself up and charging after then, it appeared, aimed a frustrated kick in the general direction of his mugger. McShane reacted and the pair did that rutting stags chest to chest posturing. It was “macho” stuff as Mogga later conceded.
Meanwhile a series of other keenly contested bouts broke out as players from both sides ran over to engage in some militant peace-keeping. Snarlweight scrapper Joe Bennett was first on the scene and did his best to calm the situation down by grabbing McShane by the throat and the Barnsley man reacted by taking a swipe. Bennett kept his stranglehold tightly applied and as other players arrived to pile on the pair staggered sidewards and Bennett went sprawling and was flattened into the hoardings with half-a-dozen bodies on top of him. Fair play to him though, he never let go of McShane.
Elsewhere Andrew Taylor and Jacob Mellis were also involved in a vigourous exchange of views, expressed through the medium of pushing and shoving. They were on the fringe of what by now had become a furious cartoon scrum of people trying to haul team-mates and opponents away from the epicentre only to then get sucked or pushed into the maelstrom themselves. Very funny. It certainly lived a dull game up.
Now we have to wait to see if retrospective refereeing comes into play. It probably won’t as the match wasn’t being broadcast abroad so was filmed on one fixed camera… although that said, that one will have got a great view. If it is reviewed by the arbitrary faceless panel then both Bennett and Thomson should be a little bit worried.
Up to that point the game had been far from remarkable. Boro had been poor. A patched up side with four changes looked tired and disjointed. Barnsley played the better football and but for some poor finishing and a great save from Paul Smith they could maybe have had the game wrapped up by the time the punch-up sparked the crowd and galvanised the team.
Has Marlon Harewood ever NOT scored against Boro? Did he score? He did well to bring the ball down on his chest and his first effort was just a hopeful poke that was blocked by Smith and his second effort was screaming across the face of goal and possibly going wide it was maybe an oggy off the despairing challenge of Andrew Davies.
But after the scrap and with the space afforded by the extra man, Boro had an extra buzz. They had some good efforts and Barry Robson fired just wide and Tarmo Kink headed a fraction over before Scott McDonald headed the leveller late on.
In a perfect world the outstanding Rhys Williams would have got the winner deep in stoppage time. With his telescopic go-go-gadget legs the Aussie had put in some excellent timely tackles to tidy up in midfield, and with some deft footwork on the ball he creates acres of time and space for himself. That was almost put to great use as he scooped up a touch from Willo Flood – his first appearance since the opening day of the season – and burst forward and past two challenges then cut into the Barnsley box before what would have been a dream goal was denied by the challenge of Hill.
We got lucky. The brawl and the sending off jump-started a game that was fizzzling out into a dull 1-0 defeat. Instead Boro showed that now habitual resolve – and a flash of teeth – and even after a subdued show they came back for the fourth game in a row at the Riverside and stretched their unbeaten record to eight games.
Ten points clear, five left. Only the most miserable chicken-runner armed with a pessimistic calaculator and a doom-laden theoretical mathematical model could create a scenario that takes Boro down now.
IT WAS nice to see a few regular bloggers turn out for a pre-match lubrication in the Navigation to meet Untypical Boro’s Finnish delegation. And a group from Munich flew in as well. Angels all over the world. What a bunch of pleasant, good looking, erudite, well balanced and enthusiastic people you are.