Single Boro goal wins dull encounter

Middlesbrough 1 Derby 0

Middlesbrough 1 Derby 0

Tuncay Sanli's first-half winner all but banished any lingering relegation fears for Middlesbrough after today's instantly forgettable clash with dismal Derby at the Riverside Stadium.

The Turkish striker breezed across the Rams' back-line in the 32nd minute before firing past Roy Carroll from the edge of the box to secure his sixth Barclays Premier League goal of the season.

It was a rare high point in a low-key encounter ravaged by a swirling wind and frequent blizzards, in which the home side wasted a number of good opportunities to put the game beyond doubt.

Jeremie Aliadiere, Gary O'Neil and George Boateng should all have done better early in the second half and remarkably Boro were almost made to pay when Robert Earnshaw headed a simple chance wide five minutes from time.

The final whistle came as a blessed relief not only to Gareth Southgate, whose side are now safely clear of the drop zone, but to just about everybody else in the 25,649 crowd.

Boro, buoyed by two fine recent draws away from home, had started well with a series of dangerous set--pieces, the best of which was diverted just around his own post by Robbie Savage.

Emanuel Pogatetz and David Wheater both came close from Boro's third corner in the eighth minute as the beleaguered visitors struggled to stem the flow of attacks by Southgate's men.

Kenny Miller figured in the Rams' first chance in the 14th minute when he worked his way deep into the home box before Luke Young finally began to hack the ball away from danger.

Sanli's neat flick almost played in Aliadiere in the 20th minute but the Rams hacked clear. Moments later Darren Moore cut out Aliadiere's attempts to race clear.

Chances were becoming few and far between in a clash which hardly held out hopes of a attacking football festival even before the strong swirling wind which was making conditions difficult.

The deadlock was mercifully broken in the 32nd minute by a clinical finish from Tuncay, who picked up Boateng's cross from the left, drifted across two Derby defenders and drilled his sixth Premier League goal past Roy Carroll.

Three minutes later Boro appeared unfortunate not to win a penalty after Dean Leacock tangled with O'Neil in the box, but the goal had revitalised Boro who suddenly looked likely to score more.

The threat level from Jewell's men in the Boro half of the field remained negligible as Wheater and Pogatetz easily soaked up anything the lacklustre Rams could throw at them.

Aliadiere had a fine chance seconds after the restart when he found space in the Derby box only for his shot on the turn to be parried well by Carroll in the Rams' goal.

O'Neil won a dangerous free-kick on the right side of the visitors' box in the 51st minute and delivered a fine set-piece onto the head of Aliadiere who glanced his header across the face of goal.

With Boro rampant, O'Neil had a goal-bound effort blocked in the box by Moore, and moments later Boateng let fly from long-range and was only denied by a superb diving save from Carroll.

The arrival of a blizzard hardly helped ignite proceedings but Aliadiere fired straight at Carroll then headed badly wide in the 80th minute before Boro were almost made to pay for their missed chances.

In a rare attacking moment, Andy Todd hooked the ball across the face of goal in the 85th minute and Earnshaw somehow contrived to head wide from close range. Two minutes later Miller hit the Rams' first shot on target straight at Mark Schwarzer.

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