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Posted on 12 April 2008  - 12:00

A long-range effort from Stewart Downing cancelled out a first half opener to deny the team home victory over Middlesbrough on Saturday.

A long-range effort from Stewart Downing cancelled out a first half opener to deny the team home victory over Middlesbrough on Saturday.An own goal on 25 minutes after Aaron Lennon fired back across goal saw the initiative grabbed, but Boro rallied in the second half and were rewarded when Downing's speculative shot took a slight deflection and bounced into the bottom corner.

It was probably a fair outcome in a game that didn't really spark into any thrills and spills, while Boro will be satisfied with an effective away-day display.

The Boro bench held arms aloft in the first couple of minutes when Radek Cerny spilled a shot from Jeremie Aliadiere and Alfonso Alves tapped in the rebound. Celebrations were promptly curtailed by the flag of the assistant.

The early alert did not really affect the ebb and flow of the performance, with the team in white posing much of the threat, but the final ball was not possessing the composure required on a quick surface.

There was an exquisite final ball on 11 minutes when Lennon seized the ball back in midfield and set Robbie Keane darting down the left. Keane delivered a flighted and measured centre onto the head of Dimitar Berbatov, but Mark Schwarzer was able to field on his line.

The Australian goalkeeper was called on again on 19 minutes when Jermaine Jenas forged a route through using his speed and looked set to add to his account before Schwarzer advanced off his line and denied the midfielder a memorable goal.

The deadlock was broken six minutes later when Berbatov picked up the scraps of an attack and simply lofted back into the danger zone, where Lennon in turn drilled into the six yard box and the knee of Jon Grounds diverted the ball past a helpless Schwarzer.

Boro launched a robust reaction without creating a significant threat and the scoreline remained unaltered at the break.

It was not an enthralling contest immediately after the interval, a David Wheater header knocked off the line by Lennon offered the visitors a little hope, but there was not a huge degree of urgency. Michael Dawson and Jonathan Woodgate were not offering any encouragement to the strikeforce of Aliadiere and and Alves with strong performances.

A Berbatov shot hit the post before a Lennon cross was flicked off the head of Woodgate, but just beyond the Bulgarian. Gareth Southgate responded with the introduction of England Under-21 international Adam Johnson, quickly followed by the Brazilian Fabio Rochemback.

Downing tried his luck with 68 minutes on the clock from all of 30-odd yards, his shot clipping the head of Jenas and flying into the bottom left hand corner. It had a quietening effect on an atmosphere that was bubbling up with the crowd attempting to stir the team into further goals.

Darren Bent was introduced in place of Lennon in an attempt to inject more drive into attack, but the momentum was with Boro and Alves sped through with ten minutes remaining and rolled the ball just wide with only Cerny to beat.

Substitute Gilberto then had to throw himself in the way of a goalbound shot from Tuncay, before Aliadiere spun and shot just wide in the closing moments.

Tom Huddlestone came close to forcing a howler out of Schwarzer when his free-kick bounced back off the goalkeeper, but he lurched forward and redeemed himself to ensure this contest ended level.