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Match Reports

Match Report : 28/12/2014

28 December 2014

Report: Rovers 0 Middlesbrough 0

Rovers ended 2014 with a share of the spoils in a pulsating draw with Middlesbrough at Ewood Park.

In a game that took it's time to come to life, both sides struck the woodwork in an end-to-end affair.

Simon Eastwood was the top performer when the sides met last month and he displayed heroics once more to deny Jelle Vossen early on to push a shot onto the post. He followed that up by blocking a back post header from the same striker.

Dimi Konstantopoulos at the other end kept out a Ben Marshall free-kick before Jordan Rhodes found the top of the crossbar after good pressure from Rudy Gestede.

The only time Eastwood was beaten he was rescued by the frame of his goal. Kike with a shot across the bows that struck the foot of the post, Patrick Bamford stole in on the follow-up but clipped the top of the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

Rovers responded as Alex Baptiste, Craig Conway, and Tom Cairney all tested the Boro stopper, but it was their captain Grant Leadbitter who ensured the points were shared when he cleared a Gestede header off the line three minutes into injury time.

Both sides pushed till the death as five further minutes were played, but like the match at the Riverside, they couldn't be separated.

Rovers made five changes from the side that tasted a Boxing Day defeat at Bolton.

Simon Eastwood, Alex Baptiste, Lee Williamson, Craig Conway and Rudy Gestede all returned to the starting XI as Jason Steele missed out due to ineligibility, Corry Evans served a two-match ban, and Friday's goalscorer Josh King was ill. Tom Cairney dropped to the bench, with Adam Henley failing to make the 18-man squad.

The visitors made even more changes from their victory over Nottingham Forest, Aitor Karanka changing six of that starting line-up.

When the two sides met at the Riverside last month, Simon Eastwood put in a man-of-the-match performance to earn Rovers a point, and the goalkeeper was called into action just seven minutes into the return fixture at Ewood Park.

As Shane Duffy hesitated to collect a Lee Williamson back-pass, Boro forward Jelle Vossen stole in on goal, but Eastwood was sharply off his line to claim the ball at his feet.

Rovers responded well, Rudy Gestede saw a header deflect past the post, Ben Marshall nodding across goal from a Craig Conway centre.

But those chances were the exception in what was a scrappy half with neither side finding their range as possession was squandered repeatedly.

Rovers' cause wasn't helped when they were forced into a change just past the 30-minute mark. Marcus Olsson tried to play on after a strong challenge on Dean Whitehead, but the defender eventually limped off with Tom Cairney on as his replacement.

That saw a defensive reshuffle as Marshall switched to right back, Alex Baptiste moving over to the left to cover for the stricken Swede.

Marshall tested Dimi Konstantopoulos with a 30-yard free-kick, before Jordan Rhodes clipped the top of the crossbar with a speculative effort after Gestede had pressured the keeper.

Aside from a Tom Cairney effort that flew high over the bar, it was the visitors who ended the first half the stronger.

On 37 minutes Kike broke through to feed Vossen, but as space opened up for the shot, Eastwood made a sensational one-handed save to tip the ball onto the post and away.

Three minutes later and a Whitehead centre on the right picked out the Boro forward but Eastwood saved Vossen's header with his chest, the ball deflecting onto the woodwork once more and away.

The start of the second half saw both sides threaten. Alex Baptiste cut in from the left to shoot right footed, Konstantopoulos down well to save.

Boro responded with a goal chance of their own, Kike seeing a shot across goal clawed away.

Gestede blazed high, Conway much closer with a fizzing effort that flew just past the post, but on 79 minutes it was the Rovers goal that lived a charmed life.

Strong play on the edge of the box saw Kike let fly, the ball beating Eastwood but slamming the foot of the post. Substitute Patrick Bamford pounced on the rebound but could only clip the top of the bar with the goal gaping.

The impressive Conway slammed a shot into the chest of Konstantopoulos, but whilst the keeper couldn't hold, the ball rebounded to the Scot but his first-time attempt flashed wide.

At the Riverside in November Rovers scored an injury-time goal through Rudy Gestede to earn a point and they almost grabbed all three on 93 minutes.

Craig Conway's corner from the left was met powerfully by the head of the striker, but Boro captain Grant Leadbitter was in the right place to clear off the line to ensure the match would end all square.

ROVERS: Eastwood, Baptiste, Hanley (c), Duffy, Olsson (sub Cairney 33 mins), Conway, Tunnicliffe, Williamson (sub Taylor 83 mins), Marshall, Gestede, Rhodes.

Subs: Kean (GK), Kilgallon, Dunn, Brown, Varney.

Goals: None

Booked: Gestede, Tunnicliffe.

MIDDLESBROUGH: Konstantopoulos, Leadbitter (c), Gibson, Veljkovic (sub Clayton 90+1 mins), Vossen (sub Tomlin 73 mins), Friend, Ayala, Kike, Reach, Wildschut (sub Bamford 59 mins), Whitehead.

Subs: Mejias (GK), Nsue, Adomah, Omeruo.

Goals: None

Booked: Gibson, Whitehead, Ayala.

Attendance: 22,340 (including 6988 visiting supporters)

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