Maynard Brace Sinks Boro
Ashton Gate, Bristol
29 August 2009, 15:00
Nicky Maynard became the first player to score against high-flying Middlesbrough to hand City a much-needed three points at Ashton Gate.
Boro arrived in Bristol hot on the heels of leaders Cardiff and having gone four league games without conceding a goal.
City made four changes from the side dumped out of the Carling Cup in midweek with recalls for McCombe, Wilson, Hartley and Maynard whilst Johnson, Akinde, Ribeiro and Williams stepped aside as the Robins looked to correct bad defeats to Cardiff and Carlisle last week.
But it was ex-Robins striker Leroy Lita, on his third visit back to the Gate with his third different club, who had the game's best early chance, skinning McCombe before stinging Dean Gerken's gloves.
Maynard, with three goals in four games going into the game, and then volleyed over the top before Boro's main threat Adam Johnson tested Gerken from distance.
Haynes was presented with a glorious chance midway through the first half. Profiting from a slip by Jon Grounds, Haynes fizzed his shot just past the post when running at last man David Wheater would've been the better option.
Boro's began to control the game a bit more after that and were unlucky to see Wheater's looping header from Johnson's left-wing free kick land on the roof of the netting just before the break.
Akinde replaced Haynes not long after half-time, as City skipper Louis Carey was treated for a head wound, which was something I would know something about as I went arse over tit after too many ciders later that evening!
Then came the goal the game so dearly needed.
Paul Hartley launched a long, searching ball towards Maynard from deep inside the City half.
The in-form striker won a fifty-fifty challenge with Grounds before taking a touch and bending a sublime effort past Danny Coyne into the top corner on 63.
It was a clinical strike for the young forward who found the net with his first real strike on goal.
The visitors offered little in return as City shut the door firmly in their faces; standing up to everything the ex-Premiership side could throw at us.
So it came as a real surprise when referee Russell Booth pointed to the spot, harshly adjudging Carey to have handled Jeremie Aliadiere's inocuous looking cross.
Adam Johnson stepped up and drilled the resulting penalty straight down the middle and past Gerken for the equaliser with only ten minutes left on the clock, riling the City fans with his celebrations in the process.
With the game seemingly drifting to a draw, a few mate's and I left the East End for the nearest watering hole only to learn of the winning goal on Sky's Gillette Soccer Saturday!
From what those friends of mine who remained in the ground and relayed to me afterwards, Maynard latched onto another fine Hartley pass before volleying past Coyne for the winner and his fifth goal in six games.
The result saw City enter the international break in the Play-Off positions with an impressive ten points from the five games.
CITY (3-5-2): Gerken; Carey, McCombe, Fontaine; Wilson, Skuse, Hartley, Elliott, McAllister; Haynes (Akinde 52), Maynard (Sproule 90). Subs not used: Orr, Johnson, Ribeiro, Blackman, Basso.
BORO (4-4-2): Coyne; McMahon, Wheater, Grounds, Taylor; Yeates, Williams, Arca, Johnson; Lita, Emnes (Aliadiere 71). Subs not used: Hoyte, Walker, Hines, Bennett, Franks, Steele.
Referee: Russell Booth (Mansfield)
At his clinical best to gun down Boro, Maynard really seems to be the business this year after having a full pre-season behind him. He's come back stronger and faster and looks to be one of the best finishers at this level so far.
Dean Gerken 6
Brian Wilson 6
Jamie McAllister 6
Liam Fontaine 7
Jamie McCombe 6
Louis Carey 7
Marvin Elliott 6
Cole Skuse 7
Paul Hartley 7
Nicky Maynard 8
Danny Haynes 5
John Akinde 6
Ivan Sproule 5
It was a big day for Johnson who would've been under scrutiny from the fans had we performed like we did against Cardiff and Carlisle but, credit where credit's due, he made us difficult to break down and let the players do the rest.
Didn't have an ideal lead up to the game, without several players due to a combination of injuries and transfers. Still, he made sure his players were as competitive as they could be and they were just beaten by a striker who is simply on fire at the moment.
Maynard The Difference
So it was even more impressive to see the bottle and battling qualities, that were lacking last week, restored for the visit of a Boro side who hadn't even shipped a goal in the league before their visit to the West Country.
Maynard's lethal finishing was the real difference though and I think our hopes for this season hinge on him staying fit. His five goals in six now sees us sitting pretty in fifth place.