Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0
Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0 Boro goal drought continues at Palace WASTEFUL and frustrating might have sprung to Gordon Strachan's mind. He was, however, in no mood to call Middlesbrough unlucky after witnessing a second successive defeat under his management which has left his players further down the Championship table. Improving his side's creativity and strengthening attacking options have been two of the main areas he has been looking to address since succeeding Gareth Southgate two weeks ago. But while he might have been successful in bringing Marcus Bent and Isaiah Osbourne to Teesside, there is an even greater concern that needs addressing quickly: scoring goals. He knows that. In fact he identified improving the team's goalscoring output within 24 hours of taking over. The problem, however, remains and needs to be eradicated soon or it could have a major impact on the club's promotion aspirations. As well as failing to score in Strachan's first two matches in charge dropping seven points adrift of second placed West Brom and three short of the play-offs in the process Boro have failed to find the net in six of their last nine games. Chances are being created, but spurned, and Selhurst Park was the scene of missing chances that defied belief. If the ball is going into the net and a dog runs onto the pitch and stops it, then that's unlucky, said Strachan. We had a fantastic number of opportunities to cause danger and we did. But when you have a four against one situation and you don't score a goal at the end of it, it is nothing to do with luck, that was surreal. That is precisely what happened ten minutes after halftime. With the game goalless, Palace stupidly pushed nine men forward for a corner. Middlesbrough broke when Gary O'Neil fed Leroy Lita to give him a run into the Palace half. Lita had Adam Johnson, Justin Hoyte and Rhys Williams to look for unmarked in the box, but the blinkered striker opted to go it alone. Even then Lita could have salvaged something. His team-mates were still unmarked, but his attempted cross-cum-shot evaded everyone and rolled for a goal kick. Strachan turned away in amazement. The Scotsman, showing his calmer side in the technical area, had already had to endure the start of the madness in front of goal 20 minutes into proceedings. When Johnson, lively in the first half, picked up a loose ball from Jose Fonte's headed clearance on the edge of the area, he burst into the area and squared to Bent. Bent, making his first start since arriving on loan from Birmingham, had cleverly worked his way free of his marker, but contrived to sidefoot well wide of Julian Speroni's goal from 12 yards. We had chances. You can see we have a weakness at the moment. The midfield players are doing all they can to create chances, that's for sure, said Strachan. It was frustrating and it was frustrating for us last week. The true cost of those wasted chances hit home when Palace, who had rarely tested Brad Jones, took the lead in the 65th minute having broken quickly from a Boro corner. After clearing their lines, the Eagles found themselves out-numbering the Middlesbrough defence. Alan Lee delivered deep into the visitors half, Neil Danns beat Hoyte in the air and Darren Ambrose took a touch before finishing low into Jones' bottom left corner. It was debatable whether Palace deserved the advantage, but former Newcastle midfielder Ambrose showed exactly how to stay composed in front of goal with his tenth of the season. Middlesbrough still had time to level but, despite finding that the 6ft 2in frame of Bent helped to create things, they could not improve their scoring woe. When Speroni denied O'Neil and Franks, who arguably had the most difficult of the four opportunities, it was clearly not going to be their day, regardless of who was at fault. Having said that there has now been a few of those this season and Strachan linked with a move for Celtic midfielder Barry Robson yesterday is well aware. If you get a 0-0 draw you are still not happy about it because you need to progress, you can't stand still, we need to address that but how you do that is a different question, he said. That question about taking chances has been asked to managers over the last 100 odd years. You must keep making chances, we've done that for the last two weeks. It is frustrating for me, it must be frustrating for the players and the supporters who come along and watch the game. Match facts Goals: 1-0: Ambrose (65, left unmarked to meet Danns' flick on and finished calmly) Bookings: Butterfield (23, foul); Osbourne (33, deliberate handball) Referee: James Linington (Isle of Wight) straight-forward afternoon in south London 6 Attendance: 15,321 Entertainment: CRYSTAL PALACE (4-4-2): Speroni 7; Butterfield 5, Fonte 6, Davis 7, Hill 5; AMBROSE 8, Derry 5, Ertl 5, Danns 7 (Carle 81); Sears 7 (N'Diaye 90), Lee 7. Subs (not used): Clyne, John, Moses, Scannell, Djilali MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): 7 Jones: Showed good handling throughout but unable to prevent Palace scoring; 6 Hoyte: Arguably his best display of the season, shame it was in a losing side 6 Wheater: Won his fair share of headers but still lacked his usual authority 7 ST LEDGER: Won everything that came his way and made a couple of timely interceptions 5 Grounds: Took time to relax on the ball and was caught out occasionally; 6 O'Neil: Enjoyed a lively first half but missed a glorious chance to equalise 6 Osbourne: Decent debut without ever looking amazing 5 Williams: Slotted into rightback after Hoyte's withdrawal 7 Johnson: Looked the only player capable of doing serious damage to the Palace rearguard; 5 Lita: Wasted one terrific opportunity when he decided to go it alone when he had three options 6 Bent: Looked a useful outlet but was guilty of missing Boro's best chance early on Subs Arca (for Hoyte 69): Dropped but then introduced in his favoured middle of midfield role 5 Franks (for Lita 77) (not used): Coyne (gk), McMahon, Bennett, Emnes, Yeates MAN OF THE MATCH DARREN Ambrose was the one man on the pitch who lived up to his billing as a potential match-winner.
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