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BBC Sport's Alan Biggs
reports from The Riverside
 real 14k

Coventry manager Gordon Strachan
"I thought a draw was a fair result".
 real 56k

Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 17:35 GMT
Battling Boro deny Sky Blues
Christian Karembeu
Karembeu takes on the Coventry defence
Middlesbrough 1-1 Coventry

Alen Boksic rescued a point for Middlesbrough after Noel Whelan had looked like gifting his old club a morale-boosting victory.

The Croatian hot-shot found the net four minutes from time to cancel out Whelan's bizarre own goal towards the end of the first half.

Whelan, celebrating both his 26th birthday and 200th League appearance, put through his own net when he sliced David Thompson's corner past a hapless Mark Schwarzer.

But just when it seemed as though Coventry would record their second win on the trot and hand Terry Venables his first defeat in charge of Boro, substitute Boksic popped up with an equaliser.

Sent sprawling

Apart from a Whelan shot which was cleared off the line by Barry Quinn, the game didn't liven up as a contest until the last eight minutes of the first half.

That's when the tackles began to fly in from all angles.

  Key moments
12 mins: Whelan's shot cleared off the line
41: Whelan puts through his own net
65: Whelan wastes Boro's best chance
75: Kirkland's flying save denies O'Neill
86: Boksic drills home the equaliser
Colin Cooper was the victim of a particularly nasty challenge from David Thompson.

The Boro centre-half was sent sprawling by Thompson's late lunge and was eventually forced to limp from the field just before the break.

By the time Cooper was replaced by Steve Vickers, the home side were already a goal behind.

Whelan should have made what looked like a routine clearance from Thompson's deep corner but only succeeded in rifling the ball into his own net.

The former Coventry striker turned away in disbelief while goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer looked on in total bemusement.

To their credit, Boro tried their hardest to level matters before the interval and had claims for an injury-time penalty waved away by referee Dermot Gallagher.

Visibly upset

Whelan tumbled to earth inside the box as Sky Blues goalkeeper Chris Kirkland came out to intercept, but the Banbury official ruled there had been no foul play.

Whelan was visibly upset with the decision and clashed with Thompson as he got to his feet.

The pair had to be separated again by their team-mates as the sides trudged off to the changing rooms at half-time.

I really didn't see them scoring, but it's another step on the road to recovery. We are happy with the way we are playing and passing the ball
  Gordon Strachan

Boksic was brought on at the start of the second half in place of Christian Karembeu.

But Boro's fortunes did not improve.

Instead it was Coventry who looked likeliest to add to the scoring, with Lee Carsley and Ysrael Zuniga both going close.

Carsley saw his goal-bound shot cannon off a defender while Zuniga volleyed Craig Bellamy's cross into the ground and over the crossbar.

That was to be Zuniga's last effective contribution.

Thunderous free-kick

After Bellamy had been denied by the legs of Schwarzer, the Peruvian was replaced by fellow striker John Aloisi.

Whelan's afternoon did not get any better.

Faced with a golden chance to equalise on 65 minutes, he blazed his shot way off target with just Kirkland to beat.

I thought the spirit of the team in the second half was excellent. It's not the result we were looking for but we could have ended up with nothing
  Terry Venables

Moments later, he was replaced by Brian Deane.

Boro fans thought their team had drawn level with 15 minutes left when Keith O'Neill hit a thunderous free-kick towards the top left-hand corner of the net.

But Kirkland pulled off a terrific full-length save to tip the ball behind for a corner.

Boksic was denied seconds later when his header from the resulting flagkick was deflected just wide.

But the Croatian frontman made amends four minutes from time, when he beat Kirkland with a low shot from Hamilton Ricard's ball through.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Fleming, Festa, Karembeu, Ince, O'Neill, Okon, Ehiogu, Ricard, Whelan, Cooper.
Subs: Gordon, Vickers, Deane, Boksic, Crossley.

Coventry: Kirkland, Edworthy, Williams, Thompson, Hadji, Zuniga, Telfer, Breen, Bellamy, Quinn, Carsley.
Subs: Shaw, Chippo, Eustace, Aloisi, Hydlgaard.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

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