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Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008

Middlesbrough 0-0 Newcastle

By Phil McNulty

Afonso Alves is tackled
Middlesbrough Afonso Alves is tackled by Sebastien Bassong

Middlesbrough and near neighbours Newcastle played out a stalemate in a match desperately short on quality at The Riverside.

Newcastle's Obafemi Martins came closest to breaking the deadlock with a shot that hit the bar after 35 minutes.

He also saw a deflected shot fly just off target after the break.

Afonso Alves shot inches over for Middlesbrough and Magpies keeper Shay Given saved well from Justin Hoyte's effort with 16 minutes left.

Joe Kinnear, confirmed as Newcastle manager until the end of the season 24 hours before kick-off, will be happy with a point that takes them out of the bottom three of the Premier League as arch-rivals Sunderland fall into the drop zone.

Middlesbrough threatened intermittently, but neither side produced enough to say they deserved victory.

Hughton pleased with a point

The first 45 minutes was a cagey affair, with real chances at a premium.

Middlesbrough threatened from the flanks, with Stewart Downing and Tuncay both sending in dangerous crosses that just failed to result in openings for Alves.

Newcastle were slow to get into their stride, with Michael Owen often forced to retreat deep in a bid to get involved in some meaningful action.

Martins almost ended the stalemate 10 minutes before the interval when Danny Guthrie's persistence created an opening. He drove into the penalty area, and as the ball fell to the Nigerian striker, his left-foot shot on the turn struck the top of the bar.

Nicky Butt was then only inches off target with a 20-yard free-kick after David Wheater had fouled Guthrie.

Guthrie was also involved at the start of the second half with a low drive that was just off target with Middlesbrough keeper Ross Turnbull scrambling desperately to his right.

Gutierrez's Right Shoulder
Conditions had worsened considerably after the interval, with fog descending on The Riverside and throwing a misty shroud over what had been a largely uneventful encounter up until that point.

Alves had been kept at arm's length by the Newcastle defence, but he worked a dangerous position after 55 minutes, only to see his shot charged down by Jose Enrique.

Martins then had an effort deflected just off target via Wheater as the game finally showed signs of opening up.

Former Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka was introduced for his first appearance of the season after 65 minutes, coming on to a predictable chorus of jeers from the fans who once supported him.

The surprise was that he replaced a disgruntled Martins, who had looked as dangerous as anyone for Newcastle. The striker made his way straight down the tunnel having looked by far his side's best bet for a goal.

Southgate hails Boro display

Brazilian Alves offered a glimpse of his enigmatic talent with a powerful run and rising drive that was only just over the top with Given beaten.

Given then did well to deny Middlesbrough defender Hoyte when he stole in unmarked at the far post.

Owen had been a peripheral figure for most of the match, and he was frustrated with eight minutes left as Charles N'Zogbia broke into the area, but his cross-shot evaded the stretching England striker.

Viduka had a chance to silence the terrace taunts deep into injury time, but his volley went straight into the grateful arms of Turnbull and the points were shared.

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate:
"Sometimes you draw and you are disappointed with the performance.

"But I am very pleased with how we played. Bar the finishing touch, we had pretty much everything.

"It was very much a point gained - a hard-earned point but one we certainly deserved. We had the majority of the game, certainly in the second half."

Newcastle coach Chris Hughton:
"As the game opened up in the second half we got into the better areas.

"If our final ball had been a little bit better, we could have gone on and taken the three points.

"That would be the only disappointing factor but to come here and get a draw is a good result."

Middlesbrough: Turnbull, Hoyte, Wheater, Pogatetz, Taylor, Aliadiere (Mido 77), Arca, Digard, Downing, Sanli, Alves.
Subs Not Used: Jones, Emnes, Johnson, Hines, Grounds, Walker.

Booked: Arca.

Newcastle: Given, Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Butt, N'Zogbia, Martins (Viduka 65), Owen.
Subs Not Used: Harper, Cacapa, Geremi, Taylor, Edgar, Carroll.

Booked: Bassong.

Att: 32,160

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match on 90 minutes: Newcastle's Obafemi Martins - 7.54 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Shearer 'rejects Newcastle role'
29 Nov 08 |  Newcastle
Premier League as it happened
29 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
29 Nov 08 |  Football

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