BORO were held in a keenly contested match against Oldham Athletic in their penultimate pre-season friendly of the summer, writes SAM LOUGHRAN from Boundary Park…
Jeremie Aliadiere returns after missing Saturday's 2-0 win at Carlisle, while Justin Hoyte starts on the right side of the midfield in a young Boro side captained by Julio Arca.
In the absence of Brad Jones, Danny Coyne started in goal with 16-year-old Connor Ripley named as sub goalkeeper.
With six minutes played came the first real attack of the game as Boro's defence was split open by one ball that was coolly finished by Chris Taylor, as the Teessiders conceded their first goal in pre-season.
Boro attempted to come straight back at the hosts and nearly grabbed an equaliser as Jonathan Franks latched onto a smart ball in the channel, but his cross come shot dropped just by the angle.
There was a competitive feel to the game, with neither side shirking from challenges, Josh Walker and Julio Arca both putting in some crunching tackles during the early stages.
The visitors were beginning to apply some pressure to the Oldham backline, and after some neat play from Aliadiere and Hoyte down the right came a looped cross from the latter.
A deflected delivery saw the ball fall for the bright Adam Johnson, but his effort spiralled high into the air, dropping just over the bar for a Boro corner that ultimately came to nothing.
Danny Coyne was called into action once more as David Wheater tussled with former Darlington striker Pawel Abbott, with the Polish striker forcing a deflected save.
Half-time: Oldham Athletic 1 Middlesbrough 0
The interval brought a change for the home side, as Boro kept the same 11 that started the game.
Gareth Southgate's men were deliberate in their attempts to build an attack from the back, but the Latics were showing great determination in thwarting Boro's advances.
Six minutes into the second half, Southgate made his first substitution, with Mark Yeates replacing Walker in a change that saw Hoyte revert to right-back, Yeates take up a right-wing position with Rhys Williams partnering Arca in the middle of midfield.
It was Yeates who forced Oldham keeper Dean Brill into his first save of the half, after the Irishman drove from 25 yards.
A strong Johnson run through the middle nearly fed in Williams as he burst into the penalty area, but covering defender Sean Gregan cleared for a corner.
The resultant set-piece was delivered by Yeates and met nearpost by Williams who left Brill stranded to restore parity after 58 minutes.
A double change for Boro saw Robert Huth and Tony McMahon replace Wheater and Hoyte just after the hour mark.
Yeates was beginning to make an impact and after a weaving run down the right delivered into the penalty area, which Gregan appeared to stop with an outstretched arm, but the referee wasn't interested.
Another corner brought another Boro goal as this time Johnson delivered an outswinger from the left and found Huth soaring highest in the area to power the visitors into the lead.
Within a minute the home side pulled themselves back level with a superb free-kick as Keigan Parker found the top corner with Coyne left with no chance.
It was Johnson again causing Oldham all kinds of problems and after a run that spanned 50 yards and three wild challengers, the winger found Aliadiere but his low cross from the left could only find the arms of Brill.
A treble substitution followed with John Johnson, Nathan Porritt and Gary Martin, replacing Adam Johnson, Franks and Aliadiere.
Adam Johnson's departure from the field brought a warm ovation from the home side, in admiration of his eye-catching display.
Richard Smallwood then replace Arca a minute later, as Boro used their final outfield player from the bench.
As the game entered into its final five minutes a quick corner saw Lomax drive for goal from 15 yards only for Huth to clear the ball inside a crowded six yard box.
Sustained late pressure from Oldham wasn't enough to break down a stubborn Boro backline as Southgate's side remained unbeaten in pre-season.
Boro: Coyne; Williams, Wheater (Huth 62 (Capt from 76)), Hines, Taylor, Hoyte, (McMahon 62), Walker (Yeates 51), Arca (Capt) (Smallwood 76), A Johnson, Aliadiere, Franks. Unused subs: Ripley (gk).
Oldham Athletic: Brill; Eardley (Lomax 46), Jacobson (Whitaker 48), Worthington, Hazell, Abbott, Furman, Gregan (Capt), Taylor, Holdsworth, Byfield (Parker 60). Unused subs: O'Grady, Alessandra, Lee, Ollerenshaw, Rowney, Steer.
Referee: Mr K Evans