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Honours even in Boro stalemate

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Tim Robinson

AFC Bournemouth claimed another potentially-valuable point in their bid for promotion following a 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough at Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

A share of the spoils saw Scott Parker’s team open a five-point gap in second place in the Championship with six games remaining.

It was a game of few clear chances with midfielder Jefferson Lerma going close to breaking the deadlock with a second-half header which hit the crossbar.

Ethan Laird was handed his first Championship start for AFC Bournemouth as head coach Parker made two changes following the 0-0 draw at Sheffield United.

The 20-year-old, who is on loan from Manchester United, replaced Jordan Zemura who was ruled out after suffering a hamstring injury during the Bramall Lane stalemate.

Todd Cantwell was restored to the starting line-up, the 24-year-old coming in for Siriki Dembele who was named among the Cherries substitutes, with Gary Cahill making a welcome return to the bench having missed the trip to Sheffield.  

In the opening stages, Cantwell worked a corner routine with Ryan Christie, the Norwich loan man’s cross just eluding Dominic Solanke in the six-yard box.

Laird did well to get in front of Aaron Connolly to nod clear a centre from Isaiah Jones before Nat Phillips was unfortunate not to make contact with Cantwell’s probing free kick.

A promising move down the right flank ended with Solanke’s shot from Laird’s low cross being blocked by Boro defender Anfernee Dijksteel.

The visitors had two penalty appeals turned down in quick succession, with referee Tim Robinson deeming neither Smith nor Phillips had handled.

A swift counter by the Cherries came to nothing after Christie headed a cross from Billing straight to a defender who cleared the danger.

Billing’s venomous free kick flew narrowly over the crossbar in the 36th minute before Duncan Watmore drew a fine save from Mark Travers on the stroke of half-time.

The Cherries goalkeeper beat away the frontman’s stinging drive from 16 yards after Watmore had been fed by Marcus Tavernier.

Tavernier went close to drawing first blood when his firm header from a Marc Bola cross bounced past the upright at the start of the second half.

Jefferson Lerma’s powerful header from Cantwell’s 57th-minute corner came crashing back off the crossbar with Billing lifting the rebound inches over the woodwork.

The Cherries appealed in vain for a spot kick after Smith had gone to ground under a challenge from Jones with referee Robinson again unmoved.

Paddy McNair’s free kick from a dangerous area was cleared before two substitutions saw Jaidon Anthony and Jamal Lowe replace Cantwell and Billing.  

And the substitutes combined to fashion a presentable chance, with Lowe heading over the top from Anthony’s teasing centre in the 76th minute.

Christie and Lerma then worked an opening for Anthony but his deft effort was saved comfortably by Boro goalkeeper Luke Daniels. 

AFC Bournemouth: Travers, Laird, Phillips, Kelly, Smith, Cook, Lerma, Billing (Lowe, 72), Cantwell (Anthony, 62), Solanke, Christie (Dembele, 88).

Unused subs: Cahill, Brady, Pearson, Woodman (g/k). 

Booked: Billing.

Middlesbrough: Daniels, Dijksteel, Bamba, McNair, Tavernier, Crooks, Howson, Bola, Jones (McGree, 90), Connolly (Balogun, 82), Watmore (Sporar, 71).

Unused subs: Hall, Peltier, Coburn, Lumley (g/k). 

Booked: Dijksteel, Jones.

Referee: Tim Robinson.

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