In an absorbing and evenly matched first half at The Riverside, the teams went in at half time all square at 0-0.
Newcastle started out brightly, and a facet of their game with Kinnear in charge has been some good passing and the Newcastle side looked up for the game. But Middlesbrough gave as good as they got with the play going from end to end with no clear cut chances.
Oba Martins for Newcastle came closest to scoring on 35 minutes when he turned nicely on the edge of the
box to hit the cross-bar with Ross Turnbull well beaten.
Middlesbrough attacked throughout the half, with Stewart Downing prominent on the left wing, and was giving Beye a difficult game, but Coloccini, Bassong and Given all looked in top form for the Magpies.
Jose Enrique at left back looked a little sluggish at times, and gave the ball away four times in the first 20 minutes – Joe has to work with Jose on this obvious weakness the Spaniard has.
Bassong in particular on at least five occasions was one-on-one with striker Alfonso Alves, and he beat the Brazilian every time, and Alfonso didn’t seem to like the physical play of the Frenchman too much. Bassong and Coloccini have again looked Newcastle’s best players so far this afternoon.
Guthrie and Butt are playing well in midfield but we haven’t seen too much of Michael Owen up front, and Newcastle need to be more clinical and sharp in their attacks, if they are going to make the important breakthrough this afternoon.
It looks like the first goal will again be crucial, but the first hjalf has been very evenly matched between two good looking sides.
Middlesbrough: Ross Turnbull, Justin Hoyte, Andrew Taylor, David Wheater, Emanuel Pogatetz, Jeremie Aliadiere, Julio Arca, Didier Digard, Stewart Downing, Tuncay Sunli, Alfonso Alves
Subs: Adam Johnson, Marvin Emnes, Mido, Jonathan Grounds, Seb Hines, Josh Walker, Brad Jones
Newcastle United: Shay Given, Habib Beye, Jose Enrique, Sebastien Bassong, Fabricio Coloccini, Nicky Butt, Danny Guthrie, Jonas Gutierrez, Charles N’Zogbia, Oba Martins, Michael Owen (c)
Subs: Steve Harper, Claudio Cacapa, Steven Taylor, Mark Viduka, David Edgar, Andy Carroll, Geremi
Referee: Alan Wiley