With no bye allowing Boro to enter the competition at the second round stage this season (a ‘perk’ of last year’s relegation, if you can call it that), and with Gordon Strachan forced to cope without 13 first choice players due to injuries and international duty, it fell to the youngsters and perennial bench-warmers to try and avoid the potential embarrassment of a first-round exit at the hands of a lower ranked club.
With their confidence undoubtedly shaken by the home defeat to Ipswich only three days previously, Middlesbrough needed to demonstrate belief in their football and play with tempo from the start. In the first half they did just that, and with every well-timed cross and intelligent pass it was clear that a Boro goal was not too far away.
And so it proved in the eighth minute, when Scott McDonald slotted home the opener from a well-worked piece of play that began with an inspired distribution from goalkeeper Jason Steele, who commanded his position in goal impressively.
Steele played his part again for the second goal on 33 minutes, his goal kick picked up by Leroy Lita, who showed decent link-up play with Julio Arca that culminated with the deflected ball crossing the line.
Even when Boro came under increased pressure from Chesterfield in the second half, Steele kept his composure and looked solid. In truth, there was little he could have done to keep the ball out when Dwayne Mattis fired in a decent header to claim a goal back for the hosts on 68 minutes and, despite some nervy moments towards the end of the match, it always felt like it would be Boro’s – and Steele’s – night.
At a time when the England team’s goalkeeping reserves are being questioned, it's encouraging to see talent such as Steele breaking through and getting deserved recognition.
And with rumours surrounding the future of Brad Jones at the Riverside, we could well be seeing more of Steele over the course of the season.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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