LUKAS Jutkiewicz saved the weekend for his team and ruined it for his mates.
If he hadn’t scored a superb 96th-minute winner for Middlesbrough, then a week tomorrow he would have been in Aldershot for a FA Cup replay – near to where all his friends live.
They wanted the chance to cheer him on and now they can’t. Some folk are so selfish.
Another game in an already jam-packed fixture schedule is not what a team chasing promotion to the Premier League either wants or needs.
Truth be told, Tony Mowbray and everyone else on Teesside would have taken an exit at the hands of their League Two opponents rather than another midweek match.
However, Jutkiewicz nabbed a late, late second goal to win the tie and set up an enticing last-16 clash at home to Chelsea – if the European champions come through their replay with Brentford.
The Middlesbrough striker said: “There was a lot of relief in the dressing room we had avoided a replay. We have a lot of travelling coming up with Ipswich away next, so another long trip wouldn’t have been ideal.
“Mind you, I’m not too popular with a lot of my mates because they’re from down there.
“A draw would have been the perfect result for them because then they could have seen me in the replay.
“They might be annoyed with me, but I think the lads here are grateful.
“I’m from Southampton and they were telling me they wanted a draw because they planned to go to the replay.
“They will have been pleased I scored, but perhaps not so pleased with my second goal which gave us the win – although deep down they’ll be happy we got through.
“They’re a good bunch and any game south of Birmingham they try to get to give me their support.”
Before the game the talk was about Dyer, with the news ex-Newcastle man Kieron was set to join the club. Afterwards that changed to dire given how Boro struggled.
It wasn’t that Middlesbrough were awful against their less illustrious opponents, although their passing game was absent, but they were fortunate to scrape through.
Jutkiewicz scored a header with eight minutes to go past the excellent Jamie Young in Town’s goal and that should have been it. However, Middlesbrough switched off in the dying moments and allowed Danny Hylton space inside the penalty box to equalise. The Championship side, though, were not to be denied and Jutkiewicz shrugged off Sonny Bradley and jinked his way clear of Aaron Morris before sending his shot into the bottom corner.
The two-goal hero added: “We found it difficult, but it was quite exciting towards the end with three goals in the last 10 minutes or so.
“They were resilient and tough to break down, we are just pleased to go through despite not playing our best.
“It is tough to play in any game of football when you have opponents who are so organised and work so hard.
“This was a big game for Aldershot.
“They worked hard to get here and were never going to make it easy for us.
“It was an opportunity to play in a big stadium and they gave it their all. We found it hard to get going, I don’t know why. It was not down to a lack of enthusiasm; we just struggled to break them down.”
Aldershot claimed the striker committed a foul on Bradley at the winning goal. Jutkiewicz wasn’t having any of it.
He said: “I didn’t get a free-kick throughout the afternoon, so why should they? They were dragging me all over the place. I think the ref took a view we were both committed and he let a lot of things go either way.
“I don’t think they have anything to complain about.
“People talk about the FA Cup not being relevant but you only have to look at the bumps and bruises in our dressing room afterwards. Everyone wanted to win.
“The priority is the league, but it’s great to get through to the last 16, that sounds good.” Mowbray will spend the next couple of days working on the deal to bring Dyer, now 34, to the Riverside for the rest of this season. Unlike the move to sign Jonathan Woodgate, news their club want a player who has hardly kicked a ball for the past three years would not have hugely excited the supporters.
However, manager Tony Mowbray believes he could land himself a bargain.
He said: “ Write it how you want, but it suits our football club and it suits Kieron.
“Assuming he is fit and ready to go and play, we’ll have to manage his working week and try to get him on the field on a Saturday.
“I’ve always liked him. As a player, in my late 30s at Ipswich, Kieron was breaking in as a 17-year-old boy and I played with him for a year or two.
“He was some footballer as a young man.
“The footage I’ve seen this season was even more important in the decision to bring him here. If we can get him on the field, he’ll be a big asset.
“If we don’t get him on the field, then he isn’t going to cost us much money.
“He knows myself, he knows Mark Venus very well, he knows Woody very well from his time at Newcastle.
“I think he’d like to come and help us. It could be exciting for us. On his good day he can change games.
“His speed, dribbling ability, releasing the ball at the right time and his power is tremendous.”
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele; Bikey, Rhys Williams, Hines (Leadbitter 78), Parnaby, Reach, Zemmama, Bailey, Smallwood (Halliday 61), Emnes (Ledesma 61), Jutkiewicz. Subs (not used): Leutwiler, McManus, Main, Haroun.
Booked: Hines, Ledesma, Leadbitter, Halliday.
Goals: Jutkiewicz 83, 90.
ALDERSHOT TOWN: Young; Herd, Brown, Bradley, Aaron Morris, Cadogan (Mekki 78), Hector (Rankine 87), Rose, Vincenti, Hylton, Reid (Risser 69). Subs (not used): Glenn Morris, Tonkin, Ainsworth, Cooksley.
Goal: Hylton 89.
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire).