Respect the winner as Middlesbrough and Norwich draw.
The North Riding County FA held its first ever designated Respect day on Monday at the Championship fixture between Middlesbrough and Norwich City.
Representatives from local leagues and clubs were guests at the Riverside as Middlesbrough showed their support for the Respect programme. Prior to kick off, a huge Respect flag was on the pitch as the teams warmed up, while both the referees and the majority of Boro’s staff donned Respect merchandise to show their support for the cause.
Youngsters from local side Catterick Garrison FC’s U12s also took part in the matchday experience, flying Respect banners during the Guard of Honour as the teams entered the field.
FA national Respect programme manager, Dermot Collins, said: “Since its launch, Respect has made great progress. Perceptions may still be skewed, but the reality is that in the professional leagues we are making inroads, where dissent cautions are down year-on-year and cases of harassment of match official are almost negligible.
“There may be a long way to go, but the signs are that we’ve stabilised what was a growing trend towards abusive behaviour.”
He added: “Most positive of all, we believe that Respect has re-established a route into refereeing and this year on year more than 5,000 new referees have been welcomed on to parks pitches up and down the country.”
Despite a quiet start to yesterday’s match, Norwich, who are one of the form sides in the Championship with five wins from six and only one loss in ten, brought the game to life in the eleventh minute when they took the lead through Grant Holt.
Boro’s David Wheater looked to have held off the challenge of Holt inside the penalty area but the City captain stayed strong and managed to get in a low shot that keeper Jason Steele allowed to squirm through his hands at his near post.
In truth, the opener had come out of nothing, but the home fans would soon have something to cheer as their team drew level eleven minutes later. Boro moved the ball from side to side, it eventually found its way to Julio Arca who surged forward and attempted to pick out Leroy Lita, but his pass deflected off Michael Nelson and past keeper John Ruddy.
Middlesbrough looked to press on, and they came close several times in the second half but a combination of good defending and keeping from Ruddy kept them at bay. Then with only minutes left on the clock, the whole theme of the day was put to the test.
With 86 minutes on the clock, a free kick was fired into the area by Middlesbrough’s Barry Robson and Wheater arrived at the back post to volley the ball past Ruddy in the City goal. The stadium erupted as Boro players celebrated with the big centre-half, but the joy was to be short lived as referee Graham Salisbury had spotted a shirt pull in the area.
Steven Wade, the NRFA county development manager, said: “I would like to thank Middlesbrough FC for getting behind the Respect programme. By showing that the professional game is behind the programme, hopefully this will filter down into the grassroot leagues. It’s important that we stamp out unacceptable behaviour in football at all levels.”
Boro head of supporter services Anthony Emmerson said he was delighted to build on the club’s strong links with the North Riding FA.
“As a professional club, we have a duty to get behind the Respect programme and we want to ensure that, from grassroots level, football becomes a positive experience that encourages positive behaviour.”For more information about The FA's Respect programme, click here.