THE last two years have been pretty bleak for the people of Teesside, who have seen their football team relegated just as the region's industrial base has been ripped apart.
But with Thai firm Sahaviriya Steel Industries having recently announced a plan to save the Corus plant, and Tony Mowbray's Boro side showing definite signs of improvement in recent weeks, there is every reason to be cheerful about the forthcoming new year on Teesside.
Middlesbrough followed up a fine draw at Leeds and a triumph at Preston in their festive programme by another spirited display in drawing at home to promotion-chasing Norwich City.
A Russell Martin own goal cancelled out Grant Holt's opener in the first half as Boro stretched their unbeaten run to three games, their longest this season.
It was by no means a vintage performance, but at least the team showed they are prepared to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, an attitude that was personified by Julio Arca.
Arca is arguably Middlesbrough's most gifted and creative player, yet he put his foot in where it hurts while still trying to conjure an opening.
Boro's youthful back four coped reasonably well, although somewhat unconventionally in the first half, while on the down side, Tarmo Kink seemed to be going through the motions.
Boro's front two were stifled by Canaries Micky Nelson and Leon Barnett, but then again they were feeding on scraps despite the best efforts of Barry Robson and Arca.
Robson and Kink came in for the injured Kevin Thomson and the missing Scott McDonald, who has joined up with his Australia colleagues in Dubai ahead of the Asia Cup, while Gary O'Neil was absent once again through illness as Boro tried to maintain a mini unbeaten run over the Christmas period.
The opening ten minutes provided little excitement for either set of fans, and in truth could have sent a glass eye to sleep, but the deadlock was suddenly broken in the 12th minute.
There didn't seem to be any danger when Aaron Wilbraham lofted a speculative ball in to the hosts' penalty area, but Holt managed to get in behind a hesitant David Wheater and scuff a shot, from inside the six-yard box, that crept under Jason Steele to give the Canaries the lead.
The goal turned out to be the kick up the backside the home side needed, after the sterile opening, and to Boro's credit, they were back on level terms nine minutes later.
Arca carried the ball forward ten yards from a central midfield position and his attempted pass to Leroy Lita was turned past Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy by his own player, Martin.
The Championship test ebbed and flowed following the Middlesbrough equaliser, although it was Mowbray's side who looked the most likely to score.
Matthew Bates had a superb opportunity to give Boro a lead four minutes before the break, when his central defensive partner Wheater headed a Robson corner back across the box, but somehow his shot from ten yards hit a Norwich defender and was scrambled to safety.
And it was Wheater, who could have played his last game for Boro yesterday, who went even closer on the half-time whistle. The central defender managed to head just wide from another Robson free-kick.
The Boro boss tinkered slightly after the break swapping the ineffective Kink from right to left with the more flexible Robson. It had little effect and Kink was eventually replaced by a lively Jonathan Franks.
Bates headed wide ten minutes after the break and that was about the only opportunity worthy of note until Robson blistered Ruddy's fingers with a thunderous shot from 20 yards. The Scot twisted past his marker and let fly with 75 minutes on the clock.
Boro's defensive dominance after the break was such that Norwich did not threaten Steele's goal until the last ten minutes, which looked as if it would turn into an explosive spell when Wheater gave Boro a lead only to see the goal' ruled out for a foul.
And when Justin Hoyte clipped the outside of the post in stoppage time, it meant Boro had to settle for a well-deserved point for their efforts.
Harking back to Teesside's roots, however, at least the performance suggested there is more steel to be found at the Riverside, which bodes well for the future.
Match facts Goals: Holt (12mins, 0-1); Martin (own goal, 21, 1-1)
Bookings: Lappin (33mins), Nelson (52), Arca (62), Wilbraham (77), Crofts (84)
Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire)6
Steele 6; Hoyte 6, Bates 6, Wheater 6, Bennett 6; Kink 4 (Franks 67, 5), Bailey 6, ARCA 7, Robson 6; Lita 5 (Boyd 74), Emnes 5. Subs (not used): Coyne (gk), Hines, McMahon, Tavares, Smallwood
NORWICH CITY (4-4-2): Ruddy 6; Martin 6, Nelson 6, Barnett 6, Drury 6; Smith 5, Crofts 5, Tudur-Jones 4 (C Martin, 45, 5) Lappin 6; HOLT 6 (Jackson 67, 5), Wilbraham 5.
Subs (not used): Rudd (gk), Gill, McNamee, Whitebread, Johnson.
MAN OF THE MATCH
JULIO Arca The Argentinian provided a pleasing blend of steel and skill.
Source: Northern Echo
Source: Northern Echo