TWO LATE Grant Leadbitter piledriver penalties threw bungling Boro a lifeline but that can’t disguise the fact that for long spells they were thrashing around out of their depth in a shambolic 3-2 defeat at the Riverside
BORO carried out a spirited smash and grab raid to win 2-1 at Bolton as Kike flicked home a late winner in a pulsating game that wasn’t always polished but had penalties at either end and plenty of endeavour and steel. And a little a bit of luck.
Boro looked crisp and inventive for the opening spell – as at Leeds – then were rocked against the run of play as Bolton won a penalty. But Boro got a break. Seb Hines could – should? – have been shown a red card. He stayed on. Had Boro been down to 10 men then it may well have been game over but he was let off lightly. It was pay back for the misfortune of the Albert Adomah goal ruled out at Leeds. Swings and roundabouts.
But Boro showed great resilience in bouncing back. Against Leeds the set-back of a pivotal decision going against them threw them completely, they lost some fizz, the tempo dropped off and they ceded tactical control. This time they dug in, fought back and went toe-to-toe with long-ball Bolton and clawed back.
Obviously they were given a helping hand by David Wheater – “one of our own” – who made a brave bid to gain one on the coveted Gazette stars by giving Boro a parmo powered penalty just before the break. He had his arms out trying to shield Kike from behind and when the striker flicked the ball up and tried to wriggle free Wheater handled. Nice one Redcar Rock. Your free pass for the Mungle Jungle is in the post.
It was Boro’s first penalty of 2014 and the first one away from home for 19 months. The last one was, ironically, in a clash with Bolton: the 1-0 at the Riverside last November when Leadbitter buried his spot-kick and Beckford had one of his own in the last minute but sent it soaring over the bar and into the police control box.
The second half was a scrap. It was a tense, error strewn, end-to-end, high-tempo tussle, a real Championship battle. It was anyone’s game. Craig Davies and impressive wideman Lee went close then Jermaine Beckford came on and put on in the side-netting then had a “goal” ruled out after barging Ayala aside.
But Boro had chances too. Lee Tomlin smashed a shot straight at the keeper then Adam Reach brought a full length save before Boro broke through with a slick move, Tomlin feeding Reach who slotted into the box and Kike turned it over the advancing Bogdan, his third goal in four games, and after a relatively subdued game . It was fantastic and entertaining stuff, although the closing stages were nerve-shredding and frantic.
Still, it was a fantastic result as Boro showed real grit to come from behind and bounce back from the disappointment at Leeds. The boss was relieved on the whistle but full of praise for Boro’s workrate, character and organisation as they stood up to a difficult challenge against a decent Bolton side.
It was the first win at Bolton’s new ground too so that is a real hoodoo ended. Boro also won the curtain-raiser this term for the first time in six years and the first time in this division since 1998. And last term we didn’t have a post-Christmas wobble. Karanka has no respect for Boro’s traditions.
THE last time Boro won at Bolton was at the tatty old Burnden Park back in April 1987. Bernie Slaven scored three minutes from time to seal a scrappy 1-0 win that all but sealed the fate of both clubs that term.
For Bruce Rioch’s bottle blond Boro boys it opened a five point gap behind them and all but cemented them into second spot in division three.They went on to finish with seven wins out of eight, the only draw a goalless game against Wigan that ended with a jubilant party on the pitch in the final home fixture.
For Bolton it pushed them into the relegation spots and they were not to escape. They were to be relegated to the fourth division for the first time in their history.
To give a sense of the division that year Boro’s previous game had been a 1-1 draw ith Darlington at Ayresome Park, a rare derby played out in front of a 11,969 crowd and Boro’s first ever Sunday game (with a bizarre 11am kick-off).
The following game was to be another rare league clash, a 3-1 home win over near neighbours York. Mighty Boro’s side that day was: Pears, Parkinson, Cooper, Mowbray, Pallister, Ripley, Kerr, Hamilton, Spriggs, Slaven, Stephens. Gary Gill was on the bench.
That was 27 years ago. Blimey. Of the current Boro squad only Dimi. Woody, Grant Leadbitter, Dean Whitehead and Damia Abella were even born then. It was a different club, a different world. Another hoodoo smashed. Let’s rewrite history.
BORO haven’t won at Bolton for 27 years – Bernie grabbed a late winner in a 1-0 win in April 1987 that kept Brucie’s boys on course for promotion and Bolton for relegation – and we haven’t won at all at the Big Fat Sam Memorial Hoofodrome. We’ve been battered there, robbed there, thrown away two goal leads there and fallen asleep watching snoozathons several time. And it is always freezing.
So tonight… time to break that hoodoo, dump an appalling record in the dustbin of history and bounce back from the semi-derby disappointment of Leeds and resulting drop in morale with a resounding win to top up those foam fume levels again.
I’m going for a determined 2-0 grind. Kike and Tomlin. And now that I’m taking flak for publicly standing up for Tomas Meijas I want him to save a last gasp penalty too. Time for you to make your predictions, and script how the game plays out – a debut for Bamford? – and be straight on here after the whistle to gloat/offer mitigation/demand the gallows building resumes. I’ll get my own thoughts up as soon as humanly possible.
Meanwhile, Boro have accepted a £175,000 offer for Richie Smallwood. The Dormo Destroyer has signed an emergency loan so he can feature tonight against Watford with a view to talking terms on a permanent switch tomorrow. Any thoughts on that?
OK, LEEDS… never been a better time to play them ; confident Boro are tight at the back and flying up front and with Kike looking as hot as El Nino; Leeds in their annual disarray with boardroom mayhem, an influx of unknown players and a non-league boss. Who supports Boro. What could possibly go wrong?
THIRD time lucky.… Adam Clayton was due to have a medical this morning and then sign today to end a summer sage with more twists and turns than a snake in a spin-dryer.
With two missed medicals, Jacob Butterfield in limbo and eleventh hour hi-jack bid being fought off, the whole thing has been played out in public but that is more because the Gazette have had an inside track all along rather and so the two stumbles have been in the spotlight than it being a particularly tortuous transfer. And yes, the agent tried to pull a fast one and work Brighton into the equation after everything was agreed (that’s what agents do) and both clubs were seething and fans at two clubs were left frustrated and confused but as Steve Gibson pointed out, that happens all the time.
You have just had a glimpse of his normal working week. Imagine that same convoluted process but with two agents. And translators. And a father trying to get a cut. And another club or agent barging in at the last to demand a disputed sell on fee or percentage.
JUST A quick one before I go out and pogo to Stiff Little Fingers….
What a fantastic game: Full of exciting fluid movement, attacking intent and brimming with positivity – and with an atmosphere to match. There were some excellent individual displays but more importantly there was a coherent shape and temp in a great team performance that ticked a lot of boxes in a one sided-2-0 win.
SPANISH right back Damia Abella has arrived at Boro pencilled in as Aitor Karanka’s main man in that position. He is physically imposing, fast and has a La Liga winners medal from his fledgling years at Barcelona. He has played in Europe with Betis. He has played for the Catalan side along with a who’s who of football greats. He has played 120 games in the Spanish top flight in the past four seasons as a virtual ever present with the Pamplona-based side to suggest he is robust. And Karanka knows him well. The boss has played against him and believes he has the skill set and attitude to flourish in the Championship.
He arrived as a free agent after being released by relegated Osasuna who need to trim their wage bill. They didn’t want to lose him. He was widely regarded as one of their best performers last term and is a firm fans favourite. At 32 is experienced without being over the hill. And he is tall. At six foot two he will help Boro look like a Land of the Giants defence – Ayala, Big Ken, Gibbo and George are all over six foot… it is all a far cry when Boro defended corners with the likes of Tony Mac, Batesy and Joe Bennett in the box.
So, Abella has an impressive CV and ticks a lot of the bosses’ boxes…. “but he is not Aitor’s first choice” the cry goes up. He’s second best. He’s rubbish. Booooo. Typical Boro!
AFTER a frustrating weekend at Rockliffe, Boro have finally made a breakthrough and Adam Clayton is on his way for a medical. The clubs have agreed a fee (£1.5m rising to a possible £2m), the player has agreed personal terms and he will sign providing the club doctors are happy with his limb count and *cough*.
Again, the Boro are systematically working their way through their priority targets. Kike was the first choice striker. Nsue was the first choice wideman. They may well hav emissed out on their first choice right-back targets but are working on an equally impressive option. But Clayton was their first choice midfielder to add some zip.
Clayton was identified back in May as a midfield additions and there has been a lot of wrangling with Huddersfield (where the local press regard him as their key player) and even more with his agent, who naturally has been working hard to work Brighton into the equation and push up the package in a bidding war. Boro bosses indicated to me last week that they had “gone cold on the deal”, and that while they still wanted the player they were not prepared to get into an auction or a wages arms race.
He is another player who in talks with the club has been impressed with “the project” and the manager. And everyone is impressed with Rockliffe. Boro have been patient on this deal – far more patient than many fans have been as the big kick-off approaches. The club are determined to do their business properly rather than quickly and they remain busy on deals for a right-back, a left sided wideman and another striker. Plus the Chelsea lads. It will all come together.
What do you know about Adam Clayton? Here’s a few things to think about.
LAST time Boro took on Villarreal, Steve McClaren’s star-studded side were out-played in a UEFA Cup group game. Back then, in November 2004, a team still basking in the glow of Carling Cup glory were comfortably beaten 2-0 away after paying the price for starting without some star names for what was a dead rubber. Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink were on the bench with Joseph Job up front on his own leaving the 4,000 fans who had travelled to Valencia in the first big away glamour trip feeling a little let down.
Boss Steve McClaren had bigger fish to fry. He was resting his big names for bread and butter games and as Boro still qualified for the knock-out phase and went on to finish in a highest ever Premier League position of seventh, he maybe had a point. His tinkering that term helped Boro to a second continental campaign that was to take them to the high-water mark of the final at Eindhoven. Ahhhhhh, wistful nostalgia.
But those misty memories must have felt like another club, in another lifetime to the 6,000 plus crowd who watched another encounter between the sides at the Riverside. The scoreline was the same but the gulf in class and status between the sides was massive.