The Road To Wigan Pier: Boro Bandwagon Misfires

THERE was no Feeding of the Five Thousand;  Although it was a minor miracle Boro managed to come away with a point. They got back down to the bread and butter of the Championship by serving up some stodgy fare.  There was no procession to the points for the travelling army who arrived in a convoy of coaches; the team spluttered and back-fired and chugged along in the slow lane. But at least they didn’t end up on the hard shoulder.

The 1-1 draw at crisis-club Wigan in a tense and scrappy clash at the Alf Garnett Stadium didn’t go to script. Boro were supposed to take advantage of the on-going distractions around dug-out and directors box , the lack of preparation time for the new text pest boss and the sense of chaos around the club –  much of it generated by alarming lack of cultural awareness (or indeed, PR savvy) of the Latics ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ chairman.

Boro were supposed to turn on the style for the incredible away day army. Instead they fell short, failed to impose themselves and made very hard work of the game. We’ve seen it all before.  It was Doncaster all over again. And Barnsley. And many, many more.

away end

             Standing room only:  5,000 Teessiders pack the away end

The game was far from a classic. Boro were well short of their best in a lack-lustre first half,  looked disjointed and sluggish and were caught cold at the back. Their normally fluid game was peppered with wayward passes, stuttering indecision  and needlessly conceded free-kicks after being caught out of position.

A series of Wigan raids down the right made them suddenly look vulnerable and their was a sudden crisis of faith. Wigan worked hard, closed quickly, pressed high, broke quickly and won all the second balls.  And Boro were deservedly punished for their sloppiness with a delicious dead-ball opener by Maloney. He had already grazed the bar with a dipping free-kick so they can’t say they weren’t warned.

Boro had chances in the first half – Kike curled a chip just wide, Reach fired just wide – but generally their movement came to nothing with the final ball not quite clicking.

Boro were better – but not much – after the break.  It was scrappy and frantic but Wigan probably edged it on possession and chances and in a sustained spell of pressure Fortune stabbed against the post and then skied a sitter.

Then our heroes broke quickly to engineer an equaliser, a move started by alert Adam Clayton ending with a deft touch and shimmy by Kike to beat his man and tee up Patrick Bamford to nip behind and slot home at an angled effort to score (his third in four games) with almost his first touch of the ball two minutes after coming off the bench.


          The two most polite and articulate men in football celebrate

He poked another one wide soon after and there were a few unconvincing probes and breaks to no avail then Boro had two penalty calls waved away in stoppage time – the first one probably not, the second one? Well, on another day –  so will have gone away thinking they could have even won but in truth they were probably fortunate not to have lost.

Still, a point away is never a bad thing, especially when you have drawn ugly and salvaged something after a poor performance. And whatever their league position, Wigan are not a bad team and with a bit of tweaking will probably finish in the top half (FA sanctions notwithstanding). It stretches the progressive and promising run to just one defeat in 13.  And despite a “wobble” of two successive very differently flavoured  draws Boro remain in joint second and three points off the top.


Yes, we would all prefer they had won. Yes, if only they had nicked it against Bournemouth, or turned up at Wolves, or been more assertive against Blackpool they’d be top now, etc etc.  It is a long season and a tough division and no team can play to their potential every week. There will be times when we are frustrated. There will be slip-ups, There will be set-backs. And, of course, they will feel worse when we make long trips in large numbers.

But we are still well placed. Aitor said he was ‘happy’ but his body language suggested otherwise and he will give them a rocket. Blackburn next.








Is Karanka Gibson’s Best Ever Appointment?

INTERNATIONAL breaks can be frustrating. Withdrawal symptoms make Boroholics tense and tetchy,  simmering and snappy.  Inevitably tempers bubble over and squabbles start and  soon protocol breaks down witty, urbane banter becomes more ascerbic, personal and threatening and before you know it, we’re the car-park to sort out once and for all.

The latest abstract to go physical came after our debut podcast in which we collectively gushed over Aitor’s transformation of the club from top to bottom. It lead to a third party innocently asking:  “Is Karanka Steve GIbson’s best ever appointment?” Well…

Battle-lines were quickly drawn between myself and Mr T as an Iron Curtain was thrown up across the sports desk.  There’s  only one way to settle it…. FIGHT!

Continue reading Is Karanka Gibson’s Best Ever Appointment?

Special K: One Year On

TODAY is what has been dubbed the #Karankaversary. It a year since Boro appointed Aitor Karanka as their new boss. I think it is fair to say it has been a year of marked change on and off the pitch. A  year of of steady if not spectacular improvement in every department of the team and of results and performances.  And a year of reshaping of  the attitudes that surrounds the club. Karanka is all about professionally planned progress.

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Tasty Tussle – But No Cherry On The Top

A TOP TWO shared summit showdown. A bumper crowd.  The featured match on the Football League show after a sustained campaign of cynical sniping. What could possibly go wrong?  That should be the club motto: potuisset quid peccavit?  

Well, it was goalless. That definitely wasn’t part of the script. Obviously with 23,000 fans in the Riverside – almost 6,000 more than the previous high and a lot back for the first time in several years – the ideal outcome would have been a Norwich-style goal romp, a mass conversion of cynics to the Karanka cause and a long queue outside the ticket-office demanding half-season cards immediately. Instead some will have gone away feeling a little cheated and saying that “they always let you down.”

But that would be very harsh.

Continue reading Tasty Tussle – But No Cherry On The Top

Basic Stuff: High Flying Boro Crush Canaries

DEFLATED Norwich boss and Lee Mack lookalike  [insert your own "Not Going Up" joke here]  Neil Adams spent most of his post-match press conference saying he was “not taking anything away from Boro but…”

He chuntered a bit about his own side not quite being on song, said it was the most disappointing display of the season and concluded that there was nothing in the game, nothing between the teams  but Boro “just did the basics better.” Hmmmmm.

Continue reading Basic Stuff: High Flying Boro Crush Canaries

Cool Headed Boro Are Red Hot at Rotherham

BORO kept their cool when the temperature soared to secure a thoroughly professional 3-0 win away in a deliciously hostile atmosphere at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.

They weathered an early heavy barrage as Rotherham threw some quick diagonals into the box and then twice broke out to score two crackers – Bamford and Wildschut –  with their first two real chances in a text-book display of counter-attacking to take total control.

They they sealed it late on with a third as Tomlin wriggled across the box and cracked home.  That took Boro - briefly – up to second before results pegged them back a place. It was a thoroughly professional performance.

Continue reading Cool Headed Boro Are Red Hot at Rotherham

Bubbling Boro Can’t Bridge Watford Gap

WHEN Boro scored early in the second half of their 1-1 draw with Watford they were briefly joint top of the Championship table. “Steve McClaren’s Derby” were drawing – they went on to lose 2-1 at home to Wigan – and there suddenly was a huge prize on offer for Boro’s biggest game of the season.

Had Boro held on, or had they got the second goal they deserved at that point, they would have been sitting pretty now with a slice of a three way share of the summit. There would be a tangible background buzz building and those extra bums on seats that turned up  (17,000 home fans there today, it is steadily nudging up) would have gone away bubbling about a great display and spreading word for mouth, doing excitable missionary work among the cynical masses of stay-aways.

Continue reading Bubbling Boro Can’t Bridge Watford Gap

Dances With Wolves?


It was a bad day at the office in the Black County as Boro froze in the Baltic blast to lose 2-0 at Wolves. You can read the match report here.

They started slowly and failed to reach the levels of intensity that has driven them through the seven game unbeaten run. They failed to impose themselves on a Wolves side that started just as tentatively as the visitors. For half an hour it was turgid stuff and although Wolves gradually gained the upper hand it was far from a classic.

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Rock Hard Boro Resist Brighton Pier Pressure.

BATTLING Boro dug deep and resisted a furious final flurry from a side that looked a lot better than their league position suggested. It was nervous watching the tense last 10 minutes  after Brighton clawed one back – but this  team has shown they are stronger  now, more organised and far less likely to be bullied out of games.

It was a great game to watch. Boro went toe-to-toe when they had to, frustrated Brighton when they had to, and scored two cracking sucker-punch goals on the break to set up an archetypal away-day display and strengthen their promotion credentials.

Battered and bruised, Boro limped away from the Amex Stadium having banked three precious points and boosted their credit rating.

Continue reading Rock Hard Boro Resist Brighton Pier Pressure.