Dances With Wolves?

BOSTIN me babbies…  Boro’s title credentials will be under scrutiny as they go to Wolves tonight, the first team in the top eight that they have played so far.  Up to now Boro have showed a ruthless approach in polishing off a long list of lowly teams and makeweights but the only time they have played teams then in the top half they have faltered, losing to Reading and Sheffield Wednesday and drawing at Charlton.

But those defeats were a long time ago now. Seven games unbeaten and five of those wins have raised Boro’s status, confidence levels – and expectations. At the start of the season the few who predicted the play-offs for a reshaped side were denounced as wild-eyed foamies. Now the consensus has shifted and the play-offs now seem to be the minimum with the optimists now targeting the top two.

So this one is a big test, both of the team and of the strength of morale among fans. We’ve been let down before. A win tonight and some kind results elsewhere could see Boro go top. Deafeat and some unkind results may mean slipping back out of the top six. That’s how tight it is. For me, this team is well organised, hard to beat and has teeth. I think we will win against a Wolves side that is having a little crisis of confidence after their early post-promotion adrenaline rush faded a bit.

So I’m going for a 2-0 win for my #DaftQuid… now it’s over to you. I’ll get my impressions of the game up as soon as possible but in the meantime you can talk among yourselves. So make your score predictions, script how the game will unfold and then dissect the implication son the whistle. Bye for now. I’m off to the Black Country.

COME ONE BORO!

Post-match read? Here’s today’s Big Picture column.

As three Boro boss exit anniversaries fall quickly with the sickening thud of axe on block, let’s look back at the calendar cull of Gareth Southgate, Gordon Strachan and Tony Mowbray.  For Boro bosses, October Is The Cruellest  Month. 

 

 

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.

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Mogga Exit: One Year On

NEXT WEEK it will be a year since Ayresome hero Tony Mowbray was axed.

It was a sad but inevitable exit after a large contingent of the travelling Tees army at Barnsley turned on him for the first time in numbers and volume during and after a chaotic 3-2 defeat at rock bottom Barnsley. The sound of booing sharpened the mind of a stony faced Steve Gibson watching at Oakwell with Boro’s high command.  By the Monday evening he was gone, a significant departure that opened the door to a seismic change as Gibson opted for Boro’s first foreign boss and a cultural revolution.

In the Gazette next week we’ll be looking in more detail at Mogga’s impact, achievements and legacy at his boyhood club. To refresh your memory, to set the scene, to give you a head start in the agenda setting debates looming and to offer you something to chew over as the international break stretches on and on, here’s “another chance to see” the blog bit I did in the emotive aftermath of  the exit of a man who remains a club icon and who in time will be seen to have been an important factor in rebuilding a broken club.

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Number-crunching Boro’s First XI… PLUS Fulham left Pig Sick

****UPDATED****

WHAT do you think of it so far? Careful now…

A two week coitus interruptus as football takes an international break gives leaden-legged Boro a chance to recharge their batteries after seven games in 22 days.  A break! Oh no! What are we going to talk about now?

With 11 games gone, unless you want to quibble over decimal places, we are have played a quarter of the season. We are legally allowed to look at the table now and there is a body of statistical evidence building up. So it is probably fair enough to start looking in depth at what has happened so far and what could happen in the weeks to come.

Here’s some stats and analysis of the season so far that I did for the old school paper and clunktastic website.  With data graphics and video and everything. I’m really rocking this “digital content across a varity of multi-media platforms” gig.

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“Boro Would have Lost That Game Last Year…”

A FORMER fragile Boro would have lost that game. Nailed on. Back to the bread and butter games after an emotional high of a midweek glamour game and with expectations high after three wins in a row and a 4-0 Riverside romp against Brentford.  Throw in a huge travelling support buoyed by optimism and all the ingredients were in place for a “typical Boro” defeat – probably thanks to a Bikey goal in the 93rd minute.

But this Boro are made of sterner stuff.  Even with 10 men. Even after a leggy last half hour as the strength-sapping 120 minutes of the Anfield epic started to catch up with them and Charlton stepped up a gear to pile on the pressure late on.  They dug in. They put bodies on the line. They closed, tackled and blocked, they rocked as an opportunist hooked shot came back off the post, then the stayed sharp to resist a stoppage time assault as Dimi made a wonder save then Clayton hooked a goalbound header away.

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Surreal Scouse Spot-Kick Shoot-out Shenanigans

WHERE do you start with THAT?

Battling Boro were squeezed out in a 31 goal thriller at Anfield. They scored 15 goals against away Champions League side and “lost”.  Keeper Jamal Blackman scored a penalty and conceded 16 goals on his debut. Whack. Smack. Hammer. Neither keeper got anywhere near 20 consecutive penalties in a nerve-shredding cup record shoot-out. Crazy, surreal,  unscriptable spot-kick shoot-out.

Liverpool 2 Boro 2 (aet) (Liverpool win 14 [FOURTEEN] – 13 [THIRTEEN] on penalties). Total brackets. Total madness. Totally emotional exhausted after a pulsating night of pride and passion and barely believable absorbing end-to-end  action in which Boro more than matched a far from weakened Champions League side. Live on TV!  What an advert for Aitor Karanka’s Boro side. If that doesn’t put bums on seats I don’t know what will.

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Buzzing Boro Are The Bees Knees v Brentford

OPTIONS all over the place. Not just for Aitor. Where to start reflecting on bubbling Boro’s polished and potent performance against Bee-leagured Brentford?

The goals? Boro don’t do boring routine goals. They don’t scramble home scruffy  six yard toe-pokes in a messy penalty area scrum or have average shots take a deflection and skid or spin over the line. No, Boro only do spectacular long range sizzlers or perfectly engineered effort at the end of sweeping moves or deft text book finishes.

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Dragon Slaying/Taff Luck

Just a quick one before our annual bout of dragon slaying.  As usual you can put your money where your mouth is and make your score predictions and script out the drama here so we can come back later and hail your prescient pundit power or point at laugh at such woefully wishful thinking.  My daft quid is on a 1-1 draw with Kike netting, But what do I know?

I’ll try and get a blog up as soon as possible after the game but given the time difference and the cross-border cyber customs control I’m not sure when that will be. So you’ll have to talk among yourselves.

We’ve just driven into Cardiff and the shape of the Millenium Stadium appeared through a wispy haze of nostalgic yearning. It’s a long time ago now. But it still raises hackles. I think we will nip into The Gatekeeper for a nostalgic pre-match pint. Every little helps.

Meantime, as we are waiting for kick-off, here’s a bit I did in the steam driven print product today on how, 10 years on,  Teesside should start to reclaim the legacy of Ayresome hero Brian Clough,  One of our own.