THE game at Huddersfield was supposed to be about the “Football Inevitability Drive” showdown between summer shirt-swappees Clayton and Butterfield. But instead the mooted midfield head-to-head turned into a bad-tempered toe-to-toe tear-up.
BORO were the third biggest net spenders in a busy summer as Aitor Karanka completely rebuilt his first team. That came as a bit of a surprise.
Keeping a mental tally of the ins and outs (Boro shelled out for Kike, Husband, Clayton and Wildschutt but flogged Emnes, Jutkiewicz, Butterfield and Smallwood), it seemed the overall outlay was relatively modest on fees while the perception is always that a host of other ambitious sides are throwing cash about like a sailor on shore leave.
Patience is a virtue: That should be the new club motto. Certainly when the transfer window is open.
Boro’s shopping strategy over the summer has had the stony-faced intensity of World Staring Out Championship final. They have pitched the project to their targets, courted them, flattered them and sold them a vision and a role in it. Then they have made their offer – fair, firm and final – to the other club.
COME ON Boro! Haven’t you signed anyone YET? Get your finger out.
Welcome aboard our multi-platform breakfast to bongs rolling 24 hour news style scrolling ticker tape of destiny. On blog. On twitter. And on the Gazettelive website. I’m wearing my yellow socks. I’ve got the beer and Pringles in. It’s going to be a long one. Maybe. Actually it will probably be weighted more to breakfast than bongs.
Our mooted two new boys – Jelle Vossen and Yanic Wildschut should be getting up round about now and mooching around the Spa or heading towards the Orangery for breakfast after a good night’s sleep at Rockliffe. Soon they will be ready to complete.
THE TWO week break couldn’t have come at a better time for Boro. The certainly need to regroup, reassess and reinforce a team that is still not the finished article.
The 1-0 defeat to Reading was a major blow. Hot on the heels of the home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday it shows that Boro, for all their patient probing and possession, still struggle to break down archetypal Championship sides. Wednesday sat deep, knocked it long to a big man and caused mayhem at the book; Reading snatched an early lead then set out to spoil, frustrate and waste time and did it very effectively.
But for all the natural angst in the crowd that the reshaped squad has yet to live up to the hype after a summer of spending, this new look Boro remains work in progress.
PATIENCE is a virtue. After a will-he, won’t he week long wait, Patrick Bamford has opted to sign for Boro on a year long loan. He is fast, direct, good in the air and comes with a proven goal-scoring record in the Championship. He will be a useful addition to the team, taking some of the burden off Kike and adding tactical options as well as firepower.
But a lot of Boro fans would have given up on him long again. Plenty would have blown him out last week when he asked for time to think about joining our heroes. Some got in a real Paddy on Twitter and made their point forcefully if not diplomatically. How dare he want to mull over a move to mighty Boro at a pivotal point in his career! Who does he think he is? And how soft were the club to let him take the Micky like that? We should tell him to sign on the dotted here and now or leg it! Or words to that effect.
But it doesn’t work like that.
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?