Statistics, Spin And The Play-Off War of Words

THERE’S a phoney war going on with selected statistical snapshots being used to prop up positions that are more based on faith than fact. And I’m not talking about the election.

No matter how much you point to the data, the numbers, there is very little science about how individuals will perceive them . Those double-edged things – ‘facts’ – are all very well if they reinforce your own prejudice but can be easily dismissed by the entrenched opposing camp if they prove too awkward to square. They can be routinely countered with predictably scripted sound-bites and mantras.

That’s just like the on-going well rehearsed debates among football fans and the time-honoured tension between the opposite poles of perspective.

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Last Day Draw May Give Boro A Play Off Edge

SO, Brentford: Boro ended up with what may well turn out to be the most favourable of play-off opponents – but despite some strange dynamics and off field orchestration in the closing stages of the Brighton game,  that is more by accident than design.

A frustrating, flat final fixture saw Aitor Karanka’s team dawdle lethargically and slouch back into fourth place and as a result they are now pitted against the Championship’s real surprise package this term.

After the mounting chuntering about the lacklustre limp over the finishing line on a day when an explosive leap from the play-off launch pad was the pre-match minimum demand, being paired with the Bees was generally well received.

In fact, in the nuanced post-mortem it almost felt  like Boro had been rewarded for their failure to beat Brighton. The camp was happy. It felt as if it that was desired outcome.

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Flat Boro Need To Bounce Back After Dead Rubber

I’M BUSY. (On a Saturday night? What is going on?)   I’ll get back to you soon. But briefly…

A lack-lustre and laboured leap from the play-offs launch pad fell flat.  It may have turned out to be a dead rubber but Boro will need to bounce back quickly. They will need to add real teeth and tempo to beat Brentford.

It was an opportunity to put in an up-lifting, entertaining display and record an emphatic win in front of a rammed Riverside to get Teesside buzzing and go onto the two-legged shoot-out on a high and with momentum. But Boro barely got out of second gear.

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Buzzing For The Great Play-Off Adventure

BARRING some statistical final day freak results not even the most brazen Far East betting syndicate would contemplate, Boro are in the play-offs.

Oh no, we are all going to die! It’s a disaster. It’s a complete failure! We’ve got no chance. The habitual doom and gloomers have written us off already and are tuning up for their symphony of pessimistic predictions of failure before a ball is kicked. The killjoys.

But  we should be buzzing.  We are still in with a shout. And Wembley is in sight.

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Boro Barmy At Crazy Cottage

WHERE do you start with that? Seriously, where? That was a crazy game of ups, downs and disbelief  that captured the agonies of the entire season so far. And made Boro hostage to fortune in the play-off lottery.

The low-key first 45 that felt like a mid-table dead rubber as Boro floundered and failed to find the terrifying tempo and growling gear going forward they showed as they ripped into Wolves and Norwich that forced the gaffer into admitting it was ’embarrassing’,

Or the pulsating, end-to-end shapeless schoolboy frenzy of the second half assault that was barnstorming stuff that nearly paid-off?

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Cottage Industry Can Spark Revolution

FULHAM:  Boro have to win AND hope someone slips up to regain pole position in the promotion chase. I think they will . And win well. Roared on by 6,000 plus Teessiders, both partisan and ‘neutral’  Boro will do their bit. Emphatically.  That is the part Aitor Karanka can control and he will have the team meticulously prepared tactically and psychologically and Boro will be fired up to roar into the Speedo wearing Cottagers from the off.

If Boro can show the steel and spirit, the art and industry they did at Norwich last weekend then they will tear into a deeply flawed Fulham side that have been woeful this term. Even if Aitor has to tweak his team because of injuries, a highly motivated, sprint starting Boro backed by a passionate Red Army will sweep past  a leaky, disjointed Fulham that are safe and have nothing to play for. My money is on a comfortable Boro win.

Beyond that we are powerless …  although  I think all the pressure is on the others.

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Boro Close In On 90 Point Promotion Trigger Tally

Ninety minutes… 90 degrees and coming to the boil… and as Annabelle Lu Win of post-punk stereo-drumming pop puppets Bow Wow Wow once said: C-30, C-60-  See 90 GO!

Two wins will take Boro to the magic mark of 90 points – which in 11 of the last 16 seasons since Boro last went up  would have easily been enough for promotion.  And in five of those years years would have won the title. In fact, the last time a got 90 and weren’t promoted it was 1997-98 when we nudged ahead on the final day leaving the dejected Mackems at the trigger tally but cast down into the play-offs.

Here’s my Big Picture column this week looking at how 90 historically *should* be enough and asking whether Boro – and their rivals – will make it.

Canaries Crushed As Boro Seize The Summit

STEEL. Determination. Focus. Work-rate. Belief. Bottle.  Spirit. Industry. Organisation. Bravery. Muscle. A little bit of cynicism and strategic time-wasting.  Boro showed real character as they stood firm in a hostile and sometimes hysterical atmosphere to weather a second half storm and and seized the summit . It was brilliant.

There has been a bitter backlash from sour-graped Norwich fans  but make no mistake, Boro thoroughly deserved their famous and potential decisive victory over one the Championship’s form sides. They have badly dented a rival and have thrown themselves right back into the battle for an automatic promotion spot and have piled the pressure on Bournemouth and Watford. And it was brilliant.

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Battling Boro Put The Bite On Wounded Wolves

FANTASTIC.  Finesse. Flair. Fight. Fans.  And plenty of other ‘F’ words. Especially in a nerve shredding spell in the second half when Wolves threatened to gate-crash the party with a goal on the break and a shot that hit the bar leaving loyalists needing defibrilators.

I  would say Boro “held on”  but I’m not sure that’s true. On balance – our own jitters aside – it was probably a more comfortable win than our racing pulses and valium consumption suggested. Boro could have been out of sight before the break as Albert Adomah whacked against the woodwork after a beguiling weaving run and Patrick Bamford also hit the bar at the death with a neat lob.   Boro were the better team  where and when it mattered through. Even Wolves boss Kenny Jackett admitted as much.

Sprint starters Boro raced into an early lead then grabbed the game by the throat and, with the crowd right behind them from the of,f showed  a hunger and spirit that suggested they are still very much in the battle for a top two spot. It was a brilliant team display reminiscent of the December dismantling of Derby.

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