Testing Times Ahead In Boro Survival Battle

A CRUCIAL win has clawed Boro away from the basement battle – but we are not out of it yet.
Seasoned Boro watchers will know that eight points above the trapdoor with 15 games to go is a precarious position and both Bruce Rioch and Lennie Lawrence’s teams were dragged down from what looked like the security of the ‘comfort zone’ to be relegated at the death.
The away win at Charlton – the first triumphant league trip since April – has taken Boro’s recent return to ten points from five games and made both the league and form table suddenly look a lot more reassuring. But there is a long way to go.

While the recent run has eased the hysterical pre-Christmas pressure, there is a school of thought – let us call it Slavenism – that snorts with derision at the results and points out that two of the three wins were against Charlton, a demoralised outfit sleepwalking towards the trapdoor, and the other at home to a one dimensional Sheffield United that have little to offer but muscled endeavour. ‘If Boro didn’t beat them they would deserve to go down’ is I believe the catchphrase.
Boro also got a good draw and a useful point at Everton to tip teh odds slightly in their favour but they lost the big six-pointer ‘must win’ games at Fulham and Blackburn and so missed a golden chance to really claw away from the danger zone in what was on paper the easiest run of fixtures in the whole season.
Now things suddenly get a lot tougher and the next six games will be a real test of the revival. The teams coming up will ask far tougher questions than those raised by nervous strugglers who start out desperate not to be beaten and rarely attack with conviction or confidence. Let’s look at the crucial fixtures, which may or may not, depending on the Hull game, be wrapped around two dates pencilled in for FA Cup action:
Bolton H
Portsmouth A
Arsenal H
Chelsea A
Reading H
Newcastle A
The next four teams coming are all Champions League contenders and will be highly motivated, well organised and in high spirits. Reading could losing momentus and starting to worry themselves as reality bites then there is a trip to St James’s, a venue where Boro have struggled historically, for a Tyne-Tees derby that could be tenser than usual.
Can you see ten points there? If you can then you are a far more optimistic creature than me and that is commendable but please, don’t go near a bookies. I can see one win and one draw from the last two and anything else – maybe another draw or two, or maybe a win rather than a draw at Newcastle – is a big bonus.
Taking ten points from those six and keeping up the momentum in the push towards safety is not impossible but would demand far higher levels of workrate and consistency between and within games than we have shown so far this season. It would demand that the good things we have been doing of late are intensified and rewarded while the bad things are not punished.
Three of the teams Boro must play – Bolton, Arsenal and Chelsea – are higher in the current form table and two more – Portsmouth and Newcastle – are just below. All six have scored more than Boro and all bar Newcastle, who are level, have better goal differences. All will be tough.
Make no mistake, if Boro were to lose three of the first four of those, the shifting sands below them would leave them suddenly looking very vulnerable again in the next two.
So there is no respite for Boro. And certainly no time to rest on their laurels. The real work starts here. One poor result and a few results going the wrong way below us and the pressure will be right back on – especially if the results in question go for West Ham.
That one step forward, two steps back tightrope trauma will continue now until we hit the 40 points mark or the three drop spots are decided. With the rest of the teams at the bottom also stepping up their own survival bids – eight teams are now scrapping to avoid that final relegation spot – the hard work is yet to come.
There was some wild euphoric post-match babble of pressing for Europe over the weekend – like the poor the delusional ra-ras are always with us – but that is just crazy talk. Boro have carved out a breathing space but will have to play far better than of late just to hold what they have.


16 thoughts on “Testing Times Ahead In Boro Survival Battle

  1. No danger of us going down now, mainly thanks to charlton. 8 point gap with 15 games remaining.
    That means West Ham need top 5 form for those 15 games aslong as we get a point a game. 13 points from 15 games should be enough. 4 wins and a draw..not difficult.l
    Time for southgate to start playing the team that he sees as the future for next season. if viduka is going to leave then start looking for other options now to play there. rather than wait until next season is under way, why not start playing without viduka in the team now?
    Lets start putting pressure of woodgate to decide. lets be ready on the starting blocks next august with the team and formations. we need a good start next season. a start will be to rest boateng and let cattermole take his position against hull and give morrison a run in the team to see if he is good enough
    its time to experiment and plan for next season
    **AV writes: I think you are probably right that Boro won’t go down but forgive me sounding a note of caution. There is no room for complacency. We need to avoid finishing the season struggling in the bottom six or the start you talk about next term will be compromised from the off.

  2. AV
    If West ham get their act together then it may need more than 40 points for safety.
    The relief is that teams below us have tough games ahead as well. Charlton look doomed with Pompey, Bolton, Chelsea and Manu to come before tha crunch match at home to West Ham.
    The crucial team is West Ham who have Toon A, Lpool H, Villa A, Watford H and that match at the Valley.
    My view is that every point is vital. Looking at the the fixtures closely and trying to guess the scores is fraught with anxiety. Who knows where we will pick them up.

  3. I think we’re all agreed that we shouldn’t go down now, but that really is not the point. We need to press on and show the determination to get as high up the table as poss. That means fielding the best team, not experimenting (sorry Alf). Experimenting is for July friendlies.
    Our form is decent at present, the fact is we have beaten Charlton,Sheff. Utd. etc where as at the beginning of the season we lost to Watford etc etc.
    Bolton are most definitley beatable and I will be disapointed if we don’t win. In fact all home games are winable.
    I would expect seven points at least from those six games with eight being quite possible. The only game I would completely right off is Chelsea away.
    We are in a good place currently, the strikers are scoring, the defence hasn’t conceeded more than two since Fulham and that was because the centre backs were not the first choice.
    There is every reason to believe the second half of the season should be a lot better than the first, capped off by a winning visit to Wembley in May!!!

  4. Good point mr Vickers, as long as West Ham’s away from remains poor then they wont catch us. They have 7 home games left. dont know who they are playing but they wil probably need to win them all unless they win away from home. they need to win 7 out of their last 15 games to get above us if we reach 40 points.
    As long as we keep the same form as West Ham we will be fine. all we need is 1 more win with a west ham defeat then 11 points will be too much.
    our home form should see us through

  5. Well done Boro for Saturday, good performance, great result.
    Before the Wigan game at home I posted that we needed 15 points from the next nine games (last of the nine was Pompey away).
    We have accrued 11 points from seven of these games.
    I hope I am not tempting fate but we have a good record against Bolton, abysmal against Pompey. So we may end up with 14 out of the 15 points I hoped for.
    AV — I can see us getting 7 points from the next six games, That would leave us needing 6 points from the remaining 8 games, which we should acheive.
    However Watford will struggle to get 20 points, Charlton will struggle to get 30 points and with Villa and Wigan in freefall less than 40 points may well keep us up.
    Alf — Now is not the time to drop Viduka, if he does leave the time to leave him out of the team will be only after we are mathmatically safe.

  6. we are on track for 44 points.
    West hams last game is away to man utd ours is at home to fulham.
    we will be safe of relegation with about 3 games to play. sounds not many games but that will be a 8-9 point game between us and 3rd from bottom.
    we wil finish on 44 points and 3rd bottom with finish on 36

  7. Not sure about Fulham, da…… they always give us a good game and Coleman has actually got them playing well away, too.
    I think West Ham will get out of it – not too good to go down, but certainly a classy and spirited bunch. Sheffield United? Nothing but hard graft and beavy-mob tactics. Their drive and spirit may save them. My bet is Wigan to go with Charlton and Watford. They’ve a great manager in Jewellio and good fighting spirit, but lack the strength in depth and the class of sides like Boro and Villa.
    One thing is certain – we’re really going to have to dig deep and fight our way out of it. We’re going to have to be hard and determined, because all the others ceratinly will be. We’ll need to get stuck in. It might not be pretty, but I don’t care as long as we stay up.

  8. Its generally a poor league and you have to be very bad to get relegated. with our defence and solid hardworking midfield there is no chance of us getting relegated. A solid defence is what will seperate us from the rest of the teams down there. No need to panic anymore. sit back and enjoy the football.

  9. As I said above I think we can get 7 points from the next 6 games, then 12 points from the last eight games. This will give Boro 46 points and safety.
    Tried finding something out about Lee Dong-Gook’s and what I did find did not particularly make good reading.
    He played for the South Korea national football team and was a participant at the 1998 FIFA World Cup where he enjoyed stardom along with Ko Jong-Su and Ahn Jung Hwan.
    After the 1998 World Cup, however, he suffered many hardships. During six months at Werder Bremen, he was merely a benchwarmer and returned to South Korea with injuries, which was met with bitter reaction. It worsened when he was not chosen by Guus Hiddink to represent South Korea in 2002 World Cup.
    Fans called him “Lazy Genius,” because they felt that he did not fully use his potentials. This is also because Hiddink emphasized strong stamina and power while Lee’s style involves less movement. He later admitted that he spent his days with heavy drinking and did not watch a single game that took place in South Korea.
    However, his career recovered as he continued to be the leading scorer in 2005 and 2006. It seemed almost certain without a doubt that he was going to be seen in 2006 World Cup, until he suffered a serious knee injury while playing for Pohang Steelers, which required immediate surgery and at least six months of rehabilitation.
    Many have said that the absence of Lee would be a serious setback to the Korean team.
    **AV writes: Hmmm, recently crocked ‘lazy genius’ eh? Likes a bevvy? Steel town resident? Sounds like our man.

  10. It will take a quite spectacular collapse from Boro and a quite spectacular upturn by West Ham to see us go down now. I don’t think anything spectacular happens in the Premiership these days so we’re safe.
    But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to keep on battling. A respectable finish is desperately needed if the Gate is to be able to push on with his rebuilding next year.
    Scrapping around the bottom in April and May to finish above Sheffield United and Wigan is not the kind of advert we need when it comes to selling the club to quality new players next year.
    We need to show signs of progress if we are to persuade Woodgate and Viduka to stay and to bring in good new players in the positions where we are weak.
    It is hard enough to get them to come now without the having to overcome the perception that we are a team who is battling every year to just stay up.
    I think the back half of the season is massively important in laying the foundations for next year.

  11. Alf, Red Rebel, Nigel, da… sorry to burst your bubble, guys. Far, far too early to be complacent.
    Were any of you there at Charlton? I was – see my posting after the match under Just Another Routine Relegation Six Pointer below.
    Solid defence and midfield? I don’t think so.
    One of the things I was most pleased about was Gate’s honest and realistic assessment after the game. He acknowledgedthe many shortcomings as well as welcoming what we did well and the win.
    Lawro said that if Charlton didn’t beat us at home they wouldn’t deserve to stay up and predicted they’d win. His prediction was wrong but his assertion wasn’t.
    We’re not anything like out of the woods yet. And I haven’t seen anything yet which persuades me that we’ll get anything like the points haul we need out of the next 6 games.
    Realistically we should be able to get 4 wins and a couple of draws out of the remaining games – but will we? There are many games this season we should have won or drawn but haven’t.
    And we certainly won’t get where we need to be without a couple of new players – and I don’t mean Lee Dong-Gook – in the window and we hang on to Veruka.
    If we get anything like a reasonable haul out of the next 6 games I may join you on the ra-ra bandwagon – if you can ra-ra about scraping survival. Before that I’m reserving judgment.

  12. John,
    We have 10 points from five games, that is good form it doesn’t matter who we played. We do have a good defence the goals against proves that. We also have a good pair of strikers, Yak being third top scorer in the prem proves that. We have a dodgy midfield and that is the main problem.
    I’m not complacent, no one is claiming that we’re guaranteed a UEFA cup spot, and my reference to wembley is a bit of fun…..but who knows?
    The fact is we are now in a position where there is some daylight between us and third bottom that should ease the pressure on the team a little. We also need to be ambitious to the point where we aim to get as high up the table as poss.
    I agree with red rebel having a good second half of the season lays the foundation for the summer.
    We are now in a position where we can play positive attacking football and maybe take the odd risk we couldn’t take if we were three points from third bottom.

  13. JP is right, all we have done is taken the future into our own hands. To coin a phrase ‘you can take a horse to water but you cant make it drink’.
    If we are still eight points clear after the next six matches then we will be fairly safe. The Hammers have tricky matches coming up but they need to win some and make up some ground.

  14. If Boro do sign Mr Gook whats the odds on a few pre season friendlies in Korea? It couldn’t be a marketing ploy could it? After all, we all from experience that the Boro Marketing and PR departments have no strategies.
    If Boro sell / release Maccarone, Christie and Viduka, surely Gook can not be a replacement for them all.
    Will we see an influx of Korean players and extra fans? Then again, to many Gook’s spoil the broth (sorry but I could not help myself)

  15. A few thoughts, Downing- Agree with AV, he is definitely short on confidence but that didnt stop three papers giving him MOTM awards after Charlton, And he played a part in two of the goals. He’ll be fine and the boo boys should shut it.
    Sounds like the Hull game was a narrowly avoided shambles but what do you expect with such a young midfield in front of andrew davies and Xavier(who were between the responsible for two of hull’s goals.
    As for relegation, it is of course far from over but Bolton are effective rather than worrying, its not as though we dont know how they are going to play.
    I think the lads will be well up for it and that we have a good chance at home. Thirty points with six of them in january? what boro team like that has ever gone down?

  16. jp is correct. we haven’t been great and 13 points out of our next 15 games seems easy but it wont be.
    With tough games coming up we might find ourselves with only 3 points out of our next 6 games – and then we have teams like west ham away and liverpool away, spurs home. You could see us getting nothing out of them which means we would need 10 points off our other 6 games.
    people who think west ham can’t climb out of their mess is wrong because look at pompey last year, birmingham were heading for safety and then pompey managed something like 25points out of 12 games

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