Boro Safe After Wigan Water Own Goal

WIGAN fans were furious about a string of decisions going against them as they saw the trapdoor creak open an inch or two below them after a week when everything has gone wrong, not least the pressure piled on by the Premiership’s bottle job over relagation rivals West Ham. Paul Jewell fumed and blustered his way into stroke territory in the post match press conference as he grasped at straws and blamed the goal on Stewy Downing’s illegal Bolo-style slipping two footed deadball delivery technique that perfected on the training pitch at Hurworth.
But all that is just a bitter deflection of a simple truth: Wigan were awful. All their problems against Boro were self-inflicted. They can blame the refs and the Premier League and devious Downing all they like but the reality is that they put in a high-octane but low threat performance in a must win match against the team with the worst away record in the Premiership and when it looked like slipping away they did precisely nothing to change it.
Wigan were awful and Boro – despite some changes that will have had fans wincing before kick-off – were good. They put in a spirited if scrappy defensive display in a bruising game when the pressure was really on. Wigan had to win but never looked remotely like doing it. A looping header clipped the bar in a frantic start that soon fizzled out then industrious Boro beavered into a position of dogged dominance that finally secured Premiership safety.

Wigan possibly had the bulk of the possession but after a blistering opening ten minutes did very little apart from pump balls into the box where outstanding Jonathan Woodgate headed away 1001 of them. Wigan had five shots on target and they were all straight at Schwarzer and apart from the looping McCullough header which rattled the bar the only time he was under any pressure was when Downing ran down a cul de sac and frustrated, turned and hoofed a 60 yard back pass that forced the Aussie keeper to charge out and fractionally beat Heskey to the ball. Even in a furious finale When they threw everyone forward Wigan could not find a sight of goal.
Boro though had two more good chances to score. Mark Viduka stretched at the far post to reach a Downing free-kick but could’t get enough on it to turn it in and after the break Downing beat the flag to chase an Andrew Taylot ball down the left then cut into the box unchallenged but fired straight at the keeper from an angle. In the end it was easy. Some observations.
SLIPPING TO RELEGATION: When Downing took his fortuitous skid as he took the free-kick that led to the goal it was not because he went for a cheap Mr Bean slapstick laugh or because he is particularly unsteady on his feet. It was because Wigan had heavily watered the pitch before the game to create a surface calculated to produce mistakes they hoped they could profit from. They had watered it far more than an eco-terrorists would have been happy with about half-an-hour before kick off then again immediately before the teams came out.
Downing went over twice in the first two minutes chasing back to Boro’s byline then a neat dummy by Valencia sent Andrew Taylor and Manny Pogatetz sliding into touch down by the corner flag. But Boro quickly came to terms with it while it was Wigan who seemed to struggle with it and their high-tempo game plan faltered because a failure to control with an unsteady first touch allowed Boro to snuff out attacks before they could get into the danger area.
The flank where Downing took the free-kick from was particularly greasy because it was in the shade and didn’t dry out as quickly as the far side so the conditions that produced the DJ Stewy Shuffle for the decisive free-kick was a self-inflicted wound.
And Wigan have only themselves – and possibly their fans – to blame for what happened as the ball arrived in the box. When Downing slipped the Latic crowd laughed, whistled, and made that contemptuous throaty ahhhhhhh noise that is usually accompanied by various hand gestures and indicates that a shot is going hopelessly high or wide. Whether that persuade their defnece that the ball was heading harmlessly out or not is conjecture but they stood rooted as Mark Viduka stepped effortlessly past them and thumped home from six yards. Instead of taking a pop at Downing’s deadball technique Jewell should be blasting his own defence for a lack of concentration at what should have been a routine clearance.
RIGHT WING RANTING: George Boateng is the latest Boro player to have a shot in the problem wide right role but he won’t be relishing the thought of playing their again. Far from being a natural winger, his only cross in the first half ended up in the crowd, he kept on drifting inside and when sent down the line lacked the legs to chase the ball into dangerous positions. He worked hard but always looked awkward and vulnerable and Wigan failed to spot the glaring weakness or take advantage of it.
But what are we to make of him even starting there? The skipper, undroppable despite an injury hampered season in which he has been far from his best, was shuffled out on the right with unpredictable Rochemback, a player who looked to be on his way in January, prefered in the Dutchman’s holding role in the middle? Why not George in the middle and Rocky on the right? Why not George in the middle and James Morrison, Adam Johnson or Lee Cattermole wide? Is that the first sign that he is not a fixture in the middle? That he is not a first choice? Last week he filled in at right back, this week on the flank.
BRUISE BROTHERS: Even Alpine hardman Manny Pogatetz admitted it was a physical game so you can imagine how mere mortals felt. In the tunnel after the game as the players left for the coach it seemed that every other one was limping heavily. Andrew Davies needed treatment after he landed heavily in his hand and Wigan’s Ryan Taylor was spark out and concussed after colliding with the rock-hard Austrian in a first half war of attrition.
Mad Dog Pogatetz was super human in a ferocious spell midway through the opening spell. He has started quietly but after Coca Cola Cup dream smashing hate figure Emile Heskey crunched unneccessarily into Mark Schwarzer as he collected a routine ball, Boro’s cult hero hard man became ‘radged’ and started throwing himself into everything. He charged down a powerful drive from Baines that hit him in the midriff with a force that would put you or I in intensive care then when the resulting corner was nodded to the edge of the box he raced out to block from point blank range a piledriver from Julius Aghahowa. Ayazz, that knacked!
But it wasn’t just Mad Dog: everyone was flying into tackles and putting heads in where the boots were flying. No-one would ever advocate a Dogs of War approach as the norm but sometimes you need to do that and battling Boro’s willingness to get kicked and ‘put a foot in’ and go toe-to-toe for every ball was something to be proud of. They do have it in them. They don’t have to be an easy touch. We just need to bottle that spirit now.
FEATHERWEIGHT FRONTLINE: For a spell at the end pessimistic Boro fans had had what could be a glimpse of the future as Viduka went off to be replaced by Jason Euell and the former Charlton man lined up alongside Lee Dong Gook to form what could be the least threating front pairing Boro have ever fielded in the Premiership.
Gook worked hard and took up some good positions and at time showed a neat first touch – but his second touch is usually contact with the ground. He remains a lightweight, repeatedly barged off the ball and brushed aside in aerial challenges and really must start to get nasty and quickly learn that the Premiership is a roughhouse and start to assert himself. While Euell is… what? A mistake? With the best will in the world he has not taken his chances. He is fit enough, has the experience and presumably wants to be a Premiership player but on showings this season has a lot of work to do if he is to seriously be considered as a first team prospect.
PITCH AND TOSSERS: In some quarters the incursion at the end by a few hundred Wigan fans has been described as a pitch invasion and the image that come sto mind is maybe the bad-tempered display of frustration at Leeds last week. In fact it was just a chavtastic last day of the season attempt by a few teenage scrotes to pat their heroes on the back.
It was a good natured nostalgic old football style invasion of the sort that happened many times at Ayresome back in the day when much the same sort of young lad – working class, looking hard with his impressionable mates, barely shaving, questionable fashion sense – would race on to ruffle Terry Cochrane’s hair or cuddle Mogga. It wasn’t threatening at all although a few Boro players loked a bit edgy as the lads with no tops and viciously angle baseball caps rushed towards them, only to ignore them and rush past to mob Valencia and Co.
There were a few pathetically pleading requests over the PA for them to leave before the stewards reluctently moved in. As the lads were ushered off the pitch a few spotty 15 year olds ran towards the away end and postured a bit prompting much laughter.
HALF TIME HELL: Wigan was a foam-fingered pergatory of fun filled family entertainment that stifled any hint of spontaneous supporter generated atmosphere. Possibly encouraged by the Rugby League side of the operation it seemed anything artificial went. Before the game and at half-time the pitch resembled an edition of It’s A Knockout with a variety of vacuous, inane orchestrated activities: a brass band, cheer leaders/gymnasts, a Blues Brothers tribute act, a kiddie crossbar challenge, daft mascots, presentations to ball boys, the loudest PA this side of Glastonbury and a far too bouncy MC who clearly dreams of being on Saturday morning kids TV. You can only hope that Me Mark Page wasn’t present and taking notes.
Given the stakes in the game, the tension and a 3,000 strong away crowd there was no need for ersatz atmosphere. I felt sorry for the Boro fans before the kick-off as they were giving it rock-all but you couldn’t hear a thing because of the booming muzak. By the end though they were drowning out the Wigan fans and the PA and a good time was had by all.


20 thoughts on “Boro Safe After Wigan Water Own Goal

  1. I actually feel a little sorry for Wigan and their fans although I am more than relieved that we took the 3 points. Our away fans were fantastic as usual, and they have had nowt to shout about this season.
    As for Wigan, Jewell finally admitted on MoTD, after a little dig at Stewy’s two touch free kick, that it wasn’t Tevez (and the cheating liars at Upton Park, the weak FA and the incompetent Premier League) that sees them where they are but there own shortcomings, and I know which team I’d rather see down there instead.
    As it is they have to go to Sheff Utd and win, and hope West Ham get their just desserts at Old Trafford.
    It’s a shame, but this is a cut throat business as we have found to our cost, and even if the Wigan chairman does take legal action, what good will it do based on what we got out of it back in 97.

  2. Wigan are in free fall so i was confident we would win. we should beat fulham too. The fickle fans will return and say that we are a good team after all and only need 2 players to be a top 7 team…

  3. Happy with the three points, bit sorry for Wigan and their fans (even though there are only a few of them)
    Fact is Wigan are in a slump, you get the feeling that even if the Hammers had three points deducted (as should have happened) West Ham are more likely to get something at ManU than Wigan at SheffU. But I hope ManU stuff the Hammers and Wigan win 1-0 at SheffU so the hammers go down.

  4. It’s highly unlikely Wigan, Sheff Utd etc would be successful in any legal action. The Courts won’t normally intervene in decisions of the Premier League (or FA) unless there was something absolutely outrageous.
    Here, although the penalty seemed light (especially given the Boro’s past experience), it was imposed by an independent QC and was in the range of penalties legimiately available to them.
    Unfortunately for Wigan et al, it’s a bit like those cases where someone feels a villain got too light a sentence. There’s normally no right of appeal for the victims against the sentence imposed.
    But it would be hilarious if WH did go down, given their fans’ ridiculous predictions of a league title/champion’s league place when they originally signed Mascherano and the other one who looks like Mutley!

  5. So, a streaky but hugely welcome and maybe even deserved win at Wigan and we’re safe for another season.
    If we haven’t already, we should now be preparing for next season, not just breathing a sigh of relief and reaching for the sunblock.
    This season has been a disaster, just short of the catastrophe of relegation. You can tart it up with the euphemism of ‘transition’ but disaster is what it has been.
    Our planning has to have that view underpinning it. So we need radical change to the squad, the first team and how they are managed, coached, trained, motivated and disciplined if we want to avoid a repeat or worse.
    Worse is more likely since the combination of big clubs coming up to the Prem, new ownership, new managers and new TV money means everyone else will be planning to step forward. If we stand still, we move backwards – and the trapdoor is only a pace or so behind.
    If we’re going to have the radical change on the pitch we need radical change off it or we’ll not do what is needed. The series of mistakes, omissions and debatable decisons which have followed the departure of The Ex and Round – the last 2 good decisions from the top – show that.
    So, what follows is my manifesto for change, starting with who has to go and who could go on the playing staff, followed by who we may try to get in. I have attempted to apply some priority order to the lists on the basis of who would be ideal, who are we likely to be able to get and how etc.
    We need more pace and power and more guile and drive in midfield. We need strikers to either replace or back up Vids and The Yak who can operate as partnerships, have the strength needed and can score regularly at Prem level.
    I have largely avoided those playing abroad, though I know we’re supposed to be tracking a Romanian right back and a striker (African?) playing in France because with so much movement it will take a while to bed in 3 or 4 players into the first team without having to school most of them in Prem football too.
    First priority is either to secure Vids (I hope) or to know he’s going, because that will tell us how many strikers we need. And I see we’re supposed to have made Xavier an offer – I hope that’s derisory and he goes – as soon as possible – to the US, UAE or Saudi.
    I finish the lists with some observations on off the field matters. All builds and comments welcome – as if I could stop you!
    RELEASE (some may make good player swaps for lower division or Scots Prem sides)
    Riggott – but only if he wants to go and we can get a good price or player value
    Yakubu – but only if we can get Appiah plus cash, secure Viduka and 2 other strikers
    1. Appiah (Fenerbahce)
    2. Benayoun (West Ham)
    3. Song (Arsenal – may be available on loan)
    1. Fletcher (Man Utd)
    2. Jagielka (Sheff Utd)
    3. Nolan (Bolton)
    4. Scharner (Wigan)
    5. Davis (Aston Villa)
    6. Sidwell (Reading – Out of contract)
    7. Parker (Newcastle)
    1. Gera (West Brom)
    2. Brown (Hibs)
    3. Milner (Newcastle)
    4. Whaley (Preston)
    5. Wright-Phillips (Chelsea – may be available on loan)
    1. Bendtner (Arsenal – may be available on loan)
    2. Nugent (Preston)
    3. Aliadiere (Arsenal – could fill in on wide right)
    4. Chopra (Cardiff)
    5. Varney (Crewe)
    6. Sharp (Scunthorpe)
    7. Maynard (Crewe)
    8. Ameobi (Newcastle)
    1. Volz (Fulham)
    2. Young (Charlton)
    3. Whittaker (Hibs)
    4. Taylor (Wigan)
    5. Neill (West Ham)
    6. Geremi (Chelsea – but not as midfielder)
    1. Baines (Wigan)
    2. Bridge (Chelsea – may be available on loan)
    1. Kusczak (West Brom – may be available on loan)
    2. Carson (Liverpool – may be available on loan)
    3. Murray (Wolves)
    4. Lesjal (Brno)
    1. An attacking play coach:- Juninho, Vialli (could become Director of Football), Zola, JFH or Sheringham
    2. A deputy to Gate who can and will do the discipline and motivation
    1. A director of football to handle all player, coaching and fitness staff contract issues, transfers and scouting
    2. A new business model that retains Gibbo as Chairman and major shareholder but not sole investor and includes a properly established Supporters’ Trust that can invest in the Club and take a seat on the Board.
    Have fun guys!

  6. I think we still need a big performance against Fulham to give the players a kick-start for 2007-08. Financially it’s important to the club as well.
    We don’t have any idea how much money GS will have available for a summer spending spree, but I think we should look at Rosenior from Fulham to a job at right back/right midfield. Nugent seems Everton-bound but I’d like to see him at the club, or have a dig at attracting Alan Smith. Wayne Bridge as well, he’s not first choice so maybe Chelsea would release him from his contract.
    I think GS will really have to broker some good deals if we’re to push on in the summer and I feel loan signings might be vital for us.

  7. OK JP, more debate
    Head of PR – Peter Mandelsohn
    Commercial director – Peter Ridsdale
    Defensive Coach – Kevin Keegan
    Chief Physio – Anthony Hopkins
    Otherwise a great deal of sense in your suggestions. Of crucial importance is the need for pace and not just that, TEMPO. When we start quickly we can give anyone a game, when we start slowly we look poor.
    What does worry me is the lack of chances given to Morrison – he may not make make it as a top flight player but do we have any better on the right side?
    At right back, once Tony Mac was fit why no chance?
    Still, this is a time to look forward to the summer. It is now in the hands of the club to give Gate the support he needs. Not just a suspect full back for Blunderland, not two treatment bench warmers from Real and Chelsea, a not even benchwarmer from Charlton. two came off but more by luck than judgement though Woodie proved his class.
    Lets enjoy the next few days, do well against Fulham and go into the summer and do well off the pitch.

  8. John Powls, some of those need to be released, but I think you’ve been playing Championship Manager too much if you think a team can just get rid of 12 players and bring in another 7 (one for each position you mention).
    Out of the ones you mention I would let go Mendieta, Parnaby, Christie and Euell.
    Have to secure Viduka, then a couple of goal-scoring midfielders are a must, one of them a right-winger. Not sure but think only Viduka and Yakubu have scored more that 2 league goals this season, which is pretty pathetic.
    The problem with all us fans deciding what action we should take is that no-one really kows how much money is available.

  9. Heard that viduka could be off to sunderland and also if big sam becomes the new newcastle manager he will go in for him.
    There are going to be a lot of clubs in our position with money to spend. Like underland, newcastle, birmingham, villa, everton,spurs,west ham and maybe man city if they get bought out..all these teams will be competing for the same sort of players with similar amounts of money to spend

  10. Gadgie
    I take it that Championship Manager is some sort of computer game – it’s my son you’d need to talk to about that!
    I agree that it’s unlikely that we’d shed all and get one from each position. But we need ‘radical’ not tinkering. If we’re to get more in we need to shed more to create the head room on the wage bill and offset some fees. Many on the release list would hardly be a loss and we’ve got by without them this season, by and large.
    Our squad size is enormous for a club ‘of our means’ (sorry to nick your phrase, Count DracuLamb!). I always notice this when I go to games and look at the respective squad lists on the back of the programme – our list is always bigger than even the top of the Prem clubs.
    Of the types of player coming in, I tried to rank the types as well as the names in them. So, agreeing with you, midfield is a priority – left backs and goalies less so. Strikers will jump up the list if Vids and The Yak move on.
    I think we’re going to see more ‘mass migration’ in this window than ever before. This will be driven by more than the usual crop of new managers, 3 big clubs with spending power coming up and the new TV money.
    We’re going to be unusually squeezed in our neck of the woods this time round. With a new man in, Barcode Freddie is going to be flashing the cash – on the upside that may mean Milner and Parker may be available – and so are Keano and Quinn, despite topping the Championship they have only 2 or 3 players of Prem quality.
    Sorry to say this, but, looked at from the outside, the allure of both with 50,000 crowds each week, a new manager at one and a ‘name’ at the other – both backed by money, has to look like a better deal when compared with us – especially with what we’ve been serving up this season.
    We need to secure our targets fast – not the usual Count DracuLamb performance on August 31st.

  11. The club(either lamb or southgate) have said that their will be big changes this summer. Unless its just a load of PR hot air i can only assume they mean a clearout.
    We have too many centrebacks who are just fringe players and not enougg creative midfielders who can score goals. If viduka moves on then we lack any top class strikers apart from yakubu. need a right back and a left back because taylor is lossing some form now. need to ship out riggot,rocky,mendieta,dong gook lee,bates,

  12. Loved the comment about Tevez resembling Mutley…..very good!
    A couple of things about the Wigan game; MOTD 2 ridiculed the Wigan cheerleaders for their complete lack of co-ordination and also the fact that they had two lads amongst them.
    Secondly, I did feel sympathy for Wigan given West Ham yet again getting away with blatant cheating, until I listened to the full post-match comments of Jewell on the BBC website.
    He was whining about the goal, saying how it was ‘obviously’ a double-touch by Downing but that it must have been something we practised because ‘that’s how we won the Carling Cup final’!
    Where did that one come from? It’s three years plus since Bolo’s slip at Cardiff, and yet Mr bitter-and-twisted Jewell has clearly been brooding on it ever since.
    So I thought well stuff you mate, if you go down it’s because you deserve to, and you, despite being talked up by Dave Whelan, can look forward to being on your way when your relegation is confirmed, just like at Bradford. Now hang on, that was five years or more back, wasn’t it….not that I’m holding onto anything like!

  13. Alf
    From what they say Taylor has been carrying an injury and needs an operation on his toe. He probably is ready for a break as well so should come back refreshed.
    My only cocern is that we may mave misagnosed his left toe and it is really a broken collar bone he has beeb playing on with.

  14. Hehe, JP’s post is almost longer than mine usually are ! A great post though.
    I think we can all agree that being safe is the best feeling ever at this time of year after being down there at the bottom.
    GET IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Whatever players leave i for one would like to see fans saying thank you and goodbye rather than throwing any abuse about, especially with regards Viduka as his goals have saved us this season.
    As for the rest i just hope that the rebuilding takes place at the right pace and that what we see and hear coming out of the club brings back the punters.
    What i’m going to do with myself over the summer without all of this i just don’t know. Perhaps you should do a blog about the essential summer survival kit AV!
    Thanks everyone. Some really great reading.
    **AV writes: Football talk doesn’t stop over the summer, although with the solid framework and guiding conext of the game removed it can spin wildly.

  15. Radical stuff JB, but I think regardless of whether we agree or disagree with your thoughts on the ins & outs (and I do agree with a lot of it in principle), the overriding message is clear, this club needs a swift kick up the backside.
    The senior elements of the MFC hierarchy need to move into the 21st Century, and that includes Steve Gibson.
    From what we read in the press, to what we feel in our hearts and in our heads, we are still a Small Town Club (not in Europe by the way), which although factually correct, does not mean we cannot meet the greater challenge and become a bigger club than our fan base indicates.
    It’s almost as if we enjoy using the term to feel sorry for ourselves, or feel hard done by when the big boys steal the ball.
    I said in a post some time back, and some of you agreed, that unless Steve Gibson allows outside investment, whether it be from the clubs supporters at low level, or major investors at high level, we will always be one of the perennial bottom feeders of the Premier League.

  16. I don’t think Boro are that much short on the playing side – maybe three players could transform the team – but it is the mentality that runs through the that worries me.
    The team can raise itself for Man U and Arsenal and can show it can battle when they fancy it like at Wigan.
    So why then do they fall so flat in bread and butter games like Man City (home and away), Watford (away) and Villa (home)? Is it motivation? If so Gareth needs help? Is it the make up of the players? Are some of the big players in the comfort zone knowing they can’t be dropped? If so the worst offenders need shipping out? Is ita lack of fire? Then get some winners in. And fast.
    We know what is possible: Bolton are a similar sized club with similar resources, if not slightly less, yet have made their mark in the league. That should be our aim – top eight every year.
    And you don’t need to spend big to get that, you need to get the right blend of players and you need to get them playing effectively, passionately and for each other. They have to share a vision of the team, believe it and be ready to fight for it.
    In terms of players I wouldm’t mind Luke Young, Jagielka and Milner plus Viduka and another striker. I’d let a load go.
    Of th epitch I’d like to see a recruitment drive to bring in the best possible coaching, physio staff and I’d like to see Don Mackay sacked and replaced by someone who can build a network of scouts across the whole of Europe.

  17. I looked carefully at the league table in the sunday papers and two things stand out about the Boro this season.
    Away from home where we all know we have underperformed, the basic problem is lack of goals. The away defensive record is as good as any team outside the top five. So we need to be more positive away from home, two strikers, a proper right winger etc.
    At home our goals scored record is again as good as any team outside the top five, but defensively we have conceeded far too many. So we need to keep a positive approach but with a tighter defence.
    AV’s comment about Boateng i think may be insightful, he plays in the key position in the team (normally). I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new player in that position this Summer. We constantly say we need a new right winger but maybe we need a more dynamic , younger centre midfielder too.
    Looking at the table there is very little between finishing 12th and sixth, probably five wins, and I’m sure we can all see where those five wins should have come from this year, Watford and Reading away, City at home etc etc.
    It will as ever be fascinating to see who goes and who comes, we may be surprised.

  18. “At home our goals scored record is again as good as any team outside the top five, but defensively we have conceeded far too many. So we need to keep a positive approach but with a tighter defence.”
    But we have woodgate the saviour

  19. Redrebel is right, things need to change. we cant accept stagnation and consolidation.
    we wil beat fulham and so a 2 game end of seaosn win should not mask over the work that needs doing in teh summer in changing things.
    I worry that there is now a culture at boro of familiarity and not enough is happening to shake and freshen things up. its the same old faces. if we were doing really well then i would accept keepign the same faces. but we need new faces on the coaching staff to help push us up

  20. The summer coming up will be very important because of who will be promoted.
    There will be backing for the Mackems and Brum. West Brom are my favourites to win the play offs as they appear to have turned the corner.
    In addition several bigger clubs appear to be getting their acts together – Spurs and Everton are likely UEFA cup entrants, Toon may well show signs of life under Big Sam and Villa will benefit from US investment. Citeh may also receive a cash injection. West Ham wont perform as badly again if they survive both on and off the pitch.
    This all means we will have to run harder to stand still. We all know the crucial areas that need strengthening. Good luck to Gate and Lamb but 31st August is too late so use the good impression of Woodie signing to best advantage.

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