Boro’s Groundhog Day Disaster

GROUNDHOG Day. Bubbling Boro play some sparkling football in a one sided spell of total domination, carve out half-a-dozen clear cut chances, fail to take a single one and then slowly, inevitably, fatally hand over the the initiative then the game in a frustrating cycle of self-inflicted defeats. How many times have we seen that one played out now?

Boro battered Bolton for 20 minutes and could have been at least three up before the streaker made his appearance on the 25 minute mark. Had they scored then it would have drawn Bolton out, Boro would have had space to exploit and it could have been a massacre. Having drawn a blank during that blitz it became almost inevitable that Bolton would grow in confidence and start to fancy their chances. In the second half Boro barely mustered a shot that bothered the keeper while Bolton hit the bar, hit the post and had one cleared off the line before Gavin McCann stabbed home after a chaotic struggle amid groans of “typical bloody Boro!”
From the opening day against Blackburn onwards it has been the recurring story of the season. West Ham, Everton, Liverpool, Reading at home have all followed that script. Some have almost gone the same way: against Wigan and Derby Boro managed to make one of the chances count but then contrived to retreat into cautious, terrified defence anyway and almost let beaten opponents back in. Against Sunderland and Liverpool they did concede a point after failing to kill the teams off and inching into a nervous slo-mo late retreat.
Boro need to develop the cold killer touch of an Uzi toting hitman out to ice a crack turf war rival in a drive by. A more ruthless side, even one that did not play such a fluid beauty pageant passing game, could have turned those chances into six or nine or 12 more points this season. That is where we are lacking. Boro have spent £21m on strikers this season and have managed less than a goal a game. That is where the problem lies.
Beating Bolton would have left Bolton deep in trouble and all but secured Boro’s survival. Now the gap between the teams is down to just five points and we are looking over our shoulders again going into the last three games. Losing at home to a poor, poor side, one with a death wish and who have looked doomed and even more flaccid in front of goal than Boro since selling Anelka, is a massive own goal. The good will generated by the Manchester United and Spurs games has had a cold harsh bucket of reality thrown on it. And that at a time when the season ticket renewal forms are flopping onto doormats and memories of Cardiff were just fading.
Gutted. But not completely surprised. Some observations:
Mad Dogs of War: It was a blood splattered clash (as they tend to be against Bolton)… especially for Gary Cahill. The black and blue Wanderers man needed treatment after Emanuel Pogatetz, looking for a Kevin Davies substitute, put the nut on the back of his head as they went up for an aerial duel and then he had to go off for stitches in his napper after a another nasty collision with team-mate Cohen. Raziak went off dazed and with a bleeding head after another friendly fire incident in the Bolton box and a bruising first half featured three long hold-ups, a physio sprint race and season record seven minutes added time.
Penalty Clause? You don’t want to bang on about it for fear of being branded whinging, paranoid one-eyed bad losers but what will it take for Boro to get a penalty? After the Luke Young “handball” at Villa set the standard for intent fairly low, Boro have had a string of far stronger claims waved away. And alright, the bobble up onto Matt Taylor’s hand maybe not. And the shot into the box that clipped a white sleeve in the first half, well, OK, benefit of the doubt. But when Stewy Downing’s ball into the box deflected onto McCann’s arm in the box he saw it coming and had plenty of time to get out of the way. It was stonewall. And that was at 0-0.
Winging It: Jeremie Aliadiere had a storming first half as a makeshift right winger that may offer a way out of the selection headache the gaffer faces in accommodating his creative forces of Alves, Tuncay, Downing and the jet-heeled Frenchman. Drafted in to replace Gary O’Neil in a wide role he was highly effective. His pace terrified Bolton, he cut in to link up superbly with Alves or offer an extra body in the box and had the legs to get back and close down when the opposition got down the flank, several times racing back 20, 30, 40 yards to put in a tackle – once in his own box! His speed, control and vision can still hurt teams out there and that offers a possible long term solution to the right wing problem (possibly freeing up finance for investment elsewhere) and also some interesting tactical options.
Keeper Up With The Joneses: Ross Turnbull was a positive. He couldn’t do much about the goal having blocked the initial Cahill header and maybe he was caught out of position for the chip to the far post that Young had to head off the line, but generally he watched his angles well, made some good saves from shots from the edge of the box (the kind that have routinely flown in unimpeded this term), was quickly off his line and commanded his often crowded box with a confidence that belied his lack of experience at this level.
Brad Jones terrifies me when he is in goal and strikes me as good for at least one major dropped blob per game and gives the impression that the defence are jittery too, but Turnbull seems solid. He did well when he played in the 1-1 draw at Reading and 2-1 win over Arsenal and seems brave and confident. Schwarzer missed the game with a back injury – a freak book signing incident was the cruel press room speculation – and as the ageing Aussie’s status at the club is yet to be resolved the gaffer should take the opportunity to give Turnbull a run in the last few games, critically assess whether he has what it takes. It could save a few bob and sharpen the focus on both sides of the table when Skippy next talks turkey on a new deal.
Briefs Interlude: On a day of disappointments the “streaker” caught the mood of the moment and failed to deliver. Firstly he kept his shreddies on. Not that anyone particularly wanted to see the works but if you are going to do it at least give it your best shot. Secondly, the whole enterprise seemed totally aimless and having hopped out of the East Stand and crossed the pitch he seemed lost. There was no jovial attempt to hug a player, no cheeky British Bulldog with stewarsd and police. As the team were to do later, he ran out of ideas and steam and just fizzled out and waiting to be ushered down the tunnel. After the game while I waited for quotes from players (a new season’s record of 56 minutes after the whistle by the way) I spoke briefly to the arresting officer who said the streaker explained his actions sheepishly by saying: “It was just one of those things you have to do before you die.”


80 thoughts on “Boro’s Groundhog Day Disaster

  1. I’d buy Paul Robinson and Tom Huddlestone in a double deal. Robbo is a Yorkshire lad while Huddlestone can learn from Boat for a year before taking the reigns fulltime. Expect to pay c.£8m total.
    I’d then keep the rest of the cash for if an SWP or Robbie Keane came up again. Squad looks good and a new GK and two midfielders is all we need.
    I’d release Schwarzer (disloyal and poor), Bates (injury prone & many better CBs, Cattermole (div1 quality and off field distractions) and Gook (enough said on him).

  2. Malc
    I think Schwarzer is now past his best however it seems harsh to call him disloyal after he has been at the club for so long.
    If reports are correct (far fetched to me) others still seem to think he can cut the mustard
    Bayern Munich, Juventus and Fiorentina are interested in goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who is set to leave Middlesbrough in the summer. (The Sun)

  3. Yes my friends its deffo ‘Squeeky Bum Time’
    I am just hoping the Bolton defeat in front of our home fans will be the motivation needed to win the next game.
    We are due a bit of luck too infront of goal but Roy Keanes men will be well up for it.
    Michael Essien and Claude Makelele for central midfield partnership please Gibbo.
    Luis Fabiano up front would be great too.

  4. Richard, I wasnt really watchin Boros greatest misses I was watchin some of our goals, have a look mate… lated
    Tuncay goals….

  5. Hello Smoggies. I see the natural order has been restored and theres not so much gloating on here now. That ludicrus claim to be “the best team outside the top four” made me choke on me stottie.
    We have softened the SMBs up for you but you will still lose at the SoS and then you are right in the clarts.
    If the Brazilian Maccarone doesn’t start scoring soon next year you will be the “best team outside the top four” in the Championship. We’ll take Downing off your hands (you can have Smith if you still want him.) LOL.

  6. Geordie Floater , you went 14 games in the prem without a win and you are on here bragging… what an eediot!

  7. Tin hats for saturday I think. We are definintly going to be in the trenches. I wouldnt bet against there being the odd sending off. Keane was visibly fuming on sunday and we know they will be fired up.
    Hopefully they will play into our hands but who know it is a derby game after all.
    COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Tees pride will give Boro the edge says Pogatetz.
    Personally I wish that people from Middlesbrough FC would just shut up spouting garbage to the press as it always backfires on them. Just get on with playing football.
    I am pig sick of reading boastful comments from people at a club who do nothing but let faithful supporters down.

  9. May be I am stating the obvious to the knowledgeable Boro supporters but we fell into the same old trick of trying to play the same game as our less skillful opponents in that we played the long ball down the middle and from the wings to a striker like Alves. It is suicide as he will never ever beat tall defenders to retain the ball.
    To get the best out of Alves he must be fed with short passes on the ground to allow him and Aliaderie to use their pace to outstrip slower defenders as Alves did against Manchester United. The Brains trust at the Boro must be blind if they can not see this.
    In the first half Boro played exciting attacking football totally outplaying Bolton, then they revert to their opponent bang it up the field tactics and we fail dismally.
    The standard of the Boro Football when they are playing the short possession game is equal to any in the league, which has already been pointed out by some in the press last week, So please Boro stick with the quality game and we will be OK.

  10. John is right in saying man for man our players are better as individuals than Sunderland.
    Most of us accept that but perception and facts creep in again. They have as many points as us, similar goal difference. Where they have a definite edge is bottle, as John says their whole is greater than the sum of the parts which contrasts sharply with our goal shy ‘stars’.
    And that leads us to a concern that is growing in my mind. Is the truth basically that we are not that good, we are where we belong, amongst the lodgers who rent some space in the premiership until it is someone elses term – like Coventry, Leicester, Wolves, Derby, Forest, Leeds, Brum, Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn, Soton etc. Some have longer leases than others but we are all on borrowed time.

  11. Did anyone notice that the Bolton game was given the Lawrenson Kiss of Death on the Beeb!!!
    He had us for a 2-0 win and it is always with a sense dread that I read his predictions that end with “Boro should win this one”!
    **AV writes: It is uncannily inaccurate. If only Boro could find that kind of consistency.

  12. Does the following mean that Wiley will be banned?
    No wonder refs favour the so called ‘Big 4’ teams
    “Controversial referee Rob Styles has been dropped to League Two this weekend after failing to award two penalties in favour of Manchester United against Blackburn.
    “Styles will run the derby between Shrewsbury and Chester – the first time this season he has refereed outside the top flight.
    “The Hampshire official ignored United’s pleas for spot-kicks in their 1-1 draw at Blackburn when Wayne Rooney was brought down by Steven Reid, and when Michael Carrick’s shot was handled by Brett Emerton.
    “Last month Styles, 44, stunned Man City fans at Birmingham by awarding a penalty against Sun Jihai when TV replays showed Gary McSheffrey had instigated a shoulder to shoulder collision outside the area.
    “Styles was also forced into an apology to Liverpool in August after wrongly awarding Chelsea a penalty at Anfield.”
    C’Mon Boro!

  13. If that was Mendieta’s last match in a Boro shirt then I wish him well – and of course the Boro goal last night came from a Mendieta pass.
    I wish he was on the bench at least for those poor nine games after the Sunderland match at the Riverside as I think he could have been influential from the bench. A lot of people will look at his record with us and think ‘hes not all that’ but hardly ever was he played in his ideal position!
    I think Alves will score more goals if the midfield can put through balls to his feet or just infront of him. Mendi has the vision to pick a pass and score himself too.
    No matter what anyone says and what facts people give me I still remember my joy when we signed him and the elation at games in particular- SaT Oct 29th 2005 [ the Mendi match] United taken appart 4-1 at the Riverside.Brilliant!

  14. Bolton.
    Well it was typical Boro.
    Good news from the Club about season tickets for kids and those under 21, everybody optmistic to get at least a draw which more or less would make us safe and looking forward to getting three or four top class players particularly in midfield which could establish us in the top ten.
    Great first 30 minutes we should have been two up ,Bolton were dreadful.
    Then,second half we never turned up,this has happened on a number of occasions this season.
    Sorry but Arca has never rediscovered his form since being injured against Sunderland. Alladiere is always great first half but fades badly in the second half particularly against physical teams.
    Taylor has a casual style that encourages opponents to exploit this and Rocky gives two many sloppy passes.
    So everybody needs to sharpen up for the three remaining games.
    But would anybody shed tears if Bolton got relegated? I doubt it, Nolan snarling and moaning all the game, blatantly impeding our goalkeeper on every corner, there specialty the long throw its dreadful to watch.
    And Alladyce is still whingeing about Zendens double kicked penalty in the Carling Cup Final !
    Lets hope its them going down and not us !

  15. For those who still think Boro will be relegated why not have £10 on at the 66/1 that is available.
    Your winnings could pay for next season’s ST with some beer money to spare.
    C’Mon Boro!

  16. John Stone
    I too share your love for Bolton but I must admit I cant see them going down. I think we will stay up (some hope is mixed in there as well) and the other may come out of Reading and Brum.
    Fulham are away with Fairies, a worry I have is Brum playing a weakened Liverpool followed by Fulham.
    A positive result on Saturday wouldnt go amiss.

  17. Mendietta man of the match by a mile in the reserves with lots of running and clever play. I cant understand why he never got a prem game, or even part of one, this season yet Dong Goog got plenty of chances.
    What a waste!

  18. Schwarzer has often come out in the papers saying “show me the money.” I know lots of players do that but we’ve been more loyal to him than he to us.
    Plenty of good cats about. Robinson for a few mil and Sorensen for free. Both like it up north.
    I agree we must keep the ball low against the mockems (typo originally but seemed appropriate to leave untouched). We played them off the park at the Riverside but didn’t kill them off. finish our chances this time boys…

  19. I predict that we finish 14th on 38 points along with Sunderland and Reading, Wigan above us on 40, and Bolton surviving on 36 with Birmingham on 35 points joining Derby and Fulham next season.
    This means 2 points needed as a minimum out of a possible 9. Just hope my optimism is well placed!

  20. A.V.
    Could not agree more with the post by Mr. Igsick. Time for talking is after a game when the result has been achieved.
    On that basis we would have been spared the pre-match pronouncements from Mido/Arca et al. That would of course have meant an after match silence this season, apart from that nice Mr. Southgate telling us all how we will learn from defeat.
    It must be one of the longest learning curves in history. What did we learn from Reading and did we apply it to Bolton?
    Ian Gill is also correct in his realisation that we are not as good as we think we are. On paper we are better than the Mackems, yes, but football is not played on paper.
    I am like every one on this board hoping against hope that Bolton or Brum slip up as I have no belief that we will save ourselves. Having said that it would be “typical” for us to get an away win on Saturday.
    However if we do survive, what will that lead to? John Stones feels we will sign three or four top class players and we will be established in the top ten. Under this manager – no way. Would that be the same type of top class players we have signed recently, who between them can barely manage an average of one goal a season.
    Let’s get these three games out of the way and hope against hope.
    Then the real debate must start and Mr. Gibson will have to be engaged in it and listen to what is said, before inevitably we are mid table in the Championship playing in front of miniscule crowds.
    I am an optimist, if I lived in the Boro I would have season ticket, I don’t, I get up in the early hours of the morning to watch the Boro on the TV looking forward to a great game will three points in the bag. After fifteen minutes of the Notlob game, realism kicks in and I have to sit and watch the inevitable.
    Good luck to Gaizka Mendieta, who did not have the best of times here. Bad injury and bad managers, who either played him in the wrong position or simply ignored him.
    Ah well come on Boro

  21. AV: I’d like to post on a hobby-horse topic, awareness of which has been heightened by the Alexander Hleb ban. It connects with your Groundhog Day blog, but not necessarily obviously until the end!
    The three match ban of Alexander Hleb for his forearm smash of Reading’s Graham Murty highlights once again the weakness in the refereeing arrangements in modern professional football.
    The standards of refereeing have not kept pace with the game – in neither accuracy nor consistency.
    This is no fault of particular referees necessarily, although we can all point to our favourite hate targets for witnessed injustices.
    The consequences of incorrect decisions are such that the levels of error that are now being aired weekly, must surely be giving cause for grave concern within the game?
    Hleb was clearly guilty of a serious breach of rules, for which others have been dismissed from the field of play in other matches during the season. Our own Jeremie Alliadiere being an obvious case in point, while the instigator of that exchange, Liverpool’s Mascherano, remained on the field of play without so much as a yellow card.
    I’m not here to argue the “big-four vs the restâ€? bias claim. What I wish to point out and raise concerns about, is the continuing scope for (let’s be generous) random refereeing errors or failures that don’t “even up over a seasonâ€?.
    The FA, on reviewing video evidence of the Arsenal-Reading match – which, by the way, those who watched the match on TV also did, within moments of the event taking place – have decided to impose a 3-match ban on Hleb. In my opinion, this is a correct decision, as being the penalty for violent behaviour.
    It is however, only partial justice and certainly, of no benefit to Arsenal’s opponents on the day, Reading. Alexander Hleb remained on the field of play, Arsenal kept a full team of 11 players on the pitch and went on to beat Reading 2-0. It’s not difficult to imagine that things could possibly have been different had Hleb been ordered off.
    And why wasn’t he ordered off? Because the referee, by his own admission didn’t see the incident. But the TV-viewing world saw this significant and potentially, match-result-impacting incident.
    So the refereeing standards and frailties are once again shown in a poor light, and anything but in keeping with standards of behaviour and professionalism which we expect from everyone concerned with the game.
    In fact, the game’s authorities and officialdom set the standards for the whole business of football. And they should be setting and enforcing them higher than they are currently.
    The standards of refereeing by a method which goes back decades and has never been updated, save for the introduction of a fourth, neutered official, is out of keeping with the new order of the game.
    It’s a bit like trying to keep an Aston Martin Vanquish on the road using a model-T Ford suspension & steering system, or like flying a Stealth Bomber manually.
    Mistakes of judgement may or may not be the referee’s or linesman’s fault. With the speed of the game and the margins for error being so small, their job is actually very difficult. I can accept that.
    But that’s still no reason to accept the current standards which are letting many people down week after week. And demonstrably so via the very medium that could assist them to get it right where it truly matters and when the correct decision actually counts for something positive, instead of allowing the incorrect consequences of possibly judgement error to persist.
    It’s just seems so ridiculous to have such wrongly-called incidents shown to the TV- watching public via replay from different angles but having that information denied to the one person who actually matters, and who is supposedly there to ensure fair play – the match official!!
    Referees can’t see everything and neither can linesmen. But with the degree of TV coverage we employ these days, events such as the Hleb incident and any other potential result-impacting event which occurs during play can be picked up during play and an enhanced level of judgement applied at the point of incident.
    Not several days after the event, when the result of the match has been decided, possibly on the basis of a dubious penalty decision or an offside goal or a goal that wasn’t because the ball hadn’t crossed the line, or, or, or

make up your own scenarios.
    Hleb’s ban is right. But his ongoing contribution to the match, subsequent to the incident, was not denied to Arsenal. And it should have been. Surely, nobody can argue against that morally?
    So, doesn’t it follow that it is correct to eliminate, as far as possible, the inaccuracies and the inconsistencies that are shown time and time again and which are actually demeaning the skills and organisation of our football teams and individual players, by adhering to an outmoded and now inappropriate form of game control?
    Unless we get a better grip of refereeing standards in the game, we have a credibility gap between those who make and enforce the rules of the game and the public who support it.
    Football is a game of skill, speed, strength and endurance. Yet the outcomes of matches are, too often, demonstrably reduced to a lottery.
    I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again. If I wanted to gamble on the outcome of Boro matches, I’d give my money to Ladbrokes instead of buying a season ticket! I feel that I put too much of my limited income towards watching football to have the outcomes decided by “Hackett Bingoâ€?.
    In my opinion, it’s time for a major change. In fact, it’s overdue. Because I believe it’s also a contributor to some people’s disenfranchisement with the game. It’s my belief that, generally, people want to see fair play and that they’d far rather that any success won by their club team was gained fairly and in accordance with the rules. (Otherwise any victory is hollow and without moral substance.)
    This concept of “things evening themselves out over a seasonâ€?, doesn’t wash with me in either a theoretical sense nor in a practical way, relatively or absolutely.
    Reading can’t get a review of their points result against Arsenal. And Boro can’t get a review of their points result against Bolton on the basis of a retrospective viewing of the Gavin McCann handball.
    Those horses bolted after 90 minutes were up (plus the arbitrary (?) added time – the allocation system for which also requires bringing into the 21st century!).

  22. Redcar Red
    As I posted earlier I do have a concern about Brum playing a Liverpool side which is distinctly second string, although they did beat Fulham but they are poor. And Brum play Fulham after that.
    I think Reading could go but as for us I cant even guess at which Boro is going to turn up for the last three matches.

  23. I agree with John Powls team selection, Tuncay on the right seems a good bet to me. We need someone there who Sunderland will be frightened of but who works hard and tracks back.
    Solid midfield is vital, The Boat is playing well again and deserves his place on merit.
    The Sunderland game will be a pressure match all round and the result impossible to call, I’d grab a draw if it were offered but we’re capable of winning it.
    I suspect the game and perhaps the season will turn on a bit of luck or a mistake.
    I just prey Lawrenson has us down to lose!!

  24. The Boro are doing crap again!
    I feel a “please support the club because we won the Carling Cup once and we are the most successful team outside the top 4” phone in appearance on the 3 Legends by that nice Mr Lamb coming on.

  25. Hahahaha, I see that some papers are saying that Lucas Mordic is signing for Newcastle. How ridiculous, why would anyone want to go there, anyway what if they get relegated?

  26. JP’s team makes sense to me too. And what has happened to Shawky?
    Richard – although I broadly agree with your position on refereeing, I have to disagree with your characterisation of Hleb’s misdemeanor as a ‘forearm smash’! It was little more than a slap on the side of the face, despite Murty’s four letter complaints to the ref that he was punched!.
    Truth is, I don’t like the arbitrariness of the rule that hands raised is an automatic red card. It shouldn’t be difficult for a ref to decide how much harm was intended in a given incident and punish on that basis, rather than having to accept that the merest brush of fingertip on nose should be treated the same as a haymaker punch in the eye.

  27. I’d go for it on saturday, a win puts us safe so why not go all out? We have performed well away since the turn of the year so lets give the Mackems a pasting on their own patch.
    Let’s hit them with pace and flowing football, no long balls get it down and play the ball around them, let them do all the work
    3 – 1 boro
    COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. JC:
    Glad you agree on the refereeing issue and thanks for the comments.
    I agree that I took a bit of “author’s license” with the “forearm smash” description.
    However, the rule on raising hands is anything but arbitrary. That’s the whole point of having the rule. The rule removes ambiguity and arbitrariness.
    It’s far more arbitrary for a referee to have to make a judgment call on “degree of harm intended” than to simply follow a simple rule that says if you deliberately strike a guy on the face with your hand then you’re off.
    It’s the same as jumping with elbows raised. It’s likely to cause injury and when it does, it’s difficult, if not impossible to prove actual injurious intent or recklessness as opposed to retention of balance and fair leverage. So make it illegal and dispense with the dilemma.
    I’ve got no problem with the rules, except the ambiguous off-side rule which is a perennial pain in the bum – precisely because there seem to be elements of arbitrariness within the rule and because it’s difficult to police with the refereeing system we have in place.
    I just want to see the rules, whatever they are, enforced consistently, fair judgment made, level playing fields for all teams and justice seen to be done. And I don’t believe we have the best system in place to enable that.
    It mattered less when football was a genuine sport. But there’s too much at stake these days to leave it to chance and the inability of an outdated control system to cope with present day demands.

  29. Nigel: re Lawro’s prediction for Saturday, your prayers have been answered – 2-0 to the Mackems! 😉
    **AV writes: Spooky. I have just written something about that!

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