Anfield Angst Is A Sign Of Progress

THAT BORO fans were left devastated by the last-gasp sickener at Anfield hints at an unusual optimism bubbling up through the cracks in our traditional Teesside armour of cynicism.
In times past the trip to Anfield would have been written off when the fixtures came out. None of the current team were even born last time Boro won a league game there in March 1976 and the gaffer was only five so it is not normally a happy hunting ground. A battering is usually budgeted for and getting out with pride intact and a narrow defeat has been claimed as a moral victory before now. Even the wild-eyed ra-ras high on foam finger fumes only ever argue for the possibility of nicking a spawny draw.
So for Boro – team and fans – to be genuinely desolate at losing there is a real sign of progress.


That shows how far expectations have been raised. It also reflects a widespread feeling of exactly how close we were to a thoroughly deserved win. And that is not just Boro fans talking. The press-room after the game was full of relieved Scouse scribes queueing up to admit that Boro deserved something and Liverpool had got out of jail. Gary Lineker and sofa-buddy Alan Hanson admitted it. Sky Sports admitted it. Stoppage time Nemesis Stevie G admitted it with a world weary sigh. Even the “Fat Spanish Waiter” almost begrudgingly let the truth out through gritted teeth.
And the truth is that Boro more than matched the Champions League giants in every department for 85 minutes. They were tight at the back, industrious in midfield with Gary O’Neil closing and tackling and chasing in midfield like the Tazmanian Devil and sharp and inventive on the break. The back-line kept Liverpool’s £40m strikeforce so quiet they may as well have been bound and gagged and locked in the boot of the Compass Royston team coach in Stanley Park and even when the big boys went long and direct Boro’s defence just headed clear with ease.
Yes, they slipped into old habits and inched back in the closing stages but that was not entirely voluntary, Liverpool’s desperate and direct pressure changed the shape of the game as much as any conscious tactical decision by Boro.
And but for a few slices of fortune at key moments would have secured the points long before Gerrard struck four minutes into the three added on. Had Tuncay not been hauled back by Carragher as he twisted and turned onto his flick he would surely have drilled home. Had Mike Riley been bettered placed he would surely have given a penalty. And on another day maybe Carragher’s shot into a crowd for the equaliser would have deflected at a less morally charged angle and flew over.
So, close but no cigar. Yet, despite the result that left us so dismayed there has ironically been an upsurge in optimism because the display has not been written off as just another brave but ultimately doomed effort by underdogs playing above themselves but as a positive indication that Southgate’s side are starting to deliver on their promise. Some observations:
Jeepers Keepers: The injury to Brad Jones in the warm-up may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The custodian conundrum has been the biggest political hot-potato in pre-season and contains the highest potential risk for Southgate. Now his hand has been forced on his selection dilemma and Turnbull – who appears to be the people’s choice – will now be given his chance without any need for diplomatic fudge or unsettling rotation.
The injury – and respected crock shock web guide physioroom.com reckon a bad dislocation can leave a keeper sidelined for eight to ten weeks – leaves Boro with just Jason Steele as back-up and he has barely even seen the first team bench. That allows to go into the transfer market for experienced back-up (even if just on loan) without any red-faced back-tracking or accusations of U-turns. It is peace with honour. We must be grateful it didn’t happen after the deadline.
Fred And Ginger: Tuncay’s artful flick and graceful pirouette that left leaden hoofed Carragher lumbering in his size eleven diving boots was a moment of magic that illuminated a game that otherwise was not one for the purists.
In a delightful turn of phrase the Beeb’s shouty hyperbole machine Jonathon Pearce described the classical cameo by saying “in a game that was like watching the dance floor on a stag night that was a Fred Astaire moment.” He was right, and it was worth making a song and dance about.
And spare a thought for his partner Mido, cast as Ginger Rogers. His nifty footwork was just as graceful as he skipped over Arbeloa and burned him off with an incredible burst of speed down the left flank then skinned Skertel at the cornerflag before putting in a perfect ball for Tuncay.
The new slim line Mido has been a revelation showing pace, power and a deft touch as well as scoring two cracking goals after coming off the bench as a super-sub. If only he can keep scoring beyond August (and stay fit) then he can be a huge player for Boro this season.
Red Zone Relapse: Two games, two goals conceded deep in stoppage time. Some things never change. It is a costly habit and late lapses against Reading, Arsenal and Sunderland cost precious points late last term and dragged out the tense trapdoor dancing until the penultimate game. We can’t afford that to continue if there are genuine hopes of a top half finish. That is a lesson that must be learned if the team is to not slip back not just into bad habits but the twilight zone down at the bottom.
“Typical” Tests Looming Large: Have Boro’s displays against Spurs and Liverpool been the shape of things to come or just the underdogs playing above themselves when the pressure is off? We are about to find out.
Boro now face a big test of their reputed new mentality as they go into a run of “easy” games against the sides that they – and most supporters – would expect to finish above: Stoke (H), Portsmouth (A), Sunderland (A), West Moggawich Albion (H) and then Wigan (A). If we are still all bubbling at displays after those games then it is game on and top half here we come.

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23 thoughts on “Anfield Angst Is A Sign Of Progress

  1. Well done Boro, you played very well against Liverpool and DID deserve something from the game. Keep your feet on the ground but it looks like Southgate is putting together a good team. Pls Mr Writer, grow up, no sterotypes (Spanish Waiter, Car thieves, etc). The most sucessfull team in the history Englsh football should be showed an bit of respect.
    **AV writes: I wouldn’t dream of cheap stereotyping and never mentioned crime at all, apart from obviously a suggestion that ‘we wuz robbed’. We have suffered enough smears ourselves over the years and it is something I have always publicly condemned but the waiter line is a reference to a song from the travelling Boro fans which has attracted some comment. That is why it is in quotation marks.

  2. Yes, Boro did play well, but let’s be real – All this ‘we wuz robbed’ is nonsense. Look at the stats:
    Possession 62% (LFC) to 38% (Midd)
    Shots (total) 21 to 9
    Corners 14 to 3
    Passing success 76 to 64
    Tackles 31 to 20
    I could go on. Thats why Liverpool not only won, but also deserved to win.

  3. Well done to all at Boro. You made us all proud for the second week in a row. I think the cup game against Yeovil and followed by Stoke could not have come at a better time. Time now to be true professionals and learn from the game just gone and last year’s “C” word. Turn in a good performance against these two and the crowds and fans will remain faithful. Stutter, play badly or come a cropper in games that we dominate and lose to a sicker punch at the death will prove that we can only raise our game against the big boys. I must add that I am not intending to be defeatist here – this is a fantastic opportunity for this young energetic squad to leave a huge mark for the rest of the season ahead. GS and the boys you have filled us with hope and pride. COME ON BORO

  4. With regards to the goalkeeper situation it is being reported that the club is looking for another goalkeeper in the light of Jones’s minor injury. The Evening Gazette quotes Southgate as saying “It’s not uncommon for this to happen to keepers.”
    If the quote is correct then you would have thought the club would have saw this need a few months ago when a few decent quality goalkeepers were available.
    Gareth comes across as an intelligent and deep thinker, very good at articulating his views, but we all can have rethinks. Maybe Gareth reacts too much to media and fan pressure and ought to stick to his orginal assessment and not buy poor quality at inflated prices.

  5. One up at Anfield with 20 minutes left. Lets sit back and defend rather than continue playing the way that got us to this point.
    Thats typical McLaren thinking and its about time Boro learned their lesson from those days and remembered that games against Liverpool and their ilk are for 90 minutes (and maybe 97 if the referee sees fit) not 70.

  6. I watched the game but stop talking about bad luck and penalty decisions,Liverpool clearly should have had a penalty (The shot that struck what’s his face’s arm) To say Boro played well and deserved a victory is total garbage,before they scored they only had one decent effort on goal.They went to Anfield to defend and came away with nothing.Boro are a good team and will beat one or two of the so-called big four this season but credit to Liverpool they beat a very tough well organised side who are difficult to break down.So let’s move along and concentrate on the next game. Oh and good luck for the rest of the season.

  7. We certainly played well but as I pointed out in the previous thread when the dust settles we got no points and the harsh facts are as outlined in Get Real’s post above.
    History shows we lost and all the pleasure in elements of the performance is irrelevant in terms of points and the table.
    AV talks about some matches where we fell foul of the red zone. We did it against Arsenal twice one of which cost points, Sunderland twice and lost points, Reading, Villa at home at the end of the first half, West Ham home at the end of both halves, West Ham away where we were 30 seconds late for the second half. We also nearly managed the same against Wigan, Fulham and Derby but failed despite our best efforts to throw away the initiative.
    This season we have taken it to an art form, three goals in two matches in only 4 minutes of normal time plus injury time.
    You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see Stoke playing 5-5-0 and waiting for us to implode.
    Playing some lovely stuff but we need to finish teams off. I have no idea why it is happening. We could blame the lack of experience but it was the same with Boat, Rocky, Woodie, Yak, Veruka.
    I am stumped for an answer.

  8. Two good performances so far, a good start to the season, which hasn’t happened too often over the years.
    to win at Liverpool is as likely as not going to require two goals which we didn’t quite manage and conceeding late goals yet again is a concern.
    We will know ten games in how the season will shape up but there are signs for optimism. Mido is clearly motivated by being second choice striker, Tuncay has hit the ground running and his flick and turn against Carragher was a joy to watch.
    Wheater continues to win man of the match reports despite playing out of position.
    Despite loosing on Saturday this may be a good week providing we beat Yeovil and most importantly Stoke.

  9. Can’t understand why so many Liverpool fans would elicit any sort of interest in a Boro board, given we are an ‘unfashionable’ club some 120 miles away….
    unless of course they’re glory hunters from Teesside or its environs and think wearing a Carlsberg shirt gives them some kind of emotional buy-in, la. You may claim allegiance lads but you will never be considered proper fans even if you also grow a ‘tache and get a perm.

  10. no_time_for_plastics: many Liverpool fans write in to this board to give their veiws of the game rather than the one sided effort offered by the author of this thread. If we were coming here on mass just to slag your lot off then I’d understand your post. The fact is we haven’t slagged your team off in fact quite the opposite.
    Anyway isn’t this a forum for football and Boro fans alike? We get loads of other fans posting on Liverpool chat forums and hardly anyone (One or two muppets aside) really cares. Like I said in my previous post good luck for the rest of the season.

  11. I Paused for a few days rather than responding with a raw knee jerk emotional outburst as is usually my want.
    Overall the performance was one which warranted something. Not all the pundits can be wrong and especially as they were generally supportive of Boro’s endeavours shows the measure of this side to the previous couple of seasons. As AV says the very fact we are frustrated, disappointed and deflated because we lost by a last second goal at Anfield is a pretty good measure.
    Turbull put in a fine performance and if he continues in that form then he will well and truly have shoved humble pie in my face and many others on here.
    Defensively we were rock solid and our midfield held together pretty well. Mido is now looking to be the “Duke replacement” we hoped for last year and Alves is warming up nicely with a hat trick bound to explode from his boots in the next few weeks to get off his duck.
    My only real angst is the customary last minute goal yet again. Two options as I see it, either shut up shop which is very difficult against proven quality (apoligies for the Robboism!) opposition or pressurise them at their own end which with Tuncay, Mido, Downing, Aliadiere, Alves, Emnes, Jinky etc. should be well within our capabilities. The best form of defence is attack…..lets face it defending in our own 18 yard box for 4 minutes of injury time hasn’t work for us thus far!
    Overall things are still looking optimistic for the season and tonights professional demolition of Yeovil lays further testimony to this with a changed and rotated but not a weakened team.

  12. Well done – Boro 5 Yovil 1 !!!
    The attitude was there and the new signings shined. When is the draw for the next round?
    Now the Stoke match is more interesting. We are favourites – can we finally stand the expections?
    Up the Boro!
    PS. I think we need a new goalie only for 2 months loan. not langer.

  13. A sound result last night, just the sort of solid, competent performance that was needed.
    Good to see us knock in a few goals and to have several players on the score sheet.
    Mido is certainly playing with a point to prove!

  14. Well done Boro, finally we have realised that the Carling Cup is our best bet for Europe and 5 goals from 5 different players also bodes well for the season.
    Stoke is our next big test but I think we will take them. I have confidance in this team and feel we are going to do the buisness this season.
    Hope there is a good crowd to cheer the guys on.

  15. Great result for Boro last night, sets us up nicely for the Stoke match.
    I agree with Nigel that Mido is playing with a point to prove and with 3 goals in 3 matches. Isn’t that the sort of form that deserves a place in the starting line-up on Saturday? Does anybody think that Southgate has the guts to start Mido instead of either Alves or Tuncay. Them two havn’t scored yet and Mido has performed well and is certainly worthy of a starting place. I don’t think Southgate will but he did have the guts to stick with Jones and Turnbull for the goalkeepers position.
    I think it’s great that we have real competition for places now at Middlesbrough because a few years ago we could predict the team every week. It’s shaping up to be a great season but these next few matches against teams we should beat are the next test of Southgate’s managerial abilities in terms of knowing how to make us a consistent squad.

  16. Ever since the Bryan Robson era we have typically done well against the big boys. The real test is home to Stoke! Winning this game will show that Boro have changed. I am reserving judgement on the ‘Boro Revolution’ until then.

  17. Re the guys that are saying Liverpool should have had a penalty, the ball was blasted from approx 3 yards away and happened to hit a boro players arm. Yes that can be given, but shouldn’t be.
    What should be given is a shirt tug on a player through on Goal (carragher on Tuncay) or how about o’neil getting pushed off the ball in the box (even MOTD pundits picked that one up).
    Although these three incidents are arguable, what is not arguable is when a player is put clean through, is onside by two yards but gets flagged as offside, as happened in the first half with Alves (they did not show that bit on MOTD though?).
    Also Liverpool may have had more shots, but its not like it was the alamo all over again. It was a controlled performance from Boro which showed a surprising maturity and Liverpool as a ‘top 4’ club at home never looked like winning it.
    On a connected point, Liverpool and Arsenal should start worrying about their Champions League places, not necessarily because of Boro, but because there are so many teams now in the premier league that can play to that standard and are not scared of the big boys anymore. Hopefully we will move on to the top four sooner rather than later.

  18. I agree with allycat regarding Arsenal and Liverpool, they have very good squads but there are a few teams below them who will have no fear of playing them this season, I would guess they will both finish in the top four but hopefully they will be pushed hard by other teams which is what we need to make the prem. an exciting league.
    I also think Richard Jones hits the nail on the head, Boro’s performance against Stoke will be an indication of how we are progressing. No doubt Stoke will get plenty of men behind the ball and play route one when going forward. It will be a real test of how good we are at breaking teams down.

  19. After a fluent display last night, against Stoke it will be physical and ugly on Saturday.I believe our defensive line up will be as important to choose as our forward line.We need a tall defence with good headers of the ball that means fitting Huth,Riggott, Pogatez,Wheater somehow into the team, players who can combine aggression and assertiveness.It won’t be a game for the feint hearted so a different challenge for this ‘new’ Boro. I expect us to come through with a win and show we are different this season

  20. I think people are too easily pleased. Boro beat a Yeovil team with its two best players out injured and suddenly we are all going to Wembley. We only just lose to Liverpool and we are gonna be top six. Talk about the Jawdees being deluded and exciteable.
    Spurs were poor and nowhere near gelling yet. Liverpool were average poor and we had oit but let them back in. Yeovil… well I’d expect to thrash them anyway.
    The test comes this weekend when Stoke come here trying to do what we tried to do at Anfield. That was our problem last year, beating teams that shut up shop.
    I think we have a long way to go before we can start to get carried away.

  21. Holgate Ender…”too easily pleased”? You are talking about Boro fans, right?
    I agree that we shouldn’t get carried away, but there is certainly cause for optimism.
    Most pundits had picked Spurs to do well this year, and we have had something to do with their poor start. maybe things would have been different if they’d played Mogga’s WBA first?
    Every year we “expect” to thrash teams like yeovil, but we usually don’t. John Powl’s point is well taken: it’s refreshing when we actually dish out a beating like that to a lower league team.
    Liverpool were below par, but again…didn’t WE have something to do with that?
    Like most of us on the blog, I’m interested to see how we do on Saturday because this type of game is often the type where we implode.
    But, again, I think we do have cause for optimism, and I’m liking what i see of the Southgate Revolution.
    BTW, did anyone notice that McClaren sold Luke Wilkshire already?

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