YOU’VE got to take your chances. It is no good creating six or eight good opportunities a game with crisp, incisive, flowing football if you don’t take one or two of them – especially if the other lot create just two or three but score them… which is starting to become a very bad habit away from home.
Losing to Sunderland hurts; not just because it is a derby with all the parochial baggage of dented pride now thrown angrily in a heap in the corner where the dog is cowering, but also because they are exactly the kind of limited but industrious mid-table team that the new-look enterprising Boro were supposed to be able to pass their way through, to patiently pick apart with pace and guile, exactly the kind of team they were now supposed to be able to beat and leave burnt out behind us on the road to top half glory. That Boro have failed must be a massive reality check.
It is not a time for knee-jerk reactions or pressing panic buttons, and yes there are mitigating circumstances – a last minute reshuffle after the injury to Mido won’t have helped, the squad is thin and theer are few match-changing option son the bench, you can’t legislate for missed penalties, and Craig Gordon was man of the match – but it is hard to avoid some harsh realities that are stacking up.
Boro have not won an away game in the league in 2008, they repeatedly dominate away games but fail to score gilt-edged chances before wavering mentally and being swamped when the other lot wriggle off the hook and fight back, they persist in leaking costly late goals in games they have failed to close down from a position of comfort, time and again they fail to react quickly enough to opposition substitutions that change the dynamic of the game. There are plenty of positives – the football at times is a delight, there is energy and enterprise and plenty of chances are being created but unless these problems are urgently addressed this team will be condemned to another season of treading water in the depths of the bottom half.
Spot of Bother: Why isn’t Alves taking penalties? Yes, Stewie had done the job since the departure of Yakubu and had done it well but when you sign a ÃÂ£12.7m hitman who had come within a whisker of the European Golden Boot, partly because of his dead-ball prowess, surely you give him the job? I can see the logic of sticking with the man who has the job and for not taking it off him just because he missed one, especially as rattling the bar against Stoke ultimately did not cost the game. But now? Stewie never looked like he was going to score. After his England media mauling his morale seems to have dipped. He needs to concentrate on what he does best and put this distraction aside.
Alves needs goals to boost his confidence and to step up his chase for this year’s goals gong. He certainly thought he was going to take it and picked up the ball and for a second it looked like we may get a rerun of the Bernie Slaven v Gary Parkinson bust-up against Ipswich. He shouldn’t need to tussle for it next time: Stewie should hand the ball over and the Brazilian must show him how it is done.
Full report to follow…