Tricky Trees Bamboozle Boro

VERY disappointing. Not that getting a point from a team above you and who are unbeaten away from home is a bad thing because in essence it isn’t.
What was disappointing was that once again Boro failed to press home an advantage. A golden goal after five minutes was a massive lift and they played the first half hour with real zest, tempo and spirit with the ball being passed around and tackles flying in.


What was equally disappointing was that once again they shrank away after the break, were thrown out of their stride and had no answer when the opposition stepped up the gas and piled on the pressure. Forest grabbed the game by the throat and showed the kind of urgency that one dimensional Boro could take lessons from. They got the ball into the box and made things happen, if not always with finesse or grace.
When the tempo went up and things got scrappy, Boro faded. There wasn’t a shot on target after the break – O’Neil had one charged down and a Wheater header bounced wide but that was about it – and for long spells Boro struggled to get their passing going. That is where we are losing out. For all the technical ability and neat close control and crisp movement they show when on top and allowed to pass, they are found wanting when the game is reduced to a physical contest, when urgency and hunger became the dominant themes and when the opposition get right at them.
Gordon Strachan finally got off the mark with his first point in three games but he will probably be alarmed that in some ways this was a worse display than the two opening defeats. In his first two games Boro had dominated for long spells, created a shedload of chances and had lost because they couldn’t stick them away. You can shrug your shoulders at that and make philosophical noises about evening out and how it will come. You can take the positives from it the and work on the weaknesses in training.
But against Forest Boro were beaten by a team that wanted it more and threw away an early advantage to boot. In the first two games Boro could put together a case that they should have got something but against Forest, when the game hotted up, there was only one team that looked likely to win. Boro were left hanging on for what in the end was a precarious point. And that seismic shift in the game seemed to be a mental thing. That is not so easily solved on the training pitch.
But it must be dealt with – and quickly – if this season is to be salvaged. We have talked about the pressing financial need for promotion this term to prevent more damaging cuts and also to be able to persuade the crown jewels to stay. In the coming weeks Boro have rock bottom Peterborough then in quick succession four teams who were pre-season promotion rivals now threatening to break away. Get to work GS2.
Some observations:
Respect to Brad Jones, not always a fans’ favourite but he played a blinder today with a string of brilliant saves that kept Boro in the game and prevented a collapse.
Taking the armband off David Wheater and handing it to Gary O’Neil is a positive. It can make the captaincy a positive again rather than a distraction and lead weight dragging down a player who really needs to focus on getting his own game right again.
The team is starting to reflect a new broom. The full backs who were monstered at Palace, Justin Hoyte and Jonathan Grounds, were dropped. GS1 would have given them the chance to learn the lessons and redeem themselves. GS2 is less forgiving. Also it allowed him to move Rhys Williams to right back, Admittedly it wasn’t a complete success but at least it removes a shape/peg/hole dilemma.
Emanuel Pogatetz is nails. Not only does he play a month ahead of schedule with Mark Schwarzer’s Phantom of the Opera mask on but he gets his eyebrow smashed open again and had Terminator style running repairs on the touchline – five stitches, a tweak with a screwdriver, bandaged up and thrown back into battle.
Afterwards, with a shiner and huge red sewn up eyebrow and a sheepish smile he admitted he felt a little bit embarrassed that every game now he seems to get a bit battered and bruised. If only some others were so willing to show that steel.
*****
Strachan was devastingly honest in his post-match comments. And to be fair to him he has quickly spotted the fatal flaws in the teams make-up, problems that many on here have pointed out repeatedly and in ever more frustrated fashion in the past two years.
“I’m happy with the way we started the game and the first 30 to 35 minutes, but not happy with the rest of the game,” he said .
“The two games we played before this I felt we could have won, but the most likely team to win this game was Nottingham Forest. I thought the back four and Brad played well but the most important thing in football is to score goals and I don’t think we were much of a threat to be honest. Our retention of the ball was poor and when we got it back we rushed things, so you struggle from there.
Asked if he had made progress since his arrival, he said: “It doesn’t look like it, no. Not at all. It’s not been a great three weeks for the players, for me or for the fans.
“My concern just now is making us into a better team. We have to try and find a formula or a formation that gives us more of a goal threat. At the moment I can’t put my finger on it and it’s something you have to get. Every job is a big challenge. I didn’t think it was going to be easy, that’s for sure. I’m not a silly man.
“We’re judged as players and managers when we walk out of the door. But people can be unhappy just now, I understand that.”

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22 thoughts on “Tricky Trees Bamboozle Boro

  1. I think ultimately we’re paying the price for not parting company with Southgate after the last game of last season – Strachan is essentially still in a belated preseason preparation phase and is trying to find out which players fit together whilst papering over the cracks with temporary loan deals.
    At least half of the team are still not match fit and are many are struggling for form – plus I think we’ve already used something like 27 players, which says it all really.
    This season is already beginning to appear as a right-off and that is mainly down to Gibson’s failure to make the right call last may.
    So I think the best we can hope for is a play-off place and with our current form being akin to that of relegation (unsurprisingly we are bottom of the home form league) we need to improve quickly to avoid any nightmare scenario unfolding.
    By-the-way: I thought the matchday blog worked very well today and was thoroughly enjoyable – well done AV.

  2. I find it very difficult now to form opinions on the team and individual players due to the fact that I do not see many games now because Boro play Championship football instead of Premier League. I read every available report that I can find but I believe everyone sees a game differently.
    Does anyone know of any internet site that streams Boro games either live or even replays as I’m sure this would help me. Would appreciate any help.
    Boro West Oz.
    **AV writes: Streams are arare now that we are in a football backwater but you could try JustinTV or Iraqigoals. There have been a few live streams this season and if it is going to be on it is going to be on there. Or so I’m told.

  3. Yesterday’s steak with a stilton sauce at the “Ploated Pheasant” – really good (again!). I will be going back for more next week or the week after. Maybe an au poivre sauce next time for variety, but I’ll be going back.
    Today’s football….not so good. And that follows on from two weeks ago (away) when it wasn’t good, and the week before that when it was grim. Maybe the supporters who have been going to away games have had something to cheer about sometimes, but the ones who put their money into the Boro’s turnstiles at home games haven’t.
    Pay for a steak, and find an undercooked burger is delivered, with a limp salad – again! Let’s put it this way, if the pub/restaurant chef performed the same way as the Boro team performs, they’d soon be out of business. Who’d eat there?
    Part of the joy of going out for a meal is the anticipation. But if you were continually disappointed being served up with indistinguished fare, you’d stop going, and fairly quickly. Part of the joy of the weekend used to be the anticipation about the game, and a chat with the lads about the formation, the tactics we might employ, who should be given a chance in the team etc.
    I’m afraid the only thing we are now becoming accustomed to anticipating is another cold, damp and depressing time sitting in the stadium, the wait until the traffic clears before it is possible to get away from central Middlesbrough, and the edge taken away from enjoying the rest of the weekend.
    The wife has hidden away all the sharp knives again. It’s alright for our Bremen correspondent who has table-topping fare on his doorstep. And just for info Werdermouth, could you let the Boro faithful know just how much a mid-range ticket would be to see the stars of the Bundeslige perform? It would be interesting to compare the price of our second-tier games to your top-tier ones.
    It really would be a bit of a sickener to find out that you could get a gourmet meal at Le Gavroche for a third of the price we pay for our trip to the local fast-food emporium (“Do you want some garlic sauce with that kebab”?).

  4. Sacking Southgate when we were one point off the top is starting to look like a massive mistake now. Now we are stuck in mid-table after one point from nine and you can right this season off.
    The statements for the kneejerk sacking because we had to be up there and chasing promotion look a bit daft now.Strachan has made no difference.
    Gibson has got it wrong. If he was going to do it he should have doneit in the summer and giuven the new boss a pre-season and chance to make transfers.

  5. Well GS2 is off the mark so that’s good. The encouraging thing for me this week was the team formation. Williams at right back, midfielders in midfield, and the return (at least as sub) of Digard, O’Neill as captain. Great to see a goal for a striker. Also pleased to see Jones have another great game. I think he is one of our most unfairly maligned players.
    It feels like GS2 is starting to pull things together. I haven’t given up on promotion yet. The Championship is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all about putting together a good run at the right time. There’s no point being top in November.
    Whilst WBA had another good win, there were a couple of other surprise results (you wouldn’t have picked the Cardiff score). That’s going to continue to happen. All good, and glad to finally have some football to talk about after the boredom of the international break.

  6. Good to see Downing getting some Villa action but I think his World Cup spot has gone, especially as Cole J, who Capello likes, is back on song.
    If only we had had a striker who could have capitalised on Downing’s service when he was fired up for us. What a wasted opportunity we blew.
    John Aus

  7. Neil M
    The ideal time for Gate to go was last season when a dead cat bounce might have kept us up.
    The sacking of Gate ‘one point off the top’ will become a folklore saying. We had lost three at home in a row and didnt look like scoring in any of them. We had zilch points against anybody with a bit of steel and skill. Our points had come against relegation strugglers.
    As in the premiership other teams had realised we were fragile. Keep going and we will fold be it through mental or physical fragility, generally both. The squad was weakened further, through necessity, but weakened it was.
    Would the results if Gate was still in charge be different. We will never know but the event is now history. What isn’t history is that once teams found a way to play us we are stuffed.
    Listening to the Radio Nottingham commentary they complained of over elaboration in the first half. When they upped the tempo, moved the ball quicker and stopped admiring us it was game nearly over.
    There is more chance of GS2 turning it round than GS1 because the structural flaws were present throughout the last two years of Gates tenure.
    I stand by my pre season view, not good enough for automatic promotion, should be too good for most teams and get a play off place. I will stick by my view even with a hint of concern, Xmas Day could see a fairly miserable league table.

  8. Another disappointing performance but at the end of the season this could prove an important point.
    I agree that it’s looking like the managerial change should have been made in the close season. However I concur with the “marathon not a sprint” statement. I don’t think we will truly be gelling under GS2 until the january window closes.
    As long as we are top half then, we have a chance. Burnley got promoted last season on the back of a 19 game unbeaten run at the tail end of the season. Lets hope we are the one’s producing a sprint finish while some of those who have surged out of the blocks stumble and falter as the finish line approaches.
    I still believe we will be there or there abouts when it matters. It’s obvious the relegation hangover is still shrouding the club on and off the pitch but we need to keep our heads and the faith.

  9. Dormo, german football is definitely more fan friendly and that is reflected in ticket prices, which a recent study put at around 40% cheaper than their english counterparts.
    Werder Bremen have a wide range of ticket prices which also depend on which of three categories the game is given – (1) big or local teams – e.g. Bayern Munich, Hamburg; (2) big city teams – e.g. Stuttgart, Hertha Berlin, (3) Small town clubs.
    So a matchday seat at category 2 game would cost between €25-45, though it is still possible to stand at German grounds and that would cost only €13. Children generally pay half price and wheelchair fans pay €6 with the person accompanying them getting in for free.
    It’s probably also worth noting that all clubs have to be at least 51% owned by supporters trusts and all games must be made available for free-to-air TV transmission – which means German clubs have attracted more sponsorship money than any other league in Europe, estimated around €500m per year.
    So all in all German football puts the fans at the centre of the model and although they may miss out on all the so-called big players the clubs are healthy and sustainable and their national team doesn’t seem to do too bad either.

  10. [The statements for the kneejerk sacking because we had to be up there and chasing promotion look a bit daft now.Strachan has made no difference.]
    A bit like a kneejerk reaction to a new manager who’s had 3 games and the vague assumption that being one point off top in a tight league early on in the season means that we’d be able to keep pace with a team who stuffed us 0-5 under Gareth’s tutelage.
    We are still poor at home where the players are still tense and we still play better away. Apart from scoring less, nothing much has changed but at least we don’t have defenders in central midfield and DW has been relieved of the captaincy.

  11. GS2 is now at the same point GS1 was at the end of last season and for most of this season; he can’t find the formula; he doesn’t know what the best formation is; he can’t put his finger on it….mmm.
    Well let’s hope he has the nouse to discover one or all of them quickly because for me, I firmly believe that we have little chance of gaining promotion or even gaining ground on those above us unless he does solve the (GSx) conundrums.
    I thought it was a mistake to throw Kitson straight in, I would have preferred to see Bent start, but maybe he thought the old Reading partnership might kick in, it didn’t.
    Wheater looked a little more assured in the first half, but between him and St Ledger there were still moments where they were caught cold, one of which led to the foul that gave Forest their deserved equaliser. You would have thought they would have learnt about each other by now, but they still seem to play like strangers.
    On a brighter note I thought Digard did well when he came on, if he’s now fit he should replace Arca who does it in flashes but gets caught far too easily. This may mean O’Neill moving out right but he seems to do just as well wherever you play him, he’s probably out most consistent performer.
    All in all I think we will be in this league next season unless GS2 finds that magic solution.

  12. So much for the V for victory campaign. More like D for Damp Squib.
    I had a long chat with John Hendrie before hand in the Club shop, and he told me he would have relished playing in yesterday’s game; how we could do with someone of his calibre at this present time.
    There has been a lot of talk, yet again, about the shape of pegs and holes.
    After yet another display full of silly errors, I think it is about time that Poggy moved back into the centre of defence and give David Wheater a few matches on the bench. It might give him time to get his head sorted. It was a stupid handball to give away a free kick just outside the box, the result of which was punished by the cartwheeling polecat.
    GS2 has made one good decision by giving the captaincy to Gary O’Neil.
    Out of the loan players, I thought Osbourne was the best of the bunch (He and Brad Jones were both awarded 8 in Sunday’s The League Paper). Kitson and Bent look way short of match fitness, which begs the question of – what are they doing here ?
    Are we to become a convalescence home for other club’s players to gain match fitness only for them to go back to their parent clubs at the end of the loan period? Catch 22 me thinks. The only benefit we get is if they score lots of goals, which in reality it does not look like happening.
    One thing is very clear, GS2 has his work cut out, and things need to improve quickly if we are to stay with the play off pack. It may take another season in this division to achieve anything near a promotion campaign. Please GS2 prove me wrong….

  13. Only had the chance to hear the game on radio,just wondering, (not making excuses) but it sounded like there was some rough treatment meted out by Forest on some of our influential players.
    We know in the Prem the better players are protected by the Refs,and maybe that is where we are falling down. Teams are kicking us off the park. Is that a fair comment?

  14. The 1st half showed a more composed display than of late due I feel to Wheats having the burden of Captaincy removed from his shoulders and Williams along with Pogi adding a bit of strength and the Ledge looking very composed (sometimes too composed).
    That said I never felt comfortable and put our composure down to the early goal rather than our technical superiority. Overall if it wasn’t for the much maligned Jones we could have lost this 3-1 or even 4-1, so fair play to the lad and hopefully this will be the turning point in his relationship/confidence building with the fans.
    Whatever happened at half time we will never know but the two teams that emerged from the tunnel were unrecognisable. Forest seemed fired up with a collective Davies rocket up their backsides. Boro looked like they had just received one of Gareth’s nerve jangling lesson learning team talks.
    There were four players on display in a Red shirt who are loans, in other words they have no commitment beyond the next few weeks/months at best. That officially applies to the Ledge as well despite what may have been gentlemanly agreed behind closed doors because money talks (as does league position).
    I didn’t and don’t see anything that Walker or Shawky couldn’t offer in the middle so struggle to see the point of Osbourne, as both are currently on the payroll from a managerial perspective it doesn’t make long or short term sense.
    I’m not saying we don’t need a classy midfielder and striker but frankly Kitson, Bent and Osbourne just don’t do it for me. The lack of a big man up front has never been addressed since Graham, Yak and the Duke left and our recent policy of signing cast offs from the civic theatre’s Snow White show has left us lightweight and vertically challenged. In this division a big 15 stone 6ft plus player simply brushes our collective “mini me’s” off the ball with ease.
    This blog provides damning historic evidence of these and other factors going right back to McClaren’s departure and the bizarre management of the club which has now left us where a lot of us first became involved with the Boro.
    Remember the Stan Anderson era as a half competent battling side which sniffs around promotion places occasionally in a second rate league season after season? The half time introduction of the McIlmoyle’s, Hickton’s and Whighams etc had a more than poetic significance, it was the completion of a circle!
    It appears to me that SG has managed a perfect impersonation of the Duke of York except that a few weeks ago I was prepared to believe “we were neither up nor down” but being perfectly frank I don’t see anything at all remotely connected with MFC that fills me with confidence.
    We have a mish mash of a squad that simply isn’t big enough or good enough, we have sold off the crown jewels with likely more to go of the few we have left (oh how I wished Catts or even an ageing Boat could have been available yesterday). Ex Players like Schwarzer, Queuedrue, Stuey etc. etc. all plying their trade up there in the Prem while we languish in what is beginning to look like eternal damnation.
    The “Oldies” on here will remember when we were last regarded as a selling club with the likes of Mills, Souness, Johnson and all being flogged to the bigger boys, circles again!
    The usual “new Manager bounce” has actually been an implosion rather than an explosion. I suspect that Gordon Stricken may be departing sooner than we all expected citing all sorts of “beyond repair” reasons.
    Come Christmas:
    “Jingle bells, Gibson sells, Southgates gone away, Lamb is looking nauseous while watching Boro play,
    No strikeforce up front, midfield is looking bare all the fans have gone away with nothing left to say!
    Oh Jingle bells……………..”

  15. Devastated – but I still think we will come good. We still miss proper goal scorers. Fit and experienced – IN OUR TEAM that is.
    Some people say SG made the change too late but I remember him saying that he wanted to have a new manager well BEFORE the next transfer window. SO let’s wait for the window before make the final verdict.
    So too early to say anything yet. Our striker pair need a few games together. We could get a decent run going soon. At least I hope so!
    Don’t loose faith. Up the Boro!

  16. Werder – thanks for that.
    So a standing ticket (which many in our North Stand would love to be able to buy) would cost about £11.50 to see Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich.
    I am not sure about how much it costs to buy “match by match” and there may be cheaper tickets available but my WS Upper ticket might now be about £25 to see Peterborough, Grimsby et al at home but it is difficult to be exact as I have paid in advance in a pound that was actually worth something when I handed it over.
    But let’s not kid ourselves that even the cheapest ticket in the ground at Boro is as good value as you could have in Germany. A game against Grimbsy or one against Bayern Munich….diffcult decision.
    On the other hand, they are now selling Parmos (in sandwiches I believe, but haven’t yet tried one) and Newbould’s roast pork and stuffing sandwiches in the concourses at the Riverside. Grateful for small mercies…..

  17. I feel not enough credit has been given to the way Forest attacked the game in the second half. Their energy levels and commitment were first class.For 25 minutes they appeared to have an extra man.You can see why they have not yet been beaten away.
    Positives were the goalkeeper and defence.The full backs were a much better pairing.I didnt see Osbourne provide anything we dont already have. We need a player that can drive forward from the centre of the pitch.
    Players like Aliadiere and Emnes get plenty of stick but can somebody tell me what Bent is supposed to represent. He is worse then either of them and by some margin. At least they offer pace and movement.Send him back to Birmingham and Folan back to Hull and save a few quid.

  18. It’s not yet Christmas and I’ve lost all hope and expectation for this season!! I’ve even booked March 6th off work to go to Cardiff away but I can only see them with aspirations of promotion by then. Really hope GS2 & Boro prove me wrong.
    I’m also really starting to envy the men in the world how have no interest in football, can you imagine how much extra cash you would have in your pocket and how many weekends wouldn’t be ruined at 5.45pm of a Saturday.

  19. Yesterday’s game was depressing. It was exactly the type of performances we’d come to expect from Southgate. A bright start, in which we flatter to deceive, followed by a spineless and embarrassing collapse. We were very lucky not to lose.
    The only comfort I can find is in Strachan’s analysis:
    “The secret of football is to pass the ball well over ten to twelve yards and if you can’t do that you’ve got a problem.”
    This was precisely what the Forest team did fairly well, and where our team were hopeless. That is why our team can only play on the break, when accurate passing is less important than pace. That is why we are an “away side” and can make no impression on teams who come to defend at the Riverside. That is why we got beaten 5-0 by West Brom. They passed the ball well. We didn’t.
    Well, at least Strachan can recognise that many of our players perhaps aren’t as skilful as they, or a large number of fans, would like to believe. Good coaching might improve this.
    The problem is that first team players in English football are generally too arrogant to accept that they need to work on their basic skills. That is for the kids. Even those in the Boro squad who might have been more realistic about their abilities have become too lethargic in Southgate’s feeble coaching regime.
    So Strachan has an uphill struggle, and improving these players may be impossible. In that case we will have to wait for major changes in the squad before things get much better. I fear that will be too late for this season.
    I have not completely given up on a playoff place but, the more I see of some of our current squad, the less I believe that we have any chance of getting out of the Championship this season. At least in the upward direction.
    I don’t blame Strachan for this, but he must decide soon whether the meagre resources that are likely to be available at Christmas will be enough to mount any kind of challenge this season. That means a serious attempt to make the playoffs.
    If he doesn’t think that’s realistic, he may as well start rebuilding for next season. Avoiding further relegation will be the only target for this season. In either case, it will not be until the end of next season that Strachan can really be judged as a success or failure.

  20. Well a hole wasn’t ripped in the space time continuum. The laws of the universe remain; I will never see Boro beat Nottingham Forest.
    First half was ok but we started to look scared at the thought of wining a game. Where Osborne was dominant in the first half, his fading in the second was symptomatic of the team’s failings.
    I must put on record that I thought Brad Jones was tremendous and will try and cut the guy some slack. Without him we would have been well beaten. Fortunately Forest decided to take the point once they had equalised, when if they had have continued as they were they would surely have won.
    You can start to see the changes taking shape from Southgate’s Arsenal lite to Strachans more robust approach. I think given time it will pay dividends and hopefully we are the team that comes steaming into the playoffs with a late surge and momentum. Still along way to go but automatic promotion I think is a dream.
    As for the victory on the 21st campaign it was such a success I have confined it to the dustbin of time. I’ll not be wasting anymore time and energy on such folly. Apologies for you all having to endure it.
    At least I don’t live in Nottingham anymore. Now its time for peterboroAngel to brick it.

  21. There is still plenty of time for Boro to top what must be the most awful Championship league ever. Given how bad the Mugpies are as the top team(!) anything is possible. WBA are probably certain to go up but after that nobody looks better than Boro.

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