Mission Impossible…. Game On?

WELL who’d a thunk it? Suddenly the play-off door has creaked open again and suddenly Boro are just four points and a fairytale final flourish away from an unlikely encore.
It was frighteningly scrappy for long spells – especially in a sluggish and often chaotic first 20 that really should have been punished – and it took some frantic defending, another solid show from Corporal Jones and spawny strike for Super Mac…. but Boro won ugly on a day when a couple of other results went our way to revive hopes.

Blackpool got battered by the jubilant Geordies but perhaps more importantly wobbling dragonbothers Swansea – one win in eight – also lost against Bristol and suddenly they look very vulnerable in sixth spot. Is it on? We still need to overhaul Blackpool and catch the Swans. We have recent Nemesis West Brom away then Coventry at home before a last day shoot-out at Leicester. We still probably need to win them all. It is still an outside bet… but you never know.
If Boro are to pull it off they will have to play far better than they did against Sheffield Wednesday though. We won’t come up against such a profligate strikeforce again. As the Owls squandered chance after chance it was hard to avoid the thought that it was like watching Boro.
Wednesday arrived in the bottom three and without a win away in seven but they tore into Boro from the off and there were some seriously scary moments. Jones had to make three good saves and there were bodies being thrown in the way to block shots and make last gasp tackles in a series of scrums in the box.
In the middle Boro looked sluggish with Arca and Franks having nightmare starts on the flanks and even super Barry Robson being dispossessed time and again in a frustrating first half. Somehow Boro went in ahead after a spawny deflected goal.
After the break – and a half time rocket – things improved. Wednesday still got the ball forward frantically and livewire Johnson was still a threat and they went close as Varney put a backwards header against the bar but Boro looked more organised at the back, had stepped up the tempo and looked far more threatening on the counter.
Both full-backs pushed on more after the break to get crosses in, Robson was sharper and playing some fantastic through balls and the pace of McDonald and Lita caused all kinds of problems. The pair worked a neat one-two late on and Lita should have scored to wrap it up.
So, 11 unbeaten at the Riverside and eight without defeat home and away plus back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since the first week of the season. There were only three survivors in the Boro side from the sizzling 3-1 win in the reverse – Wheats, Arca and Williams – which shows exactly how far Boro have been revamped under Strachan. Things are slowly slotting into place. But is it too late?


41 thoughts on “Mission Impossible…. Game On?

  1. Jones for Boro player of the year?- if only for his strength of character after all the earlier verbal assassination he withstood. He’s shaping up better then his former Soccerroo mentor, in my opinion.
    John Aus

  2. AV, the door is open but I am afraid we must win the remaining three matches. A draw at WBA is not enough anymore.
    I see it’s still Leicester we had to catch – and Blackpool. Our goal difference is not good either. And we lack players in midfield (somehow we do not miss GON, do we?).
    We need luck and help from the other results. I have a feeling we go to the last match still with a chance – but left if far too late. Imagine if we had won against Palace, now?
    At least we have something to play for. Up the Boro!

  3. Ho ho ho – it’s squeaky everything time now!
    We still shouldn’t take our eyes off Reading either, if they win their two games in hand then they move to 62 – 1 ahead of us. Next Saturday is crunch time then:
    Blackpool v Nottm Forest
    Leicester v Watford
    Reading v Peterborough
    Swansea v Barnsley
    West Brom v Middlesbrough
    Well, looking at that fixture list we’ll need an absolutely untypical Boro turnaround in fortune to keep the dream alive. Perennial bogey side Brom to beat, need a favour from Forest and a further splutter from Swansea on their own turf. Stranger things have happened though…
    To avoid a “typical Boro” scenario I’ll spend the rest of the week pretending that there’s no chance of the playoffs, that we’re building for next year and only playing for pride now. And secretly I’ll be hoping for the spawniest Saturday in living memory. If it takes another Kanuesque 2foot poke over the bar to clinch the win then great.

  4. Just to remind you that reaching a play off spot does not mean that we are automatically promoted.
    our “dreams” will be dead next Saturday evening after Swansea beat Barnsley at home at we get thumped at west Bromwich.

  5. A bit of heresy for you here, IF we were to fluke a play off position then against the odds go up, the main affect would be to back up what I perceive as a lack of realism and head in the sand attitude from sections of the clubs hierarchy.
    When you have kids you want them to make their own mistakes and the crucially learn from them. In my eyes the only people connected with the club that still haven’t learnt will, like Labour was in it’s last term, escape beleiving their own hype and the cracks that undermine the whole
    playing side will open further, then if we fall out of the premier league again, it could well be a gulf too wide to cling onto the sides of.
    I would guess most people just want this season to be over one way or the other, but most will also want to see a proper grown up reconstruction of the club which will sustain it in a way that it’s fans won’t have to make excuses to support it.
    Bring the pride back to Teesside, bring thefight back, there are some hard decisions for this summer, whatever happens.
    This is a watershed time, the fans aren’t stupid, whatever apathy the electorate show next month, it would be a mistake for the club to take the same attitude with it’s fans.

  6. Very scrappy and very unconvincing but the league table shows we pulled off three points yesterday!
    The Midfield was overun at times and Wednesday must feel mugged but that’s football. One of the issues with the midfield was that nothing was sticking up front and everything kept coming straight back at us.
    Mac was fighting and battling but Leroy was back to his proverbial worse. If your own supporters are fed up with you falling down everytime a Sparrow sneezes then what are the match officials supposed to make of it? He has the definite ability to turn a game around with a sublime piece of skill but his complete lack of graft and application over 90 minutes means he is a luxury we cannot afford if we are to fight and scrap for wins over the next few weeks.
    We still need to keep an eye on Reading and hope Blackpool’s confidence is shattered after their thumping and of course the Swans continue with their current total lack of form. Can the impossible happen? I doubt it very much but next week against the Baggies will make or break.

  7. Match day machinations Boro won. Excellent Boro kept a clean sheet. Excellent Curry on the way. Excellent. If that game doesn’t sum the championship up then I’m a Dutch man.
    There was ÂŞ of the table between the two teams but it hardly showed on the pitch, apart from in one area. Besides the fact that GS2 went with two little ‘uns up front, it was the pace and movement of Lita and McDonald that was the difference.
    I think both would benefit from playing alongside a target man, but their link up play towards the end culminating with Grant making a good save at Lita’s feet was better than anything that Wednesday or most other chimpship clubs could throw at us. This spontaneity could well be key next year.
    Also of note is Scott McDonald’s interview on BBC Tees after the game. Going into injury time he tried an audacious lob, it dribbled into the keepers hands. I was furious, whilst a second goal would have sealed it, a nice a little ball into the corner to Franks could have whiled away 30s and maybe been a better option.
    So when interviewed he mentioned this and admitted he got a rollicking. I thought, well done Gordon, but McDonald went on to say it was Barry Robson who gave him the telling off. Strachan went onto mention that in the changing room after the game Barry Robson was holding court in the changies and had the players in stitches.
    This brings me on again to my favourite subject. BARRY ROBSON He must never be allowed to leave this club. He must finish his playing days here and then move into coaching. He is an absolute winner, leader and joy to watch.
    It was not one of his best games today until late on in the second half, when he took hold of the game and saw us home in some comfort. The maturity, nous, experience and sheer will to win, got us over the line today, easily.
    Having trudged away from Deepdale and the Ricoh this season, the thought of four extra points and their impact on the table are the clearest indication that we are moving in the right direction. This summer is again to be one of many players in and out but the basics of a top six squad is already here. The future’s bright, the futures Barry!! Come on Indian delivery Boy, Come on Boro

  8. …and Boro offered deal on striker Ruud ter Heide – Sunday press.
    Caution is the word I’m looking for after the club’s last dip into the Dutch league – (12m – Alves debacle).

  9. I was only a nipper at the time but I remember reading about the impact that Bobby Murdoch had to Jack Charltons side, a la missing piece of the jigsaw.
    Are we seeing Murdoch’s reincarnation in Barry Robson.
    I agree with smoggy (we missed you yesterday on the blog mate !, hope you didn’t run round Doggy market with nothing but a smile).
    Nostalgic comments about Murdoch and gushing praise for Robson, please discuss.

  10. Mission Commander Gibson: Good morning, Mr. Hunt. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves the recovery of a missing item designated “Play Offs.”. You have three games. As always, should any member of your team be caught or killed, the Chief Executive will disavow all knowledge of your actions. And Mr. Hunt, the next time you go on holiday, please be good enough to let us know where you’re going. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.
    Ethan Hunt: Sorry Commander, Donna O’Neil organised it weeks ago, this is totally unexpected.
    Gordon Strachan: Well Ethan, what’s the plan?
    Ethan Hunt: Phase 2 is already underway. Our prosthetic people are making a plastic face mask that matches Julio Arca in everyway. Agents kidnapped Lionel Messi outside the Bernabeu last night and a fast motor launch will arrive in Smith’s Dock this afternoon.
    Gordon Strachan: That’s awfy clever Ethan, matching Argentinean DNA to fool the anti – dope squad eh?
    Ethan Hunt: Exactly! It’s already working as Phase 1 is proving
    Gordon Strachan: What do you mean?
    Ethan Hunt: You are aware that Brad Jones has Italian ancestry? That’s why he has gone from Buffoon to

    Gordon Strachan: BUFFON!!
    Ethan Hunt: Ssshh you never know who is listening
    Gordon Strachan: Do you really think you can pull it off?
    Ethan Hunt: Of course. We are not called the Mission Impossible team without reason.
    Gordon Strachan: So tell me Ethan, how come you are available, I would expect your team to be in high demand?
    Ethan Hunt: Our last Mission was aborted; even we have to admit defeat sometimes.
    Gordon Strachan: What was that Mission?
    Ethan Hunt: It was funded by Mike Ashley, we were detailed to win a major trophy for Newcastle United, but even Hollywood couldn’t come up with a scenario to make that one happen

  11. Keenog, one ‘small’ difference between Murdoch and Robson – Graham Souness.
    Well, all the results fell right for us yesterday, even Reading dropped points.
    If nothing else it makes what looked like a dead end of season only a couple of weeks ago a little more exciting.

  12. AV – A suggestion for you to put to the club if they would like to see a full house again. How about inviting Juninho’s club Ituano over for a pre season and getting TLF to put on the red strip of Boro again for twenty minutes.
    I’ll buy a ticket and I’m sure many more would love the chance to say goodbye and show him how much he will always mean to the town of Middlesbrough.

  13. I can’t believe we are still in with a shout after a season of unmitigated dross. What a rubbish league this really s.
    And I can’t believe the ra-ras are out in force and predicting play-off glory just because we have gone unbeaten in our run of games against the bottom four.
    Even though we have “improved” it has been awful football. We were rubbish at Watford, poor against Palace, we needed jittery Jones to save a penalty to keep us in it at Plymouth and only their atrocious finishing meant we weren’t dead and buried after 20 minutes against Sheff Wed.
    If we play like that at West Brom we will get turned over by them again.

  14. Ste Mac:
    I’ve just remembered why I don’t post on here so much any more.
    It’s because I’m afraid I’d sound exactly like you!
    Bugger! I’ve just broken my only New Year resolution!

  15. Lets be honest here we aint going to make the play offs, I wish we would but the River Tees has more chance of freezing over in July than us achieving that.Its nice however to think our season is not over at the moment.
    Regarding Barry Robson, He has got to be the buy of the season in the Championship.I met him on Monday night in a pub in Yarm where he was having a pint with McManus, what a top fella. He is very passionate about Boro and loving his time at the club. He just wants success for MFC, I wish more Boro players had his attitude then may be we would not be in the league that we find ourselves in now.
    Gibson may have sacked Southgate at a very bizzare time (he should have gone a longtime before) but I do trust Strachan to put things right.It may not be pretty but Gareths exciting football failed to deliver in so many ways.

  16. Mirror Football reports:
    “Middlesbrough are chasing Oldham’s talented young left-back Paul Black ahead of a surprise summer swoop. Gordon Strachan’s top scout Gordon McQueen watched Black for the second game in a row at the weekend and saw him lay on the first goal with a classy pass.”
    We have a former England U-21 international at left back and some other youngsters. What is their problem? Also where is right back McMahon now? He was hailed as a future captain a season ago.

  17. Jarkko –
    McMahon has a broken foot and has been recovering for the last month or so.
    Taylor has struggled with injuries, he has also been struggling with form. He isnt the paciest of players and always benefitted from Downing or Jinky playing in front of him. Now he has Arca it is possible he is stuck between attacking and defending because if he gets forward he will be exposed.
    Grounds hasnt stepped up to the mark but Bennett looks the best prospect by far.

  18. Ian,
    I need more info. I don’t want to appear to be a stalker, but what was ‘my Barry’ drinking? Is he a lager or a bitter man? Any description as to what he was wearing, shoe size etc etc, greatly appreciated.

  19. Ian –
    I dont remember that may exciting matches at the Riverside under Southgate. The 0-0 against Blackburn was one of the most ineffectual attacking performances I have ever see.
    To be honest I have not seen much better under Strachan but all we can do is take him at his word that he wants to play passing football. To do that you need players able to pass the damn thing and control it, you also need movement from players to provide options. A busy summer ahead.

  20. Portsmouth FC…. most successful club in England outside the top 4 and a far more successful club than Middlesbrough FC in the last 10 years (or whatever selective time frame you smogs may choose.) Boro can only dream about being successful and winning REAL trophies like Pompey.
    **AV writes: Oh no, the Mackems have opened up a second front.

  21. Thanks Ian. Our injury list is so long I cannot remember everyone!
    What you said is probably true for Tayls, too. But I still think he should be good enough for us in the C’hip. And he is local …
    Up the Boro!

  22. As my job entails a certain amount of detective work (think Spooks) I am finally able to unmask a poster on this blog and also out a celebrity Boro fan.
    Do we all remember scoredraw’s succinct review of Bromley on a previous blog? Well have a read of this.
    ‘Bromley, if you ever had to go there and can’t get out. Kill yourself’
    There’s more
    ‘It’s so incredibly nondescript that I would feel foolish trying to describe it. Avoid’
    And where do these pearls of wisdom come from, the comedian Frankie Boyle’s autobiography. Nice one Scoredraw, can I get some free tickets to your next tour?

  23. Ground out another good result but to get to playoffs we a going to have to beat two of the top six away from home which we havent managed yet this season.
    But hey what great time to start.
    Still not too much mention of O’Shea. How does he look?
    Lets hope some more results go our way at the weekend and Albion partied too much.

  24. Play-offs? Far too late.
    All Strachan has done is make us difficult to beat by adding a bit of steel and backbone – which will be tested to the max against West Brom. Performances have been pretty poor to say the least and they are not improving.
    Barry Robson is a good player I agree, but he is one of very few in the squad and unless millions will be spent he will continue to be one of few. The summer is very important for Boro, if we don’t spend a lot of money we will be in a similar position next season – if not worse.
    The die will then be cast for many seasons in this league or lower. That is why this summer if the club fail to deliver (like they have since 2006) it will be a statement of intent – and we (the fans) will follow suit and signal our intent.

  25. The Year 2013. The place Smogonthetyne’s national radio phone in.
    And the umpteenth caller is a disgruntled Fulham fan banging on about how they were in Hamburg in the Europa League Final and are now facing the ignominy of relegation and the prospect of travelling to Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.
    Some callers blame the chairman for not continuing to Bank roll the club into oblivion. Some blame the youth set up for not providing any worth while talent apart from Chris Somebody or Other who went to Manchester United.
    Some blame the Manager for leaving and going to take over England after a poor showing at the world cup.
    Other clubs supporters blame Fulham’s supporters for getting above their station and should be quiet and accept their position in the food chain.
    Is it possible for another club to get to a European final and get relegated with in three years? Would that make us feel any better? Taking a cursory look through their squad highlights some areas of concern.
    In Goal, Mark Schwarzer, he’ll be 245 in 2013, he will need replacing. Full backs Stephen Kelly, Paul ‘the Konch’ Konchesky will be in their 30’s in 2013. So will Andrew Johnson, if he is still physically able to play. Danny Murphy, Zoltan Gera, John Greening and D Duff will be approaching mid 30’s
    Pascal Zuberbhuler will be 50 odd, remember him. And Bobby Zamora will have remembered how not to score and be in his early 30’s.
    I wish Fulham no ill will, but I just thought I would look into how the squads shaped up. We had plenty of players who were 30+ when we went to Eindhoven. Also we didn’t have a very good league season, so you could say that Fulham are on a much safer setting. But do they have any strength in depth? do they have any young saleable assets? What if Mr Al Fayed was to remove some of his funding? If Fulham were to become financially challenged I would still fancy them to be OK.
    Why? Roy Hodgson. An experienced manager, expert organiser and one the most tactically astute British managers around. However it is this strength that could well be their weakness. Should Whispering Roy leave, albeit for England or a big club at home or abroad would be a devastating blow to Fulham.
    A new manager brought in, with an ageing squad, reduced financial investment and set of fans growing used to cup finals and top half finishes. Tough gig.

  26. I fear the season will finish too early for Boro. We need to win at West brom next week just to stand a chance of 6th spot. I can’t see it, but I hope I’m wrong.
    On the subject of Bobby Murdoch. I can’t see anyone being compared with him. He was like a barrel when he joined Boro. He was slow and past his best. However, his experience allowed him to get the best out of his ability. From memory, he would hug midfield, be fed the ball (no pun intended!), them spray the ball about the pitch, always seeming to make the right pass at the right time. With his ability he didn’t need to run about like a headless chicken.
    I often thought Gazza should have played the same role that Murdoch played at Boro.

  27. Redcar Tim –
    The problem is that the only way to fund for the injection of steel was the sale of our creative outlet.
    It is difficult to argue with the sale of Johnson because he would have walked away in the summer leaving us dependent on the arbitration panel for compensation.
    Clubs had long before realised that if they stopped Johnson by fair means or foul we would run out of steam. It is just a real shame that we brought in some top pros but couldnt play them with Jinky.
    Porritt was to be the next in line but didnt kick on – Giles Barnes was the same at Derby though he did get into the first team.

  28. Reevalhino…
    Graham Souness clone, who do you suggest fits the bill? A one year older Rhys Williams or maybe another Ginger Ninja in Paul Scholes? Wonder if there is any relationship between Gordon and Scholes, might be a good swansong for him.
    Any other suggestions for the enforcer role.

  29. Just when the jovial and optimistic boro fans were coming to the fore the diatribe of the unsettled masses floods in!
    I know I was disgusted too when we couldn’t pair Robson up with Messi or Ronaldo especially as we needed them having just been relegated! But hey Ho with WBA, Cov and Leicester to come don’t get behind the lads and hope that miracles happen again. No body remember Steaua?

  30. Can I have a bit of sympathy lads and lasses?
    I missed the Wednesday game as I had to attend a family wedding in Cheshire. Unbeknownst to me, the bridegroom was a mad Toon supporter; so at least half the party there were also Toon fans and had made the journey much like me, in protest at having to miss their match.
    I should have suspected when her at home told me it was a black and white wedding; but I assumed that was just something to do with curious modern fashion. She’d bought me a black and white striped shirt (narrow stripes, dead fashionable, but too barcode like for me, so I sent it back and wore something neutral.) “You’re pathetic” she said. “Against my religion, my love”, I replied.
    So you can imagine my horror when this huge bunch of Barcodes arrives at the wedding, all crowing about promotion! I nearly turned a nasty shade of black and white. To make it worse they had named all the tables at the do after famous Toon players and managers – and I was forced to sit on Bobby Moncur. If it had been Shearer (and yes, he had a table), I would have gone home.
    I plotted revenge – I thought of writing Mike Ashley or Dennis Wise on some of the table name plates and signing it “Much love from Boro”. But in the end I decided that really would have been pathetic – if they were pathetic enough to play the silly game in the first place I would be better just keeping my dignity. Any other offers how I could have wreaked havoc creatively?
    For once, I wanted Toon to win to beat Blackpool, which they duly did, and of course Boro massacred Sheff Wed 1=0, so things could have been worse. But not much, I hear you say.
    Anyway, enough of this rubbish. I thought you might be mildly diverted by my evident discomfort. And in any case, I wanted to distract us all from the thought of the play-offs. Whatever we’re all thinking and praying, it remains extremely unlikely that we will make it. It’s the hope that kills you.

  31. Lets be honest the play offs are still miles away for us and in all fairness do we deserve to be in the play offs?
    a very quick answer NO.
    BUT there are signs that Strachan is getting it right and hopefully he’ll make Barry Robson our club captain next season, along with other signings, I have plenty of faith in Strachan getting it right, he’s installed some grit and steel in the team and although the football is not great the home form has improved greatly.
    Given the events of this season, I think another season in this league will do us a world of good, regarding re-building the team and I am sure Steve Gibson will have calculated the expenses for another season in the championship and I fully expect us to be top dogs next season or at the very least in the top 4.
    If that does not happen, well we’ll leave that for another day.

  32. There are principles and there are principles. Is anyone surprised that Portsmouth are trying to renegotiate the contract of Dindane with Lens so they dont have to pay transfer money? Hey, ho!

  33. I love all this “we have have improved under Wee Jimmy Krankie” and “we are certainties for promotion next season ” rubbish, me!
    Krankies record is played 30 won 9 drawn 10 lost 11. Nuff said!

  34. Ian Gill –
    I thought the sale of Adam Johnson was good business for the club and it has certainly worked out well for the player. The problem there was not replacing him immediately.
    Successful teams these days are rarely put together on a shoestring. Look at Burnley this season, most likely they will be playing us next season. Forest spent a lot of money in the summer and the previous season to get to where they are…3rd. Its okay to have a new ‘sustainable’ financial model for the club but it must bring a modicum of success. I suspect we will not see whether this new model is truly working until next season.
    My argument is that the football is as poor now as it was at the start of the season, its just a different team running around.

  35. Redcar Tim –
    To be fair they did try to get replacements in but the clubs/individuals chose not to pursue it. In addition there are not many that gifted available if any.
    It isnt easy especially in January when you normally get the unloved and disaffected. Craig Levein talked about Celtics implosion and the huge damage losing the likes of Robson, McManus, Caldwell etc on the club.
    And here is a frightening thought, Aberdeen had 27 pts from 20 games when Miller was signing for us. They have realised 7 from 13 games since! Todays useless stat.
    All we can hope is that the summer strengthening is a success. If not we may be in for a rather drab few seasons.

  36. Hi Ian –
    Could you define drab? 13th?, 14th? Relegated? 8th in the chimpship?
    The dictionary definition, and to our lurking Geordie friends a dictionary is a big book, with correct spellings. It turns out the zebra did it.
    a. Of a dull greyish to yellowish brown.
    b. Of a light olive brown or khaki colour.
    2. Faded and dull in appearance.
    3. Dull or commonplace in character; dreary: a drab personality. See Synonyms at dull.
    OR See the entry for Julio Arca
    I think Drab is our default setting. The next notch down is probably dire, but the next notch up is Average. Roll on next year.
    Nothing is going to happen next season that hasn’t happened before. There is a very strong chance that we might have our most successful season (games won to games played ratio) for a very long time.

  37. Smog
    Of the definitions a couple could apply:
    No 1 may apply to our new away kit
    No 2 may relate to the banks of seats fading to that washed out pink.
    A word of admonishment is due. You cannot accuse Geordies of mispelling when you refer to the entry for Arca, crab is spelt with a C!

  38. AV’s gone very quiet these last couple of days. I think he might be building the cyber barcode barricade. Our funny friends up the road are about to get their hands on the 6th most sort after prize in English football.
    I’m sure they will all want to come on and gloat about popping their cherries. When the inevitable happens which it will this weekend can I suggest that a new thread is set up just for them?
    **AV writes: There should be a new blog post up now. If it isn’t visible in the shop front yet I’ll go and kick the server.

  39. Keenog – In my dreams I’d go for Hargreaves or Carrick, in reality the chances of Boro finding a ‘new’ Graham Souness are the same as me flying to the moon on Tony Mowbrays Vespa!

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