SO WHO’S testimonial was it today at Boro then? A low-tempo, lack-lustre dismal dead-rubber draw between two teams with nothing to play for.
To be fair it was an appropriate way to sign off a fruitless and frustrating season pocked by similar laboured Riverside displays against lowly and limited sides. There was a poor first half, a brief flurry of action after the break as Boro clawed into the lead only to let a commanding position slip through sloppiness at the back. The only surprise was that unambitious strugglers Coventry didn’t snatch it at the end.
It was probably the last time we will see injury jinxed 10 games a season man Chris Riggott and Jeremie Aliadiere (my little girl went to the game and dubbed him ‘banana boots’ … and I think it is as much to do with the direction of his passing and abilit to keep his feet as much as the colour of his footwear.) Corporal Jones reverted to type with some chaotic fumbles that sparked Keystone Kops moments in the box. Both full backs struggled to get involved. And Lee Miller offers what exactly? Even our Celtic Tigers, McManus, Robson and McDonald lacked urgency and drive in a day when both teams were wearing sombreroes and many fans were taking a siesta.
You dread to think what the crowd would have been without the ticket offer. You dread to think what people persuded to come along by the offer must have thought of it. Having taken the PR plunge with a belated ticket temptation it was important that the the team turned in the kind of spirited, energetic, determined and entertaining display that may have persuaded those people to come back again at full price. Hmmmmm. There was little to excite or entice and the whistle at the break and the end was greeted with Pavlovian booing. I suppose we should be grateful there was no “lap of honour.”
It took Boro’s home record to 11 games unbeaten which is not a bad stat. The last defeat was to Cardiff back in early December… but there have been far too many disappointing draws like this against the strugglers. It is all very well grinding out results and we can argue that it is putting down foundations for a new Fortress Riverside next season but if won’t do much to put bums on seats.
Luke Williams was the only really bright spot. He hadn’t read the end of term strollabout script and in a livewire first half looked hungry and positive every time he got the ball, tried to make things happen and had a good shot well saved in one of the few things of any note in a comatose first half.
And the Red Faction gave it their best shot. They sung and danced all the way through and added their drum beat to the sound of the legions of kids with their 99p club shop horns, which added to the bright sunshine and slow, slow tempo of the game gave the day the feel of Mexico 86. The last game in Group B between two sides already out.
The Red Faction made a defiant last stand, still standing and chanting a good half an hour after the game had finished, their passion echoing around an empty stadium with simmering stewards circling anxiously and desperate to evict them.