GUTTED. And deeply worried.
Yes, Boro were always in the game – McDonald hit the post with a header, Boyd brought a good save and Kink warmed the keeper’s hands a few times – but this is Barnsley we are talking about. Come the end of the season they will be mid-table at best. We should be beating them. No disrespect because they are well organised and worked hard and they have beat us twice in succession down there now … but this Boro team are the division’s big spenders and were the pre-season favourites. If we are to justify that tag we need to win these games. Right now that bet looks a very long shot.
Boro’s passing was awful again. Moves broke down, balls went astray, the wrong pass was being selected, too many long balls were playing into the hands of the opposition, and for a team of ‘men’ and ‘battlers’ were easily muscled out in midfield and some of the “big” players had no impact on the game whatsoever.
Last season Stephen McManus and Barry Robson were our strongest players but this term they have never really got going while Nick Bailey – a star at this level before and one of the Championship’s biggest moves of the summer – has yet to show exactly what he can bring to the party and that is disappointing and a major problem .
Yes, some players are out of position and are yet to gel, but what we have seen so far is not momentary lapses caused by unfamiliarity with the shape that will be eased by pitch time and bonding. There are deep seated structural problems stemming from the lack of pace, width and creativity will not be solved by time. The midfield won’t play their way to a faster, more fluid and more incisive style with a few games under their belt.
Once again Boro conceded from a sloppily defended routine corner, David Wheater being out-jumped at the back stick by a Barnsley defender in acres of space. Barnsley got so much space down their left flank in the second half and cut us open repeatedly down that channel. And several times as we pushed forward Boro got caught out with a simple ball over the top for a speed merchant to streak on to. It is routine stuff that even average and limited teams know how to deal with, or how to change to stop it.
Yes Boro had chances… McDonald headed onto the post, Kris Boyd and Tarmo Kink brought good saves and had Boydie got a better touch on his attempted chip in the second half we may have been talking about a scrappy draw. But even that would be a disappointment. We need to start winning these games.
After the international break we have table-topping QPR away and on this showing, without a dramatic improvement in every department, we face a massive task there. Even a draw there – which would be a good result right now – would leave us in danger of being tailed off with the dead men already. And it would make for a very tense atmosphere for the home games with Burnley and Reading… games we need four points and two spirited and inspirational displays from to bump start the season.
It is very early days to talk about “must win games” but the summer spending and recent history have raised the stakes. We need to start winning games quickly to keep promotion hopes alive and keep a volatile crowd on board.