TOOTHless and clueless up front; lacking imagination, the lock-picking creativity or the brute physical strength to carve through or get behind a Maginot Line defence; a failure to put away one of the few chances created amid the mediocre scrapping and then the familiar fatal slip at the back. It was tragic Teesside template no.1
Or “rubbish” as the Kings Cross consesnsus put it. It was frustrating but predictable. Even though the six game unbeaten run has breathed confidence into the team and laid down the foundations of a new shape and a new spirit, the basic problem remains: the squad is not big enough, varied enough or good enough to kill off games – and it does not have the tools to break down a limited side that set themselves out to defend in depth.
Palace sat deep and strung out two rigid lines of four and gave Boro the ball 30 yards out then invited them to find a way through. It was Palace’s retreat to fortifications’ along their 18 yard line that gave Julio Arca and Nicky Bailey the space to play and the pair – the Argentinian in particluar – played some sublime passes down the channels but they came to nothing because the final ball in was poor.
Boro couldn’t find the angles to put testing crosses into the box – and when they did McCarthy and Gardner nodded them away with training ground ease and when the ball was played into the ball to feet lightweight Leroy Lita and Kris Boyd (and later Scott McDonald) were muscled out by a posse of defenders.
Palace are good at that style. They were unbeaten at home in seven and had only leaked four goals in that spell. It is ugly football but they are making it work. They kept it tight then looked to hit Boro on the break with quick balls forward for Vaughan and Easter (who I remember as being average when he was at Spennymoor on loan from Hartlepool as a teenager and playing against Billy Town) to chase down the channel and run at our defence. They are good at it. Generally Boro’s back line dealt with that well, although at times it looked scrappy and flustered.
It was only going to take one slip. Itw as unfortunate it happened to Seb Hines, who has looked composed in last few rare outings – but it was always going to happen. It alwasy does. And that mistake proved costly because the toothless team couldn’t make their good spell count.
So what have we learned? Nothing. We already knew we are lacking a spark to find a way through, we are lacking a six foot plus phyisically imposing monster of a targetman to barge through those rigid defences. It has been a problem now for two years or more. Arguably the failure to deal with it got Boro relegated in the first place.
And we already knew that Boro are a limited team. They have gone six games unbeaten and that is great and we have been playing with more style, keeping the ball annd working hard – but we remain a lower-mid Championship side. It was never going to last. We do not have the depth, the experience, the quality to do anything more than eek out results. We were due a slip.
The important thing is how we bounce back. And we must. We have opened a gap – a win at Palace would have lifted Boro up two more places in the table – and the teams behind are even worse. All the results went our way and the bottom three now look in danger of being cast adrift. But we can’t afford to be complacent. There are some tough games coming up and we remain vulnerable should a couple of teams below us put a spurt on. January was a big month. February is an even bigger test of how far we have come – and how far we can go.
*SIGH* As the mysterious disappearance of the ability to comment on this thread seems to be today’s new bug – these things are sent to try us – you can either have your say on the previous one or you can e-mail me (email@example.com) and Ill paste it in.
Peter Cawley said:
Again we batter a team and they come away with points. No need to get complacent, sure, AV, but I honestly don’t think Mogga and complacency go together very much at all.
I never felt yesterday that our heads went down, or our effort. My mate Josh pointed out some interesting things to me yesterday, before we set off on the coach down, things that make some sense of the Boyd situation. Mark Venus told him to look at Boyd’s movement and asked him to appreciate the fact that he sets off on good striker’s lines and channels but our midfield don’t do what Rangers did, i.e. make sure that get the ball where he wants it when he wants it every time we want forward thrust.
And (although Boyd was not very effective again), as I watched the action yesterday, I discovered he has a good point: hardly ever did we play it anywhere near him! And he kept going (slowly, perhaps) onto promising mini-runs. Perhaps Zemamma is the missing link! If we could get him striking as he can, yesterday will not be a frequent occurrence, I fancy.
A pity, as you said, that the estimable Seb made a big boo-boo. That aside, there was good work all over the pitch; Jon Grounds began a little shakily but found his feet; Bailey again very good; Arca mostly composed and probing; Joe Bennett showed his capacity to worry opposition defenders late on, but seemed cautious before that; McMahon gave us attacking balance. Taylor and Lita may have been a bit less impressive than recently but I think we are doing OK considering our massive depletion by injuries. And now Bates!!
If this squad come through this sequence of injuries without dropping to League One, we will have a fair number of battle-hardened local lads supporting the first team, we’ll have affordable competition for places all over the pitch and an increasing sense of pride and defiance: “We’re Middles-bro!”
I was very disappointed with Saturdays result. I think I lost my dream of surprise surge for the play-offs. I had said to myself if we go unbeaten for the rest of the season we might – just might – end up in top six. Now I agree with the majority that survival is all we can fight for this season.
But I am not too worried about the relegation either. When we get the injured midfielders back – was it up nine of them? – we will be fine. If we were this good against Palace with all the injuries we had, wait until we get a few experienced midfielders back.
But the biggest thing to look forward to must be Zemamma. If the goals have been our problem I am interested in seeing how TM reshapes the midfield in the next match. I hope he can add some unpredictability to our forward play. Perhaps Boyd will flourish now. So plenty of getting existed if my dream of play-offs is a bit more unlikely again.
I will predict Boro will Finnish in top half of the table – 9th or tenth. Let’s see the positives and support Mogga all the way until May.
Up the Boro!
John Powls said:
Your report is spot on, I would have said there was nothing to add – but I’ve just read Mogga on the MFC website. He says that they’d set up a Palace type defence to play against in training and failed to break that down – so, it was no surprise! Oh dear.
In the current circumstances, I’m not going to bang on about square-pegging but yesterday was my second experience of seeing Tayls in the midfield. Sorry, Mogga – I don’t see it. Yes, he can pass neatly to a red shirt – but in such a limited way that it makes little or no contribution. He’s no threat going forward and makes no difference to the tackling in midfield. He clearly doesn’t know the role and struggles with what to do in possession or without the ball.
Having him trying to learn it ‘in flight’ just isn’t happening. If the only object of he exercise is to free Joe Bennett to move forward there are surely better ways.
SmogontheTyneNow InNunthorpe said:
What can we I say about that result/performance that has been said many time over the last three years or so? Nothing, so I won’t.
We ll stay up partly through our own efforts and partly because their is so much crud in the chimpship. Also when the purge continues in the summer, we will have a much worse squad, but only on paper. On the pitch we will have a much better team. Roll on august! Problem is what to do with the next six months