BORO weren’t out-classed by QPR said Mogga. Maybe not, but they were ground down relentlessly by an archetypal Warnock side: physical, functional and effective.
In every department they were more efficient, better drilled, more athletic. They have the correct component parts in all the right places. They have a rock solid defence built around two seasoned giant centre-backs, a industrious midfield and pace going forward to supply an identikit Championship striker who is nothing special but ticks all the right boxes. He can hold it up, he’s good in the air, has a decent shot, is brave and direct.
That’s why they are where they are, at the top of a poor league. They are a well assembled team, fit for purpose, engineered from generic parts with an end in mind.
Boro attacks were quickly snuffed out or the crosses – aimed at half-pint hitmen – were just headed away by Rangers towering stoppers. In the middle Boro were allowed to pass square but forward movement was quickly closed down. And at the back, Boro’s inexperienced defence was pulled all over by the width and movement of Taarabt and Faurlin and as the game wore on looked ever more chaotic and harrassed as the pressure steadily built and the wobbles set in.
There was little between the teams at the break: Boro had failed to take their one real chance after 60 seconds when Scott McDonald broke clear but couldn’t punish an error from a poor keeper’s clearance while Rangers had put the best of their opportunities away but only thanks to a lucky deflection.
But Boro at that point had been going flat out to just keep in touch and once QPR ruthlessly stepped up a gear after the break, a misfiring side couldn’t stay with the pace and as the cracks started to appear, the visitors pulled away without breaking sweat.
Boro had too many weak links, especially in midfield. Julio Arca, Andrew Taylor and Marvin Emnes failed to use the ball effectively and conceded possession too easily and too often leaving Nicky Bailey to fire-fight single-handedly behind them.
While QPR had to work hard to impose themselves enough to force the opener, having eased past Boro’s glass ceiling, the second goal was embarrasingly simple, a routine unchallenged close range header from a standard cross delivered after Wayne Routledge had skinned Tony McMahon nonchalently. They wrapped it up with a penalty after our Moroccan made a clumsy challenge on their’s. Boro’s had a flurry of blunt activity after the event – McMahon’s free-kick towards the far top corner brought a good save while McDonald lashed wide from a tight angle – but it was too little, too late.
Rangers weren’t technically the best team we’ve seen this season (Swansea pass the ball far better and play more cultured football) but they are incredibly well drilled. Their front four are fast and have excellent movement and Taarabt and Routledge can beat a man and deliver the ball for bog standard but efficient Heidar Helguson to bang home, while they have two man moutains at the back who win everything in the air and an effective defensive unit who push up quickly to hold a high line that is very difficult to get behind. They are everything we are not. And they do everything that we struggle with.
If Boro are to think about a promotion push next year they will have to import some of those qualities. Home grown youth and an emphasis on touch and passing is great but it will need to be beefed up with an experienced battle scarred monster at the back, an imposing striker who can bully defences and a few athletic, hard working midfielders who can snuff more creative teams out and grind down the ones who come to battle.
But, then again, we know that. That’s why QPR are at the top and we are scratching around for precious points to stay above the drop zone.
Here’s a few observations:
**Typical Boro… having spent a week bigging up Andrew Davies for his all action one man defensive whirlwind at Millwall it was almost inevitable he would get crocked. He has got form with injuries. It looks like a hammy but hasn’t been assessed fully yet so we don’t know the length he will be out. It leaves Boro with a very shaky, fragile and untested defence. And it shows how thin the squad is that the absence of a bloke who only signed last week is seen as a hammerblow.
Now we have big problems at the back. Jonathan Grounds is the most experienced of those left with 58 career starts but appears to have slipped down the pecking order (he was roasted at Millwall). He was only on the bench today behind Seb Hines (16 career starts) and stayed there after Davies was crocked with Maxi Haas – earlier this week said to be well short of being fully acclimatised – being thrown on ahead of him. It will be a long, tough, tense night against Forest.
**Margins… It was the first time since Tony Mowbray arrived in October that Boro have lost by more than one goal. The first real Strachanesque gubbing. Given the limitations of a brittle squad (with added injuries and January exits) the results have been far better than may have been the case but for Mogga’s shrew tactical tinkering.
**All change… it was claimed in the ground before the game it is now 143 games since Boro fielded an unchanged side. That would be incredible if true. That would be three seasons of shifting sands and unsettled sides constantly in flux. And to be fair, it feels like that. It is impossible to build anything against that background. Whatever the figure, Boro have been chopping and changing for an age. The sooner the boss can get his own squad and settle on a first choice XI and (barring injuries and bans) try to get it out on a regular basis, the sooner we will get out of the current malaise.
>>>update: I’ve checked that stat now and is nowhere near as bad. It is one unchanged side in 73 – that one 41 games ago.
**Dead Men Walking… the bottom three all lost so Boro’s slip hasn’t been too costly. The gap below Boro remains five points. But Derby and Bristol City both beat one of the basement boys while Doncaster and Coventry both picked up points. A gap is opening above us again. That leaves us still vulnerable and the one they will all be aiming it.
**Wicked deflection… how many goals have Boro leaked now from deflections? It seems every week the opposition breakthrough starts with a clip off a defender’s knee or shin or back or bum. Either a deflection or a penalty. Sometimes both. Ironically today it came off Davies and went in… last week twice the blew flew off him randomly and dipped just over the bar and he was a hero. Them’s the breaks.