WHEN Poundshop Heskey, Dele Adebola trundled on I posed the question: “in what minute of stoppage time will they get the equaliser?”
Defeatism? Resignation? Typical Boro cynicism? Maybe. But how bloody predictable, frustrating and sickening was it to be crushed once again by that icy inevitability? You would think by now we would be hardened to it, that repeated pain would put down layers of defensive armour, but we’re not. It still stings.
Having nullified one of the best teams in the division for so long and having left them punch drunk with what should have been knock-out blows we did it again.
Boro bossed the game. Their keeper made a sting of superb saves and somehow kept out a point-blank thunderbolt from Andrew Taylor and got down to tip away a sublime dipping Tony McMahon free-kick.
But having put in a stirring, pulsating second half display and having done more than enough to win the game it was scripted we would walk right on to a desperate flailing late haymaker, and that it would be a scruffy stud-scuffed shot from the bargain bucket Championship targetman-by-numbers that would do the damage.
It was pretty much a given too that the goal would come after a defence that had battled and tackled and covered ferociously all night failed to deal with a scrappy ball into the box. It has been a cypher for a frustrating season.
It was such a brass-necked mugging that even spiky Forest boss Billy Davies was moved to apologise, first personally on the touchline to a shell-shocked Mogga then again to the press.
“We didn’t deserve it,” he admitted, barely concealing a whelp of delight at the brazen theft of two precious points.
They didn’t deserve it? We didn’t deserve it! The fans – magnificent on the night, again – didn’t deserve to be emotionally tortured like that, teased to a dramatic state of expectation only to be kicked squarely in the gnashers.
How many times is that? That was the question being asked by the numbed refugees in the concourse and underpasses after seeing two points stolen
Well, it was the sixth goal we have leaked in the 90th minute and beyond into stoppage time this season.
And it was the ninth we have leaked after the 84th minute.
And that institutional fatal fade out – often in games we have dominated for long spells – has cost brittle Boro 11 points plus an FA Cup exit at Burton.
Those late blows in full:
Barnsley (a), August 28:
Boro were a goal down and pushing forward for the leveller when th lost possession in the middle and Adam Hammill picked it up and weaved through three unconvincing, tired challenges to pick his spot from inside the box.
Boro were already losing so while it put the tin hat on a dismal display, it had no bearing on the ultimate outcome.
Portsmouth (h), October 2:
Boro were 2-1 up when after a scuffle in the box, the referee misses Pompey’s Aaron Mokeona throwing a punch but the linesman spots Barry Robson’s reaction and the visitors are handed a Liam Lawrence leveller from the spot on 88 minutes.
That cost two points – and pushed Gordon Strachan right to the foot of the stairs to a partily assembled scaffold.
Swansea (a), November 14:
After two wins on the bounce Mogga’s side showed a new resolve and real spirit as they battled to successfully shackle Swansea’s polished passing machine of 84 minutes – then a weak Scott Sinclair shot that looked to be covered by Jason Steele took a deflection off David Wheater and went in.
That cost another point.
Doncaster Rovers (a), December 17:
Boro had scored early on through Scott McDonald in a dominant spell but Rovers had levelled before the break then the game seemed to be fizzling out – then three minutes into the Twilight zone of added time a ball was twice scrambled away to the edge of the box before Brian Stock lashed it through the crowd an although Steele got a hand to it at the foot of the far post it still slithered in.
That cost another point – and vital momentum after a good win over Cardiff.
Leeds (a), New Years Day
Boro scored early through David Wheater then dominated against a promotion chasing form-team for 80 minutes and had a string of good chances to kill them off – then a long ball forward was hopefully nodded into the box and when the defence stood rooted Steele rushed out to weakly clear before McCormack could pounce but the ball fell to unmarked Luciano Becchio who gratefully lashed home the leveller.
That late lapse cost two points.
Burton (a), January 8:
Boro were a goal up and cruising in the FA Cup 3rd round clash – only to go into free-fall as the League Two side clawed on back late on then on 93 minutes a weak free-kick fell short and clipped the shins of Matthew Bates and fell to Shaun Harrad to lash home.
Another Wembley dream bites the dust.
Preston (h), January 22:
Boro worked hard to get on top with a Matthew Bates strike and had chances to seal it when (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) in a frantic late flurry a cross bounces through the box on 88 minutes for Billy Jones to bundle home a far post header.
That cost two points and the chance to stuff Phil Brown’s Ronsealed mischief making down his throat and pretty much kill Preston off.
Swansea (h) February 12:
Two late lapses for the price of one: Boro were 3-1 up when Swansea stepped up a gear to claw one back but even then Boro looked good for a shock win – then on 88 minutes Steele failed to hold a low Scott Sinclair shot which squirmed in then four minutes into injury time Craig Beattie’s hit -and-hope effort squeezed inside the far post.
That was two points thrown away and other expensive bout of dentistry.
Forest (h), last night:
I won’t twist the knife again but had Andrew Taylor’s header gone anywhere else the point were in the bag. It dropped to trundling targetman Dele Adebola who’s poor first touch was enough to find space in the box before a scuffed shot broke our hearts again.
That cost two more points and a golden chance to record a first win over Forest on Teesside since December 1973. Yes, December 1973!
That is 11 points squandered in the final few minutes, and mainly in games we have bossed for long spells.
In the interests of journalistic balance it should be pointed out that Boro have also gained from late strikes – two against Burnley to win 2-1 at home, there was a last minute Lita penalty at Bristol with the game already dead and buried and at home to Palace Boro forced an own goal off McCarthy five minutes from time. That is four points gained.
But we are still seven points down on the deal.
If Boro could learn to by clinical, cynical and shut up shop by hook or by crook we would be sitting comfortably in mid-table now, the team would be more confident going into the red zones and we’d all still have finger nails.