TONY Mowbray’s history making awayday heroes continued to skittle records as they sank the Clarets with a steely show and a flash of teeth.
Boro’s battling 2-0 win at Turf Moor was a new club record fifth successive away victory in the league. Stretching back to last season the sizzling sequence now includes Hull, Cardiff, Leeds, Barnsley and Burnley. Four of those finished above us last year. And all of them were emphatic victories that were fully deserved.
In all competitions the run is even more impressive: Boro have now won SEVEN away games on the trot, a feat unprecedented since Boro turned professional in 1899. That’s an incredible feat at any level.
On top of that Boro gained revenge for the one blip in an otherwise staggering upward graph since the Mogganaut started to roll. Boro went into the game having lost just one in 19 games: that one was at Burnley when they were battered back in April. That stain has now been erased. In style.
But it was tough at Turf Moor. It was a real battle. It was a fiesty, fractious, simmering affair with tackles flying in, injries, heads clashing, tempers close to boiling point and more than once a wisp of the red mist appeared.
Joe Bennett more than once looked to have lost his rag after losing the ball. He was caught out of position or lost possession – there was one awful backward header that almost set up Austin – and was getting frustrated. He was given a torrid time in the first half by Ross Wallace and Kieran Trippier and was steaming mad at times. Several times he went furiously chasing after lost ball to put in rash tackles. Even after he was shown a yellow card he was walking a very fine line.
Nicky Bailey too. He not only got away with some hefty challenges in the engine room when Boro were under the cosh but he also was lucky to escape a caution after man-marking the ref, yapping and arguing over decisions as the game got really fiesty.
That those two both scored their first goals for the club was a delicious irony – or, if you were a Burnley fan, a stinging kick in the teeth.
Bailey’s opener after 10 minutes was well worked, Robson marauding down the left to cross for Haroun to nod on and Hoyte to neatly cushion back to the edge of the box where Bailey leant to crack an awkward looking volley that skidded through the box and squeezed inside the far post.
Bennett’s goal to seal it soon after the interval was testament to his determination. He surged forward and weaved past two challenges then pushed it outside to McDonald but kept on running and when the Aussie’s shot was blocked by the keeper and rebounded slightly behind the path of Bennett who did well to hook it home.
It wasn’t a great game. It was scrappy, ragged and tetchy and Boro were rarely allowed to play expansive football. But it was still a polished performance. Boro sat deep and conceded possession and invited Burnley to try and break them down, and despite some jittery moments as they struggled to clear their lines early on, that never looked likely. As the game wore on Boro looked ever more organised and comfortable and even in the now mandatory late assault by a desperate opposition it never looked likely that the hard-working unit would crack .
An early injury to Stephen McManus – he’s OK folks, just taken off as a precaution after a painful kick – forced a reshuffle as Haroun came on and Williams slotted into central defence as Boro switched to their now potent looking three at the back with wing-backs and once again it worked. Five in the rearguard helped take the sting out of the Burnley attack when defending and Bennett and Hoyte added width when Boro went forward.
Burnley had a lot of the ball but did little with it. They got it wide but couldn’t find a killer cross. They had little penetration in the box. They were a shadow of the play-off chasers with blistering pace who battered Boro last year. They had one real chance that Carl Ikeme went full length to save superbly in the second half.
Boro in contrast looked solid, compact and absorbant at the back and far more striuctured and dangerous on the break and Marvin Emnes should really have sealed it after being released by a finely weighted Hoyte ball. .
Still, shouldn’t grumble. We know that we will have to grind some games out and not every game will be like watching Brazil. Three points, a record breaking run rumbles on, we were top of the table briefly (again) before Southampton and Brighton got late goals to nudge back ahead, and the supporters had a great day out (again.)
The Mogganaut rolls on…