Forest Result: Numbers Don’t Add Up

AFTER a sizzling start to the season dominated by sparkling stats, thread-bare Boro are now suddenly playing a darker numbers game.
During a barely believable record-breaking beginning, the spotlight was on the statistical superlatives. It was a best ever run of six away wins on the bounce. At 11 games undefeated, it was the best ever league start since the club stepped up into the Football League in 1899.
There was a record five successive clean sheets in the league – an incredible eight hours and 38 watertight minutes without leaking before the Millwall game. Boro had gone 15 games undefeated, had just one defeat in 23 and had leaked just six goals in 11 games. They are numbers impressive enough to have swaggering Boro boasting like a gangsta rap.
But the stats – and a healthy points haul and lofty position in the table – had helped disguise a more significant arithmetical element that has now loomed ominously into view.

Boro have a very small squad. Or at least, a very small nucleus of key players. The first XI fit and on the pitch are a match for anyone in the division – but beyond that the squad is shallow.
We knew that in the summer. Belt-tightening, wage cutting and squad-trimming were the key features in a summer of austerity and Boro kicked off the campaign with a size zero squad and fingers crossed. And with even just a few of those key players out the balance of the team is critically shifted downwards, the sum of the parts is harshly exposed as not quite adding up.
That is why expectations were generally so conservative before the season kicked off.
Now the numbers look a bit bleaker. Six games without a win. One goal in five. Four points from 15. Scott McDonald has gone seven without a goal. Emnes has gone six. That is all starting to add up to a bit of a problem.
And at Forest (and there’s a lot of numbers involved there too… one win in 37 years…. one clean sheet in 110 years… the biggest hoodoo on Planet Boro) suddenly the latent lack of numbers told.
The defence that has been rock solid over the past six matches looked depleted and very jittery with three of its pillars removed.
Carl Ikeme has been a steadily more influential and dominating figure in the box as the season has progressed but a hand injury has ruled him out of the last two games and forced the return well ahead of schedule of Jason Steele.
The England Under-21 shot-stopper is highly rated and is ear-marked as a long term fixture but he had barely been in full contract training a week and had played just one reserve game before being thrown back into the first team fray and it will take time for him to gain the crucial match sharpness needed.
Matthew Bates has been inspirational at the back. He wasn’t given the Championship Player of the Month gong for September on a whim. His positional sense, perfectly timed blocks and tackles and calming presence at the back has been instrumental in helping Boro resist long spells of pressure unscathed.
And Rhys Williams too has been out-standing at the back. You can argue that his best position is in midfield but his athleticism, his instinctive reading of the game and touch is a massive asset in defence. He has an unflustered ease about the way he scoops up dangerous balls in high pressure situations and recycles them effectively with some superb passing from the back.
Having those three taken out of the defensive equation has been a massive blow for Boro.
In their place against a rejuvenated Forest side out to impress the new boss was a keeper playing only his second game of the season while Seb Hines was back in for his first league start of the campaign after a long spell sidelined. And elder statesman Stephen McManus has only just returned from injury himself.
With a makeshift defence – the three centre-backs hadn’t played as a unit together before – Boro were always going to be right up against.
That is no excuse for what was a shambolic and shapeless display, but it should form a key part of the post-mortem. Boro were poor. There is no escaping that. They were jittery at the back and after some early patient passing moves failed to pick their way through they gradually started to knock long and longer balls for forlorn lone man Emnes to chase fruitlessly.
And with the defence under pressure, wing-backs Justin Hoyte and Joe Bennett were forced back and that left the team with no outlet, pace or penetration down the flanks.
That forced them to play through a congested, misfiring middle where the balance wasn’t right and passes were going astray. Kevin Thomson – himself still short of match sharpness – and Nicky Bailey were playing too similar a role and too deep so Faris Haroun was forced to run around fire-fighting and Barry Robson was the only one getting sporadically forward to support isolated Emnes.
The unplayable Dutch destroyer of the early weeks is now a fading memory. With off colour McDonald dropped to the bench for a breather he was left to shoulder the early burden alone and looked to be sagging under the weight while the second half introduction of ineffectively Alex Nimely and a switch back to 442 did little to solve the problem of a flaccid frontline.
Boro were nervous and disjointed at the back, scrappy, unbalanced and bereft of creativity in the middle, lacked width and pace going forward and were blunt up front.
It was like a tribute gig to mark the memory of Gordon Strachan one year on.
It must be said that Forest were good. The played with a zip, penetration and invention going forward that belied their second bottom spot and they took ruthless advantage of Boro’s awkwardness..
It was a bad day at the office for Boro. A very bad day at the office. But it was remember, the first defeat of the season and Boro remain in third place, probably well ahead of the pre-season expectations of most. It was disappointing and a set-back but it was not the disaster the bleaker phone-in fog-horns were outlining.
Of course, we can’t use the fact that we are ahead of the curve to disguise a poor display or the looming problem. We all knew Boro were going to lose at some point. They are not Barcelona after all. Early results have raised the bar of expectations but the squad remain a low Championship one with all the inherent flaws.
That defeat has been coming in recent week as the goals dried up, the early zest faded and opposition coaches set out their stall to counter the threat of Emnes and the wing-backs.
It is a numbers game and Boro, always a thin squad, are now alarmingly down on numbers for the looming top of the table six-pointers against Derby and Southampton.
Williams, carefully managed by Mogga, has aggravated his pelvic/groin problem playing a demanding full-back role twice in a week for Australia and could now be out for a few while Bates will be touch and go with a foot injury so the defence will be problematic.
And the engine room will face running repairs too. Barry Robson – Boro’s best in recent games – is now suspended after rashly picking up a fifth yellow last night for reacting angrily when a Forest player blocked a quick free-kick.
It could be difficult to reshape around him. Just back from one spell on the sidelines Kevin Thomson tweaked a hamstring late in the game while Merouane Zemmama – himself no stranger to the physio’s table – is also crocked again.
And upfront new boy Bart Ogbeche, who despite his ring rust has bagged three goals in two reserve’s games and may have offered something different, has picked up a head injury in training. Welcome to Boro mate.
Boro’s small squad has big holes in it going into a game where they will be expected to bounce back in front of a Riverside crowd with some increasingly twitchy elements.
Despite it being the first defeat, recent results and the reaction to them in some quarters have provoked a strange air of impending crisis and the next two matches feel like they could shape the season, temper ambitions and set the agenda for months to come.
Mogga could spend the next few days scribbling and crossing out names like Halliday, Kink and Smallwood. We don’t need to see the working out but Mowbray must somehow make the numbers add up again.


38 thoughts on “Forest Result: Numbers Don’t Add Up

  1. I suppose it’s too honest now to remind you that on Twitter I suggested a 0-1 win for the Boro. No medal for that, then.
    Now is when we see whether there is any reaction from the players to that performance. This weekend, we need players, management and supporters to be together. Not a time for dissent, when we have suffered our first defeat.
    Mind you, as I type, I hear a caller on Radio Brownlee arguing it is time for a change of Chairman….!
    Look, chaps, there will be a time when the Chairman will have to go. It happens to all of us eventually. But maybe not just yet, OK?
    We have not suddenly become a bad team on losing our first game. That is not to say we are a good team – to say that we would have to be more ruthless in front of goal, and to make our possession and pressure pay when we are on top.
    But we are not that far away… It is still possible under Mogga…

  2. Few Positives In Defeat.
    “We’ve had a few changes, I don’t generally make excuses but Bates, Williams and Carl Ikeme have been mainstays of our side and to lose them all is not ideal” Mogga said.
    “We didn’t get going though, that’s the most disappointing thing. We didn’t ask enough questions of them. But after a second defeat in 24 games, I can’t be too harsh on them.”
    I totally agree with Mogga here. Nothing to add. Somehow I wasn’t as disappointed as after the Millwall game. So bring on Derby County!
    Up the Boro!

  3. Despite who was missling through injury it was the most appalling display for a very long time. Not one player played well at all including the three subs that came on.
    Steele’s dive for the second goal was patheti. If Mowbray doesn’t wake up and realise we need another keeper even more so than a striker then we will be plummeting down the league.

  4. Don’t feel I can comment on the game last night coz I wasn’t there in person only in spirit.
    Still the runes did not bode well and they haven’t for a while now.
    I suggested in my last post that we required the services of a playmaker with an extra bit of guile. It seems that none is forthcoming so we battle on ‘hoping’ we get the breaks and someone will score.
    It’s not happening and we are in a tailspin slipping away from the top spot becoz of it. The Mo has gone into reverse and when that happens its all the more difficult to turn it around.
    I’m still proud of the team we have; we’ve achieved beyond our norm over the last 20 games and the greatest influence has been Mogga but we’re moving beyond the extended honeymoon period now so its time to take a different approach.
    We’ve got hungry young local lads willing to give an arm and a tooth for a chance. Perhaps now would be a good opportunity to do so.

  5. I’m not panicking, top six was my expectation and we were bound to hit a rocky patch at some point. Perhaps this is the end of it; four draws and a defeat, not bad as far rocky patches go.
    We seem to be devoid of attacking ideas at the moment and the midfield seems to be to dimensional and not much pace down the wings.
    Nimely seems to be a bit lightweight (and I haven’t seem him play) and we are definitely guilty of overplaying it in midfield.
    Can we read anything into Steele coming back? If so its not the lad’s fault but perhaps the defenders don’t have the same confidence in him as they do in Ikeme. Joe Bennett appears to be having a tough time as well.
    Derby on Saturday will be tough and followed by Southampton away who are running away with it at the moment. If we can still be in with a shout of 2nd after these games then who knows.
    Perhaps this new striker will give us an extra edge up front??

  6. Well after 12 games the record has finally gone – the truth is that it’s no surprise as our last six games have yielded only five points, which is actually relegation form (equivalent to 38 points over 46 games).
    But despite this terrible run Boro are still sitting joint second on points – by what form of smoke and mirrors is this possible? It seems we are not alone – the teams in this poor league are consistently inconsistent.
    The problem now is Boro are in a similar position to when Southgate was ditched – close to the top but just as close to mid-table obscurity.
    So we desperately need a win to stop the rot and give the team some confidence – draws are only marginally better than a defeat.

  7. Well none of us saw that coming did we………!?
    Maybe now the pressure of an unbeaten run has gone we can get some form back.

  8. What do folks expect? We have a threadbare squad, we are struggling to score goals and we lose the mainstay of our defence. This does not auger well for Saturday or indeed the next few weeks.
    Mogga, come on bro, you need to get your scouts out and about and into the loan market and shore up the squad. If not, we are on the slippery slope. Get into the tea lady’s biccie tin and spend a couple of bob on two or three battle scarred journeymen

  9. A defeat at Forest is something I have come to live with, even the team that Jack built lost 5-1 in our promotion season.
    We will now see how good the players just behind the starting eleven are.
    The academy players will have to step up to the mark. Kink, Haliday, Martin, Haroun nad co will have to contribute – to some extent the teams success/stubborness of Mogga has denied them of game time.
    The big blows were not last night but the home points dropped in draws against teams at the bottom end of the table when we were in front.
    If rope a dope is a busted flush as a game plan lets have a coherent alternative. There are still good players in the squad otherwise why give them squad numbers.
    Apart from Taylor not many tears were shed for the players who left. Barring the odd tweak they are the same players who did so well at the end of last season, start of this.
    And we can all stop this bleating about injuries. If I had posted ”welcome to Boro mate” then I dare say AV would have had a pop. As far as I am aware there is no link between availability of players and performance.

  10. Dented confidence, key players missing, up against a bogey side with a point to prove – I guess the signs were all there last night. Unfortunately our next two fixtures look even more difficult and much of the above will still apply.
    But we knew this would happen. We knew the squad was small. We knew defeats would come.
    Dormo is right: time to pull together. It is still only one defeat and this team have surprised us many times during TM’s reign.

  11. Well thought out AV, I cannot add anything to that. We all knew the squad was thin before we kicked a ball, the trick was to gain as many points as possible before the injuries kicked in.
    Well, joint second after one defeat (yet admittedly four draws before that) proves that there a lot of teams on or around the same level of abilty.
    Emnes clearly is not the wonderboy many were saying he was earlier in the campaign, but then again, he is now the player I thought he always was! We are weak up front, even if we have a fully fit squad, and there lies a real problem that needs addressing in January if possible. As an aside AV, what is our historical record after receiving the dreaded manager of the month award?
    **AV writes: From what I remember, Southgate’s side started to crumble, Venables kept on grinding results out on a decent unspectacular unbeaten run and Robbo lost the next one then won a few.

  12. A loss but not a surprise due to the players out.
    Was always going to be a struggle with injuries to Bates and Williams. Steele a bit rusty but cant believe people are on his back already. Would Ikeme have fared any better without the B&W combination in front of them? Nonsensical to start to panic after just 2 games ~ get off the lads back.
    More worrying is the midfield and attack. What is going on? There has been issues I think since the Palace league game (which i thought we were lucky to scrape a win). Home form is dire and I think more mental than skill based. We seem scared to play at home.
    I am glad we have got rid of the “unbeaten millstone” as felt it was just putting blinkers on. How can this season be any more successful than any of the other championship seasons? Robsons teams had 23 and 24 points at this stage during his 94/95 and 97/98 seasons. Lennie lawrences teams of 91/92 had 25 points and his 93/94 side (which didnt get promoted!) had the same as us on 21. Even GS1 had 20 points in his last few games in charge.
    Hopefully the players can now focus on getting points on the board rather than preserve what I thought was a pointless statistic. Its points that make a successful season not how many games without defeat!!!
    Anyway onwards and upwards and with the many injuries it is time for the fringe players to stand up and be counted (or note who needs moving on at the end of the season). One little criticism is that teams seem to have worked us out and little concerned with Tony’s stance of not wanting any big hitters up front. I for one would have thought that ideally we would need as many tricks up our sleeve as possible and focusing on just one way of playing is a little naive.
    Am i wrong to panic?

  13. How the Boro react to this, the inevitable, will be the KPI here.
    When you’re trying too hard not to get beat maybe you forget how too win? In two games from now we could be 8th or top – how exciting is this year going to be?
    I am fascinated, and find it very difficult to figure out who we are yet. To start with I was worried / disappointed we had dropped points at home, and now on reflection, in hindsight, maybe we should see the odd point at home, a point won?

  14. Anthony, before the season started I said the way this league is you might be in the play offs with 70 pts or you might get relegated with 55 pts. Thats how close I saw it and nothing has changed.,
    Look, Forest always hammer us, it is what it is. My only relief is we can get better and if we do we will be better than most.
    Let’s start saving for a Wembley day out in May.

  15. By this stage of the season I was expecting us to be roughly where Forest are now in the table, so not too dis-heartened yet.
    I agree with a few posters that this may remove what appears to have become a millstone.
    I hope Mowbray brings Smallwood back into the team. He seems a bit reluctant but now might be an opportunity and hopefully the kid gets (and takes) a chance.
    Finally on Bates’ sore foot. Richie McCaw has played almost an entire World Cup with a sore foot and still put in inspirational performances…although I accept that a World Cup is perhaps a bit more of a pain killer than the Division 2 weekly grind.
    I wonder what he would make of Matt’s foot though?

  16. Good comments people. Yes the cracks are starting to show (we all knew this would happen) and this is where Mogga needs to step up to the plate.
    Scoring goals wins games, we are not scoring because Emnes and McDonald are not doing it…. and therein lies most of the problem. Mogga, pull your finger our son, address this issue and steady the ship.
    Lets look at where we are just after the New Year before we start talking about play offs and the Premiership which with this current squad is pie in the sky

  17. Well, it’s been coming but the bigger disaster has been the loss of points at home.
    A midweek loss on a dark October night can always happen and we just need to move on from that. In itself it means very little at all.
    In the meantime we have problems to address.
    Steele is no Ikeme, or Paul Smith, yet. If we want to bring him on we have to give him first team time regardless of results.
    The defence is a worry. Bates and Williams are outstanding but injury prone. McManus can pick up the plaudits and is the most experienced defender we have but has never steadied the defence as he should. Flatters to deceive and not good enough.
    Midfield: the mfc site lists 10 midfielders so we have the numbers. But Arca, Thomson and Bailey and Robson to a degree too, are too slow. A maximum of two of them can be played together.
    Upfront: Emnes had a streak of brilliance but is not a conventional striker. He’s good but need support and constant reassurance. Ditto MacDonald. They need a scorer or big man around them and their scoring records over time at Boro are pathetic. We have no real strikeforce.
    So it’s looking dire. Forget the league table, it’s a poor division.
    But we are rebuilding a club. Go up with this lot now and we’ll be straight back.
    Take your time Mogga and we’ll get there.

  18. I got it wrong about the players who left in the summer, the ones we didnt replace were Lita (until Nimely arrived) and Taylor as left back cover.

  19. Thank goodness the unbeaten run is over. These tend to become a millstone.
    I was gutted to find Boro were playing at Forest as I had already committed to going to see Peterborough. I was ultimately releived I choose the right game!
    Can’t ever remember saying that before!
    Anyway, hopefully the shackles have now been released so I look forward to a return to some decent form.

  20. Your reference to the Strachan days AV is as exact as you generally are in your assessments of our team.
    Robson battled hard at the City Ground – as ever – and, to an extent, so did Bailey, but the midfield looked exactly like a Strachan team.
    The key features: not enough teamwork, particularly weak in making ourselves available to give options to the man in possession; ceding territory too easily to the marauding opposition; not knowing where teammates were meant to be – or were – on the pitch, leading to regular stray passes; over-reliance on the big punt upfield; not enough pace (all over the park, in fact, including Emnes and Nimely, because you can’t run very fast with Clint Hill blocking your path as you struggle to control a big punt); no attacking threat; no quick wide players stretching the opposition; and the general look of a team of nine men against eleven.
    Worryingly, even the supporters who are at every match wore that haggard, hopeless, Strachanovite expression which we all thought had been blown away by the speed of the Mogganaut.
    What to do about this wearied-looking team? Well, for me, at least, all hope is not yet lost: we need something new and different in the midfield area and, guess what, we have some new and different things around the place – Smallwood and Luke Williams, for instance!
    Both of them can re-ignite our Marvin (on whose behalf I was quite angry on Tuesday, as well as fearing he may be looking forward to a January move to South Wales!) and link up well with Robson and Hoyte, who was far from the worst player on the pitch. I’d like to see this selection:
    Ikeme (Steele if he’s not ready); Hoyte, Bates (Hines), Williams (McManus), Arca; Robson, Bailey, Smallwood, Luke Williams; Emnes, McDonald.
    Even if this team cannot turn Derby over on Saturday, I bet it will show more energy and passion than we saw on Tuesday.

  21. Well McDonald may not be scoring but against Forest without him you saw how much he contributes normally .
    Ok when he has played he has hit the post, bar or had the shot saved but without him we didnt even have a shot against Forest.
    He is our best striker and very important up front for us. He was our top scorer last season dont forget.

  22. Since Kevin Thomson’s return AV and others have noted that he and Bailey both like to sit deep and perhaps don’t work as a midfield pairing.
    A solution to this might be to adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation like the current England set-up (or Mourinho’s Real Madrid if you prefer an example that actually works consistently), which allows you to have two deep lying central midfielders plus three marauding attacking midfielders.
    Having two deep lying midfielders would also free the full backs to push on as Mowbray likes to do anyway.
    We would seem to have the personnel for that system with Bailey, Thomson, Smallwood and possibly R Williams all potential defensive midfielders whilst Robson, Haroun, Arca, Zemmama, Kink, L Williams or even Emnes could play as attacking midfielders. I haven’t seen enough of Martin to judge where he’s best suited to play.
    I remember this system working well for a time at Liverpool with one defensive tackling midfielder (Mascherano) alongside a ball player (Xabi Alonso) with Gerrard supporting the front line.
    It’s a world away in terms of quality but as we’re operating at a much lower level for Mascherano read Bailey, for Alonso read Thomson and for Gerrard read Robson?
    Anybody with greater tactical acumen have any thoughts on that?
    For Saturday we could see:
    Ikeme (Steele), McMahon, R Williams (Hines), Bates (McManus), Bennett, Bailey, Thomson (Smallwood), Emnes, Haroun, Kink, McDonald.

  23. Everything about Tuesday felt wrong.
    The team selection, the fans edgy instead of being their usual energetic selves, a new opposition Manager, the list is endless.
    I echo a lot of sentiments to those who attended, but two things strike me as being of importance: the white elephant of being unbeaten has gone, and the absence of Ikeme is so evident it makes you want to wretch.
    Let’s hope Mogga can pull a rabbit out of the hat for Saturday. Welcome the Bart man.

  24. Gutted as we all are, we all want Boro success. This is a limited team in a limited league but don’t tell me that Forrest are a better team. Don’t tell me that we are not good enough. We are as good if not better than any team in this league
    Now we have to see how good the squad is but it’s a set back not the end of the season. We will lose a few more and draw a few more but I believe Our Tony will take us up. I believe in Tony after this bad run – if that is what it is – as I believe in him when he is on a winning run.
    He needs to think things through because we need to change. The other teams are on to us, they know our game plan. The strikers are being closed down the service from the full backs is being thwarted. They are stopping us getting forward.
    We are at the top of the league so teams will look learn and adjust to stop us. We played the same systems last season with great success thatr is why I suggest teams managed to stop us first at home now away. However plan B has to come now not at Christmas as is normal.
    We can play hard fast aggressive football with some of our players or slow and patient passing with others maybe we need to mix it to change games. Maybe start fast and aggressive then change when the edge is out of the game to a more controlled passing game in the second half of games.
    I suggest we also need some well rehearse moves that bring goals. All top teams use set moves that are rehearsed on the training ground. Boro had great success using set moves under McClaren. Look at the first goal scored against us at Forest then re-wind to the league cup final (Job’s goal). McClaren inspired and coached. That first goal against us was perfect.
    Maybe an answer to solve our main problem of goal scoring. We need to change the coaching system going forward. With the pace and quality we possess we can add new attacking dimensions. That goal executed against us was almost unstoppable
    But we Boro fans saw it executed time and time again during the McClaren years (angled ball in, late run in Goal)
    Our Tony needs to resolve the problem of how to use all the midfield talent we posses to get us the points we need

  25. i am worried. Have anyone seen Smogon since Tuesday? We should help him and say something positive about Tuesday’s game. I don’t know what to say. Anyone? Up the Boro!

  26. I made a mistake, of course, as Barry Rob has five bookings, so Haroun must start for him. But let’s try dropping McMahon, and, although Thomson was a huge improvement in Reading, recognising that he’s an unreliable luxury and recognising that we can’t build on unreliable luxuries any longer (else, we might have kept Digard and saved the money spent on Thommo).
    Let’s have a little gamble on youth, ambition and energy. Smallwood and Luke Williams may actually turn out to be the best couple of footballers we have at our club, and what have we to lose by playing them?
    The performance against Forest would have resulted in at least 0-3 against Derby on Saturday, so let’s try a bit of the energy of young, ambitious players, players on an upward career curve.

  27. Cheers AV,
    Why were so many league clubs rushing to sign up then? The vote was 46 – 22 with a few got losts on the way to the meeting.
    Were the Championship clubs voting yes so they can do it on mass when they get promoted? Or they figured if the prem boys raid our youngsters, we will just hit L1, the L1 guys target the L2 and the 20 odd L2 clubs get the Sunday League guys?
    Seems odd they would run to something that actual shafts themselves.
    The PL threatened to with holdcash but £5m 70 odd ways does not seem like a load of cash to be that afraid of losing that you would harm yourself forever for….
    **AV writes: But withholding cash means that for most clubs – the likes of Hartlepool and Bury and Carlisle – their Acadmies would have to close. That’s the wages for their head coach and the admin costs. So the balance is between cash flow and a talent spotting netwrok now against the off-chance of a possible big sale two, three, five years down the line. Most people in football are short-termists and most little clubs exist hand to mouth. The Big clubs can afford to wait five years before snaffling up the next Hartlepool/Bury/Carlisle starlet.

  28. Halifaxp – Spot on. We have young, hungry players. Let’s try them.
    Also we played exceptionally in April. He had Smallwood and Arca in the team back then. So, too, Robson, even though he was not as good as he’s been this season.
    So let’s try Arca, Smallwood, Bailey/Thomson and Haroun in midfield, for example. And bring back MacDonald soon. He is very valuable and could score goals (a hat-trick at Hull!).
    Up the Boro!

  29. The best bit about the new youth proposals is that the Premier League threatened to withhold “part of its annual solidarity payment to the Football League – the £5.4m ring-fenced for youth development” unless the Football League agreed to it, basically blackmailing them. Scandalous.
    Due to a combination of family holidays and stag dos, I have missed the last two home games, so I’m itching to go tomorrow. Hopefully they are saving a performance for me. I’ve been saying all along that our squad is strong enough, so let’s hope they prove me right. Definitely agree that Luke Williams and Richie Smallwood should be given an opportunity if possible.

  30. I think at home we should have three up front just to change things.Teams have sussed us with the two we have so we need another one in there to mix it up even if he dosnt score many goals but allows the other two more freedom.
    We should also try and keep Ikeme till the end of the season. No disrespect to Steele but has not got into commanding his box yet.
    **AV writes: Ikeme’s loan is up on Nov 1st and after three lots of one month loans we can’t get him again until January and then it would have to be along term loan and Wolves may ask for a bigger percentage of his Prem wages. So he may well have already played his last game for Boro.

  31. Fortunately I was working away in Dusseldorf this week so managed to avoid what sounds like our poorest effort to date. Can’t say I’m surprised as the recent performances were a warning that a car crash was impending. The injuries just hastened the inevitable.
    Our “breakaway” buccaneering style was fun while it lasted until the opposition twigged how to stop us. Once our swash was well and truly buckled there wasn’t much depth in terms of Plan B or alternative outlets.
    This injury patch may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise long term albeit a pain in the short term. At his previous clubs Mogga was known for being a little set in his ways shall we say and I couldn’t fathom or relate to that until say the last 4 or 5 games when the penny began to drop.
    He now has to face the challenge of trying alternative tactics. Our set pieces are pretty weak and predictable to say the least and seriously lacking in initiative and trickery. Everyone knows our corners always go to the far post for the CB to nod back into the mix. Our throw ins are merely to put the ball back into play and our free kicks are a straightforward welly at the wall and hope.
    I still think that putting Steele in during this difficult time is unfair on the lad especially as a wily old Fox is sat on the bench. Likewise the same applied to Hoyte where stubborn insistence hasn’t helped the lad’s cause. Accomodating Thommo has also coincided with the poor run to date. So for the 1st time in the Renaissance questions are being asked and Mogga, Veno and Procs have to find a solution.
    I don’t subscribe to the small squad theory. Smallwood for example is already proven at this level and I suspect given a run, one of the “names” could be getting splinters by Xmas. Zemmama and Thommo’s record always decreed that they would be limping more times than playing but Martin and Haroun look capable of making a difference if and when selected. Up front the calls above for Luke to get a shout is a good one as we desperately need a variation in what we have seen of late.
    Halliday had a good day at Ipswich last term but has rarely featured since and Tarmo is still capable of delivering panic inducing Torpedoes. Reach hasn’t featured since his final day scoring debut and looked to have a bit of talent mixed with a little bit of delightful heady naivity going forwards.
    Definitely where we are weak is up front but with a midfield scattered with a bit of flair instead of slow motioned tipping and tapping we could kill two birds with one stone.
    Tablewise where we are to date would have been unimaginable just 3 short months ago but having got there I don’t want to go back and don’t regard it as inevitable. Now we have to trust Mogga to rewrite the game plan to allow for the available skills to shine rather than force square pegs into round holes. If he gets it right the tactical surprise could be the masterstroke against Derby! UTB

  32. Redcar Red –
    I agree with all of that, the topics have been a regular focus over the last three months.
    Hinting at a touch of the stubborn in Mogga is no great surprise, he is one of our own!
    In my long battle to extract the most stubborn of agreements from Vic that having players fit may help the team, I mentioned the fact that the top six clubs last year had a core of 6 or 7 players who played over 35 matches. (Other clubs in this league do not have two equal players for every position, they cant afford it for starters)
    We are on the way to having that but injuries and loss of form happen, we are going through a that sort of patch. No team has eleven players who start 46 games.
    Mogga is right in saying the fringe players should stand up and take their chances but it could be argued they could have had more pitch time if he had used his subs earlier in some of the home games.
    You cant complain about players running on empty towards the end of the match if you keep them running and dont freshen up the line up.
    Only minor quibbles, three points would do nicely thank you very much.

  33. I’ m sorry people but until I die,I will keep reminding fans,Southgate destroyed this club. The worst manager in our history. Yes, Strachan didnt help but he knew,it was Butlins holiday camp,, The thing Southgate did was get rid if an experienced coaching staff, a disaster.

  34. These new youth proposals sound like a bad deal.
    Theoretically this is supposed to help the national team. Can anybody explain how that is supposed to work? How will it benefit the national team? I don’t understand that bit.
    It looks to me like it will just benefit the big PL clubs.
    **AV writes: The idea is that by scrapping the 90 minute travelling radius rule that the big clubs can pick up more talented kids over a wider area. The logic is that the best kids go to the best clubs to get the best development.
    In practice they will be stockpiled in Academy sides, never get to play real competitive football against seasoned pros and when their career stalls get dumped demoralised to be picked up by the clubs where they should have gone in the first place and if they had would have had three years in the first team below their belt by that stage.
    The fixing of fees will mean that there is little point in developing players in the hope of one gem coming along that will bring a £1m windfall. A lot of lower league clubs will now abandon Academies completely.
    Boro should be OK. They have a reputation for developing talent and have excellent facilities and so will be able to persuade kids/parents they are better of at Hurworth and have a more realistic chance of making a career than the long shot of Old Trafford.

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