BUGGER. Tonked by the side cut adrift at the bottom. Carved up by Alex bloody Nimely. No points from nine in January with eight goals leaked, just one scored and a string of poor performances – and now a self-inflicted midfield crisis for the Mackem match.
That was a nightmare.
Boro’s promotion bandwagon, spluttering for weeks, conked out at Coventry as the problems of recent weeks came home to roost: the failure to score was costly, the creaky defence was costly and the cheap card collecting was costly as a ragged side finished with nine men and a major midfield headache for the Sunderland game.
Yes, the ref was poor. He started very liberal and let a lot of go to help set a robust tone to the game then suddenly adopted a far more draconian approach and clamped down in fussy spell that led to a rising sense of frustration. And yes, at goal down with ten men it was always going to be a difficult task to claw back. Difficult but not impossible.
But let’s not look at excuses. Boro lost because they failed in every department individually and collectively and were comprehensively out-played and out-fought by a team that kicked off seven points adrift for a reason.
And for the first 20 minutes it patently obvious why City are bottom. Boro won every loose ball in midfield, passed crisply and swept forward in numbers with Emnes having a free run down the left. In a one-sided opening spell they created four decent chances, three falling to McDonald, none of them sitters but certainly good enough to expect that at least one of them should have been tucked away. They were well on top.
After that Boro quickly fell to bits. The problems had already surfaced before Coventry’s opener and before the sending off. After a rocky start they realised that man mountain Clive Platt was running riot in the box as what until a few weeks ago was the tightest defence in the league failed completely to get to grips with an archetypal Championship front man while Nimely – totally anonymous at Boro – and McSheffrey found acres down the flanks as they repeatedly burst past unchallenged. Their goal looked inevitable.
Boro managed to make ponderous Platt look an unstoppable powerhouse and Nimely a world-beater. Fans of football’s Inevitability Drive and students of “typical Boro” no doubt had their daft quid on Nimely’s nailed on goal but would be staggered at the thought that he would also have a hand in two more, bring a couple of good saves from DD Coyne and cut past Boro with embarrassing ease. Rhys Williams had his weakest game of the season and lost his man for the opener and gave away the free-kick that led indirectly to the third after being easily skinned (although you could argue he should have been in midfield anyway) and sluggish Matthew Bates popped home his second oggie of the season to cap a poor day at the office.
Incredibly the Gazette may have to name Nimely as the pick of the opposition as the regular “sign him on” candidate just a few weeks after his departure was marked with the same low key one paragraph shrug as the exit of Jay O’Shea and Caleb Folan.
Boro’s midfield was disjointed again and without linchpin Nicky Bailey looks alarmingly bereft of composure, energy, steel, cohesion and time. Kevin Thomson was woeful. Not ring rusty but poor in distribution and decision making and while he may feel hard done by with his first yellow the second was crazy, a pointless tackle in a harmless area of the field when already walking the line. It dropped Boro right in it, not just in this game but also next week at the Stadium of Light. Faris Haroun ran around a lot but rarely had any impact on the game and Arca was pedestrian and ineffective then rounded the game off with a rash tackle that was a red card before contact was made.
Robson was Boro’s best outfield player if only for drive and determination but even he was ragged and undisciplined as the game wore on. At the back Joe Bennett can also at least claim to have tried to get forward and he had a cracking shot well saved in the first half that may have changed the shape of the game. Coyne too is exempt from the worst of the criticism. He made a few good saves and was left largely unprotected for the goals.
Maybe we should have expected a disaster. The cameras were there. Plus Mogga won the December manager of the month award: since then we have lost three league games and been battered in them all plus squeezed past Shrewsbury in the cup, collapsed into the void left by Bailey and been ravaged by suspensions and injuries. Jutkiewisz must have wondered what the hell he had done.
On the plus side… er … I’ll get back to you on that.