Monthly Archives: March 2012

Maths Of The Day Still Adds

BINARY Boro have just rattled off a 1-1 1-1 1-1 1-1 scoreline sequence that probably sets off alarm bells in computer code. Even if you can’t read a PC program it is still a deeply worrying series of numbers, especially at this stage of the season.
The Maths of the Day finally swung against Boro at Brighton as they failed to make their fractional advantage in the game count while other outcomes just slightly tipped the wrong way. It was inevitable it would happen one week.
But despite being squeezed out to seventh, Boro are still in the play-off equation.

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Battling Boro’s Thinner Red Line

BATTLE-scarred Boro took a big, big point with a spirited away day display at in-form Ipswich – but at what cost?
With two centre-backs crocked before the break at Portman Road and Marvin Emnes limping out in the second half, the rising body count is deeply worrying. Not just the number of the injuries but the position specific nature will have Tony Mowbray pulling his hair out.
With Matthew Bates the biggest worry – there are fears that he has damaged his suspect cruciate again – the Thin Red Line at the back is in danger of cracking.

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Second Best Boro Scrape A Point

MALAURY Martin unleashed his mandatory screamer against Bristol and salvaged a point – but not much pride for Boro. Struggling City had not won an away game this year. They hadn’t even scored a goal. Yet they will be gutted they didn’t win at the Riverside. They should have.
They had the best of the chances, broke away at pace several times and caught jittery Boro cold at the back time and again. They were handed the opner on a plate and had they been a bit sharper they would have sealed it with a couple of golden chances either side of the break.
Second best Boro looked laboured. They lacked zip. They lacked imagination. They lacked creativity. They lacked hunger. They failed to put sustained pressure on a limited side. They were sloppy at the back and were repeatedly caught out of shape, barged out of possession, failed to clear and were run ragged by the energetic honest ordinariness of Jon Stead.
They were pedestrian in the middle with the conservative Bailey and Thomson sitting too deep in a sluggish start that handed the initiative to City while the game bypassed Zemmama and Hammill – serial stepover and dragback king – over-elaborated for England and repeatedly failed to deliver the ball early. Most of the best supply came from much-maligned Hoyte in the first half and increasingly late from a couple of good diagobnals from Bennett.
It was brighter after the break with Martin pushing forward more and there was more possession in the Bristol half but overall, Boro failed to boss the game. They failed to impose a tempo or shape on the game or force City into mistakes.
Up-front Jutkiewicz worked hard to win flicks and knockdowns (and a lot of free-kicks) and Ogbeche had some good touches, a few half-chances and one good stabbed close range effort that was well saved. Boro arguably should have had a last gasp penalty too when Hammill was sandwiched in the box but we shouldn’t need to be looking for the ref to decide these games.
Boro weren’t good enough to beat a limited Bristol who arrived in poor form and presumably poor morale, which was a worry – although it is par for the course in a crazy division. What was a bigger worry was there was no sense of urgency about the game. It started flat and stayed there. You be hard pushed to believe Boro were chasing precious points for a play-off place.
It was a poor perforrmance greeted by routine half-hearted booing at the break and the whistle.
Yet despite the insipid display, despite a poor return of just two points from three tough games in the past eight days, despite Boro’s frustrating failure once more to beat lowly visitors, despite the rest of the results going our way once again and despite Boro looking to be running out of steam, somehow, incredibly, they nudged up a place as all their peers continued to commit collective hari-kari. It is the play-off battle that no-one wants to win.
More later…

Upton Spark! Last Gasp Strike Can Re-ignite Play-off Push

OH! My! Word! Super-sub Bart Ogbeche’s sweet late strike has reignited Boro’s flagging promotion hopes and jump-started the dream machine back home on Teesside.
What a difference from the blues after Birmingham when back-to-back defeats, mounting injury and suspension problems and a looming clash with Fat Sam’s no-frills muscular pragmatists at West Ham wrapped a shroud of defeatist resignation around Planet Boro.
Now, in a flash, Boro are alive and kicking again.

Continue reading Upton Spark! Last Gasp Strike Can Re-ignite Play-off Push

Finger-pointing First Over Brum Deal

TONY Mowbray was scathing about Boro’s porous defence after a bruising defeat at Birmingham. Which was a first. Not the bruising defeat. The inconsistent team have been thumped before several times this season by on-songs teams with a cutting edge; teams like Southampton, West Ham, Blackpool, Reading and now Birmingham.
But significantly it was the first time this term a boss generally very protective of his team has been so pointed and public in his criticism of the players after a game.
And you can’t blame him after the battering at Birmingham.

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A Tunnel Vision View Of Reality

FREE! Your cut-out-and-keep Evening Gazette Boro supporters’ terrace telescope – the essential matchday accessory for the one eyed fan!
This amazing new optical aid will boost your football fun by showing you in great detail exactly what you want to see while blocking out troublesome objective reality and any sense of wider perspective. Perfect for Championship football fans.

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Sunday Roasted: Boro Burnt By Leeds

WELL that ticked ALL the “typical Boro” boxes:
Other results go our way setting up golden moment of opportunity if only we are brave enough, strong enough and good enough to take it … tick. Live on TV with chance to show the watching world and potential Teesside ticket buyers exactly what they are missing… tick. Manage to turn out a really strong looking starting XI when up against a side with a poor recent record who haven’t scored in three… tick
Then fail to turn up from the whistle, start scrappily, get torn apart by an average team we make look like world-beaters, descend into jittery, clunky chaos at the back and gift them stupid goals with schoolboy defending… tick
Slump into dysfunctional self-destructive individualism, lose discipline and shape in every department…. tick. Get a stupid costly red card…. tick. Pick up a couple of injuries…. tick. Leave crowd demoralised and flat (despite being fourth) with a meek and scared display that lacked fight, invention, nous or any hint of belief… tick.

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Derby Daze: Leeds – A Retro-Rivalry?

WITH amoral arch-pragmatist and recent docusoap star Neil Warnock – football’s ‘nutter on the bus’ – joining Ken Bates at Elland Road, two of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in place and recruiting ready to unleash plague and pestilence on the beautiful game once more.
Well I suppose that’s my basic position carved out, a subliminal default still shaped by a playground antipathy to Revie’s all-conquering shock-troops and, I think, shared by Ayresome veterans of a certain age. But plenty of others just don’t care too much about Leeds these days. Whateva. That’s youngsters for you. They don’t know their history.
So with our silly seventies sock-tagged and smiley badged antagonists due to roll into Teesside for a televised small screen clash on Sunday, it is time once more to consider the changing nature of this de facto derby by default. Here’s “another chance to see” (that’s “a repeat” in old money) a blog written 18 months ago in the last dark days of the Strachanovite abberation.

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Winning, Minging And Home-o-phobia

A GOAL up and with time running out, the no-frills, low-thrills Barnsley game crept nervously towards the ‘typical Boro’ Twilight Zone.
It was a jittery, scrappy and laboured but familiar finale as Boro set about making things difficult for themselves. Battle scarred campaigners in the barren stands donned their traditional protective armour of cynicism as our heroes abandoned the initiative and lost heart and slowly retreated, spluttered and invited pressure at the back.
Passes went astray, tackles were missed, cheap dead-balls were conceded and the defence stood off sheepishly and allowed a mediocre side of bottom half makeweights who have lost five out of six on the road look threatening and adventurous. It was torture.

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Pompey: Hard Chimes

TWO falls, two submissions or a knockout… to say it was a robust encounter at Fratton Park would be an under-statement. It was bad-tempered, ill-disciplined and spiteful with nasty tackles, naughty off the ball snapping and even dreadlock tugging. And it was largely unpoliced by a referee who lost his grip early on and never really recovered. Trevor Kettle, google him, he’s got form.
The first half was blood spattered carnage with a series of injury knocks, physio appearances for both sides and sporadic outbreaks of tetchy niggling. The second half saw goals – including two penalties – break through the chaos but with Pompey scrapping for their lives on and off the pitch the simmering tensions, stoked up by some erratic reffing, boiled over frequently.
Eleven yellows and a red… and to be honest there could have been more: Rocha should have been sent off for hauling Emnes back by his locks when already on a yellow but the ref opted not to bother to enforce the rules on that occasion – yet 20 seconds later sent off Rhys for a sly dig when he was on a booking. Haroun could have been pedalled after losing his head and was taken off by Mowbray before he was red carded and there was an incident in a crowd near the end where Bates – again, already on a card – was being accused to having Decked Allan.
It was fantastic! It was tense, fierce and at times malevolent and the pressure from Pompey high-stakes brinkmanship – it could easily be their last game – helped make it an explosive atmosphere. Boro had to be strong to stand up to the physicality of the game, had to stay calm when the home side clawed one down and stepped up the blitz on the box and although there were times when they almost lost control and boiled over, they showed real steel, kept their shape and just about kept a lid on their tempers.
It was a vital win. Back on track. More later.
**Note: A lot of sympathy for the Pompey fans, a lot of who are convinced they have just watched their last game. There was an air of fatalism among the local press and supporters and thousands stayed behind to chanting defiantly. There were still a few hundred there when we left nearly an hour after the whistle. Respect. As ever, when the sharp suits, money men and chancers ransack a club it is the fans – the only people who really care – who are shafted and are left to pick up the pieces.