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.
Boro were battered. They were second best in every department for the full 101 minutes. In truth, we were lucky to keep the scored down to two. After a sluggish and nervous start Boro sheepishly handed the initiative to a fired-up Leeds side that were given so much time and space in and around the Boro box that even they were embarrassed.
Despite having a first choice engine room of Williams and Bailey Boro were bossed and pushed around in the middle by Clayton and White and they failed completely to get to grips with the passing triangle of Becchio, Snodgrass and McCormack. The defence had a collective mare with repeated runs into the box going untracked and Leeds winning every knockdown. Up front it was just as bad with Emnes having an off day, Jutkiewicz barely getting a touch and Hammill tricking and jinking to no effect.
The dye was cast by the self inflicted first goal that summed up the problems: under pressure Bennett failed to deal with a high ball and after a littloe nudge he weakly headed at the feet of White who cut into the box unopposed then squared for Snodgrass to burst unchallenged from outside the box to drill a low effort that somehow squirmed through Steele. It was awful defending.
The second if anything was worse. Becchio and McCaormack were allowed to cut through the entire defence with an excahnge of passes that left them bamboozled. Then a ball was slotted into the box that Hoyte should have deal with easily. All he had to do was hoof it out for a throw. But he took a swing at it and failed to make full contact, glancing it weakly into the path of McCormack and leaving him free to square it.
Now it is easy to point the fingure at Hoyte – he has put his hand up and apologised on twitter which I suppose is admirable, he could easily have logged off and buried his head under the pillow – but what were the others doing? When the ball was squared both centre-backs were ambling towards goal, neither bothered to look behind to see if there was any in-coming danger and both were effectively out of the game when Becchio strolled through unmarked to stab home completely unhindered. Shocking.
After that Boro chopped and changed, switched shape several times and tried to claw it back but they had nothing to offer that could hurt Leeds. They were trying to play through a massed defence. Several times Emnes tried to physically run through them. It became increasingly scrappy and disjointed and as heads went down, individuals were trying to dribble through. Boro only had one shot on target, a couple of headers wide and a few half-hearted despairing late lurches into the box that rarely threatened.
Thomson lasted 17 minutes – who had that in the sweep? – before being clattered. How unlucky can one man be? I’m guessing that at some point he swerved to avoid a black gate and drove his car through a mirror shop window. Owned by a gypsy. Or possible built on an old sacred Indian burial ground.
And Barry Robson? Sheesh. Yes, he was ‘unlucky’ that the ref didn’t blow earlier when Clayton had him in a half-Nelson but his self-destructive default fury is a liability. He’d already won the free-kick! What was the point of lashing out? Save it and give him a sly equaliser later on if you must but don’t risk leaving the team a man short.
He has 13 yellow cards this season already and how many of those have been for dissent, petulance or stupidity? He is a big player for us but is powered by sheer anger and when we are under pressure that bubbles over. He will miss three games now – including biggies at Birmingham and West Ham – and that is a big blow. Two more yellows when he comes back will see him break the FA’s bad boy barrier of 15 and trigger another three game ban. He could miss six of the last 11 easily. And then be back just in time to get sent off at Wembley!
Grrrrrrrrrr. Still, it may be a disappointment, a frustrating surrender and big set-back but it is not a disaster. Boro are still fourth and well placed. Boro’s fate is still in their own hands. Birmingham and West Ham up next…. a pivotal period: back-to-back games that will decide if we extend our season into May. We must bounce straight back and get something in those. At least they are away…