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.

It was frustrating that despite a good result – a draw away to a side above you who are in red hot form is always a good result – and a heartening performance Boro still found themselves squeezed out of the play-off places.
Not by much. They are part of a four way tie of teams on 63 points but the goal difference weighs heavily against them. Birmingham in fourth are 18 goals better off – three of them plundered from Boro – and that is as good as an extra point.
Four draws in a row have seen Boro make glacial painful progress towards the target tally of 74 or so that will hand them a golden ticket to the play-off lottery.
Factor in two damaging defeats to Leeds and Birmingham before that and it adds up to a frightening meagre return of just four points from a possible 18.
Boro’s hopes of extending the season are in the balance. With six games left and some tough encounters looming – Cardiff and Hull next up, Southampton as the last home game – it will go right down to the wire.
But despite the recent stutter Boro are still very much part of the play-off permutations. The four successive stalemates were not a disaster. Or at least, three of them weren’t.
The dismal home draw with Bristol was a costly set-back and a blow to morale. Failing to put limited but hard-working teams to bed at the Riverside has been the hallmark of the season. There’s no denying that.
But while Boro may have lost ground they can take heart after putting in three spirited shows in a series of very tough away games.
They travelled to West Ham and dug deep to soak up some early pressure then came from behind to level with a sizzling strike from Bart Ogbeche. And they could easily have won all three points in a fizzing finale as Lukas Jutkiewicz hit the bar then Ogbeche had a goalbound pile-driver bravely headed away a yard of the line.
That result was a bonus point for Boro, pegged the Hammers back and turned up the heat on the jittery pre-season title favourites and grumpy Sam Allardyce.
Then Boro went away to an Ipswich side that had won five in a row at Portman Road and somehow survived a bruising early defensive injury crisis and enforced reshuffle to come away with a point.
Matthew Bates limped off with a cruciate injury and Seb Hines was laid flat out and seeing stars for a second successive season in East Anglia before going off at the break leaving no centre-backs on the pitch but Boro dug deep to get a creditable draw as Jutkiewicz stabbed home.
Then, on Saturday, Boro went to Brighton, an in-form side with an enterprising approach and an awesome home record. They have lost only three at the Amex Stadium all term and none since Christmas. They have won 11 and drawn six of their 20 games and have scored 33 goals playing expansive attacking football with confidence.
But Boro more than matched them. You don’t get points for plaudits but many of their local press men and fans said after the game that Boro were the best side they had seen there all season – and that includes both Newcastle and Sunderland who they have beaten in the cups.
It was disappointing to leak a late leveller to a sloppily defended set-play once again but nevertheless there was much to be pleased by and despite the statistical set-back I came away from the game with renewed optimism.
Boro played some excellent football, closing quickly at the back to deny them room down the flanks – both full backs Justin Hoyte and Joe Bennett were excellent – while tackling machines Nicky Bailey and Richie Smallwood shackled their trump card Vicente and stopped them playing through the middle and the armband powered Barry Robson provided drive and direction without the counter-productive snarling.
Brighton’s few speculative chances were thwarted by increasingly impressive Jason Steele – really growing into his role in recent weeks – and some alert and disciplined defending with match fit Stephen McManus adding height and strength and Hines a classy presence growing more composed and confident by the week.
While up front bubbling Boro looked much sharper than in recent weeks, carving out some good chances before Marvin Emnes finally glanced home a header and then soon after Jutkiewicz thundered against the post.
Boro were passing and probing and were fluid in the opposition half with busy Scott McDonald, back in action off the bench for the final flourish, adding a much missed link with midfield as he buzzed around demanding the ball.
So the result was a set-back – the players and staff were certainly gutted not to have won – but the performance offered reasons for optimism in the testing weeks to come.
While Boro fans may be depressed and worried by the recent points yield and form, the rest of the play-off pack are also struggling. The sides immediately behind – Cardiff, Hull and Leeds – are in the bottom six of the form table and have shown no signs of any sudden spurt to worry us from behind (although Watford are gathering ominous momentum just beyond them).
And the teams just above Boro are not much better. They are all drawing too many games and squandering . They are all under pressure, nervous and making errors and some have tough fixtures in the run-in. There are no shoo-ins.
Ironically, while Boro’s points return has shrunk in recent weeks, there are hopeful signs that their game has expanded. The full-backs are functioning again, Bailey is back and slowly playing his way back into the game, Robson is back and bubbling, Steele looks solid, there are options in midfield and up front and at Brighton there was a zest not seen since December.
There is nothing to be scared of. A play-off place is there for the taking. It is still in Boro’s hands- but they must start winning games. We can’t afford draws now. Even ‘good’ ones.


20 thoughts on “Maths Of The Day Still Adds

  1. Brighton are on a roll. Playing ‘proper football’, they’ve come with a late surge and are full of momentum and confidence.
    Boro, meanwhile, have been mostly mediocre since Christmas. We have negligible attacking threat and can’t buy a goal. Worse, our defence had already become porous and panicky. Now we pretty much don’t have one and rely on bulldog spirit to keep the goals out.
    Not a good assessment is it? It’s a scenario set for a slaughter. I think we’ll win.
    Sod ’em all, backs against the wall, Mogga will generate Churchillian defiance and fortitude – it’ll be the cockneys in the tube singing songs while the bombs rain down. Big Mick will come back and show us what we’ve been missing. Partnering him, the tea lady will reveal unsuspected defensive talents. Scotty will make a goal scoring cameo return.
    It’s great in my parallel universe.

  2. “Boro Round Up a Flock of Seagulls”
    (AV, most of your readers can’t get a copy of the local paper, can you print the Ian Baird article?)
    **AV writes: I’ll see if it is on-line later. Or you could check youself: Brighton Argus.

  3. Good point today, could have been more but that’s the Boro way at the merment ((c) Mark Lawrenson)
    Well here it is, and I’m sure you are all dying to know how I see things panning out?
    Well avid reader I now see it as us and Brighton in a straight shootout for sixth.
    W ham
    and either us or Brighton
    Seagulls fixtures who are above on GD
    a Burnley
    h Reading
    a West Ham
    h Watford
    H Birmingham
    a Barnsley
    I’d estimate at them picking up between 6-9 points.
    Therefore to get a ay off spot we need 7-10 points. Seven points should be do- able, 10 would need win the next two games. Possible
    I had us down for 8th at the start of the season. And I am yet to correctly predict anything.

  4. Typical Boro (self-inflicted?) luck: they take the lead agin the Seagulls, fail – yet again – to defend it, fail – yet again – to convert any one of an array of chances which would have secured three vital points & end up – yet again – having to settle for a disappointing draw. The high-flying, but Lambert-less, Saints then have an unexpected off-day & go down 0-3 away to Ollie’s boys (*mad*) & Boro, with a positively derisory goal difference, slide out of the play-off places, to be supplanted by the bloody Tangerines. 😦 By the law of averages, however, it had to happen sooner or later, given Boro’s many shortcomings, but I still feel sick – & I hate Ollie… *shakes head in despair, but not in disbelief*

  5. Bloody rubbish. Six games now without a win, YES 6 WHOLE GAMES WITHOUT A WIN. Mowbray needs to up his game or get out out the end of the season.
    I’m sure we would not have been so lily livered , feeble and gutless had Gareth stayed in charge of the team.

  6. Well that was a typical Boro result, but I’ll take issue with Paul Bell – Boro were very good today.
    They grew in confidence as the game went on and completely bossed the 2nd half. The lead was deserved and should have been built on, but the one loss of concentration from the otherwise excellent Robson led to the equaliser we all dreaded. 3-1 to Boro would have been a fair reflection in my opinion, but we just can’t buy a win.
    I won’t make comparisons with Gareth’s team, but the current patched up XI put in a damn good shift today. and should have won.

  7. Over the Border, I agree with you.
    Lots of little errors here today (we are not a Premier league team any more, so can expect some errors!) but there was a strong work ethic and team spirit.
    Hines was surprisingly good, considering his recent travails in East Anglia; Bailey and Robbo reminded me of their early season ankle-snapping, bad cop-worse cop demeanour; Richie played well; Steele is improving game by game; and I am excited by seeing a fresh and feisty Scott McDonald working so sharply off the Juke and Bart. Arca was very good too. Mick got roasted once but Seb and he mostly dealt with central threats well.
    For our next home outing, I’d love to see Mogga try a Juke-Bart-Scott front three; with Bennett and Hoyte wing-backing; Bails and Robbo central mid; Seb, Big Mick and McMahon as a back three. For such a system to work, we need self-belief from Hoyte (and some practice with crossing) and some work on defensive disciplines for young Joe.
    There was, frankly, too much space easily available for Brighton down both the flanks today and the wing-backs do need a bit of cohesive cover, but their attacking threat (if accompanied by conviction and tactical nous) can be a decent form of defence, no probs.
    What I suggest here finds no place for Emnes; he is quick and clever with his feet, but also he is playing through injury and not enjoying his chasing back duties; mainly, he cannot seem to decide what he needs to do the moment the ball comes to him (or even a split second before, ideally), and this momentary delay gives defenders a period of regrouping and a chance to crowd him out every time.
    Anyway, this was a good Boro scrap, and the spirit of 86 was not shamed by our performance in either half; it was probably quietly glowing with our second half vibe!

  8. Paul Bell –
    Gareth went because we went down because of lily livered, feeble and gutless performances in the premiership.
    You can throw in successive home defeats 5-0 to West Brom and 1-0 to both Leicester and Watford where we didnt even look like being disgruntled at dropping apoints we should have sealed.
    And he had a premiership squad!

  9. Central defence decimated through injuries, can’t score goals, six games without a win and we are still in with a shout of the play offs. This is not the script we all wished for however with 6 games to go anything can happen (with Boro it usually does).
    Strap yourselves into the roller coaster, time is running out and with the play offs a lottery, who knows what will happen IF we reach there. I shudder to think the impossible and we do get into the Premiership with this squad.

  10. Watched Sunday Supplement and they were talking about briefly about promotion from the Championship.
    The talk was that Soton would go up automatically then focused on who else. I started getting riled when it was all about West Ham and Reading and especially the Hammers slipping away.
    Then I gave myself a reality check. We got relegated a few seasons ago and are now in the play-off pack. That is our place in the pecking order and as such that is the publicity we get, very little.
    It is our fault for getting relegated, well not us but MFC. The gravy train has left the station without us.

  11. Twisted? Good draws away at West Ham, in-form Ipswich and Brighton. But not collecting the three points at home nor any of the above away matches.
    At least the performances seem to be improving and now we have McDonald and Robson back. Of course we have injuries but then we have McManus back, too.
    So still in contention for a play-off place. Can we get Rhys back before the play-offs, anyone?
    This is more interesting and satisfying to follow than the relegation battle last season. Well done, lads. Up the Boro!

  12. Six games left.
    Six games we could win
    Six games we could draw
    Six games we could lose
    Whats it gonna be Mogga?
    Time to say GO FOR IT! Draws are a waste of time. They are useless if teams above or below win, when we dont (obvious)
    I like the Juke but seems we havent been as effective since he came in, (I’d use him late on , off the bench). We tend to focus on him too much when he is playing,hope Haroun is back he gives us that energy
    So Mogga, let’s have a real go. Three points or nothing. Our goal difference is meaningless

  13. Ipswich and Brighton are currently form teams so two away draws are good in that context. Unfortunately for us silly points dropped at home earlier in the season is whats coming back to haunt us.
    Our home form is our achilles heel but amazingly with only six games left we are in with a play off shout which we would have gladly taken this time last year.
    So what reasons do we have to be hopefully cheerful? Well for me Jason Steele is finally looking like the keeper Mogga kept telling us he was and seems to have matured and gained confidence in the last month. His performances of late are matching the standards laid down by Smith and Ikeme, that in itself is a huge plus.
    Seb Hines is looking more and more accomplished and settling in nicely, McManus has been playing games down at Bristol and is match fit and in fairness to him I rate him as good as anything in this division and although a different style of player to Rhys and Matty I have zero concerns about his inclusion.
    The big positive though is Scotty returning. Whether coincidence or not but since Juke’s arrival and Scotty’s injury our average points per game compared to the season up to that juncture has declined.
    The Juke never looks like forming a partnership with Emnes and our style of play has changed to accomodate the big man but with strikers who seem on different planets it never looked like working. MacDonald on the other hand is the busy chasing, sniffing pefect accompaniment to Juke.
    We have missed Scotty’s terrier like qualities and buzzing around. We all could see that he wasn’t going to be a 30 goals a Season striker but he was never subject to the boo boys because of his overall workrate. Now that he has the perfect foil in Juke and its reciprocated I believe the future for us will be in their hands and their ability to read each other. The first few minutes of Scotty entering the fray yesterday proved that point and with Emnes now obviously needing a rest to recover from his knock that partnership looks nailed on.
    This time last year Smallwood was shining and he has taken his chance again and is playing on merit, Martin gives us something different, Arca looks like he has his eye in again, Smogbeche can make an impact with his route one style and there is plenty of back up with Hamill, Reach, Haroun, Park, Williams (L) and of course Macca at the back.
    All in all now that Mogga and Venus know whats needed I think we will see slightly less caution and more direct play to ensure we take as many points as possible during the run in.
    Interesting to see Blackpool’s high pressure, high tempo game far up the pitch destroyed the Saints. Hope Mogga was taking notes for when we bring the curtain down at the Riverside in a few weeks time.

  14. I agree with Halifax Pete and Over the Border. This was a strong Boro performance in a pulsating, end-to-end game.
    I hadn’t seen us away since the awful pasting at Blackpool, but this was a hugely improved Boro, feisty and determined, fluent, creative, and with most players passing crisply and accurately. This was much more like our early season performances. I think everybody had a good game, and some – Bailey, Robbo, Steele, Arca – were outstanding.
    The Brighton fans I spoke to on the train to the ground warned me to expect a hard game – they were confident in their own home form, but on the day, we gave them a very difficult afternoon. More of this, please, from now till the end of the season. Especially at home!

  15. Good point again, pity (again) it wasn’t three (again).
    Looking at Brightons fans homepage and they were saying that we were the best side seen down there this season, so we must be doing something right.
    They also stated that Emnes was brilliant, just the sort of forward they needed. Included that bit as some of the letters above are all for him being left out. To be fair I would as well unless he can show this form more often.
    Robbo and Bailes centre midfield together, both received praise from their fans, lets hope they keep them together. Everybody knows that they are our best central pairing, nice to see Richie Smallwood putting in a good shift again.
    Onwards and sidewards.

  16. Now is the time for Mogga to prove the doubting Thomas’s wrong and show he’s Boro’s Messiah by bringing back our promotion campaign from the dead over Easter.
    It’s looking more and more like the play-off places are going to go down to the wire. Both Birmingham (Away at West Ham, Ipswich, Brighton and home to Reading) and Brighton (Home to Reading, Watford, Brum and away at West Ham) have very tricky run-ins.
    Blackpool look to have the easiest run-in and should get one of the places but Watford will do well to make up six points into the play-offs with five of their six games against teams above them.
    I think Hull will struggle to make up five points with three games against West Ham, Watford and Boro. Though Cardiff could be a danger as they also have a relatively easy run-in so it’s very important that we beat them on Saturday.
    Out of form Leeds are probably no longer in the equation with games against Reading, Blackpool and Cardiff to come.
    So Predictions for the Play-offs: West Ham, Blackpool and Birmingham with one from Boro, Brighton or Cardiff – four or more points over Easter would probably make us favourites – two or less would leave us struggling.

  17. Ian Gill said: “Paul Bell – Gareth went because we went down because of lily livered, feeble and gutless performances in the premiership.”
    Have to disagree with that one Ian!
    In my opinion Boro went down because of financial restructuring by the main man in the chairman’s seat forced upon him by the bank.
    This had the effect of sending the message through the squad that Boro were no longer a team with big ambitions (See Chelski/Man City/ ManU.
    The bomb-shell for me was when GS1 saw his rightback sold off under his nose just days before the season started. I don’t think there was a lot of transparency or honesty there either but I speculate.
    Further reports would have it that a certain Mr. M O’Neill came along for a look see and decided honour was the better part of valour or some such and quickly disappeared back where he came from. Why? I think the first thing he asked about was investment in the team and wasn’t happy with the reply. Same reason he vacated Aston Villa in the first place.
    The Boro as it now stands have had minimum investment if you think about where we want them to be. That’s not going to change so regardless of my doubts and whinges about performance, Mogga and the lads have achieved great things.
    My only fear now is that my early season prediction of play-off at Wembley is now out of the window. Why? Goal difference! I said it months ago and still stand by it. I think Ian that you may have disagreed with me. Still it doesn’t feel that good to be right.

  18. Just been on the Brighton Argus website. Wow- as they say!
    What praise. All the fans who posted stated that we were the best side to visit this season. Full of praise for Robbo and even better than the mackems and maggots who they have beaten this season. Strangely, they looked upon us, as we look at visiting teams to our ground.

  19. Gus Poyets comments after the game:
    Albion boss Gus Poyet is happy to still be in the top six after holding Middlesbrough at The Amex.
    Blackpool’s subsequent victory over leaders Southampton tonight leaves the Seagulls occupying the final play-off spot in the Championship, ahead of Tony Mowbray’s Boro on goal difference.
    Poyet said: “It’s one game less. We are still in the top six, so we need to give credit to the players.
    “I’m a fan of Tony Mowbray’s teams. I like to watch them, not be against them. I am 100 per cent sure are players learnt a lot – how to deal with their movement, inter-changing positions, running behind the ball. We adapted very well.
    “I am happy with the performance and the way we came back in the game. Maybe in another year we would have lost this game, so credit to the boys.”

  20. As an Albion/Boro supporter, I thought it a really good game of ‘Championship’ football and believe the score was probably about right, although maybe Boro just about shaded it, Robson being the difference. How he’s going to be missed next season, particularly if the Boro remain in this division.
    As has been mentioned, Gus Poyet and a number of Brighton fans were very impressed with the Boro performance and I know Gus rates Mogga highly as a manager and the way he thinks about the game.
    The Boro is still thought of as a big club down here, paricularly as is often stated here that as a comparison, the club has spent 10 years out of the last 13 (I think) in the Premiership, whereas Albion had to spend 14 years in the wilderness of playing on an atletics field and at Gillingham before making it into the championship and playing in a brand new stadium which can be extended as the club grows.
    At this stage, and although I’d love to see both clubs make it this year, I do believe Boro to be the best equipped for promotion and fingers crossed. Finally, as well as Robson, I thought Hines and Steele were excellent on the day.

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