IT WAS A disappointing but fitting end to the season. When chances presented themselves Boro could not score. They had a good first half but faded in their second and when the pressure and stakes rose in the final stages they lost their shape, their composure and their way. When they were on top they could not score. Then when they were chasing the game they were caught napping.
Once again it came down to a failure to score goals. That is the real story of the season. Boro had three or four good chances. And yes, Scott Loach made some top quality saves. But to have any hopes of making the play-offs a team has to make one of those kind of chances count. Boro have scored the fewest goals in the top half. By a long way.
In the end they were not quite good enough. That is not a crime. There is no point castigating them. It is not through a lack of effort. Neither was the failure to secure a play-off spot down to the lack of teeth at Watford today. Even if Boro had done their bit and won, the second half of the D-Day Double went against us as Cardiff did what they needed at Crystal Palace.
Over the coming days and weeks we will no doubt point the finger at “where it all went wrong” – Bailey’s injury and Robson’s ban leading to a jittery January, injuries to Williams and McDonald in the run in, too many draws at home to bottom half sides, the failure to strength in January and on loans deadline day, take your pick – and agonise over the disappointment of a season that started so well fizzled out into empty-handed angst.
But if we are honest few people expected more. Very few in August predicted the play-offs. Even at New Year when Boro were in second place most counselled caution and pointed to the weaknesses in the thin squad. Most expected things to get sticky. And when the problems kicked in with a pointless January it was little surprise. It was only the ineptitude of others around us that dragged out the agony so long.
But it hasn’t been a complete washout. Getting to the final day of the season still with a shout is not a bad finish given the problems. The outcome would be far more palatable had the points distribution been more even. If a handful of away wins were switched to the Riverside there would be a far better feel to the campaign and far less gloom.
A seventh place finish against a background of wage cutting and squad triimming and by a team that were still looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone last March is not bad. Bedding in some good youngsters from the fringes – the emergence of Steele and Hines and the flashes from Main and Smallwood are big plusses – and excellent support on the road have been vital ingredients in a season of progress too.
This season has ticked a lot of boxes. Not all of them though. Not good enough at home. Not enough goals. Not enough pace and width or flashes of creative magic, not ruthless enough to kill off dogged sides when they dig in.
We know all that. The gaffer knows it too. If he can address the weakness in the summer while keeping all the financial balls in the air during the big clear-out and reshuffle, and if we can make even just a bit more progress next term – not spectacular, inching wiil do – then next year’s finish may be much better. Five places, 12 points and 30 goals better would be nice but just one place better will do.
SOME things from today’s game:
Boro fans unveiled a massive Mogga “Our Hero” banner and chanted for him for five minutes at the start to defy the recent up-surge of kneejerk pitchfork sharpening…. Scott Loach was back after a dozen games on the bench and put in an unbelieveable display… Robbo was furious all day and stomped around snarling at all-comers including Mogga several times and a ball-boy who never returned it quickly enough yet after the game he was the nicest he has been in two years and warmly shook all the press boys hands without the slightest flash of psychotic anger…
The roar from the Boro end when news broke that Palace had scored in the first half was fantastic and all the players mentioned it after the game… Chris Iwulumo hadn’t scored since October (natch) and his shoulders were so wide he looked like he was wearing gridiron pads…. the McManus absolutely clattered Teessider Jonathan Hogg… the Watford fans had Boro’s life in the second half and quite rightly observed “that’s why you’re staying down” as a second half shot went out for a throw…
There was a nice touch at the end as Hoyte (on his way through the out door) went over to the Boro fans and wasn’t booed – he gave his shirt to a young fan and was warmly if not lovingly cheered. He is one of TEN players out of contract in the summer… Vicarage Road has four incongruous stands that look barely on speaking terms, one a crumbling eyesore that has been condemned for five years, is half demolished and is held together with gaffer tape and rust. Guess which one the press are in.