“You Have 20 Seconds To Let Fly”

GEORGE Friend, said Mogga, was “marauding up and down the left flank like Robocop”.
I think Robocop clunks and trundles aggressively burdened by all that hunter-killer hardware and weaponry rather than sprints gracefully but you take his point. It is a colourful turn of phrase that nicely captures the single-minded dedication to duty of a tireless man-machine on a hearts-and-minds mission to win the demoralised citizens of the Ironopolis to the forces of progress and waste the bad guys with his awesome firepower.
Well, maybe not that last bit.

Forward thinking Friend has been taking a scatter-gun approach in and around the box and peppering the area around the target from all angles and distances for weeks now without, as yet, actually hitting it.
And at one point in the assertive 2-0 win over Hull he missed when stood in space from about four feet out when a loose ball squirted at him after a bit of a scramble. Ooops.
But then, the laser sighting mechanism on the weaponry of cyborg Championship footballers is a fledgling technology. It still needs tweaking.
But Friend is getting closer. He has fired a fraction high and wide in recent outings and
grazed the woodwork once or twice then last night against Hull he rattled the bar with a point blank header.
“You have 20 seconds to let fly.”
And given that Boro can now boast 15 different scorers so far this season – Faris Haroun and Ishmael Miller were the latest additions to the net-busting roll of honour against the Tigers – it is only a matter of time. He’ll get there.
And surely I can’t be the only Teessider putting a ‘daft quid’ on him as first scorer every week. He is variously priced at between 28 and 40 to one depending on Boro’s chances. One day soon he will finally get his eye and in and we will all clean up. I’ll treat myself to a copy of the DVD. (And the Silver Bullet old school rap classic hip-hop fans)
But while the sights on his main artillery may need some fine-tuning, there is no doubt that fans’ favourite Friend is a potent weapon.
His surging runs forward down the left – and increasingly through the centre too – have become one of Boro’s best attacking outlets and one of the most exciting elements of the average game. There is a lot of bromance in the air for a player fast shaping up as the new Franck Queudrue.
He has a cavalier instinct to get forward and the pace, close control and bravery to seize an opportunity when it presents itself, put his head down and go. Fans love that.
His scything runs cutting in from the flank fire the imagination of the crowd, put the opposition on the back-foot and give Boro added bite adding width and bodies and options in attack. fans love that too. So does the boss. Joe who?
Against Hull Friend turned in a sizzling second half display of creative over-lapping and positive bursts forward that helped swing the game decisively Boro’s way. He was the creative catalyst for both goals.
He showed determination, drive and an unselfish gene once he got into shooting range as he engineered an impressive opener just before the hour mark.
Our heroes had scrambled away a ball into the box and Adam Reach was fouled by Dawson as he skipped out of the Boro area with intent. The referee played a great advantage and alert Friend deftly scooped up the loose ball and streaked 50 yards forward to glide past slow motion defenders and deep into the dangerzone before slotted a penetrating pass behind the last defender for Faris Haroooooooooooun to burst into the box to draw Amos and drill a low angled shot under the advancing keeper.
It was fantastic. A text book counter-attack and a composed finish for hard working Haroun but the star of the strike was Friend.
Then, after a scrappy spell in which Boro had to hold off a spirited Hull fight-back, Friend sparked the nerve settling second.
He cut down the left then sliced inside and wriggled between two defenders to the edge of the box to crack in a stinging shot that was well saved and when it looped kindly to Scott McDonald he put in an overhead effort that was gathered then spilled generously by the keeper for Big Ish – who put in an eye-catching shift up front that bodes well – to stab home his first goal for the club from close range.
Of course, while it is nice to have Robocop on your side, it wasn’t a one man show.
Well balanced Boro put in a very professional and polished performance and excelled in all departments and in a solid if not spectacular first half metronomic Grant Leadbitter and livewire Adam Reach were the pick of the bunch with their impressive industry and ambition on the ball.
Boro bossed the game and created some good chances but it was far from easy.
Hull had their share of the ball and a couple of spells of sustained but shapeless pressure and aside from a five second flurry – they hit the post and spooned the rebound wide – they only had one shot on target as a well organised Boro defence fought fiercely to clock up a second successive clean sheet.
In every area industrious Boro dominated the play. They out-worked Hull, contained them easily at the back and restricted them to the occasional long range effort, out-battled them in midfield and then clinically stretched them and patiently picked them apart to create a string of decent chances that initially went begging. It was great. Even at half-time with the game still goalless the outcome was inevitable.
Nerves started to creep in among the crowd as some braced themselves for a ‘typical Boro’ moment when the goal didn’t coem easily – when do they ever in this league? – but out on the pitch the team remained focussed and gradually wore Hull down.
Once the watershed goal went in there was no way back for a visiting side who lacked imagination and teeth. Boro should probably have had a few more goals in the end. Friend and Miller both missed gold plated chances, Leadbitter twice had testing in-swingers clawed out and the shot count was 17-1 in favour of Mogga’s men.
They attacked with pace, with Reach on the right and Friend getting down the left they had a nice balance and went for the jugular from the off rather than sitting back to assess the lie of the tactical land and risk the opposition imposing shape and tempo. It was good stuff: entertaining, enterprising and with a bit of zest. And of course Boro won.
So, three wins in a row, two clean sheets on the bounce and up to third spot and just three points off the top after 12 games and fans walking away buzzing. You’d have taken that if offered it back in August. Just think it they had held on against Derby. Or Leicester.
And it was a far cry from the purgatory of those sterile home games that induced an air of crisis just a few short weeks ago. But then, this is a crazy, mixed up and lawless division that needs to be taken by the throat with some assertive pro-active policing.


26 thoughts on ““You Have 20 Seconds To Let Fly”

  1. Dont understimate the imporance of that result. A couple more goals would have been brilliant but who cares about that.
    From my perspective it was good to hear that we were more positive from the off. Great and at the moment of the post we are third! Even Ishy scored but the keeper was out of the way thank heavens.

  2. I knew 14 games would be a better season-barometer than 10! Beat Bolton and it might be time to get a little bit excited.
    Friend looks a terrific signing, especially considering the outlay and the cash from the sale of Bennett. Good to see Reach back and you have to applaud TM for dropping Bailey and getting the balance right in midfield.
    Is it a clause in McEachran’s loan that he has to play? Not that I’m complaining. It’s just odd he’s never rested whilst all others, especially the younger players, are.
    Roll up Bolton, roll up Sunderland – “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me…” (Only other Robocop quote I could remember).
    **AV writes: “Stay out of trouble.”

  3. The tinkerman of Tony Mowbray left out Bailey. No good result yesterday, as we are still 3 points behind the top as per on Tuesday morning. Terrible.
    We have averaged just 1,83 points per match this season after 12 games. That’s just 84 points a season! Terrible.
    We have to get rid of the guy before he gets out of the league in May. Oooh, it’s a must win game against Bolton on Saturday.
    *smiles* Up the Boro!

  4. AV said ‘went for the jugular from the off rather than sitting back to assess the lie of the tactical land’. *facepalm*
    re arrange the following words into a well worn expression: ‘science it’s rocket not’
    I’ll buy that for a dollar*!
    *£27 cheapest walk up price so as not to annoy the ST holders

  5. Croydon Boro said: “AV said ‘went for the jugular from the off rather than sitting back to assess the lie of the tactical land’. *facepalm* – rearrange the following words into a well worn expression: ‘science it’s rocket not’
    Be careful you will be tarred with the same brush as me.
    Jarkko –
    I suspect Bailey needed a rest (just back from a spell out) and as the earlier part of my post hints maybe Mogga decided that 4-5-1 at home with four holding players doesnt exactly match front foot from the off.
    That is all we have been asking, for those there to see an intent to win and for those listening not to have the Ali ‘come on Higgy whats the matter’ met with ‘We are so slow out of the blocks, no tempo’ response from Higgy.
    And at last we have found the solution to Miller’s scoring. Three yards out in the six yard box, unchallenged, keeper on the floor.
    Whilst I am taking the mickey there is a valid point – you have to buy a ticket to win the lottery. Both McDonald and Miller were in the box.

  6. Very impressed with that win.
    By all accounts a very good hard working display with all the players contributing.
    Think there will be one change for Saturday with Woodgate coming back injuries aside that is as their big guns up front will need to be controlled.
    TM had a bit of width last night with Friend and Reach.
    Third spot and rolling… it’s good to be a Boro fan at the moment.Long may it continue.

  7. You know Tony…can I call you Tony? You know Tony, I really do want to read your articles, as I love Boro with a passion. But whenever I do, I get so bored, I either fall fast asleep or I have to leave my computer to go find a rope with which to hang myself. Furthermore, I only get 45 minutes for my lunch, and if I do manage to get through to the end (it’s only happened once!), it’s time to go back to the drawing board, no time for socialising. Can’t you make you stories shorter? Come on man, get to the point!
    **AV writes: You can criticise all you like… but you can’t call me Tony.

  8. AV, you forget to mention the number of times that Friend made interceptions, repeatedly nicking in front of his man to pinch the ball and set off towards the heart of the opposition. Best I’ve ever seen for doing that.
    Also, he had their tricky right-winger in his pocket all night. A real Footballer.

  9. Calamity Joe
    You leave our AV out of this! This blog is the best blog in the world and AV is God. The more he writes, the better it is as far as I’m concerned.
    Great win last night. Dead chuffed!

  10. A very satisfying performance. It made the drive home to S Yorkshire in the mist worth while and somehow that much quicker.
    Two ingredients we had last night that have been absent, pace and width. We moved the ball around quicker and whilst Reach was less effective than he has been in previous matches he makes a difference when in the team. Our passing and movement off the ball was good and what about George Friend, what a snip he is proving to be.
    At this stage if we can collect points as we come up to Christmas that will do for me. There is no outstanding team in the division so there is everything to play for. Twelve games in, the indicators are promising.

  11. I made a mad dash drive home through the fog to get in about 6.30 then logged on to MFC tickets online to validate my and my youngests Boro Pride cards but to no avail. I could book the car park but not get two seats as the facility wasnt available.
    So off we went to the ground and after parking in Riverside Rd and walking briskly to the ticket office in the NE corner about 15 minutes to KO the shutters were down. I then thought if they have shut the ticket counters already we couldn’t get in.
    I remembered seeing people queuing at the South Stand ticket office so ran back to the South stand and breathlessly purchased one Adult and one Junior ticket. Once inside we grabbed two drinks and two burger and chips. The evenings experience cost me over £50.
    A few things of note:
    Why do the club make it a “challenge Annika” (showing my age) competition to attend? Fortunately I am in employment and can afford to attend and will be there again on Saturday with my Son and probably like as not one of his mates as well so I will have parted with well over £100 this week alone. The result last night made the experience worth it in the end but a reality check needs to take place based upon my efforts to support Boro last night.
    That obviously means the suits at MFC but more importantly the League look at their fixture list. If that game was over Christmas the likelihood us another 10,000 would have appeared which is vital income to any club, added to that two consecutive Home games in the same week for forces many people to choose which match as they cannot afford/justify the expense.
    On the game itself, we looked steady and mostly comfortable. I thought Bikey was class firing his team mates up and telling them to get up the pitch, Friend was even better than French Franck, Leadbitter was everywhere and when Scotty came on we looked like we had strikers on the pitch who were getting in where they should be, in the oppositions box. No surprise then that Miller’s goal was a tap in from Scotty’s volley.
    Well done to every one of them and really looking forward to Saturday! COB
    Apologies for typos, iPhones do not make the best word processors!

  12. Redcar Red –
    The skin of the teeth trip? Been there, done that.
    You could have done like Arsenal. Private jet from Luton to Norwich, 14 minute flight.
    In your case a private helicopter maybe?

  13. George ‘Robobcop’ Friend – I like that, I suspect it will stick. Mogga has played a blinder in selling Bennett for £2.5mil and replacing him with a great player for 100 grand.
    There seems to be a head of steam building on Teesside , beating two top six teams in succession with some of our best players missing is a good sign. It bodes well for later in the season when we hopefully will have all our best players available which will give us the opportunity of maintaining the momentum. Last season we struggled against the top six sides, not so this season so far.

  14. AV have not seen the crowd figure for Tuesday was it better or just inflated.
    **AV writes: It was announced as 14,129 but it looked a bit thin. Hard to say. Certainly more than Derby but that figure was way out from reality.

  15. TomfromSA and AV –
    I suppose that as long as the attendance figures are counted the same way at least you can compare.
    Taking off the away fans we were plodding along at an average of 14800 home fans until the defeat against Leicester.
    Against Derby we were around 1700 short of that figure.
    Since Derby we have had two away wins, historically that would have brought a boost to a Tuesday night fixture. Historically means back to Ayresome Park days.
    But Hull saw another 350 through the gate. Just maybe come Saturday we can get back up to early season numbers. Going back to the post 66 promoton season that was how figures built up from an early low base. It wasnt until Xmas against Darlo we started breaking the top attendance figure week by week.
    Heres hoping
    **AV writes: Just had an interesting meeting with Steve Gibson on the ticketing issues. Some interesting stuff in the Gazette tomorrow.

  16. AV –
    Are you now accepted in to the portals of MFC? Were there ‘stewards’ with ill fitting MFC suits ringing the wall of the office when you spoke? Did they twitch when you reached for the custard cream?
    When I saw you on the video I sensed a touch of Uncle Eric, a certain gravitas pervaded your persona.
    **AV writes: Video *shudder* not really my medium. That’s Phil’s job.

  17. AV, what was the English word we used to tweet when the opposition scored a goal against Boro? I don’t remember but think it started with letter b.
    *Still in the cloud nine* Up the Boro!

  18. “Just had an interesting meeting with Steve Gibson on the ticketing issues. Some interesting stuff in the Gazette tomorrow.”
    The suspense is killing me. Do us foreigners get a chance to read this?
    **AV writes: The details of the first response will be in paper and on-line tomorrow, plus the other forums and papers will no doubt pick it up. Much of it was about finances and as was “off the record” but I’ll try and write something about the general thrust. More to follow in the weeks to come as the details are fine-tuned.

  19. Dear Mr Ian Gill –
    re: your earlier challenge to “rearrange the following words into a well worn expression: ‘science it’s rocket not”
    The phrase “it’s not rocket science” has become one of those popular misnomers – rocket science, as such, is not actually that complicated relatively speaking. It is essentially advanced mechanical engineering, whereas something like applied quantam physics is a good deal more demanding.
    If you really wanted to make the point, “it’s not brain surgery” would do the trick. Or, as one of my favourite mixed metaphors puts it, “it’s not rocket surgery”. That’ll get them thinking in the North Stand 🙂

  20. **AV writes: Just had an interesting meeting with Steve Gibson on the ticketing issues. Some interesting stuff in the Gazette tomorrow.
    A Jersey Junket? Or Rockcliffe Revelry? Or just a boring old Telephone Talk with a cup of lukewarm machine coffee?
    **AV writes: Full on, no holds barred head to head, two falls, two submissions or a knockout Teesside debate. Frank dialogue and hopefully productive.

  21. Interesting Stuff from Steven Gibson on ticketing issues??
    Maybe ears have been listening to the clamour on this blog, begging the club to attempt a pro-active approach to the question of the falling crowds. SOMETHING must surely be better than doing NOTHING.
    Unless, that is, the plan is simply to cross the fingers and hope against hope that this surge in form can be maintained, and promotion to the Land of Milk and Honey will follow. Now that would increase the crowds next year!
    But I suspect that even if we were playing Man Utd, Newcastle or Arsenal in the Premier League next year, the days of 35,000 crowds are over. We might put 10K on our present figures but I guess that’s as far as it would go. (I will keep my fingers crossed anyway…).

  22. We have beaten teams above in the last two games. We now play Bolton who are fifteen places below us. Typical Boro would get slaughtered but can we be untypical for a change?

  23. Dreadful Dennis
    It wasnt my post, I was merely repeating someone elses comments.
    There again maybe rocket science is quite apt. For rockets to take off they need to go forward, use of side and reverse thrusters will not result in take off.

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