ON THE whistle at the Valley jubilant Mark Proctor was on the pitch conducting celebrations in front of the away end – through the medium of mime!
Smiling first team coach and long time Boro icon Proc was orchestrating the ecstatic EIOing with the international recognised gesture for a taunting chorus of: ‘Easy! Easy! Easy!”
Of course, it wasn’t ‘easy.’ It never is in this league and for the best part of an hour the game at Charlton was scrappy and finely poised – but a 4-1 away win is always worth milking so you can’t blame Proc or the 1,600 noisy supporters enjoying it to the max.
It’s a great time to be a Boro fan as the stats and the momentum build.
The team are flying and playing some entertaining and effective football with a spring in their step. They are joint top after a sizzling sequence and have just knocked the hapless Mackems out of the League Cup. After a couple of frustrating, fallow, fruitless years it feels like a lot of pieces are starting to fall into place in a very positive picture.
And some very impressive stats are starting to stack up as bubbling Boro build momentum.
Tony Mowbray’s side have now rattled up six wins in a row; five in the league plus the 1-0 away win at Sunderland to book a last eight place in the Credit Card Cup.
That marked up-turn came after a tough week at the Riverside when Boro took just one point from six. They lost the lead late on to go down 2-1 to Leicester then again leaked at the death in a 2-2 draw with Derby that felt like defeat.
They have also clocked up six away wins in a row in all competitions. Which is nice.
That run goes back to the small screen spectacular when Boro emphatically beat then unbeaten leaders Blackburn. The streak also includes winning at then form side Brighton, Preston in a monsoon designed for giant-killing plus victory at our ‘hard to beat’ top flight neighbours.
And that purple patch came after a bruising run of three successive away defeats at Barnsley, Millwall and – ouch – Blackpool that had the alarm bells ringing. Panic over.
There’s another nice stat on the scoresheet too. With Jonathan Woodgate getting his first goal in two spells for Boro – a cracking header it was too – and Richard Smallwood stabbing home late on there have already been 17 different net-busters.
Come on Grant, George and Hoytey. Get your fingers out.
And it goes on. The five league wins on the bounce is the best run since 1995/96 when Bryan Robson’s side – powered by the Midget Gems – hit top gear in September and October to reach the lofty heights of fourth in the Premier League.
The start is now the best since 1986/87 – and that includes four promotions into the top flight and last term’s sprint start. Boro’s have taken 28 points from nine wins and a draw in the first 14 games. That equals the haul that Bruce Rioch’s post-liquidation side – with Mogga as skipper – got from eight wins and four draws. But that was in division three.
Perhaps potentially the most significant stat is that steely, resilient Boro have now taken more points after coming from behind than any other team in the Championship: 13. Lucky for some.
Boro have come from behind to win in three of their last five league games: away at Watford, at home to Bolton and then again at Charlton.
As well as those salvaged situations, Boro have struck back to win 3-2 at home to Burnley and to draw 2-2 with Derby – although in that game they also conceded late on in that and had to settle for a single unsatisfying point.
What has been most impressive in the recent fight-backs is that having gone behind Boro did not panic. They kept their nerve, they kept their shape, they kept their belief.
At Watford they conceded a goal in the opening minute after a Bikey back-pass but hit back with a steely show and despite having to reorganise because of injury they played with panache and zest and teeth.
Against Bolton they were bossing the game but went behind after a cruel deflection teed up Lee but stepped up a gear after the break to take complete control.
And at Charlton they responded to leaking with a tangible confidence in their ability to retrieve the situation, with a renewed attacking thrust and with a ruthless cutting edge.
And, crucially, the supporters shared that resolve too. There was no despair or anger at going behind. No nervous gnashing and wailing. Fans are starting to believe too.
Naturally cautious Mogga has dismissed the mounting stats as irrelevant at this stage – as he will no doubt play down the Manager of the Month gong when it surely arrives this week. He has a point. You don’t win any prizes in November. And as he recalled, we were making similar noises at this stage last year.
A year ago we were talking about an all time record run of eight away wins in a row going back into the previous season and the best start – 11 games unbeaten – in a century. But despite that Boro fell short.
However, compared to last season when injuries and a lack of goal threat in too many games took their toll, this year’s model Boro look a better balanced outfit, are mentally tougher and have added bottle and belief. And goals.
And – despite having to cope with an early rash of injury blows – they are ahead of where they were last season. After 14 games last term Boro had just suffered a 3-0 mauling at Southampton hot on the heels of the contractual obligation defeat at Forest. The early unbeatable awayday zing had fizzled out:
And at home it was turning into a grind. Boro had just beaten Derby but before that had laboured to four draws including against lowly Millwall and Coventry when as they leaked late goals.
By comparison this year Boro have corrected an early bout of travel sickness and crucially have also shored up home form. They have lost just once and drawn just once at home. They have won five from seven. Boro have taken 16 points from seven games at home which is not a bad return. In fact, the Riverside is becoming a Fortress.
It won’t be easy but that could be been where we build the stats that matter come May.