A Cruel Blow For Proud Boro

FOOTBALL can be a very cruel game.
Proud Boro out-played a high-flying Premier League side for over an hour. On their own patch. Then they were beaten by a very harsh late own goal off a player having a stormer. And after a couple of game changing injuries. To come away empty-handed after the most wicked of watershed moments has got to sting.

It was cruel for the team. And a cruel twist of the knife for Seb Hines in particular. And unbearably cruel too for the long haul loyalists who treked there and back through atrocious conditions to take Boro’s gruelling 12 game League Cup away day expedition through the 4,000 mile barrier.
The team will feel the result was a bitter blow after their industry and heroics. They had more than matched the current Premier League Barca-lite media darlings in every department until the bitter blow. If anything they were the better team throughout.
As at Sunderland, Boro looked brighter, more organised, more coherent, more motivated, more enterprising and far more likely to score. For the majority of the game it was hard to discern any sign of a quality gap.
So Boro will rightly be disappointed. They did just about everything right.
Mogga’s men shackled Swansea in their own half, pressed high up the pitch at an insistent tempo with the tireless front pair closing down quickly to prevent the home side building from the back and preventing them playing their natural game. They harried and hassled and forced them into ragged mistakes to win the ball and then struck quickly on the break. With the game plan being rigourously applied, in the first half Boro created by far the better chances and threatened more often and more convincingly .
The midfielders chased and contained and tackled them surged forward quickly when Boro broke at pace and carved through a shaky Swans back line with real intent. Grant Leadbitter had three good chances but brought one full length save and blazed the other two straight at the keeper. On another day one of those would have gone in and had that happened there is a decent chance Boro would be in the hat now – Swansea would have to chase the game and more space would have opened to exploit.
And Boro were impressively tight at the back too. They stifled the space, smothered the Premier League’s top scorer Michu and with some superb tight marking, timely tackling and brave blocking left the shot-shy Swans frustrated. We got away with a few scrapes as high-risk challenges went unpunished and Bikey got away with what was described on twitter as an “crocodile death roll of a tackle”. You felt it was to be our night.
When Swansea did find a rare sight of goal Jason Steele was almost unbeatable. He made an incredible save just as the tide was turning, going full length to stretch and tip a free-kick zipping towards top corner onto the bar.
That was pretty much Swansea’s only self-made moment of danger, although after injuries to Faris Haroun and Andre Bikey disrupted Boro’s rhythm the Welsh side certainly had more of the play and started to apply some heavy pressure for a nervous spell of 10 minutes or so.
But reshaped Boro looked to have weathered that and be holding them. Extra-time was looming. And beyond that, who knew? Many were daring to dream.
So it was painfully cruel on impressive Seb Hines that the wicked winner came zipping g off his head as he went to clear from a routine corner. Questions can be asked about the absence of a body on the post. It was one positional slip in an otherwise solid display, one second, one mistake. How cruel is that?
It followed a blistering 10 minute spell in which Hines – arguably Boro’s Man of the Match – had been immense, stepping into the enormous chasm left by Bikey to add a more physical edge to his game, winning everything in the air and putting in a series of last gasp sliding challenges to close off the danger as Swansea started to turn the screw.
Fate teased him further as the death as he was gifted a chance of redemption at the other end and climbed to meet an inviting cross in but the Swans keeper got a hint of a fingernail to the ball and just tweaked the trajectory enough to mean his close range header squirted over instead of in to book extra-time. Harsh.
And spare a thought for the fans. The outcome was cruel too for the travelling army of 709 Teessiders who made the 11 hour, 644 mile round trip through freezing fog and traffic chaos and who limped back bleary eyed to meet the milkman.
The supporters can be proud of themselves. A far bigger contingent than would have made the journey the other way out-sang the muted home crowd throughout. They did themselves and the team proud.
There was an echo of the FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford when Steve McClaren’s spirited underdogs had the edge over mighty Arsenal on the pitch and out-sung them off it only to be beaten by a bobble and a deflection off Trojan Luca Festa’s shinpad.
And the agony for Tony Mowbray didn’t end with the result.
The knockout came with injury added to insult: both Haroun and Bikey limped off holding hamstrings – changes that altered the rhythm of the team and dynamic of the game – while in the closing stages there were a couple of other walking wounded looking to be carrying bumps and bruises. Friend looked to be struggling with the phyical demands of his first game back while Andy Halliday was walking tenderly too.
Those blows could prove every bit as costly as the cup exit. Boro have some tough games looming and already have some key players sidelined. We can’t afford to lose any more influential figures, even for just a few games, if we are to push on towards promotion – and that was always the priority.
Boro must now refocus quickly for the visit of Wolves and regain momentum in the league. Immediately. There is no time to smart or bemoan our luck.
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup led the plaudits for battling Boro’s spirit display and predicted the fixture will be restaged next term in the Premier League. It is up to Boro to live up to that billing now. The praise will count for little if the team now falter where it really counts: in the Championship.
They must take heart and inspiration from their show at Swansea – and at Sunderland too – and must channel that raised level of performance into the bread and butter battles of the Championship.


17 thoughts on “A Cruel Blow For Proud Boro

  1. I finally got my damned satelite to work seconds before Swansea scored. They switched to a shot from behind the goal as they were preparing to take the corner and I screamed “there’s no-one on the @#$%* back post”.
    Fundamental when I was a lad….

  2. I don’t wish to appear negative but all I can think of is we have went from an established Premier League club to plucky under dogs in three seasons.
    Well at least now we can concentrate on the league,(FA cup permitting)

  3. I echo every word you said AV, a very proud Boro fan today, the defeat hasnt even ruined my day as other defeats have,
    The game wasnt a classic , but we showed alot of character, I think what the game did highlight as far as we are concerned is some speed on the wing or in the hole behind a front man, where coming off the bench late in games may make a difference when the home team starts pressing,
    However like I said very proud of the lads.

  4. The biggest disappointment has to be the injuries, the list on the Gazette article is a concern.
    The display was encouraging but it begs the question why we can play the Swans off the pitch and adopt ridiculous, self defeating tactics at home to Barcelona City.
    Enough of that and fingers crossed for the contents of the treatment room.
    Well done to Hines and he shouldnt worry about the goal.

  5. Absolutely spot on AV, great summary of a cruel night.
    watched the game streamed on the internet (why did sky ignore it?) inspired and proud of a fantastic display. We simply must gain a promotion spot. With the same attitude, commitment and desire we will. Come on my Boro!

  6. I can only echo the comments made by AV and gt.
    Well done all the Boro lads and the fans. I saw the match live on TV in Latvia while travelling there. You outshout the opposition all night long. As the team out played the opposition. Suprising happy after a draw (the injuries permitting).
    We have a chance to play in the PL next year. Perhaps we need Downing and Danny Graham back in January. Dare I think of …
    A top match by Seb Hines – forger the goal. Up the Boro.

  7. A battling performance by the Boro away to a good, and improving, Premier League Swansea. Several Premier League teams this season will be well beaten by Swansea and I can see that, having come so close, it is difficult to take the result.
    The injury list is worrying, though. Quite apart from the others, the hamstring injuries to Hoyte and Bikey, and the fact that Leadbitter and Haroun both had to be subbed due to “tight hamstrings” according to the Gazette, is very alarming. FOUR hamstring-related injuries in one game. Surely that has to be more than a coincidence. What are they doing in the warm-up?
    Hopefully Halliday and Hines (and Leadbittter + Haroun?) are not so much injured as just not quite 100% and that a couple of days rest and massage might do the job.
    If Seb Hines feels down in the dumps over his own-goal, he might care to read the match report by Graham Clutton in the Daily Telegraph in which he gets a good write-up. He is described as having been “impeccable” before the “cruel blow” of having his header slice past Steele for the Swans’ goal.
    In fact the article refers to “The Premier League outfit…(being)…out-thought and out-fought for much of the game” before the late own-goal. Bearing in mind some of us might be accused of watching the Boro through red and white tinted glasses, it is interesting to see the National Press saying positive things about the team. Perhaps we are right, after all?
    Anyway, we must now knuckle down to the hard work of securing the BIG prize on offer this season. And I am not talking about the 3rd Round FA Cup tie against Hastings now they have won their replay against Harrogate on penalties. We have half a season to go. We can say with certainty that we will not play a Championship team this season as good as the Swansea side we took so close last night.
    The BIG prize is definitely within reach.

  8. Also becoming a couch spud in Africa. Game was on TV live again… I’ve never had it so good since the Prem days.
    As you have stated the turning point was when Faris and Bikey left the pitch.
    Their player had his hands all over Bikey before he went down. Not a penalty in my eyes.
    As for the forwards they did not back off City when they came out of defence and got some tackles in to break down the build up. This stopped them playing the normal game. And hats off to the fans a long way in bad conditions.
    Now for Wolves. Don’t have a clue what sort of team we are going to put out.
    We keep being reminded that our injury problems are no worse than anybody else but really we were just coming out of a bad batch and within a week we are in another one.

  9. Great report, AV. Thanks for all of your efforts through the atrocious conditions.
    On the injury front I posted a couple of weeks ago that Ben Gibson’s form had dipped at Tranmere, that he looked to me to be playing through a groin injury, and that Mogga might well wish to check the situation out. I don’t know whether Mogga saw this, but that is exactly what he appears to have done.
    Tranmere have such a desperately small squad that Ronnie Moore has been playing quite a number of younger players who are not fully fit , and who should not really be on the pitch at all.
    Ben pulled out late on for last Saturday’s game, Moore saying that this had been at Boro’s insistence. Which suggests to me that he might otherwise have played. My sources tell me that Tranmere’s physio has been concerned about Ben’s condition for some time, but that the lad himself has wished to play through it, and that Moore has gone along with this.
    All of this smacks to me of Moore being more concerned with his club’s (and his own) short term interests than Ben’s (and the Boro’s) longer term future. There is even talk now that Ben may need an operation and be out of the game for a few months, just at the time when it looks as though we may be in need of his services. There has to be a suspicion that this may not have been necessary had Ben been properly rested.
    How does all of this tie in with the information you have been getting at your end?

  10. Mogga is concerned about lack of preparation time. The bits I am bothered about are injuries and recovery time.
    With the football abilities within the squad they should be able to go out and play against anyone in this division. Stick to press, move and pass. Easier said than done when half the squad have hammies and soft tissue damage.
    I see Walcott looks like he wants to leave Arsenal, we could with some cover at centre-back, can he head the ball?
    On another tack someone mentioned the worry of Chelsea recalling McEachran. Seems unlikley with Benitez whose first comment on arriving at Liverpool was the need to get the Scouse element out of the team.
    He divorced the first team from Melwood and froze out Heighway (Rockcliffe and Parnaby equivalents). When there are 60 million people living in Spain I suspect one Chelsea academy prospect is far down his shopping list.
    If we go up and the waiter is still in charge at Chelsea I would fully expect us to sign Josh. Even if we don’t I know one premiership team he wont be playing for.

  11. One word seems to sum it all up:
    PROUD – Of the way every single man in the team stepped up to and beyond the challenge that was asked of them. We were not beaten we were robbed – I cannot concede defeat after such a display of skill, talent, determination and character.
    PROUD – Of the travelling Boro fans – I always listen to the commentary and our away fans overpower the opposition fans everytime.
    PROUD – Of the way Mogga is shaping up “his” team (after a year in office)to be more than capable of competing against some of the Prem teams. And playing nice some football to do it too!
    PROUD – to be a Boro Supporter!

  12. I think whilst reaching the final would have been nice it would probably have dented our promotion push. Being greedy it would have been nice to have both but being realistic there is only one target for me and that is promotion.
    It was a graceful exit and one which we cannot be down about, now lets keep the positivity and start putting away our chances!

  13. Clive Hurren at 12.44pm –
    thanks for the link. What a good article! I have heard George Friend on the radio and he seems a very grounded, intelligent and articulate young man. What a cracking buy. I like the cut of his jib!

  14. jillan69 –
    Mogga has been here two years but it matters not because we are moving forward.
    I am looking forward to a good result against Wolves but I am concerned about who will be available. Tomorrow is result football. Start on the front foot and dont let a big physical side get going.
    Let them settle in and we could have problem.

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