Huddersfield: A Mist Opportunity

ANOTHER mist opportunity. Boro somehow fumbled their way into the lead in a game shrouded with mutual vagueness – and then promptly lost their way again in a frustrating but now familiar failure.
Having groped into a winning position they contrived to blunder down a blind alley again, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.



Boro were in the lead heading into the final few minutes, although the goal came out of the grey in a patchy game that looked dead set for a gloomy goalless draw.
And the Boro supporters peering hopefully from the boastfully named “Fantastic Media Stand” at the other end will not have seen much of Scott McDonald getting the opener.
The travelling Tees contingent of nearly a thousand had spent long spells chanting “we can’t see the flipping ball” and when the ball was bundled home demanded the identity of the scorer with the demand “who the flipping hell was that?” I’m paraphrasing obviously.
The busy Aussie – one of a very few Boro players who could hold their heads up after a woeful collapse – literally ghosted in at the far post to stab home the opener, a shadowy figure looming eerily from the mist to get to Sammy Ameobi’s ball across the face of goal and stab home.
At that point it looked like Boro would pull off what looked an unlikely victory at the break.
Hot on the heels of the Cardiff victory it looked like Boro had barged back into play-offs and the winter wobble was over.
For a while it seemed the main danger to that was the fog and a possible abandonment.
The game kicked off in a thin veil but it had thickened as the game wore on and by the time Boro netted an orange ball had been unearthed from the seventies and the fog was billowing in like dry ice at a Spinal Tap gig.
At that point Boro were on top. Huddersfield’s heads were down and after a couple of poor decisions had gone against them – there was a hint of offside for the goal – they had lost their discipline and lost their way.
It looked like three points were in the bag. Get the whistle blown, let’s get out of here.
But this team are mentally weak. They lack concentration, application and a ruthless instinct to win by hook or by crook. They are dogged by repeated basic errors and are institutionally vulnerable at set plays.
Once again the brittle defence folded under late pressure from a limited but spirited opposition, the basic flaw that has seen the promising foundations of the season crumble.
The fans had an excuse for failing to see the Huddersfield goals coming as much of the second half was played in the thick, swirling fog rolling in from the bleak moors.
But the Boro team can have no such mitigation.
Once again they were the architects of their own downfall with some woeful defending.
Tony Mowbray as a solid old school centre-half will be rightly embarrassed and angry at letting slip another winning position with two preventable self-inflicted wounds.
The first was a catalogue of errors with a cheaply conceded corner off George Friend – it was a surprise it didn’t deflect in – leading to a free header, then Jason Steele fumbled it in the six yard box and unmarked Alan Lee, on the pitch barely a minute, rammed home unchallenged.
The second, a real enamel shattering kick in the teeth, came deep in stoppage time as a casual Ameobi ball was cut out leaving Danny Ward to amble forward with Boro nervously backing off leaving him to fire in from 20 yards.
It was a good shot. He leathered it and it flew fast and true and he will be buzzing over it – but it should never have been unleashed.
He should never have had the ball. A careless ball with seconds left is suicide. It should have been in Row Z or down near their corner-flag. He should he been closed, tackled, hassled, fouled even, not allowed to trundle unhindered into shooting distance and pick his spot.
It was a devastating blow that will deepen the crisis of faith gripping Teesside.
Boro had been ahead but even at that point it had been a very poor performance. They had been disjointed and nervous in the first half. They were swamped in midfield by Huddersfield’s hard-working five and struggling to get and retain the ball.
Both the full backs were being roasted by the home side’s pace down the flanks and the defence was living dangerously in the box. They looked sluggish and scrambled the ball away unconvincingly and with better finishing Huddersfield would have had the game wrapped up long before the break.
Going forward Boro offered little. Sammy Ameobi was barely recognisable from the electric figure who administered CPR to a flagging season. He could barely control the ball and rarely found width, let alone a team-mate.
And Ishmael Miller, impressive on Saturday, was awkward and ineffective and spent a lot of time clambering up from the deck after slipping.
At the break Boro had only had one shot “on target”, a weak poked 20 yarder from Miller that the keeper had casually bent down to collect.
In the second half they pressed more, passed more and had plenty of fruitless possession in the Huddersfield half while the hosts had lost their zip. It seemed to be fizzling into a frustrating bore draw that at 70 minutes both sides would probably have accepted as a useful point.
I know I would. If only because the longer a game goes on the more nervous Boro become and as the pressure rises and mistakes creep in and the more likely they will concede.
Brittle Boro have now lost five games and drawn one from winning positions at the cost of 17 precious points. At the cost of a top two place.
They were leading against Leicester and lost 2-1 and against Barnsley and lost 3-2 at home while on the road they have imploded to lose 3-2 at Birmingham, 2-1 Leeds and now 2-1 at Huddersfield. They also let slip a solid lead to draw 2-2 at home to Derby.
If you want to make sense of how a promising position in the table has been squandered you need to start there.
It comes down to being able to see games out – figuratively as well as literally – and that has to stem from elementary defending, the ability to resist and relieve pressure.
Yes, the back-line has been chopped and changed far too often but it is a fundamental skill set for defenders that should be second nature for whoever is selected.
And not just the defence. The whole team, whoever plays, should be able to deal with what is a predictable and routine test of their ability. Especially in the Championship
Unless Boro can master that most basic problem – and quickly – then they will find it impossible to claw back into the play-offs.
And if they did how could they cope with the pressures of a high-stakes knockout?

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65 thoughts on “Huddersfield: A Mist Opportunity

  1. Lets just take it one game at a time from now until the end of the season.
    Mogga’s teams are notoriously poor defensively as well as being equally notorious for wonderful passing. Lets hope Mogga’s passing game outweighs his defensive frailties between now and April.
    Lower our expectations and our hopes will not be dashed. I didn’t even bother to knee jerk after another “Typical Boro” performance mid week so that’s progress and if that fails there is always over the counter and prescribed medication to fall back on.
    In the likely event we are where we are come May lets see what we have come the middle of August and then plan ahead with more departures and even less finances. Its not as bad as ’86 just yet but not as good as Robbo’s Revolution.
    I’m starting to settle down to expect a decade or so of a repeat of the Stan Anderson era at best, a manager in it for the long term. The reality this Summer of course is that expecting more from even less is unrealistic.
    Its a bit like watching a rerun of Only Fools and Horses, you know what happens next but there is nothing better on elsewhere so you just sit there brain dead absorbing whats in front of you only this time you start to notice the background props, things like the flock wallpaper or beer mats with fictitious brewery names to make up for the predictability of it all.
    We will soon be without many of the “moaning experts” sat behind us as we settle down to mediocrity and selling our young prospects to pay the bills. Trying to find a seat where the roof doesn’t leak, dripping smog laden rainwater down the back of our necks as the 5,000 or so loyalists chants of “Come on Boro” echo around the broken and faded pink plastic seats watching ethically and morally correct football. Dreaming of the past and longing for the sight of a sodden brown leather Caser, waxed moustaches, baggy shorts with big black ankle boots and laces longer than Saltburn Pier. Days when managers wore brown demob suits and trench coats from Army surplus stores.
    I feel like the Ghost of Boro yet to come, just wondering what form the turkey will be sent to the Cratchit’s Riverside Home.

  2. Isn’t this all a bit familiar from last season?
    I would like to know last seasons from and compare it to this year and see how we have played match for match since the turn of 2012 and 2103 respectively. I bet it would be pretty similar – IE crap.
    Simple fact is we haven’t learnt anything and maintain to be a very suspect club both on and off the pitch.
    For the sake of the fans sanity I wish Mr. Gibson would come out and tell the truth for once; if we haven’t got a penny I’d like to know!
    Great article again AV, as an expat living on the other side of the pond your match reports give me the ability to speak to my family about the plight of our season. Keep it up.
    **AV writes: To be fair, Gibbo and Mogga – and we at the Gazette – have repeatedly, almost weekly, made it crystal clear on a tape loop: Boro have no money. We are not in danger. We are not in debt. But we have no surplus money to spend. None. It is almost unbelievable anyone out there isn’t aware of that.

  3. Have all our defenders got lead in their boots? Cardiffs’ goal and Hudder’s first goal were both scored by players who hardly left the ground,at least Mogga is starting to acknowledge our defensiove frailties.
    Tony Adams in his book said that to be a good defender you have to be proactive and not reactive ie you attack the ball before the opposition and do not react when it’s too late. Like Mogga says it looks he his going to have to make big changes at the back for next season.
    Jason Steele is also suffering a calamitous spell and I am starting to believe my mate who doesn’t rate him at all saying he is not commanding enough around the box.
    This team has no chance of making the playoffs so Mogga may as well start preparing for next season and give our promising youngsters this “experience” he has beens spouting on about.

  4. Tosh –
    No date I am afraid and I take your point it may seem unlikely.
    Redcar Red may well be right about a Stan Anderson era.
    I think it will happen.

  5. Mr Average –
    I have also followed Boro since the mid-70’s and also think that we hear more negavity in modern times. Especially on the internet – I think this whinging and negavity is built into the internet forums. And the “desease” is spreading all to the stands and pubs I am afraid.
    That is why this blog is so great as you cannot get the instant reponses on here. After a day or two you seem to realise where we are as a club and that a defeat is not the end of the day.
    I am hugely disappointed by the recent results, too. But the last couple of results do not have an effect on me supporting my bonnie Boro. Still there is a slight chance we end up in play-offs in May – even if that means two points per game. But we dd that earlier this season…
    I hope you keep on supporting Boro, instead of your fellow “fans”. I am sure the same is happening all over the Sky Sports sponsored football, I am afraid.
    Up the Boro!

  6. Do you know two tinker men who lost 2-1 on Tuesday?
    Of course they are our Mogga and Sir Alex. Below I have pasted some comments made to BBC by Sir Alec.
    “Wayne Rooney understood the reasons completely (why he did not play). Tactically we got it right. We don’t always but we did then.
    “Welbeck is the best player we have in terms of operating a double role. We had to chalk out Xabi Alonso’s ability to control the game, which he did, and also his ability to go further forward as an attacking player.
    “I left out Shinji Kagawa after he scored a hat-trick. I thought I would get more stick for that.”
    If Sir Alec can get the tactics wrong after all the experience he has, we cannot blame Mogga to get it wrong occasionally (OK last two months been terrible). So let’s give Mogga some more time – I hope he will be still here as a manager in 2030. He’ll be our Sir Tony by then.
    Up the Boro!

  7. A little off the thread, but I have just started a new job this week and one of the guys in the office is a great nephew of Bobby Baxter “a dominating central defender and a great tackler” for the Boro in the 30s and 40s. Although he is a “Jambo” himself, he proudly carries a cigarette card of his Great Uncle in his wallet.
    It must be a good omen …..

  8. As Saturday approaches the hopes start building again.
    We won five in a row away from home earlier in the season and form is a fickle thing.
    Nigel mentions players being tired, they probably are but I bet if we were in second or third there would be no talk of tiredness.
    We may be a bit wearied by the results and performances but it must be worse for the players. A bit of luck and a win would give everyone a boost especially away from home.
    It would change from needing to win seven to we could afford to lose a couple. Then those six pointers against Brighton and Forest and who is to say Hull and Palace wont stumble.
    Ian Dury and the BoroFans (AKA The Blockheads) ‘Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3’

  9. As an ex Teessider now living in Ireland and still following the Boro games, I feel for the supporters watching Mowbray’s shamble of a team week in week out lets face it, the manager has lost the plot.
    The “he wears his heart on his sleeve” “He’s Boro through and through” comments dont mean a fig in modern day professional football, just look at Bobby Robson at Newcastle the fans got shot of him because he could not come up with the goods. Get wise fans, there is no money in the coffers at the cub, and Moggas tried his best and failed.
    I can’t come up with the name of one current player who would have made the bench in a Charlton/ Anderson/ Robson team, admittedly the latter had pots of money to spend, but at least you came away from the ground having watched a match and I dare say would still be there if he had dumped his number two at the right time.
    In closing, I ask the question. Has Jason Steele got a similar contract as Mark Swartzer had, whereby if he is fit he plays, the lad leaks goals for fun, his under study must be pulling his hair out as to what he has to do to play.
    Regards and best of luck to the team.
    Keith

  10. AV you wrote: “I think the club need to elaborate a new Red Book manifesto with a whole swathe of (non-financial) aims and objectives that supporters can rally around and feel part of.”
    What non financial aims do you have in mind? Are you blogging about emotional values, some ties to the club and town that don’t offer financial incentives?
    I do feel that a financial incentive if you are laying out a whole season cost before a ball has been kicked is important. But then again, the promise or guarantee of something other than the price of a game might equally be important (the guarantee of two cup final tickets for example is a non financial aim no matter how far fetched it may be). Please share your ideas AV I am interested.
    **AV writes: I would like the club and fans to break from the idea that the season ticket is a primarily financial relationship. That invites complaints based on finances, prevents the club effectively operating price based ticket initiatives and sets up cultural divisions between a season ticket ‘elite’ and the important 15,000 who have drifted or are priced out but who are crucial to the future.
    There has to be a recognition that a lot of people want/can only offer different levels of flexible commitment that fall short of attending every game and they are all equally important and valid supporters. It is NOT all or nothing,
    There has to be a mechanism that facilitates that without alienating the season ticket base. I would like that mechanism as the basis of a wider inclusive membership scheme that is open to all who declare themselves as Boro fans. It could/shoud include genuine fans representation and consultation, a revived evangelical Junior Reds set up, satelite supporters clubs in the hinterland with players speaking, closer links with community groups and schools, raffles for fans to win trips to the training ground and hospitality packages, birthday cards for kids, first crack at ticket offers etc.
    The possibilities are endless but it must be based on fan engagement.

  11. Mr Average, if only there was more like you.
    However, I have made my displeasure known about the past ticketing fiascos during the good times. Apart from that I consider myself a ‘supporter’ even though I hardly ever attend anymore.
    Being a supporter means staying loyal in spirit. Could I ask, have you ever booed the team? I suspect you have not indulged in such a pointless, counter productive act.

  12. Ian –
    surely it should be ‘Reasons to be cheerful, points 3’ – though given our position before January then perhaps Ian Dury’s ‘What a waste’ would be more appropriate.

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