JUST when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…
After a dismal day at Bristol – another drab defeat – the Gazettemobile got caught in a massive traffic jam on the M1 just south of Sheffield. Stuck for two hours. In snow!
Just like the season, everything had ground to a standstill.
It was heavy with symbolism. After a flying start to the journey, zipping past newer and more expensive cars with surprising ease, we had hit a long turgid frustrating spirit-sapping spell of pointless idling with the engine running in neutral and no significant forward movement at all.
The naive early optimistic talk of reaching our destination ahead of schedule soon fizzled out into an acceptance we would now struggle to hit targets artificially raised by early progress.
That turned to resignation that we were going to be quite a bit late, then, as the standstill turned from temporary blip to a long-term paralysis, there crept in a fear we wouldn’t get there at all, that we would be stuck in this dark purgatory for the foreseeable.
Perhaps it was our own fault: We had tinkered. We had changed a winning formula and pulled in to Trowell to switch positions. We lost precious momentum and we paid the price.
Obviously, on the plus side, we weren’t left in the lay-by because the wheels had come off. The car wasn’t up on bricks. It wasn’t a write off. It wasn’t towed away for scrap. And we did miss the “highlights” on the Football League Show.
Eventually we got moving – slowly at first through a congested filter lane – although we had lost a lot of ground and had spent a lot more time and emotional energy than is probably healthy on intense examination of the road map and bitter point scoring over ‘what ifs’.
But enough about the season so far….
On the first leg of the journey home we shot past a car with a registration plate ending 8ORO that had been pulled over by the police on the M5. Well at least someone from Teesside went home with three points after Bristol.
We also passed the glum team coach. A chastened looking squad appeared to be watching a rerun of the X certificate match. The poor gets. But at least now they will know what we had to go through.
It was another of those costly millstone games where a brittle Boro contrive to make another one of the basement battlers look like world beaters: Brazil City; Barnselona; Inter Millwall.
It was one of those games in stark contrast to the spirited shows of the kind that beat Leeds and Cardiff and gave Chelsea a scare and show that whatever “it” is, it is in this team somewhere.
With the stakes high and a win desperately needed to reignite the stuttering promotion push and the hearts of the fast fading faithful, Boro spluttered and failed.
They failed to grab what should have been a routine winnable game by the scruff of the neck. They failed to contain the Championship’s rock bottom side. They failed to compete, to battle, to threaten, to penetrate, to impose a pace or pattern. They failed. Individually and collectively. They failed to show the spirit and desire and ruthless will of a side battling for promotion.
It was a flat and flaccid display by a leaderless and demoralised team. It was very, very disappointing.
The local radio commentator, a Bristolian Brownlee with a touch of the pirate about his exited exclamations, gushed vocally at his own side’s rousing spirit in the battle for survival but also felt moved to comment, with an audible note of surprise as the fightback failed to materialise, at Boro’s demeanour and “the body language of a beaten team.”
After the game Tony Mowbray tried to persuade the listeners back home – and possibly himself and a team he is protecting – that the game was a closer contest than the scoreline suggested. That they were on top for most of the game. It wasn’t. They weren’t
Bubbling Bristol could easily have a couple more goals – and a penalty to boot – while toothless Boro barely threatened.
There were very few, if any, points that could be used in mitigation after a humiliating game that lacked any sense of urgency or importance.
Even some of the senior players were moved to criticism. In post-match interviews Jonathan Woodgate and Scott McDonald were both scathing about the shrinking team’s lack of fight.
It was a drab and depressing show that had ‘end of season’ stamped all over it.
And yet somehow – despite taking just seven points from 36 – this ailing and demoralised side remain three points off the play-off places. What does that say about the rest?
If there is hope for a final flourish it lays there. The rest are no great shakes. And amazingly, after a woeful start to the year, the prize is still all there for Boro.
But there can be no more displays like that. Or the season really will be on the hard shoulder waiting for the AA.
“THAT was rubbish. That was horrible… maybe some players think they are better than they are.” Frank stuff and fighting talk from Jonathan Woodgate in today’s Gazette. It’s not often I link to my own stuff on the main website but this is no-nonsense stuff worthy of your thoughts.