SEND for a NASA numbercruncher! With form, fixtures and the upward trajectory of teams nearby and below, Boro’s already slender play-off prospects now exist only in the rarified realm of theoretical mathematical modelling.
Tony Mowbray admitted his side now had “a mountain to climb” after Wolves. It was a fourth successive defeat to poor teams frantically clawing their way out of the relegation zone. Expect Boro to run out wearing crampons on Tuesday against a revived Peterborough who have just completed a double against Cardiff.
It was a crazy game in a crazy league that is totally unpredictable. Well, not quite. It is becoming not just predictable but mandatory that Boro dominate teams for long spells but fail to kill them off. Mandatory that they will spurn chances, Mandatory that they will get caught on the break, be punished for slack marking at set-plays, allow free headers, fail to mark, fail to clear. Just fail really. Depressingly predictable.
Wolves fans and press were laughing with glee at the end. They thought they had “got lucky” because in the first half they had ridden their luck in what had been a very scrappy half. Boro were poor but they had the best of the game.
At the break they had scored both goals, rattled the woodwork three times and missed two, maybe three sitters. Boro were really going for it but Hoyte and Carayol hit the bar (as did Leadbitter but his bounced down and in, just ), McDonald failed to connect 10 yards out, Jutkiewicz drilled an angled shot straight at the keeper and a cross hit Adam Reach and spooned wide. One more goal from that lot and Boro may well have run riot and a poor Wolves team would have folded.
Then three minutes into the second half Wolves carved Boro open, a Ebanks-Blake backheel sending Sigurdarson skipping through to dance past McManus and round Steele and slot home and suddenly Boro wobbled and disintegrated. Yes, they pulled another back through a second Leadbitter rocket but the momentum was gone and around him the team was imploding into a shapeless, fractured, fragile collection of individuals and revived Wolves were asking all the questions.
Steele had to make a string of saves to keep Boro in it and George Friend cleared off the line. But a a glacial defence dithered and eventually cracked, allowing Kevin Doyle time and space to punish Boro with a free header after a long throw was flicked on and dropped into a packed box. It was woeful. But predictable.
It is easy to retro-slag the boss and talk about formations but the shape was not the problem. The formation ‘worked’. Boro created a dozen chances and six really good ones but just could not score. And at the other end they easily contained a limited side for 48 minutes then disintegrated.
That’s not about tactics or tempo or shape or set-up. That’s about poor play from flawed individuals who are suffering from a lack of confidence after a nightmare riun and who crack under pressure. That’s what we were told to expect from Wolves too.
So; six points adrift of the play-off and even with the gerousity and ineptitude of our peers it would take a freak sequence of results to keep the door open much longer. And, panic fans, just nine points from the drop zone with some tough fixtures looming.
Still, Schadenfreude is the official beer of the football fan so at least we can take some secondary comfort from the far more spectacular implosion of Sunderland and the end of the ‘Party with Marty’ and the enhanced prospects of a derby game next year.
Everest the hard way. Pass the oxygen.