Monthly Archives: April 2013

Charlton: A Fitting Frustrating Final Home Fixture

BORO did well to salvage something from the wreckage of what was probably the worst first half this season at the Riverside. And that is among some stiff competition.
Seven years to the day since the fantastic UEFA Cup fight back against Bucharest, Boro again came from behind – but that is where any similarities with the ‘Spirit of Steaua’ end.
Boro were carved open for the opener after 29 seconds and I’m sure at that point there were some people actively considering leaving at an earliest ever ‘here we go again’ moment. Boro should have had a penalty against them soon after as the rapidly depreciating Rolls Rhys hacked recklessly from behind to trip Fuller in the box – what did he think he was doing? – but somehow got away with it thanks to a generally poor referee waving play on. Then after 17 minutes they were two down thanks to a sloppy own goal off hapless Williams at the near post and if felt like an impending implosion. Plenty more considered an exodus right tthen I’m sure. It half crossed my mind.
At that point Charlton’s official club twitter feed was asking if anyone knew off the top of their head what their record away score was. And I don’tthink that was arrogance. It looked a genuine prospect. I considered tweeting them that we had lost 6-1 to Arsenal at the Riverside if they wanted a target to aim at. It looked bleak.
Boro were shambolic at the back, disjointed and lightweight in midfield and inept in attack. The youngsters that the disaffected ranks had been calling for – Adam Reach and Curtis Main – proved to be not Messiahs nor even naughty boys but just largely ineffective raw prospects looking still well short. The only real threat of the first half came when innocent bystander Marvin Emnes lolloped forward 60 yards from a quickly cleared corner looking more surprised than clinical sharpshooter only to get hacked down for what looked a stonewall penalty just before the break.
Boro were roundly booed off at the break which is both unsurprising and completely understandable. The frustrated deep seated jeering, the product of weeks of powerless dicontent, was interspersed with the odd audible angry expletive-peppered rants directed from the gentile West Stand Upper at the manager, which was a first. At that stage everyone was pretty much resigned to defeat. There were few signs of life. It was awful. We were faced with completely recalibrating the direometer.
Yet somehow in the second half they clawed back. That is not to say it was a markedly improved performance. It wasn’t. Not really. If anything it was Charlton who levelled the playing field with a markedly worst showing. Maybe they thought the job was done and took their foot off the gas. Maybe they suddenly remembered they were playing in the Championship so by defibnition they were rubbish too. Maybe Boro realised they couldn’t get any worse and relaxed a bit.
Boro did most of the attacking after the break (although they still nearly got caught on the break a few times) and gradually forced their way untidily back into the game. It was scrappy and laboured and until the double switch – McDonald buzzed about and started to take pot shots from anywhere and Ledesma added a bit width and creativity – it was toothless for all the potent but pointless probing of the lively Mustapha Carayol.
Then out of the blue Emnes stretched hopefully and shinned home a teasing chip into the near post from Ledesma (it was the first goal Charlton had connceded on the road for five games) and after some more huffing and puffing McDonald headed a late facesaving equaliser from a Ledesma corner. Hurray! We didn’t lose.
It still wasn’t great. After the game Mogga said he was angry despite the fightback – who can blame him – while on the whistle fans were left confused: they didn’t know whether if they applauded the fightback it would endorse the first half ineptitude, or if they booed it would seem churlish after the team crawled out of the wreckage. The “Lap of Honour” was a strained, muted, polite but not passionate affair with an almost tangible sense that the players were as glad as the fans to see the back of the Riverside for this campaign.
One more. Then we can draw a big black line under this season.

Mittlesburg-am-Rhein: The Strange Case of Boro And “The German”

AS TIRED tiki-taka falls to Teutonic efficiency and mighty Germany sweep stuttering Spain aside and march towards Champions League glory (and to mark my own commitment to recycling) here’s another chance to see a previous epidode of retrospective navel-gazing from last summer…. on Boro, “the German” and what might have been.

Continue reading Mittlesburg-am-Rhein: The Strange Case of Boro And “The German”

Lady Luck Puts The Boot In At Bolton

BORO were unlucky today. No. No. No don’t laugh. Don’t throw things. I know that as defeat after defeat piles up because of poor finishing or poor defending the debris looks largely self-inflicted. But I don’t think we have really blamed fortune before. Fair enough, put the boot in if they have played poorly but this was different.
Boro were playing well and after surving an early barrage had settled and were slightly edging a very close game at the break. They were playing well in midfield witrh Richie Smallwood industrious and effective and Carayol looking very dangerous. They were working hard, had stifled the Bolton threat and started to carve holes in their defence.
Then a woefully mis-hit Eagles cross screwed high and wild and dipped into the goal beyond a rooted Steele. It was a total fluke, no matter whathe says. And it was against the run of play. Boro quickly clawed back a leveller with a Dyer header from a delicious Carayol cross and then almost immediately were pegged back by a dodgy penalty.
Tricky Korean wing Lee cut in from the left and did well to get to the byline then cut inside and as he poked the ball square he appeared to stand on Woodgate’s foot as the defender moved across to block, then stumbled forward and crashed into Hoyte’s challenge before Steele saved Sordell’s shot.
When the whistle everyone was surprised. Hoyte’s challenge looked fair and Lee was already falling over when it went in. Woodgate hadn’t made contact and, if anything, he had been caught by the Bolton man. It was apoor decision. And the pivotal one.
Result: Woody booked, penalty awarded, they score. It was a gift. Then, to add insult to injury, five minutes later Woody was legitimately booked – for a daft challenge on Sordell wide out on the flank well out of the danger area – and was pedalled and from then on Boro were right up against it. The ten men gave it a decent shot and had a few scrappy half-chances but never really had a grip on the game.
Damn you lady luck. Boro played alright against a form team and will think they deserved something. The deciding factors were a flukey slice and a questionable penalty decison. But that will be hard to sell to the public. And teh end of the day, whatever the mitigation, Boro lost again on the road. They haven’t won away this year, have taken one point in 11 games and have now got the worst tally on the road for 23 years. They are also on course for the lowest finish since that season, back in 1990.
More later…

Rot Stopping, Trees Chopping Relief

IT WAS a rot-stopping, Trees chopping, spirited show that was greeted more with a wave of relief from Stockton to Saltburn than any sense of jubilation.
Sky Sports News claim that the scrappy but welcome win had revived Boro’s play-off prospects was met with widespread cynical laughter and sneering. Who are these delusional fools with their outlandish sci-fi predictions? Haven’t they been keeping tabs on the results this year?
For most Teessiders mighty Boro felling Forest was a coupon-busting shock that had saved a troubled team from being dragged into the relegation place, probably to go down flicking the Vs with an historic flourish in an ill-fated final fixture at Sheffield Wednesday.
It was a Pyrrhic victory, a ‘typical Boro’ sarcastic win. But it was a welcome one and headed off what would have been a psychic surge of unstoppable angst.

Continue reading Rot Stopping, Trees Chopping Relief

Cut And Paste/ Repeat To Fade

THE CONSENSUS is that the Championship is totally unpredictable. Not when Boro are playing it isn’t.
Boro’s frustrating defeat to Brighton could have been a cut and paste from any of the familiar failures in the sorry slither from the summit. Sickened spectators will know the script off by broken heart by now: blunt Boro boss possession and win the stats but fail to take their chances and then are punished by a more clinical side.
For Brighton read Birmingham. Hull. Millwall. Huddersfield. And, as they say on the various artist compilations, many, may more.

Continue reading Cut And Paste/ Repeat To Fade

Time To Rip It Up And Start Again

THE long, lingering slow motion death of the season is over. The ailing campaign has been kept alive artificially thanks to the incompetence/generosity of the teams above us for weeks but now the vital signs have faded. Our rivals have finally stumbled forward just enough while Boro have been on life support. It is time to turn the machine off. Call it. *looks at watch* Time of death 4.18pm. When the Hull goal went in.
Boro played well enough in spells, dominated the first half, created a couple of decent chances and held their own against a title chasing team. Then they leaked from a set play… stop me if you’ve heard this one before… as Jason Steele, so often the hero this season, misjudged the flight of a routine low free-kick that took a bobble – and it was effectively game over. Season over. And this team over.

Continue reading Time To Rip It Up And Start Again