WHAT a complete dog’s breakfast that was. There was literally only one team in it, one team setting out to win, one team with a shape and strategy, fired up and working to a common goal. One team – and a loose collection of individuals cobbled together in a shambolic system. I was by turns embarrassed, angry and frightened. But not surprised.
Boro were battered. They were ripped open as Wednesday – who kicked off in poor form knowing they had to win to be sure of survival – went for the jugular. Had circumstances been reversed would this Boro team have attacked with such intensity? And right now, would Boro have played a relegation six pointer in front of a bumper crowd? I wonder.
It was torrid stuff from the whistle and it took about 30 seconds to see exactly how the game was going to pan out as lower league journeyman Fancy Dan Jermaine Johnson waltzed through the defence at will doing the Shammiobi Shimmy – but making it work. Down the other flank Helan was running riot. Boro were in utter chaos every time the ball came into the box. Midfield was non-existent. What was nominally a three man front line barely featured with Carayol a passenger, McDonald dropping far too deep and Main’s occasional direct runs heading straight into trouble. Their keeper barely made a save.
It was men against boys. And not very good boys at that.
Boro set out with a creaky, badly executed 343 with a debutant centre-back and even though it was clear within a minute that Wedensady were going to rip down the flanks neither of Boro’s midfield wide men – both full-backs by trade – offered the slightest bit of protection. It could have been a massacre. Seriously, I was watching through my fingers in white faced horror after about two minutes. Boro made them look like Bayern. It could easily have been three or four at the break and no-one could have complained.
I mean, Steve Howard scored. Glacial Steve Howard. Bombed out on loan by relegated League One Hartlepool for being a bystander, hasn’t scored in his 10 anonymous games at Wednesday, hasnt scored for THREE YEARS in the Championship … barges his man aside and leathers in the opener. The only surprise is that Leroy ‘Offside’ Lita didn’t score – although in familiar fashion he tried to claim the second as a corner flashed past his attempted touch and went in.
Boro were slightly better after the break. Either that or, job done, the Owls eased off. Boro saw more of the ball and had the odd half chance but there was no sustained pressure, no real testing of the keeper, no sense of determination, no real feeling that they could claw thir way back into it. The crowd – 31,000 – had started very nervous but after 10 minutes they relaxed and even as Boro “battled back” there was no sense of jitters. The Owls fans were all too busy getting into position ready for a mass good-natured celebratory pitch invasion on the whistle.
Boro did nothing to get the home crowd on edge. Or the opposition. It was a plodding, half-hearted contractual obligation display with the aeroplane already taxiing on the runway. Despite the stakes, Wednesday won’t have had an easier game all year.
No-one emerged with any credit. At least Burgess can claim some mitigation as a rookie that was left high and dry by his international colleagues at the back and the kids who came on – Bryn Morris and Ben Gibson – wil have got some big game experience as they tried to salvage something from the wreckage. Gibbo’s nephew really rattled Lita in a brave challenge which bodes well. Jason Steele made two superb stops when Boro were being ravaged early on. And Grant Leadbitter at least ran around furiously. Rhys Williams made a couple of good blocks but only after a very poor start.
The rest? Well, least said soonest mended. But right now if anything was said it would be peppered with expletives. Suffice to say very few emerged with credit.
On the plus side, the pain will now at least stop until August. It was a frustrating and deeply disappointing season that has been the walking dead for months. A sickening long slither from the automation promotion spots to a finish just above the relegation zone. What if Boro hadn’t beaten Forest? It doesn’t bare thinking about.
Most people gave up weeks ago. Including a lot of the players on that showing.
I’m now actively trying to airbrush the last few months from history, to push the pain into a little box to be stored away in the collective loft of repressed memory.