INTO the Valley… with Boro no longer on the Skids (one for the teenagers there.)
A rot-stopping welcome 1-0 win at Charlton eased the pressure a bit and ended a long run of very damning statistics. It doesn’t make Boro promotion favourites – but it may help to calm nerves, build bridges and create some breathing space for a fledging side to emerge.
And of course, it is nice to come away from a game (especially an away game) with a smile.
There was a solid look about a well balanced Boro side: we know what Leadbitter can do, Whitehead added a robust snap about the engine room (and got booked for a flying elbow in a mid-air challenge as he momentarily thought he was back at Stoke).and Varga… well Varga was fantastic. He was robust and industrious and did a lot of unglamorous things in a calm and efficient way but he also had “good engines” bursting forward, showed some deft touches in possession plus a neat turn past markers. And he played some sublime through-balls too. He could be a very useful addition.
At the back Woody and Rhys got through 90 minutes looking sharp and composed and showed the signs of an emerging partnership while new boy Frazer Richardson was physical and unfussy and coped with everything thrown at him in the box, notably during the second half spell of heavy pressure. There were one or two stray passes early on but he hasn’t played in pre-season so some signs of ring-rust were to be expected.
And up front Boro showed signs of having a real threat. Carayol and jet-heeled £1m debutant Albert Adomah both have potent pace down the flank, can wriggle through a marker and get a cross in. They scared the hell out of Charlton at times. It was genuinely exciting in flashes. The possibility of being able to attack down either wing will make it much harder for the opposition to shackle Boro by doubling up on a single source.
Boro still lack teeth of course. The goal was scrappy – and Charlton’s defence contributed helpfully to setting it up – but apart from that, for all the insistent possession, the Robins keeper was very rarely really tested.
That said Juke deserved his goal. He worked hard up front on his own and took a bit of a battering at times from two big defenders but he did well to hold the ball up and bring the breaking midfielders into play. He is not the deadliest of natural finishers and one or two snatched shots were poked at the keeper or screwed wide. But he was well placed and alert to get a looping header in for the goal after a defensive mix-up. And they all count.
It wasn’t the prettiest one he will ever score but goals are like kids; you’ve got to love them all, even the ugly ones. And it was a timely goal. A just reward for Boro’s industry. And it was a goal that sparked a wave of relief that rippled out from Charlton and swept Northwards to Teesside. It may be just the third game of the season but after a frustrating summer failed to to allay fears after the torrid tail-spin last term and then a sticky start, nerves were strained and tempers simmering. The pressure was on.
So a good result then in footballing and political terms. It has ended a long sickening slide. It was Boro’s first win of the season, only the fourth in the league this calendar year and, incredibly, only the first away win since a last gasp plundered 3-2 at Peterborough last December.
And there were other positives too: Boro resisted some heavy pressure to keep a clean sheet when in previous games they had cracked; they forced home a ‘scruffy’ goal from a poorly defended corner of exactly the type they would normally concede; had two decent debutants on show; finished a game with the supporters’ cheers ringing out; and – crucially – they looked like a team…. although not necessarily like Barcelona, as the Radio Brownlee hyperbole machine asserted at one point.
And of course, Boro picked up three points. Enjoy it..