IT WAS A cut and paste display: dominate & create chances, fall behind to a dead ball then bust a gut to claw to one point when three were there on a plate. We’ve that countless times in recent years and three times already this term.
Boro had 22 shots in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, rattled the bar and had a compelling penalty shout waved away. Their keeper made three good saves, a couple of efforts sizzled an inch or two wide, Andy Halliday bounced a free header over the bar, George Friend was over-lapping and weaving and tricking life a man possessed – he did a Cruyff turn and drag-back in his own box at one point – and Lukas Jutkiwiewicz got to wear the weekly head bandage of hour after a battling display in and around their box.
But as with last week at Wigan, and against Blackpool, and against Accrington in the Credit Card Cup Boro couldn’t make it count. All those games should have been out of sight. Boro could have been top of the table by now if only they had a deadly striker to complement the current set-up.. And as in all three of those games Boro got caught napping at a set-play. So that’s two problems. One at each end.
But let’s not trap ourselves into a cycle of negativity and insisting nothing has changed from last season. It has. The team now has a distinct shape and style and solidity that bodes well for the future with a little fine-tuning.
They have a robust, organised and athletic midfield, width and pace going forward, a regular defence that is well organised in open play and the beginnings of a team spirit and confidence that has seen them step up a gear and fight back rather than shrivel after conceding. Four games undefeated. All good things.
This team are just a couple of players from being able to really compete in this division. One of those is an out and out goal-getter, clearly and most urgently. Another is a creative attacking midfielder that can link up the solidity of the engine room, the width and pace on the flanks, the hard work of Juke into a more potent force going forward.
And Boro are working on getting them. And they have the money to bring them in. Again, let’s not persuade ourselves that the world has collapsed because Ross McCormack has opted for Leeds. While Boro’s £2m offer has been on the table at Leeds, the club haven’t been impotently pacing and looking at the phone. In the meantime they have been very working hard on a fall-back position and edged close to two alternatives for that slot and also moved closer to two striking targets, on of who is obviously Becchio. A deal remain on the table for a defender – Ayala – but they have a Plan B for that as well.
After the game Mogga admitted that he has had several bids accepted and been given permission by clubs to talk to those players. And he stressed, they are new names, not the ones already on the press radar. Boro will be working hard on those targets tonight and tomorrow and hopefully one or two they will be tied up on Monday.
If not, the loan market opens seven days later. And free agents can be signed at any time. But we need to get the right players to pull it all together.
As for the game… I enjoyed it. It was frustrating yes, but a different kind of frustrating to last term. Boro remain short of a clinical finisher – we all know that – but at least now they are dominating games, creating chances, stretching the pitch and the opposition and have a couple of players with pace and trickery and the potential to excite.
The last few games have been action-packed. end-to-end entertainment with Boro on top. There is a sense of anticipation creeping in, even a little hint of optimism… there was a couple of ripples of spontaneous applause during the game. Even Marvin Emnes got cheered when he came on. The fuse is spluttering… let’s get a player in to ignite it.