EVERY time his phone rings this weekend Tony Mowbray will no doubt feel a wave of fear. “Steve Gibson calling”… the chairman was at Oakwell to witness Boro’s first half implosion against the basement boys and to hear the exasperated hostile chanting from the away end, the sound of a thousand camels’ backs breaking.
And it wasn’t just Steve Gibson squirming uncomfortably in the directors as Boro squandered a string of good chances then creaked open at the back in the 3-2 defeat. Neil Bausor, Keith Lamb and advisor without portfolio Peter Kenyon were all watching, the entire politburo looking tetchy at the troubling figures from the five year plan and handily gathered should any pressing strategic policy decisions need to be made.
The pressure is very much back on Mogga.
In fact it has intensified. The tentative short-term gains in political breathing space from the creaky win over Yeovil were wiped out by a chaotic and sickening opening half.
Boro missed sitters only for Barnsley to go straight down the other end and score with ease. The first came as a player waltzed through a posse of defenders without a tackle being made, the second was via a wicked deflection yes, but only after a long range effort from a player who wandered through midfield unchallenged and the third was from the spot. Is there a record for penalties conceded? We must be closing in fast.
The third sparked an angry reaction as Boro fans recovered from their shell shock quickly to point accusing fingers at the dug-out and a loud and damning chant of “You’re Getting Sacked In The Morning” broke out. It wasn’t universal but it wasn’t a tiny faction either. It was widespread. It was loud. It was obvious. It must be said it was quickly followed by a brave “One Tony Mowbray” but the response was short-lived and half-hearted and it sounded like it was booed down. The crowd has cracked.
At half-time as the players skulked off – the tunnel is handily placed in the corner near the away end – a group of angry fans (not the majority of the 2000 plus away contingent but certainly a 100 or so) rushed down to point and shout and remonstrate first with their under-performing ‘heroes’ and then with the stony faced dug-out team. Stewards were quickly over. Not that there was a threat of physical confrontation. But it was very, very uncomfortable to watch as so much anger was discharged.
It looked as if there were bitter arguments raging within the crowd. A lot of pointing and gesticulating towards the empty pitch and dug-out. It looked toxic and explosive. Not quite the fisticuffs between factions in the withered final days of the Lennie Lawrence regime but you can’t help but feel that direct confrontation is not far away.
Of course, there has been a growing non-specific chuntering spreading through supporters for the best part of a year and screaming at a favoured scapegoat and generalised frustrated booing on the whistle and become a familiar part of the matchday soundtrack, especially at home.
But there has never such a been a clear-cut condemnation of the manager before. The situation has taken a quantum leap. Or sickening lurch.
Some of the anger was sublimated into an impressively throaty roar from the supporters as Boro launched a spirited late fight-back and actually almost salvaged what would have been a barely credible draw. Albert Adomah scored twice, Muzzy Carayol clipped the metalwork, a few efforts were charged down and there was a strong shout for a penalty but the damage had already been done in the first half, on and off the pitch.
A self imposed aspiration – not target – of 12 points from four ‘winnable’ games left Mogga a hostage to fortune. A meagre haul of just four points from three of those so far, including a lack-lustre defeat away at the team who were rock bottom, will weigh heavily on him and make it very easy for anyone who wants to – in the crowd or in the boardroom – to construct an compelling argument against him.
It will be a tense few days.