BORO’s small screen sizzler against Doncaster was a populist affair: caretaker boss Mark Venus managed to address all demands anxious supporters had been making for months.
We all said Tony Mowbray’s team just needed a bit or tweaking after falling frustratingly short, that it had plenty of talent but wasn’t quite the sum of its parts.We all said that if the problems at the back could be tackled then Boro had enough going forward to hurt teams and were not far off. Many felt it more about changing the mindset than the mechanics..
Against Doncaster we all saw how potent those tweaks could prove in a pulsating 4-0 win..
In a radical shake up with six charges and a return to a conventional 442, Venus bombed out the long time occupants of the fragile full-back positions and filled those slots with players more often deployed as central defenders, although one of those has played international football in that role and the other came through the ranks playing on the left..
That added solidity in what so often have been inviting empty acres to be ruthlessly exploited by lesser but perceptive opposition. And crucially it liberated the flying flankers on both sides to get forward more and really and let rip. And both did. Along side revived Emnes and hard-working Kamara that gave Boro real bite and movement up front that was a pleasure to watch. Unless you are a Doncaster fan of course.
He Venus dropped some of the weak links of recent weeks: trainee hack George Friend and Frazer Richardson were axed along with disappointingly limp midfield man Dean Whitehead. Any forensic examination of Boro’s goals against column this term would put one of those recidivists near the scene of the crime for the bulk.
Lukas Jutkiewicz was also back on the bench. He works hard but on occasions has slowed down the attack and has has proved targetophobic too often. Barnsley for instance. Alongside the Doncaster display of pace, penetration and fluidity he looks glacial. It seems on that showing he will have to settle for being Plan B.
The ones that came in delivered. Richie Smallwood and Marvin Emnes – both impressive second half substitutes at Barnsley – were fantastic. Carayol was electric and almost unplyable in the first half on a night when both wingers finally took off. New boy Daniel Ayala was impressively solid and grabbed a goal too. The team looked a different prospect altogether.
Most importantly Boro set out to attack from the off, There was no cagey, low tempo start feeling out the opposition, trying to come to terms with their shape before trying to tentatively take control. This was assertive. There was an urgency. And rightly so , Boro were at home to The Likes Of Doncaster. With four creative front runners and a collective intensity and high -tempo they swamped a poor Rovers and could have had a few more goals. Although with a coupon in my pocket with 4-0 at 33/1 I’m happy they didn’t.
It was visibly Mogga’s side. Three of his signing scored and they set about the game in exactly the utopian high tempo passing style he has championed and insisted was his goal -. It is ironic – and a little bit sad – that it wasn’t until after he carried the can for a spluttering start that they finally clicked into gear. But everyone recognised the continuity.
The post-match interviews all gave a nod to the departed boss and the fans made their feeling clear: there was a long, loud and poignant second half chorus insisted Tony Mowbray, a man who crystalises the ‘Spirit of Teesside’, is king. It was a bit awkward. “Like cheating on our lass,” someone said. A guilty pleasure.. But a pleasure nevertheless.
It was important to win, to sweep away the gloom of last week, to banish negativity and to send out a strong message that the season is far from over And it was important to do it in style, both for the 22,000 who crowd who turned out to enjoy a cracking game in a vibrant atmosphere and for the watching armchair army who need to be won back to galvanise the season and give Boro a crucial boost on the cash-flow front.
Boro have now scored 10 in the last three games and 11 in the last three at home which shows where their strengths lie. So it was also important to get the clean sheet and rebuild confidence in the department where the chief weaknesses are..
I enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t. Getting at the opposition, good passing football at a high tempo. That is what the spirit of Teesside is about. It is what Mogga would have wanted. It is what it is.