WINS are like kids: you have to love them all, even the ugly ones.
Boro’s 1-0 spot-kick shoot-out showdown win over Bolton wasn’t the prettiest but who cares? Boro won and clocked up a clean sheet against the Championships’s form side. And on a day when a cut-price ticket deal and Aitor Karanka’s dug-out debut lured the biggest crowd of the season and everyone went away with a bit of a buzz.
It was cautious in the first half as both sides set out to contain and retain possession and there was only the occasional tentative probe forward although Boro probably edged it. The second half was better entertainment although Broo rode their luck at times: Beckford failed to make two decent positions count then was bundled over by Rhys Williams in what looked like a stone-wall penalty.
The game itself came down to penalties; Grant Leadbitter calmly slotted home his and then at the death Beckford – who looked spooked by the baying South Stand (another reason to have home fans there, its not just cosmetic) – grazed the bar with his. Result. Not least for those perceptive punters who had a Leadbitter/1-0 double.*cough*
So, a low thrills game but plenty of positives:
*a welcome win, and against a decent side in good form.
*a clean sheet, and against a decent side that had chances. That was the main thing on my wish list for the day. Obviously a win is great but I’d have accepted a 0-0 so long as it looked like it was the result of a deliberate change in emphasis and approach.
*a bit of luck… there were times of late when that penalty inevitably went in. It missed. And Rhys Williams got away with what looked a stonewall penalty before that too. At times it felt like the club must have veered under a ladder, tripped over a black cat and gone headlong and shattered a mirror. If you believe in that sort of thing.
*a pleasing solidity – the defence were getting their tackles in 20 yards further up the pitch and the midfielders were helping out, tackling back and working hard and when Bolton pressed forward late on (the Williams lunge aside) the keptt heir shape and discipline and held on when in countless games they had cracked.
*positive changes – having strangled the game for an hour Karanka put on the direct running of Main and the trickery of Emnes and the shape of the game changed as Bolton’s defence struggled to cope. Emnes won a free-kick within a minute, was brought down a few times and then won the penalty while Main had a decent chance too.
*Shay Given – looked calm and commanding and never shut up pointing and shouting at the defence. Not much to do but always looked in control, even when he had to be off his line to clear a dangerous ball away with his feet or head.
*The crowd were great. The North Stand Karankachief display was impressive, the flag-waving in the Generation Red family zone was good and looked great fun and the Red Faction kept up their aural attack all game. And everyone who turned up on a ticket offer went away happy after a dramatic finish when so often Boro have flopped when they have attracted a big one off crowd. Here’s our live blog of the build-up and game.
I enjoyed it. It wasn’t a brilliant game but it felt like it had an air of progress about it. Two tough away games now. Let’s see if we can get another couple of clean sheets and see where that takes us. Vamos Boro!