Pride Park Sucker Punch Flaws Boro

A LAST gasp sucker punch knocked the stuffing out of Boro at Pride Park.
The ten men had worked their nuts off to contain the Championship’s form side: “Steve McClaren’s Derby.” That Boro’s former boss engineered a painful 2-1 defeat for Boro with the goals coming in the Red Zones (45+1 and 90) was heavy with irony.

It wasn’t the worst Boro display. Not by a long way. The sending off was very harsh – although the ref had already flagged up that he was keeping an eye on over-enthusiastic Main – forcing Aitor Karanka into a first half reshuffle for the second away game running.
And the switches worked. With Kamara pushed out and Carayol brought off the bench to play as the frontman in a 441, Boro looked more solid down the left flank and had a real jet-heeled burst of speed going forward on the break. As at Leeds it was a scorching run by Muzzy that did the damage, although his square ball to Smallwood was initially stumbled over before it ran kindly for Whitehead to lash home. At that point the mooted headline was “Dream Whitehead” as the midfielder came in from the cold to remind us of his potential.
The late winner was painful. And harsh- even McClaren admitted Derby were not at their best and got lucky. But for long suffering Boro fans it was predictable. A ball into the box took a deflection off George Friend, looped to the back stiff where a posse of Boro defenders – Given, Williams and Gibson – looked favourite to clear but somehow Connor Sammon reacted first to stab home. Stop me if you’ve heard this on ebefore.
That is Boro’s fatal flaw: stopping crosses into the box and dealing with balls bouncing through the danger-zone. That is the problem that Karanka must address urgently. That is what is costing over half the goals. There have been improvements. You can see the team are tactically tighter and more solid, closing down further up the pitch and being more conservative in possession. But so long as they are still leaking cheap goals Boro will continue to flounder in the lower reaches.
Some observations….
BLACK to the future…
When Boro fans first visited Derby’s new ground it was easy to dismiss it as an off the peg replica Riverside with a few added bells and whistles.
Now Pride Park is far more than a black and white Riverside 2.0. It has been gradually tarted up and is now well ahead of our middle-aged home. Now it is the stadium that Steve Gibson probably dreamed of.
Built into the ground are smart outlets for high-street names like Starbucks and Greggs. There’s even a gym. Although hitting the running machine with football fans gurning through the window must be distracting.
And the area around the ground has been developed into a massive leisure and retail complex. Imagine if the Riverside had been built at Teesside Park… or if the local authorities had delivered on their promise to Boro and ushered in our Tall Ships, marina and cafe culture matchday experience to kick start a transformation of Middlehaven.
Derby are also ahead of the game on ticketing. At the heart of a complex variety of tailored packages is “dynamic pricing”: price varies match to match depending on weather, day, recent results and how prestige of the opposition.
Tickets last night for home fans started at a tenner. It’s nice to know Boro are still seen as a prestige fixture.
CURTIS Main paid the price for some early over-enthusiastic harrying of the Derby back-line.
The striker – given a very rare start – was sent off after 34 minutes for a second yellow card that seemed very harsh. Even former top whistleblower Jeff Winter – who usually backs the man in black to the hilt – admitted it was “never a booking.”
For his costly caution Main went to challenge Craig Bryson for a ball that was there to be won in No Mans’ Land. The Derby man may have been a slight favourite to get there first but nevertheless, in pundit parlance he “had every right to go for it.”
And he was probably doing exactly what he had been instructed to do by the boss: close quickly, defended from the front, put himself about, ruffle a few feathers. There is nothing wrong with that. Most teams have a niggly frontman who does the same.
But the ref had already marked Main’s card. Main had made a high-tempo start, hustling and bustling and charging down defenders, using his physicality and maybe leaving the odd foot in. And Andrew Madley had noticed. Possibly it is Mains’ new eye-catching shock of indie-kid hair and had he kept his close-cropped camouflage maybe he would have slipped under the radar.
The ref decided early on that Main would be a handful. He had already appeared to have had a few brief words with Main using the universally acknowledged ‘calm down’ patting gesture before finally taking action, waving his first yellow on 23 minutes after he closed in to challenge as the keeper came out to collect. Again, he had “the right to go for it” but the ref had had enough.
After that Main was always sailing close to the wind. His hot-headed approach took him right up to the line, left him teetering on tip-toes and finally falling over it.
He will feel aggrieved. Both bookings may seem harsh. And plenty of other challenges after that far more worthy of cautions went unpunished. Karanka said afterwards that if the second was a booking then “games would finish seven or eight a side.”
Even home fans behind the press box after seeing half-time replays came out laughing embarrassed at having profited from such a clear injustice. They knew Main had been hard done by: “Ridiculous.” “Both harsh bookings,” “the ref’s playing a blinder for Rams.”
Boro fans agreed. They warmed themslves up on a Baltic night with a fine selection of seventies songs berating the man in black, questioning his parentage and solo activities and suggesting his grasp on the laws were suspect.
“You’re not fit to referee”. And it is rare you get such consensus on the man in black.
EIO EIO EIO… Boro’s wheely-good equaliser on the break and against the run of play sparked much jubilation.
Dean Whitehead stabbed in and peeled off towards the Boro fans in the corner followed by beaming, dancing team-mates… then from behind the hoarding trundled a glee-powered wheelchair!
A Boro fan suddenly appeared from the disabled section in front of the stand and through a gap in the barrier and started to weave in and out of the players high-fiving them and taking the cheers from the main body of visiting support before non-plussed stewards arrived to sheepishly wheel him back.
Sorry, not a great photo. I’ve nicked it off twitter. But you get the picture.


20 thoughts on “Pride Park Sucker Punch Flaws Boro

  1. You can see the pitch invasion on Boro+ highlights.
    Main got the to ball before the Derby goalie. So not even a freekick. But he should have been more carefull with the next. But he is an inexperienced lad still.
    Nearly a good result. Typical. Up the Boro!

  2. Good read AV.
    It should now be apparent to AK that the lads at the back are not cut out for the task (it was apparent to us weeks ago) and he doesn’t seem the sort of manager who messes about.
    He has changed starting XI a couple of times now and the fact that he still tinkered with it after a good win against Bolton suggests that he is well aware of the flaws.
    Having bought my ticket for Birmingham I am dreading being put to the sword by such a one dimensional, ball up and into the box striker like Zigic (a similar build to Sammon)! The winning goal which was shown on Sky immediately after conceding was an absolute farce. My Made In Chelsea watching, part time Arsenal supporting girlfriend actually laughed and I felt like crying. Her comment “how has the ball found the white player when there are five around it?” My response would not make it past your stringent filters AV.
    I have had texts from all corners of the Boro supporting world (most of whom can’t make fixtures as much as I do) asking who would be good replacements, I’m more concerned with how we’re going to get the current numpties off our books before we can afford to bring in any quality. Lets face it, the wage budget will probably allow for us to bring in a few similarly quality players if we keep the current mess or one or two competent stoppers if we can get rid!
    Positives? Well we scored again. Our forward players must be wondering what they’ve got to do to win a football match. I genuinely enjoy seeing rotation between Kamara, Carayol, Adomah, Emnes and Main. They are quite clearly (despite the protestations of some) as good as, if not better than 75% of the attacking units in this league.
    With this quintet it is not the technical or skill attributes that are the problem, its the motivation/determination. Under Mowbray at least two of the five had none but I can see it seeping back.
    All in all, I actually find it quite heartening that we’re gutted to be leaving the divisions in-form team (my tip for promotion after McClaren appointment) without anything. This shows that we competed even with 10 men,
    Remember QPR earlier in the season when we were well and truly trounced even if the goal count didn’t reflect it? I just can’t help shake that feeling that we would have come out of both this and the Leeds game with at least a point if we had the full compliment on the field and I hope it doesn’t come back to bite us at the back end of the season given how tight the league is.
    See you all at St Andrews!

  3. Halfway through the second half it suddenly dawned on me (as an optimist) that the Derby game was in fact a six-pointer – a win could take us just six points from a play-off spot, a loss would leave us 12 points adrift.
    Well as you said AV, defensive frailties cost us once more. It’s now not worth even contemplating any kind of unlikely promotion bid this season. It’s now all about building the team for next season – OK there’s a little matter of putting some daylight between us and the relegation slots – but I’m hoping we’ve got (or will have) a little more quality than that scenario entails.
    I’m not sure what kind of players a lower mid-table team will attract in January but bedding in a reliable centre-back pairing with a commanding keeper and full-backs that can defend sounds like where the money needs to go.
    Until then, winning two consecutive games or possibly an away game are probably the first targets for Karanka (he got the clean sheet box ticked last week). So before any kind of consistency can be achieved Boro are still a struggling team I’m afraid.

  4. I nearly posted then the whirly thing started going round and I was back on the home page. If it is lost in the ether it will meet up with our markers.
    I was sat amongst Derby fans and they all started asking why Main was sent off. In the pub afterwards the general view was that he was enthusiastic.
    Karanka now has used two formations. 4231 and 441!
    There was no gloating amongst the Derby fans in the pub. They viewed it as three points ground out. The most galling part was the winning goal as it was a fluke. Sammon looked useless and was credited with a goal from a series of rebounds!
    I will forgive the first one (noble of me) because Derby had been moving the ball about and eventually got some space. It was a good cross in and there was little we could do to defend it. A foot one way and would be cleared, a foot the other and it is behind the attacker.
    The truth is that Derby had twice as much possession, twice as many shots and twice as many goals. As my mate Andy said, in the same situation he would rather get beat two nil fair and square than lose like that.
    Opened my paper and we still lost.

  5. At first I was deeply frustrated that Main was sent off but it seems he was unlucky. That said having been warned by the ref maybe he could have been a little more careful, inexperience maybe.
    When we got back to 1-1 with 15 to play it was the usual tense fingers crossed, pray hard etc situation, but as usual bad defending let us down. Its such a recurring theme its almost becoming boring.
    The defenders were poor under Mogga and are still poor, Karanka is stuck with what we’ve got until January. He’ll be working miracles if he can manage to improve their performance between now and then.
    Still, as Matt said being disappointed to loose away to the form team of the division is a good thing. It would also help if we can keep 11 players on for the full 90.

  6. Nigel –
    Jarkko looks to be right. I don’t look at the highlights before I post because I like to give a fair assessment.
    Or, I get too wound up and watch the highlights later.
    Looking at the highlights the ball goes towards the goal line from the challenge suggesting Main got there first. It even looks like he got there first.
    I have just been speaking to a Derby fan from that end of the ground and he said it wasn’t a booking whilst he has an orifice where the sun don’t shine.
    Sadly still says 2-1 in the paper.

  7. You cannot put an old head on young shoulders, a favourite saying of my late father in relation to me. In relation to Main for all his enthusiasm he seems not to be blessed with awareness of action and consequences and the consequence of him being sent off cost us the match.
    Having said that, I am not too downhearted because I can see small signs of us becoming a harder team to beat.
    Yes, we lost to scruffy goals but we also reduced a fancied in -form team to being very ordinary. That is no mean accomplishment with 10 men for over two thirds of the match.
    We are becoming more resolute and resilient under Karanka, qualities never seen under Mowbray. We need to be patient, supportive,and progress which we will do under this guy. This league is so unpredictable Leicester losing to Sheffield Wed on Tuesday, you cannot rule anything in or out as we play each game.
    There is a tendency to make snap judgements about relegation or the failure to make the play offs. Who yet knows? I have an open mind about the rest of the season and I have confidence that we will improve, with additions and as Karanka settles into his role.

  8. Ian –
    we thought maybe our luck had changed after the Bolton match, but last night would suggest not. But it will turn at some point and I agree that we are getting harder to beat. Fingers crossed for Saturday.

  9. The point for me about Main is this. If he was charging around a bit over enthusiastic, and had already taken a cheap booking from a weak referee… where was our captain pulling him to one side and telling him to calm down. No leadership that’s the other problem AV, as well as a dodgy defence.

  10. Only seen Main’s bookings in real time, not seen any TV footage but my initial view was that they were both 50/50 balls he was entitled to go for and not bookings. Like a lot of people have said, Derby committed a lot worse fouls that went unpunished.
    Reports were that he was over enthusiastic but I liked what I saw from him,he chased, harried and was a nuisance and for me that’s what we have been lacking up front. He just needs not to over do it.
    We need to work on stopping the crosses coming in. I thought both Derby goals looked like own goals. It was a shame we got the last minute sucker punch conceding that goal. I thought we deserved a draw out of the game.
    Great to see the wheel chair pitch invader,it made our night!!
    Onto Birmingham next and much needed points!

  11. I also think we’ll improve Denis but if we regard 75 points as the target for a play-off place then I can’t see how even a vastly improved Boro could bridge that gap.
    Boro would need to acquire 56 points from 28 games – That means something like winning 17, drawing five and only losing six games, which probably means we need to win half of our remaining away games and be pretty much invincible at home.
    Of course anything is possible but Boro would need to perform on a par with what the teams in the automatic spots have performed so far for twice as long – So is Karanka’s Boro team now the best and most consistent in the Championship?
    Best just see what evolves in the coming months and hope we are better prepared for next season.

  12. AV –
    Is there a technical reason why articles disappear from the website.
    This morning JP’s piece is missing, come on here and we are back to no comments unless we tick the add a comment box.
    I know you say we are way down the priority list, news is more important than the fortunes of Boro, does it apply to the rest of the Gazette website?
    Not a grumble, just interested.
    **AV writes: I didn’t realise there was any problem with the website (or the blog). I’ll ask a geek.

  13. Dear Santa,
    This year I have been a really good boy. I have done my work on time, eaten my greens and done what my Mum told me to do.
    This year for Christmas I want three things and only three things but i want them all at once.
    Can I have back to back to back Boro games with:
    – No one getting sent off
    – No one giving away stupid penalties
    – No one making donkey defensive errors
    I know this is a lot to ask. But I have seen other kids with teams like this. I believe in you and i believe it can happen to my team too.
    I promise to be good all next year and not just start in November.
    I know last year I begged for a puppy and you gave it to me. I still miss Lucky to this day. I’m sure he is happy in his bag in the beck.
    I know Boro is for life and not just for Christmas. But I would really really like to have 11 players on the pitch at full time.
    I hope you and the elfs can help make this the best Christmas ever cos we all know what happens after Christmas, January.
    Looking forward to seeing you on the roof.
    Boro Doug
    **AV writes: Well readers, who on Planet Boro has been naughty and/or nice? And what do they/you want for Christmas?

  14. AV –
    It is a bit odd that there are so few posts after a kick in the tender regions on Wednesday night.
    Maybe people are just losing interest, using facebook for comments elsewhere looks to have been a resounding success. Maybe the outcome was so predictable posters were leaving you to cut and paste!
    Have you ever tried trying to using the website from your home computer? As part of my job I am forever on websites, using peoples back office systems etc and I can safely say Trinity Mirror in its Gazette guise is the worst by some distance.
    Clearly it is a Capitalist organisation, worse than Murdoch, with its exhortations to buy sundry items and its use of pop ups.
    There is a thought, just have advertising and have articles in pop ups.
    **AV writes: People keep on saying these things as if I have some control over it. I don’t. It’s the nature of the beast. That said, when I do use it from home I don’t get bombarded by pop-ups. I don’t particularly on other websites where users complain a lot either (eg FMTTM). Maybe the advertisers know I don’t have any money.

  15. I was working away mid week so missed the game entirely and not even able to get to a printer commentary. Reading about it afterwards and seeing the goals on the internet it was disappointing but not devastating.
    Game by game we are looking harder to break down. If Aitor can calm the lads from getting red carded in away games, having a full complement on the pitch will improve things. If he can organise the team to defend resolutely in the dying minutes of each half (probably by forcing them to up the tempo rather than trying to sit tight and hold their nerve) then again we should see a dividend.
    Two relatively straightforward areas to improve on and the rest should fall into place. I still think its too early to panic about relegation or despair about the play offs. If we reverse this years form in 2014 (and who would have predicted this time last year that things would have got so bad) then we could galvanise and push on.
    One or two coming in in January and a few more tweeks here and there plus better understanding of his current incumbents abilities and we will see progress I’m sure.

  16. I work overseas and depend on the Internet Gazettelive link for local news. What a pain it is, reloads jumps up as you scroll down and all those adverts!!
    I also have AV direct link which is what i use a lot for the diverse and extremely good blogs as I refuse to enter Facebook or become a t*** and tweet. I’m a geezer nuff said.
    Since Aitor Karanka took over this blog does seem to have lost it’s bite and I can’t think why, AV’s synopsis of the games is as good as ever but that seems to be it, not much inter play with the blogs..what’s up AV
    Anyway I’ve been a good boy and I would like to see that young Nigerian ( name escapes me) international defender who can’t get in the Chelsea team take a trip up north, also Aston Villa bestow some Xmas cheer and agree to pay 80% of Givens wage until seasons end and leave him be. That’ll do for now
    **AV writes: The main reason for the lack of blog activity of late is jsimply ust a lack of time. I have had a lot of domestic stuff going on (“a life”) , plus we spent two weeks solid writing extra extra more more more on the new manager for the paper (and like everywhere else in British industry we are currently doing a lot more with far fewer staff) and then I had to use some holiday up before the end of the year. Phil has to be off next week for the same reason.
    I know I like to set the bar pretty high and there is nothing I would like better than to give you lot 24 hour rolling news but you have to understand the volume of writing I actually already do across a lot of platforms. You can’t put a quart in a pint pot.

  17. Redcar Red –
    Here is a thought. Varga came on after 87 minutes as a replacement for Adomah, and, in a mini reshuffle went right side midfield. Carayol went left. This was to stiffen our midfield and see the game out.
    You are allowed three guesses about where the attack came from that allowed a free ball in to the box. The rest is a kick in the……
    Adomah had done a ton of work as had Kamara. Carayol had scared the rams with his pace and had also worked hard.
    I said it under Robson, McClaren, Gate, Strachan, Mogga so I will say it under Karanka…. stiffening the midfield late on = freeing the opposition.

  18. Seeing the goals on TV, I thought the second Derby goal a really poor one to concede from a Boro point. Poor defending again IMO.
    As for Main, from what I have seen in the past, he generally puts himself about. So in some ways unlucky, but he had been warned. Take heed,when the referee wags his finger!!
    What do I want for Xmas? A good CH, who would be good enough for the Captains armband. A leader.

  19. AV –
    The main thing is we hope Mrs V and the kids are ok,
    We all have increased work loads in the work place and as I know how much you value the blog I still think there are fewer posters.
    Maybe we expect too much as we dont get free scran, privileged parking, free good seats, access to the club chairman, management and the players. Short of playing for Boro we think you have the best job in the world.
    It is never that easy. There were many courses I did at Uni I really enjoyed but the core subjects were a grind because they were crucial. Once it becomes a job then all the pressures of work take over.
    Look at Jonathan Trott and Marcus Trescothic. Not everybody can have the attitude of Derrick Randall.

  20. Vic:
    Haven’t posted on here for yonks – too depressed by Boro’s worsening trials & tribulations to bother – but I *have* continued to read your blog! 😉
    Further to Ian Gill’s post at 09.24 today, I’d go so far as to suggest that there’s a serious problem with the blog rather than the web site. I stumbled across the NewsNow site at about the time of Mogga’s sacking as I looked for news of developments with the appointment of a successor & soon noticed a rather strange phenomenon: it was displaying more recent pieces posted by you than the Gazette site itself! I now know that if I see the words “Chronicle Live – Untypical Boro”, followed by a time & a date, it won’t be available via the Gazette site, only from the Boro page on the NewsNow site.
    By way of example, the most recent blog viewable by me either at home, where I use Firefox, or at work (Explorer), is the one entitled “When Boro lined up against Aitor Karanka’s Real Madrid”, dated 20th November! NewsNow also displays John Powls’ Boro Banter pieces long before the Gazette site does. Can your geeks explain those?!!
    P.S. Thought I’d posted the above at about 12.15 & then again in the middle of the afternoon (I got the “received by blog owner” confirmation on both occasions), admittedly from the NewsNow web site, but clearly they crashed & burned in the ether, so I’ll have yet another go!
    **AV writes: You have posted this three times now. I have answered three times. And it has disappeared three times. Spooky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s