Red Lions Roar at The Den

OH NO! Football’s Inevitability Drive is broken!
Millwall away was a game that had “Scott McDonald late winner” written all over it. It was a dead cert daft quid magnet. So we are all out of pocket but who cares? Boro won and the ghost of Christmas past was far from scary.


From the day McDonald moved, shrewd observers of the “typical Boro” phenomenon had it “nailed on” that the argumentative Aussie would score (probably after a storming run and cross from ginger ninja Nicky Bailey.)
After Tony Mowbray finally shipped out the high-earning hitman after 18 months of brinkmanship it was fated that McDonald would not only bang in the winner but also get booked after his confrontational celebrations in front of the Boro box.
In certain circles his absence was the key reason for Boro’s early season stutter. In fact he had started to take on mystical powers. “You don’t sell your top goalscorer” was the mantra of those who thought the move was suicidal (even though he had only ever managed one in four and was a debilitating drain on the club’s economy).
Even with his Nemesis Mowbray gone the shadow of Skippy loomed large in jittery fans’ consciousness. As Boro results tailed off and the team inched down the table, the fixture took on even more significance. It was a six-pointer now.
And McDonald was out of favour at Millwall and hadn’t netted for ages: He was certain to score.
And then to add to the ingredients of pre-destined punishment, the sadists at Sky switched the game to the worst possible time slot. In their wisdom Sky chiefs decided to put their contractual obligation small screen sizzler between two distinctly unsexy sides on a day when the schedulers had already conceded defeat.
Most people looking for glitz and glamour, intricate well-rehearsed moves and nifty footwork on the box would have been tuned into the Strictly Come Dancing finale.
Many others who were watching at kick-off would willingly have surrendered control of the remote – or had it prised gently out of their hands as they slumped into a coma by the end of a woeful first half. So great, Boro were all set up to be tonked on the box and plunged deeper into the relegation quagmire with the pint-sized poacher set to rub our noses in it.
Well that script was well and truly ripped up at the New Den.
McDonald was a frustrated flop, totally ineffective and was booked in a bad tempered strop. He was awful. I think that particular spell is broken now.
But something far more significant was ripped up in the rain lashed misery of Millwall: Boro’s atrocious 2013 away record.
The travel-sick side have been woeful on the road this year. They went to Millwall (in-form at home) with an abysmal record. They had recorded just ONE win in over a year, just down the road at Charlton. Boro had amassed a paltry seven points from a possible 66. Plenty of hard luck stories but not enough points.
It’s hard to imagine a worse record in all four divisions. Or in Boro’s history. Even relegation- bound teams spawn the odd away win once in a while. So to win away – with all the runes and the stats stacked against them – is a massive relief and weight lifted.
Boro have looked solid in the away games under Karanka but have been undone at the death by mistakes. They have been compact and organised and worked hard as a unit to press high up the pitch, get into tackles early and hassle the opposition.
They did well at both Leeds and Derby to come from behind with 10 men only to lose to poorly- defended corners and dominated at Birmingham before getting a draw that felt like a kick in the teeth with another late lapse.
It has been hard work to sell the notion of a gradual change in shape and approach to fans when results and form were flat-lining. So to finally get the reward for that structural shift and the inching improvement is a morale-boosting vindication.
Hopefully, with that mental millstone cast aside, Boro will start to improve dramatically on the road. Even an upgrade to ordinary would do.
And, look, another collector’s item … Boro clocked up a very rare clean sheet.
It was only the fourth this season after the 1-0 win away at Charlton, the resounding 4-0 Riverside romp against Doncaster and the scrappy 1-0 home win over Bolton.
And there were only three more in the second half of last season: 1-0 home wins over Forest and Leeds plus a steely goalless draw at Burnley. That makes seven in the whole of 2013 and only three away.
That fundamental fragility – especially in the last 10 minutes – has been Boro’s fatal flaw.
Yet now Boro have edged to two clean sheets in just six games under Karanka. That shows signs of an emerging solidity.
It may be low-thrills at time – not even the diehards will be watching reruns of either the Bolton or Millwall games – but clean sheets and the confidence they breed at the back are important in giving the new boss a platform to build on.
And, interestingly, the win came with a reshaped side bereft of what under Mowbray looked like the first team skeleton. At the back there was no Jonathan Woodgate or Rhys Williams (nor Jason Steele) while in midfield Grant Leadbitter was ill and up front Kei Kamara is crocked and Lukas Jutkiewicz was on the bench.
When the team was announced there were reaction’s on Twitter that ranged from raised eyebrows to out-right panic at the extent of radical shuffle in personnel and shape. Again.
Five changes, a previously untried anchor duo of Dean Whitehead and Richie Smallwood, Curtis Main up front in a lone role and Jozsef Varga playing at right-back for the first time at Boro – although it must be noted he has played there for club and country back in Hungary and also in the Bundesliga so he is hardly a novice.
But the changes paid off. Phew. Losing at Millwalll would have been a disaster. It would have killed off dwindling faith among fans, possibly undermined belief in the squad and seen Boro dragged down by the dark gravity of the basement battle.
The victory and two moments of illuminating quality for the goals are all that will be remembered from a game most have already deleted from the memory banks.
The match “wasn’t one for the purists” or indeed, anyone who remotely likes to watch football. It was dire. The first half was a poor 45 minutes and painful to watch. Had it been shown on a tape loop to terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay the UN would have stepped in to stop such a cruel and unusual punishment. I mean, water-boarding, yes but please God no, not this again!
The wind swirled from all directions simultaneously in blustery battle – at one point two flags on top of the main stand were fluttering in opposite directions even though they were only 10 yards apart – and the rain swept in dancing sheets in matching maelstrom rhythms. It was awful. And the football was poor. Boro played the best of it, trying to get the ball down and pass and pick intelligently before getting to the edge of the box and moves fizzling out.
Millwall just hoofed it for Morison to chase while McDonald stood rooted in the flight path and twice Shay Given had to sharp off his line to hack or head clear.
The first shot on target didn’t come until 42 minutes and that was a low hit and hope hoof straight at Given. The game perked up after the break. It had to. Had it got worse the ref would have been within his rights to abandon it on quality grounds. And no one would have complained.
And it was lit up by Boro’s Christmas saviour Emmanuel Ledesma, collecting a perceptive Dani Ayala diagonal ball behind the full-back to cut in from the right and curl a delightful shot off the inside of the far post.
He had a role in the second too, a well weighted pass finding Albert Adomah’s run to the edge of the box and he deftly skipped past the advancing keeper to slot home.
In between both sides missed good chances, Richie Smallwood blazing over after a crisp move carved open Millwall and Morison put in a decent diving header for the home side that was well save by Given.
It is also worth mentioning that there was a touching shirt celebration tribute to Stuart Parnaby after his recent family tragedy. Twice. That shouts out ‘team spirit.’
The Boro fans were loud and proud and beery while the home fans were as hostile as usual – although this time the bile was saved for under-fire boss Steve Lomas. He is of course a former Hammer and hated to the core. Only good home results have prevented the local lynch mob from gathering before now. Defeat rised the floodgates open.
Aitor Karanka was taken aback by the ferocity of the attacks. He was in one dug out and could see the spittle flecked shouty pointy anger of the militant wing of the Danny Dyer Commando and while his grasp of the English vernacular is not yet street sharp he understood exactly the tone of the insults being thrown. And that is just by the kids.
“It is crazy from their fans,” he said after the game, shaking his head. “They have lost once at home since September and they try to kill the coach.” Still, it was ever thus at Millwall.
Fantastic result though. A good solid win in difficult circumstances.
Happy Christmas. Even you Scott.

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31 thoughts on “Red Lions Roar at The Den

  1. Watched it on Sky and had the utmost respect for the fans who watched on the howling wind and driving rain.
    Our manager said he would win ugly and we did. But we have to keep at it. It looks like we might have a right back now who can tackle and play the ball out of defence.
    Gibson looks stronger and better the more games he plays and it augurs well for the future we just need a leader beside him.
    Given made one good save and was pretty solid
    Ledesma unlocked the match and if he can be coached into providing a performance like that every week then the future is not so bleak
    Let’s not get carried away though we still have a long way to go
    Merry Xmas to all from
    Fat Bob

  2. Bleak, miserable, soul destroying, paint drying etc.etc. it was all those and worse yet unbelievably we came away with all three points. Being fair the fayre on offer was so bad 0-0 would have flattered both sides.
    There were no real poor performances but no great ones either. Ledesma came on for the injured Carayol and immediately showed odd touches of his eccentric best and worst. Brilliant Free kicks and woeful corners (although he did float in a peach in the second half).
    Just after the start of the said second half and 18 yards out he managed to stumble and wriggle past two markers and get a curling shot away and in off the far post. Unexpected, but we will take it plus of course it wouldn’t be Emmanuel if he didn’t get booked which he then duly obliged with his celebrations. He did at least manage to stay on the pitch.
    Main defended from the front, scrapped and battled but with little opportunity so although his workrate couldn’t be faulted he never remotely came close to scoring. Richie and Whitehead battled in the middle and stood up to the task, workmanlike, effective but not exactly inspirational. Richie could have put the game to rest but like the player he was replacing he obviously left his shooting boots behind and not for the first time this Season put it well wide of the mark, hey ho why make things easy!
    Varga was reasonably solid at RB as was Friend on the left who subdued his more adventurous spirit. Neither were outstanding and were beat a couple of times but in part due to Millwall being dire as much as anything never looked really troubled.
    Ayala and Gibson also looked solid enough and of course had a few sticky moments but overall looked comfortable, Gibson was my MOM. Given didn’t have a lot to do but dealt with everything he needed to and came off his line and out of his box on several occasions to sweep up behind the two CB’s.
    Marvin showed flashes but the front line looks like its missing a bit of fluidity and interplay without Kamara which perhaps explains why Adomah and Carayol have been looking a bit stale. When the Juke came on for Main near the end he looked a bit more focussed than usual. Instead of being pushed and easily shoved over he stood strong and held the ball up well taking some pressure off at the back. Butterfield likewise done OK, nothing great but steady when he came on for Marvin with a few minutes to go.
    After the recent run of bad luck it was inevitable that we would concede in the dying moments surely but amazingly it was us who broke the oppositions hearts with Adomah’s run and killing strike to make it 2-0 after Manu’s slide rule defence splitting pass.
    So there we go, pretty dull on the whole, nothing to get greatly excited about except defensively there looked to be greater determination not to concede. A clean sheet, no outstanding displays but two goals and three points. Its better winning ugly than having that empty robbed feeling without a doubt, lets have some more resolute displays and three points please.

  3. Firstly, great result, what a relief to win and not concede, esp in the last few minutes. Couldn’t hope for much more, and a much needed away result & morale booster.
    Secondly, great to see Ol Macdonald not managing to get on the score sheet as we all would have expected.
    Finally, having watched the Liverpool v Cardiff game earlier in the day, this was quite a shocking comedown in terms of quality. The first half especially was just totally bereft of any real skill. Sure, weather was atrocious etc, and we needed to win ugly, but still.
    Please don’t get me wrong, I’m over the moon about the three points, but not being a regular watcher (due to location) of anything except the highlight reels, is this level of skill standard these days?
    Aside from a few nice flicks from Emnes, Ledesma’s flashes of inspiration (amazing goal there Manu) and a nice run and rounding of the keeper from Albert, there was not a great deal in terms of a display, was there?
    As I say, love the result, but did not realise that we at “that” level already. Maybe this was an anomaly though.
    Here’s hoping tho that this is the start if something good.
    **AV writes: Quality wise and in technica;terms that first half was as bad as anything I’ve seen in this division all year.

  4. Never mind the quality, feel the points.
    Conditions looked dreadful, I was shivering and wearing a souwester watching it on TV.
    You can only play and beat what is front of you, what football came from the team in red.
    We dominated possession, had three times as many shots and over double the corners. However you slice it that is comfortable away from home. There were sticky moments but the conditions were bad, even the likes of ManU and Arsenal have those away from home at the likes of Millwall.
    Good to see us trying to play a higher line and press further up the pitch.

  5. Well that was a bit drab but Karanka is being asked to effect a massive cultural change with his hands tied behind his back.
    According to the club the only staff he’s brought in are an assistant fitness coach and an analyst. By my reckoning that leaves him short of a No2, at least one first team coach and a goal keeping coach.
    Given these difficulties I’m thankful for the small improvements I’m seeing.

  6. Terrible weather, fantastic support, scrappy game at best. Amazing three points.
    Shay Given on goals on Sunday saying “strong meeting and strong words from the manager before the game and I think the players responded to that” – brilliant to hear.
    Lovely finish from Ledesma and a great slotted pass for the second.
    Three points was the most important thing.
    Thoughts with the Parnaby’s.

  7. I’m going to have to pull you up on that Redcar Red, “nothing to get greatly excited about”…
    WE WON AWAY FROM HOME!
    …I don’t know about anyone else, but I (and the rest of the people at the Wheelies Xmas Shindig) got very excited about that!
    Win ugly, clean sheet, scored in the red zone, a decent right-back and Ledesma in from the cold to score a cracker. That’s good enough for me.
    UP THE BORO.

  8. Not a good game, but a good result.
    More of that over the festive season, would be fine by me.
    Best wishes to all, and a healthy and happy 2014.

  9. Under AK we are looking more solid and harder to beat and with a bit of luck would have double the points.
    The positives from the game were the performances of Varga and Gibson who replaced Rhys and Wood. Let’s hope they can get a run in the team as these have been problem positions for a good while.It will be a bit of a blow if we lose Given with his experience and command of the box athough the economics are understandable.
    Amazingly we are only 11 ponts off 5th place so with a bit of luck in the holiday games and a few new faces for old, who knows?

  10. Great to get the win and a bonus clean sheet too,a nice happy coach ride home for once.
    Maybe not the best of games but to be honest I’ve seen alot worse over the past couple of seasons.
    Looks like Karankas pre match pep talk did the trick.
    I thought the back four looked more solid and composed and they didnt give me the jitters in the last te bit quicker to the ball than Rhys with a no nonsense attitude to defending. The defence as a whole looked better although Friend was a bit too casual at times.
    Happy for Ledesma and his excellent goal,a good return to the team for him.
    The players seemed more determined and focussed and there were signs of improvement and learning from past mistakes.
    Long may it continue.

  11. OK it wasn’t spectacular but it was indeed a step forward – Boro proved they are up for a relegation fight by beating another team in the mix.
    I managed to watch the last hour of the game online, although I was initially a bit annoyed to have missed the first 30 minutes until the commentator expressed just how bad that opening half hour was (timing is everything).
    Interesting to see Varga finally play at RB – I’ve mention a few time that I thought he could play this position and I think given he seems to be forth choice defensive midfielder it could be his chance for a role in the team.
    I’d also forgotten about Ledesma, and he would definitely deserve a place in the starting line-up on that performance.
    Gibson still looks like our best centre-back and you’d believe he’d do himself justice alongside whoever Boro find as the main man come January.
    All in all the team showed a good attitude – though still plenty of work needed but at least with an away win (and a clean sheet) it’s another box ticked by Karanka’s regime – so well done and keep the talking on the pitch please!

  12. The first half was bad enough to get football banned as an entertainment. The first attempt on goal by either side was after 42 minutes! The second half was an improvement.
    It all becomes an irrelevance compared to the result. I had mentally rehearsed the deal with God – I don’t care how bad the game is, just let us have the three points and I’ll take the ugly, undeserved win.
    We got better in the second half. A good goal by Ledesma, a miss by Richie Smallwood and a last-gasp second by Adomah who had been put through by Ledesma for a one-on-one with the keeper whom he rounded and then coolly slid the ball home for the win. How sweet it all tasted.
    When all is said and done, we have had our fill of pretty performances that end in disappointment as our pressure is unconverted and the other side sneaks up the other end to put away the winner (usually in the dying minutes of the game). Win sweetly, win ugly…the important thing is that we needed a WIN.
    Our form has been laughable away from home for far too long. It didn’t matter how the game looked. What mattered a LOT was that we got three points. Thank God that we did.
    Something to lighten the long nights that Jarkko must be suffering in Finland, and a welcome release from the usual away agony. I guess it will take a week or two for the poor away fans to dry out after that game, though, as it looked on TV as if it wasn’t a nice night to be out and about — with a swirling wind and lots of rain.

  13. Compared to Mogga, what I like about AK is that he’s a realist. The main thing that bothered me when TM was appointed was that he was stubborn.
    When things are going well that is perceived as commendable: sticking to your principles and being a purist. Mogga was known as ‘playing the game the right way’. During WBA’s season in the PL with him, he insisted on playing a passing game and was widely lauded for that – but they went down.
    If he had not been such a purist and just compromised, WBA could have survived. They had some decent players and, if he had been prepared to play ugly, they could have stayed up, regrouped & reinforced, and played it ‘the right way’ the next season. A fatal stubbornness that cost WBA their place and cost him his job.
    We saw the same trait at Boro. He was determined to play Barcelona-lite but merely produced pretty-looking but fragile, windscreen-wiper ineffective footer.
    Time will tell what AK’s real style preferences are but, so far, he has demonstrated commendable pragmatism. Forget pretty, entertaining football – if playing ugly is what will get the points, then roll your sleeves up and grit your teeth. Defend in numbers, defend from the front, keep the opposition as far away as possible from our porous defence, hit them on the break by utilising our ample pace.
    It works. It’s probably the best use of the limited and demoralised playing resources AK has inherited. It won’t win many fans but promises to win far more points. Furthermore, if we can just string together a few good results, those players will start to believe and will look far less inept than they have done for the last year. On top of that history shows that, no matter how ugly the play, fans will follow a winning team.

  14. A welcome three points regardless of the quality of the game. Also the banana skin of ex Boro players rubbing salt into the wounds did not happen.
    Two home games ahead but very very tough ones. If we could get two 1-0 wins this would be a sign of intent and will push up confidence no end amongst players and fans.
    Have a great one you guys and up the Boro.

  15. Nikeboro –
    I dont think Karanka is a defensive coach. In some dreadful conditions all the football was played by Boro, he doesn’t just want to launch it.
    From what the players say they are doing in training they are trying to play further up the pitch, moving the ball quickly and pressing the opposition. That isn’t defensive, playing 26 square balls in your own half isn’t attacking nor is it ‘playing the game the right way’.
    The only right way is the winning way but we don’t want launch it football. By what we hear neither does Karanka.
    ‘Playing the right way’ doesn’t mean being open at the back, letting people have free runs at your back four, letting players cross in to your box, leave players to have free runs at set pieces.
    Real Madrid and Barcelona play pressing games and are devastating when the opposition turn the ball over. That is the way with Bayern Munich.
    It hasn’t helped being down to ten men in his first five games though in both we scored smashing goals. Both goals on Saturday were good football.
    We musn’t confuse putting things right with being defensive.

  16. Were we set up to win ugly or did both sides just lack quality? Those are the breaks I suppose – lose ugly and you’re hopeless, win ugly and it’s a back-to-basics masterclass. How we love these fine margins! Whatever. For the next six weeks or so we just need some points and some confidence and we can work on the rest later.
    Should we read anything into our better functioning midfield minus Leadbitter? Possibly. Whilst I consider him our best all round midfielder I still don’t think he’s a natural fit in a 4-2-3-1. Or perhaps it’s because we look to him too much (similarly I notice Liverpool are going along very nicely minus Gerrard). Or perhaps it’s just coincidence.
    I just hope this isn’t another one-off peak amongst a range of troughs. Let’s hope that was the beginning of a run.

  17. Ian Gill at 10.57 –
    We’re not in disagreement. I watched the Millwall game on telly but went to Birmingham. In both games what has struck me is:
    1. More organised and concerted defending, with all players responsible and defending from the front. As you say, the modern pressing game and holding a high line. I wasn’t saying he was defensive – just that he’d organised to defend better.
    2. Quicker and more incisive passing, attempting to do the damage in the right places. As you say, winning the ball higher up the pitch followed by quick turn-around is very much the modern Bayern & Barcelona way that he is attempting to emulate. That broke down most of the time but both goals were examples.
    Despite its superficial attractiveness, I too don’t believe that Mogga’s Boro played the game ‘the right way’ – hence the quotation marks.

  18. Reading between the lines, I’m trying to figure out which current players are rated by AK and which are dead in the water.
    From the back, It seems clear to me that he can readily see the weaknesses in Steele that have been obvious all along. To play a pressing game you need a GK to be a sweeper and dominate the last quarter of the pitch. That’s precisely what Steele doesn’t do. If he gets back into the team it’ll be because there is no alternative.
    Varga did himself no harm on Saturday. If he can repeat it, he’s staked a claim for RB. I suspect AK doesn’t rate any of our other FBs because of their lack of concentration, weakness at basics and susceptibility to crosses.
    I get the feeling that the only CB he’s likely to go forward with longer term will be Gibson. Ayala hasn’t covered himself in glory, Hines has always been limited and no more than a reserve. Woody is past it and, although he’s played most games this season, his injury record is too disruptive.
    The other possible is Rhys Williams – not based on the last year but surely he will rediscover his form at some stage. If so, somebody will need to work out his best position if he’s not to be the new Paul Madeley.
    AK uses Butterfield from time to time. To me, that suggests he judges us to be lacking creativity in MF but doesn’t see Jacob as the solution. I get the feel he likes Leadbitter, at least for the time being, but doesn’t rate any of the other midfielders. However he is likely to have to make do and mend for some time yet – defenders must be a higher priority.
    I would have thought that Carayol and Adomah are largely dead right for his tactics. They have pace, work hard and can chip in with goals. Their biggest weakness, especially for his pressing game, is their reluctance/inability to defend from the front and protect the FBs. They need to look to their laurels in that regard.
    It’s pretty obvious he can see what we’ve all seen in Jutkiewitz – very little. It’s hard to read his view of Emnes. I imagine he’ll persevere for the foreseeable future and utilise his pace. I would have thought Kamara has staked a claim with his team play, flexibility and goals. Ledesma’s impact on Saturday must have made AK sit up but Emanuel’s track record suggest it’ll be another 10 matches before he repeats it.
    I think AK needs a GK, CH, LB, MF or two and a goal scorer. His contacts are going to be tested in January!

  19. On a general point about the quality of football in the second Division, is it worse than before the PL started?
    If so, is it because as the squads of the top flight clubs are around three times as big as they used to be, that even despite the much larger numbers of non-British players, they have sucked up a much larger portion of the second-rank players, and that more of the third-rank players now play in the Second Division and so on?
    Do people with better/longer memories than me think I am talking out of my hat?
    **AV writes: I think a lot of the big club stockpiling is of foreign talent that probably wouldn’t filter down to the next level anyway.
    I remember a lot of positively criminal second tier football. For me it doesn’t get much worse than the successive 4-1 home defeats at the start of the 1984-85 season when Boro were dismantled by poor sides (including Grimsby) and the entire club had the stench of death about it.
    The worst matches I can remember (and I’ve seen a lot of lower and non-league football) were a mind-numbing 1-0 home defeat to Stoke on New Years Day 1990, a 4-1 tonking at Bolton at the fag-end of Lennie’s reign and a lot of dismal early round cup trudges against lower league sides.

  20. Nikeboro –
    I didn’t think we were in disagreement, I was just adding to your comments.
    I am sure some believe that defending is being defensive. Doing the job properly and attacking are not mutually exclusive.
    It will be interesting to see how Steele reacts. It is possible that as the team plays further up the pitch he he will become more of a sweeper, it is difficult when the defenders are treading on your toes in your six yard box and that is when you are attacking.
    Maybe his sending off was sympton of coming out more readily.
    AV and sw2boro –
    Abysmal performances went further than that.In the early seventies I took a Pompey fan to watch us play Hull at Ayresome Park and it was awful.
    Malcolm ? scored with a clever back-heel but the lowlight was possibly the worst ever training ground free kick routine.
    It was like an American football play with players making runs in all directions. The ball? Gently rolled to the wall and Hull set off up the pitch. Luckily it was dry because we were rolling about like those aliens from the Smash adverts – ask your dads. Then Stan left, Shep took over before Jack built his team.

  21. If I had one wish for Christmas and the New Year it would be to play a team as bad as Millwall every week.
    They were absolutely dire and it would be a mistake to believe that beating them reflects any significant improvement in our form. Our performance, generally poor with a few moments of quality, was easily enough to win the day. We thankfully didn’t give away any stupid goals although it would have taken a calamitous defensive display not to have kept a clean sheet against that lot.
    The first half was as bad a 45 minutes as I’ve seen. Truly awful . I’m struggling to remember a poorer effort. I vaguely recall a 0-0 with Brighton ,December 83?, on a bitterly cold day where there wasn’t a shot on goal in the whole game. Jimmy Case got booked I believe; that was it. The highlight was being stood in the Boys End next to a bloke in a Russian hat who looked like Nikita Khrushchev.
    Has AV ever done a worst nil nil draws feature ? They don’t tend to stay in the collective consciousness like a good hiding.
    The second half was better, mainly thanks to the contribution of Ledesma, a Mowbray freebie earning a relative pittance. A great goal combined with a smart assist and he probably wouldn’t have been involved at all if Karanka had brought in the loanees he wanted. He’s a player whose first instinct us to do something positive with the ball rather than pass the buck and he deserves a chance to cement a place in the side.
    Let’s also stick with the same back five for Burnley and try to build on the clean sheet. A lack of continuity in defensive positions has been an unwelcome feature of the last few seasons and none of the defence deserve to be dropped.
    Amazingly, Saturday was Millwall’s first home defeat in 8 games. That suggests to me that there are other very poor teams in this league and that we should have enough to avoid a relegation scrap unless we go daft in January.
    Hopefully the festive season will bring some more wins and see us climb the table. Whatever happens we can all take comfort that it’s only nine sleeps to the end of our annus horribilis.
    Merry Christmas everyone !

  22. Listened to a piece on SkySports (other sports channels are avaiable).
    Apparently more decisions go against teams in red than blue because red is aggressive whilst blue is calming. That explains why refs are always against us but I am baffled about how that relates to ManU.
    Paulista –
    It will be intriguing to see what Karanka does in the January window. He seems to imply he has 26/27 players and that is too many.
    We may see more going out than coming in but possibly he hasn’t heard of the curse of Crockcliffe. Only a joke AV.
    Merry Christmas one and all

  23. My post of Monday went missing.
    I think we started nicely at Millwall but then after 15 min I have already forgotten what happened (no, I did not fell to sleep watching PC as the game was not on TV here).
    We should have scored a third in the second half. So a well earned win if ugly. If you think Millwall was bad, perhaps we don’t need to worry about relegation then. And they had a good home record and all.
    Wishing everybody a Merry Chrismas and more succesfull (I am looking at you, Boro) New Year! Up the Boro!

  24. Merry Xmas to you and your family, AV, and to everyone else who helps make this the finest football blog on the planet. It is the only thing on the web that I look at every day.
    Seasons greetings to all.
    **AV writes: Yes, Merry Christmas. Best wishes to all readers and posters … on onwards to our traditional New Year upturn.

  25. Here’s hoping for a very Untypical Boro Christmas and 3 points on Boxing Day.
    Hope everyone has a happy one and Santa brings you all exactly what you wished for and that Aitor enjoys his first UK Football Festive Xmas!

  26. Santa is currently in Central Africa but will be here on Teesside in little over a couple of hours, unless too many Boro fans have been naughty this year.
    I hope everyone reading or contributing to this blog, their families and loved ones, have a really jolly Christmas, wherever in the world they may be. And let’s hope Santa finds a little something in his sack for Aitor Karanka and the team.
    Onwards and upwards…

  27. Come on, Lads. It may have been poor in 2013 but think how bad it’s been for cricket fans. The “mighty” have certainly fallen. Not that the opposition have been great, but we have fallen so far short of what has been required that it has been shameful.
    Now, it is possible the worm will turn and even this disappointing performance, so far, from the cricket team will be improved. So it must be possible for the Boro squad to do its job.
    There is a nagging doubt within me that tells me, however ridiculous it seems, Boro might be turning the corner. I really hope it’s right. I have had enough of the sympathetic responses from friends after yet another poor display. I’d like to see a few wins.
    Not bothered about flowing football etc, but I really do want to see some wins. *Please Santa*

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