*SIGH* A familiar frustrating tale is being retold with a heavy heart after a grave injustice at Hillsborough – but an injustice that doesn’t outweigh a worrying sense that a habitual inadequacy is fast becoming the default.
The “sharp” end first: Jacob Butterfield’s goal was in. Definitely. It hit both posts then looked to have crept well over the line before Chris Kirkland clawed it to safety. It looked in from where we were. It must have looked in from where the linesman was standing. We didn’t have the benefit of a monitor in the Hillsborough press box but your multi-media Gazette team quickly provided conclusive and exclusive proof. Here it is:
You can’t argue with that.
After the game Kenneth Omeruo told us the referee had admitted at half-time he now knew the ball was over the line. Presumably at the crucial moment he didn’t and had to go with the linesman. While Kenneth was talking to the Teesside press Kirkland was talking to our Sheffield counterparts and confessed the ball was “miles over.” And it was.
Karanka said he hadn’t seen it and wasn’t really interested in excuses. He was angry that the players hadn’t delivered the intensity he wanted, hadn’t forced enough clear cut chances to make the controversy redundant and threw in a new word to his now familiar post match lexicon. Along with ‘frustrated’, ‘angry’ and ‘disappointed’ he added that he was ‘worried.’ He didn’t specify what he was worried about – the situation in Ukraine maybe – but I think most of us probably share that bundle of emotions.
Meanwhile at the other end, his big selection didn’t come off. Playing Tomas Mejias ahead of fit again Jason Steele was a risk. He hadn’t played a minute in English football. And he didn’t have the greatest of debuts. Yes, he made a couple of good saves, a good tip over from a dipping Hutchinson effort and a good ‘Shay like’ reflex save from a 10 yard Coke shot… but he fumbled three times as he came to collect crosses in confusing situations and twice got away with it before the goal. He spilled it sparking a scramble and when Best drilled it goalwards Dean Whitehead – not having a great day – handled.
That was Boro’s 11th penalty conceded this term. The vast majority were avoidable. The vast majority have cost Boro points. These are the mistakes that Karanka has tried to eliminate and which keep bubbling up.
As at Watford it was only a penalty that decided the game. Boro haven’t conceded a goal in open play in seven games. Which remains the key positive. Provided Boro don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they are very very hard to beat. But that has to be the building block of a team that can win.
Boro didn’t look like that today. They created very few chances themselves, the best – ghost goal aside – came as Butterfield sent Danny Graham into the box to try to curl one around the advancing Kirkland. He didn’t look overly confident as he struck the ball and Kirkland saved, then when the ball rebounded to the edge of the box it fell to Kei Kamara and his shot wasn’t completely convincing either and Kirkland saved that too.
Let’s not kid ourselves that Kirkland had “a worldie” hot on the heels of Paul Robinson and Jack Butland. They were good saves but they were routine saves. Boro made it easy for him. He wasn’t being peppered with screamers at awkward angles. It was routine stuff.
There’s the problem. Boro lack a clinical edge and confidence in front of goal. That needs to be resolved very quickly. The goal drought is now 11 hours and 45 minutes … 705 minutes…. an ice age of ineptitude – and not even the consolation of a clean sheet.