CEREAL striker Golden Graham wrote his way into the history books as the man who ended Boro’s record breaking goal drought with not one but two tasty goals against Ipswich.. Yes TWO goals. In one game. It’s a new age of entertainment.
He was in the right place at the right time to rifle home the opener and while the floodgates didn’t exactly burst open, we were at least paddling in penalty box potency as a second before the break made it felt like a glut of goalmouth action.
And now, after two months of frigid agony over our on-going EIO deprivation we can do away with the clocks and calculators and record books and get back to more mundane post-match moaning. Thank God.
**Cereal Thriller… Danny Graham image via @ksjunior_junior on twitter
Graham’s opener ended a long bleak winter of woe: eight games, 12 and a quarter hours, 734 minutes. The scrappy 1-0 win over Charlton in January that pushed Boro into the play-off frame in mid-January seems a long time ago. A lot of time, momentum and goodwill has been lost through that impotent era of flaccid frustration and for all but the most optimistic of ra-ras, any notion of gatecrashing the top six has long gone.
It was a long personal barren spell broken for Graham too. Before today he had scored once in over a year. He failed to net at all in 13 appearances for Sunderland after he opted to give Boro a loan move bodyswerve and sign for them from Swansea. And he scored just once in his 20 games on loan at Hull – naturally that was against the Welsh side in a 1-1 draw back in December. So today was double his entire haul for 2013.
It wasn’t the most clean and clinical of centre-forwards finishes. In fact it was a bit scruffy, a stabbed close range finish after Gerken had got in a pickle and spilled Muzzy’s shot. But goals are like kids, you have to love them all, even the ugly ones and Graham will ruffle the hair and give a big beaming smile to this one: his first league at Boro for nine years (and one that he will remember after being sparked out scoring his first in a 2-2 draw with Charlton in 2005) and one that lifted a weight off the club’s collective shoulders)
I was just planning the route of the open topped bus parade marking this momentous event when he got a second, a glancing header from a corner. Hurrah! There was a cyber celebration and briefly #DannyGraham was trending nationally on Twitter.
It was a decent display by Boro. Not brilliant but after a tentative start and the opener they always looked comfortable against an average Ipswich. Boro were potent in the first half with Friend and Carayol coming off the naughty step to show what he can deliver when he is on his game. That shows either shrewd management by Karanka or raises the question of what may have happened in the past two games had he played. But that is in the eye of the beholder.
It wasn’t just Carayol that changed the balance and efficiency of the three in the 4231. Lee Tomlin made his first start and caught the eye with some direct runs but also some more subtle touches and at least two slaloming runs that had people off their feet. It’s been a long wait as he gets up to speed with the intensity the boss demands but he could yet be a big player this term once bedded in.
If Carayol’s return from internal exile raised eyebrows, the absence of top scorer Albert Adomah raised hackles. “It was my decision,” he said after the game. “He played for his international team in midweek but it wasn’t because of that. I needed to choose the 18 that I thought would be the best for us.” Of course, winning the game defuses the situation but before the game the selection handed ammunition to the dissenters.
Meanwhile the absence from the starting line-up of Jason Steele also sparked animated debate. It was a risk. Had Dimi had a mare (as now injured Tomas Mejias did last week) the presence of the long time No 1 on the bench would have been a handy weapon to beat the boss with. As it happened he barely had a save to make until stoppage time when he tipped a good header over.
On balance, it was a solid if not spectacular show by Boro that deserved victory. And they scored. That got the monkey of their back and enabled some sunlight in on what has been a bleak landscape. People were smiling on the way out. Laughing. Thawing.
The burden of the bleak barren run has been lifted and now maybe there will be a bit more balance about the way people view the way team has been playing. They have struggled to score, not because of the shape but because the players have not taken their chances. It wasn’t the formation that missed the sitters against Leeds or ruled out the goal at Hillsborough. We’ve discussed that to death through seven frustrating fixtures and become fixated on it – and in doing that have over-looked the far more fundamental tackle development in the team.
This side are rock solid. They have kept 10 clean sheets in 12 games and in the last seven seven have not conceded from open play. They have dealt with some of the best teams in the division, shackled the best strikers, neutralised attacks based on pace and power and learned to shut up shop effectively against a long ball blitz. and that is a fantastic platform to build on. If the front-line can be tactically tweaked with anything like the same results then Boro will have a hell of Championship team. Bring it on.