Football… Bloody Hell! Nine Man Boro In Barmstorming Battering Of Brum

FOOTBALL… bloody hell. Nine man Boro beat Birmingham in a pulsating 3-1 win which was by far and away the most entertaining spectacle of the season.
It wasn’t always pretty but it was gripping, energising non-stop drama climaxing with a breakaway first goal for Lee Tomlin to seal it after Boro shrugged off a Blues barrage in an incredible atmosphere. There was pride, passion, spirit, skill and a real will to win and an almost tangible sense of unity between crowd and team. It was fantastic. It was exactly what supporters are talking about when they demand their team “give it a go.” It was the kind of game that creates a word of mouth buzz and shifts tickets.
Aitor Karanka – still dizzy after a nasty bout of the dreaded lurgey – described it as “crazy” and said it could have finished 7-5 and that for a coach it was heart-stopping stuff. It was the same for everyone else. Heart-stopping. Breath-taking. Crazy. Dramatic. Absorbing. And at times barely believable.But it was brilliant. And it bodes well for the future.


aitorleo.jpg
Where to start? The two red cards? Ben and Ken both got pedalled, both for second yellows and both cheaply. Ken got one for body-checking Ibe as he burst through and took one for the team… although there was a sense of injustice as the move (which also saw Ben Gibson rugby tackle Zigic) started with a foul on Ledesma in the build-up. That left Boro, then 2-1 up, with 10 minutes to dig in a man down.
Then, five minutes later, in a frantic spell Gibbo got his marching orders for a tug in the middle of a chaotic scramble. Everyone thought the whistle had gone for a foul by Adomah in the crowd but eagle-eyed offence detector and former Premier League ref Jeff Winter called it from the press box immediately – “Gibson is off here” – even before the man in purple had stomped over.
So two reds – that’s a record 11 for the season, well done everybody. Down to nine for the first time since Arca and Thomson both got pedalled for slow motion stupidity at Coventry in January 2012. The two against Brum leave a looming defensive crisis for the trip to Burnley. Not least because hugely improved and influential potent attacking outlet George Friend also limped off in the first half with a groin injury that didn’t look good. That said, Chalobah and Woody (fit for now) plus the possible return of Daniel Ayala isn’t a bad pool to patch it up from. And the pair will only miss one game.
Where to start? The goals. Graham’s opener wasn’t bad, turning neatly to stab home from a well worked corner… that nudges a man who was deep in cow/banjo territory during the goal drought up to a respectable four in 13, the kind of ratio that had some Boro fans declaring Scott McDonald the Messiah. And after he scored he came alive with some great runs, touches and knock-downs although he twice messed up good one-on-ones after deft balls in from under-rated Jacob Butterfield.
And talking of Butterfield, Jacob’s Cracker was a beauty. He turned well and let a quick throw from Varga drop over his shoulder then cracked a half-volley from the corner of the box that curled over the keeper and inside the far post. Here’s footage of it..
That looked to have sealed it but then City struck out of the blue as young midfielder Emyr Huws – “is he Welsh?” someone asked – collected a harmless looking ball down the right then cut inside and unleashed an absolute “thunderbastard,” a sizzling 35 yard angled exocet that screamed past Dimi’s dive and in. Here it is.
At that point it had been a scrappy game in which Boro had taken control against the run of play and only the two peaches illuminated a high-octane but low quality half.The second half was more of the same but with Boro in the ascendency – and someone had hit the fast-forward button: sweeping attacks, incisive movement and a flurry of chances peppered with mistakes that left Birmingham on the attack.
Some fantastic perceptive and well weighted balls from Butterfield sent Graham into the box but he couldn’t get a shot off ;Ledesma stabbed one down that bounced up and the keeper finger-nailed it over; Chalobah, Ledesma, Tomlin all had chances with every attack turning up the volume and intensity of the crowd, by now almost hysterical.
Then came the sendings off and it was suddenly City piling forward looking for a leveller and some chaotic last ditch defending (Albert at left-back sliding into tackles) in a late Blues barrage as ball after ball awas aimed at penalty box lamp-post Zigic.
But after a series of desperate scrambles a well picked out long ball forward from Adomah sent Tomlin bursting forward and as two defenders got in each others way he fired in a shot and when it came off the defender he slammed home at the second attempt. “We only need nine men” roared and laughed the crowd as the team all ran over and piled on top of the portly poacher. An excellent feeling.
All Pile On.jpg
Tomlin needed that. After a series of frustrating displays when it seemed he was trying too hard we are now seeing flashes of what he can offer. That may relax him and we may see the that on a sustained basis. Ditto Butterfield. Ditto Graham. Ditto the team as a whole. Things are starting to fall into place.
It was a good display. The defence looked solid, Dimi is increasingly impressive, Chalobah – unshackled from his anchor role – looks like the player who ripped us open at Watford rather than the lack-lustre ghost at Forest, Butterfield and Tomlin are starting to click and Graham now looks like a player who can unsettle defences if not yet one who will rattle in double figures before the end of term. It is coming.
Boro’s stats now look quite impressive. They have lost just one in eight – and that to the bottle top bobble – despite a run that has included a string of team above them in the table: Ipswich, Bournemouth, Derby, Forest, Brighton… they are now a team that are solid at the back, have confidence and spirit and increasingly have a cutting edge up front. There is a bit of momentum and buzz building now just as the season is winding down.
Three wins on the bounce now. Five games to go… and just six points behind three teams locked in joint seventh… let’s go for it.

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30 thoughts on “Football… Bloody Hell! Nine Man Boro In Barmstorming Battering Of Brum

  1. The feeling when the third goal went in was something special. I haven’t felt that proud for a long long time, probably Steaua.
    Hope Adamoh is fit for Saturday, he could barely move after being wiped out a few times. Just think, that goal drought could now cost us the play off place.
    **AV writes: Ifs and maybes… you can pick out the missed opportunities wherever you want: the goals gifted and points dropped as Boro lost commanding leads at Forest or Wigan early on, the chaos of Bournemouth at home. Or point to injustices like the ghost goal at Sheff Wed or the punched equaliser at home to Forest.

  2. I just found this article on The Daily Hyperbole:
    FA CONSPIRACY AS BORO ROLL ON
    Rumours abound this morning of a secret FA conspiracy to rig the Vimto-Irn-Bru Championship Manager of the Month awards for March and April to ensure Aitor Karanka sweeps the board, in a deft attempt to de-rail bouncing Boro’s last ditch push for 6th place.
    An FA spokesman said that he could confirm, off the record, that such a conspiracy may have a foundation in reality.
    “I can confirm, off the record, that such a conspiracy may have a foundation in reality.” “Senior figures within the FA have had it in for Middlesbrough ever since the three points farrago and the ensuing bad publicity of a court case. Our legal team, Messrs. Sue, Grabbit & Runn QCs, advised underhand tactics to settle the scores.”
    “We managed to de-rail their ultimately destined-to-be-successful Europa Cup win by appointing Steve McClaren as the new England manager and distracting him with the promise of all expenses paid rain-wear before the final game. Then, we allowed them to appoint Gareth Southgate as Manager, despite it being clear to all that he blatently wasn’t ready.”
    “Finally, we convinced Steve Gibson that we were going to introduce an Anglo-Celtic “home-grown quota” to the Championship and that he must immediately go and recruit four or five Scottish, or formerly Scotland-based players to the team – leading to the appointment of Gordon Strachan, and the ill-advised Glasgow-Grab.”
    “But this new man has us worried. He has the ear of that miscreant at Chelsea and seems relatively unflappable. This is a desperate move and one we hope will pay off.”
    Asked by The Hyperbole to comment on the FA rumours, Mr Karanka had this to say:
    “FA? A friend of mine at Chelsea told me that they should be called ‘Sweet FA’ because they do absolutely that.”
    Unfortunately Mr Karanka was called away at this point to attend other media events. One thing which surely will not be called away are the rumours around this story, which continue to gather pace.

  3. Great article AV
    Can’t remember the last time I went so beserk as when Tomlin scored, cue Mourinho style celebrations along the back row of the North Stand (sadly there’s plenty of room ).
    Take back everything I said about Karanka a few weeks back. I don’t know whether it’s Higgys influence but there’s definitely a more positive approach to our home games. Biggest positive of the night ,the crowd and the players appreciation at the end of the game.
    Get the feeling Karankas starting to build something here .Sadly last minute
    goals and dodgy refereeing decisions have probably cost us a play off spot .
    I’m looking forward to next season ., and for the first time in three seasons I’m thinking of getting a season ticket next season

  4. AV –
    Ifs and maybes, you tend to finish in the part of the table you deserve to be in.
    What is true is that there is an element of luck. If there was a dodgy decision table, not the type needing ten video replays from ten angles but the clear wrong un, then that tends to decide who is Champion, gets in to the play offs or goes down.
    There has always been the fact the top teams get decisions in their favour. That is because hey have the ball more often, in the opposition box more often.
    All fans tend to think their club is badly done to. This isn’t being Boronoid but I do think we have had some really bad ones since Christmas. It doesn’t mean we deserve to be in the play offs but they have reduced our chances.

  5. Thats three on the bounce now against very decent opposition. Brum maybe low down in the league but they have performed better away from home.
    A pity this run didnt start a few games sooner we may have been in with a chance of … no … wont mention that.
    Well done to the team this could be the upside of what we have gone through during the season. A very tough one next with some of our top performers missing.
    But we look to have good confidence now and a win can happen.

  6. Magnificent win. And the Riverside got rocking again. Good for season card sales, too. By the way, who is going to play at left back now that Friend injured, Gibson suspended etc. Who is there left any more?
    Up the Boro!

  7. Well if that performance doesn’t encourage the crowds to come back then nothing will!
    I’ve always liked Butterfield but only,seen glimpses of his potential and was relieved that finally with Tomlin also that we have some footballers who can play an astute pass but more importantly score goals from midfield.
    AV your match report hit the spot and the tone of the game but let’s not forget the drive and energy of our captain Grant Leadbitter who worked his socks off.
    I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, credit must be given to our scouting team for identifying the players we have signed who have not cost us a fortune but are now beginning to be worth quite a bit not only in monetary terms but in quality performances.
    Can we do it? Can we make the play offs? Stranger things have happened during a life time of supporting the Boro. A win on Saturday and all our fans should pack the ground for our next home match and roar the lads on……..
    Fat Bob

  8. Good one AV. That was a game I really would like to have seen. When we went down to 10 men I was praying we would hold on – down to nine and I was laughing hysterically, but Karanka has moulded a tough team with rapidly growing self belief.
    I still think seventh is a tall order although if we beat Burnley I may change that view, personally I would be delighted with an unbeaten run to the end of the season and a top ten finish. Hopefully this momentum will encourage a few of us to get down to the Riverside a bit more often next season, it could be a cracker!
    Looking at the current form tables who would bet against Bournemouth not being in the Prem next season or indeed Leeds in League one?
    Smoggy – great post , very funny.

  9. It was good to see the players work so hard for each other. A fantastic team spirit throughout a hard game was epitomised when Tomlin made the game safe and everyone bar Dimi crushed him in sheer joy. Brilliant to see. If you had closed your eyes at that point the noise created would have you believe that there were no empty seats in the stadium.
    Keep on keeping on. Strength in unity.

  10. Nigel –
    I was so taken in by The Daily Hyperbole article I tried to find it by googling.
    If Sunderland can get away with a secret squirrel response to playing an ineligible anything is possible.

  11. Who could have predicted that!
    It could have been three each at half time with no complaints.The second half got even better… ,erratic ref* decisions, misplaced passing, cavalier attacking from both sides, gaps at the back and a righteous display of passion from a vocal crowd that seemed three times the actual attendance,bloody football indeed.!
    *A special mention for the hapless man in the middle who (inadvertantly) orchestrated it all.

  12. Am I wrong in thinking we have a LB called Bennett in the reserves? And that he has been on our bench once? Anyway,whoever plays LB for the reserves needs to get ready for Burnley away.

  13. Too many expletives in your reporting Anthony – how come you can let yourself away with that and yet when I send in an apostrophised version of the very same expletive you apply Dr Bowdler’s principle?
    Nevertheless, a breathless report of a breathless match and a wonderful result given our luck of late. Following the text on the Beeb had me sweating and when I saw ‘GOAL’ appear after young Gibson was despatched I feared the worst…but having rubbed my eyes I received the unlikely confirmation that it was us who scored…unbelievabe…
    **AV writes: I am allowed to swear – if it reflects the tone and mood music of the bit I am writing – because if I get pulled on it I can always fight my corner with my bosses and justify it. I can take responsibility for it. Not that I do it often.
    “Football – bloody hell” is a fairly widely used quote from Alex Ferguson and “thunderbastard” is the new in-phrase within the football village for a rocket like that. Hence the quote marks. It is cultural furniture not bad language.
    In the comments I have tried to create a certain ambience. Early on I decided to take the sting out of cussing and insults, especially those directed at other posters and so I censored them. Generally I don’t need to now because most people are in tune with the atmosphere. The odd mild sweary, especially if in a funny context, isn’t a problem but you know, some people will take liberties if I relax it.

  14. Ian – I am a left back and play regularly on the over-50-year-olds league here. But unfortunately the window is closed at home as the wind is still quite cold up here in the North. But I will be there for the Milwall game, be sure!
    PS: Can Reach be recalled anymore this season?
    Up the Boro!

  15. “Cultural furniture”. Hee hee. I love that phrase AV! “I was sacked for applying cultural furniture to my boss” might appear in an appeal court in the near future!

  16. Gutted that I couldn’t make last night’s game. I obviously missed a belter!
    Like you, Cassandra, I watched this unfurl on the breathless, deathless BBC’s “live” stream – it’s only about five mins behind the action! You get great stuff like, ” Shot from Danny Graham to the centre of the goal, saved by Randolph. ” It gives you no sense whatever of the action or the flow of the game, except that time and again we kept getting, “Kenneth Omeruo concedes a free kick in the defensive half.”
    I got the distinct impression we were somewhat under the cosh at times! Swearing to myself many times, “Come on Boro. What the …….. is going on? Get a grip! ”
    Honestly, it was madness just watching it happen like this, never mind being there!! My blood pressure went up several degrees. Not good for the old ticker!
    Anyway, I’ve got my ticket for Burnley, my 5th Lancashire game of the season. Gawd knows who we’ll have available in defence! But it should be fun, anyway, especially if we can have 20 shots like we did against Brum!
    **AV writes: If not at the game the best on-line way to follow the game is on twitter via the #borolive hashtag where you get instant updates from a host of reliable sources – and me – plus snippets of humour and a sense of the collective mindset.

  17. Great picture of AK as the third went in. Nice to see some animation from the Manager, he deserved that.

  18. Well this is now a lot more like it. The fear of losing has given way to daring to win.
    Results will be what they will be but so long as the intent is there, particularly at home, we can have little complaint. Karanka is winning me over again.
    I hope we can get Challobah on a season long loan next year, find a quality right back (though retaining Varga will do if the price is right) and add a striker (Graham again will do for me).

  19. Clive –
    You wont need a ticket, get those cork studded boots out of the loft. Hopefully you wont have taken on the Mr Pickersgill mantle as John and I have.

  20. Given that we’re a left back short for Saturday and with ‘all due respect’ to those bloggers willing to step into the breach perhaps we could call on one of ‘Charlton’s Champions’ for one last hurrah! Maybe not…..
    Whoever plays in defence, at least three wins on the trot and an exciting match against Brum has livened up the end of season run in somewhat.

  21. Ian –
    For the benefit of fellow bloggers let me say that Mr Pickersgill was our somewhat bulky rugby master at Acklam. A boot up the proverbial backside was never far away if you so much as missed a tackle………..
    Thankfully, my rugby playing days finished when my house was beaten 127 nil in a house game. I was captain. It’s one of the principal reasons I hate the game so much!
    I don’t really care who brings their boots to Burnley for our defence, as long as it’s not some hulking great lunk of a prop forward. Methinks attack is the best form of defence on Saturday. Let’s give the Clarets so much to think about in their own defence that we don’t need to worry too much about our own!

  22. Has anyone noticed that it is mathematically impossible for Boro to be relagated after this weeks’ results? Progress?
    Up the Boro!

  23. Any idea on the how the defence might line up tomorrow?
    What’s happened to Hines? Could he be an emergency fullback with Woody and Ayala the centre backs? What are the other options?
    If we win then given the circumstances I might begin to get carried away…
    **AV writes: Hines injured, Parnaby injured. Friend out. The alternatives are…
    1) bring Ayala back after three months out and without even a ressies match and put his at left back with Woody and Chalobah central
    2) put Varga at left-back and replace him with a senior midfielder at right back. Whitehead has played there on occasion for Sunderland. Or possibly Albert as a wing-back?
    3) bring in one of the kids on the basis that better an inexperienced specialist than an out of position veteran. I think Sirrell has played at left-back. Atkinson is a defender but is usually right-sided. Jackson is a defender.
    4) heresy… change formation? Play 3-5-2?

  24. Jarrko –
    I haven’t looked at the bottom of the Championship (other than to admire Leeds in freefall) for weeks.
    Onward and upward!

  25. Hmm. There isn’t a good option for the defence then. A lot depends on how ready the kids are.
    I think my criteria would just be to keep it as simple as possible. We don’t want several players playing out of position or everyone trying to adapt to a different system on the hoof. I also wouldn’t want to risk playing Woody and Ayala together. There’s a fair chance neither will get through ninety minutes and we don’t want to use up substitutions on replacing injuries at the back, particularly with no experienced cover.
    I’d go for the usual 4-2-3-1 with a back four of Varga, Woody, Chalobah/Atkinson and Sirrell (?) at left back. Ayala on the bench.
    At least Burnley are missing important players too.

  26. The excellent Swiss Ramble twitter account/blog has recently published financial figures for the Championship 2012/2013. Manna from heaven for stattos like me but worth a look for any Boro fan.
    Two sets of statistics particularly stood out, wage bill and match day income. Here are the details:
    Wage Bill £(M)
    Bolton 37.4
    B’burn 36.6
    Cardiff 32.8
    Wolves 31.1
    Leic 26.1
    Hull 25.9
    Birm 22.9
    Brighton 21.1
    Forest 21
    Boro 20.7
    Leeds 20
    Palace 18.8
    Bristol C 16.9
    Burnley 15.4
    Ipswich 15
    Hudd 13.4
    Watfd 12.8
    Derby 12.1
    Millwall 12.1
    C’ton 12
    S Wed 11.9
    B’pool 11.6
    Barnsley 7.7
    P’boro 6.2
    Match Day Income (£M)
    Leeds 9.7
    Brighton 8.7
    Forest 7.1
    Cardiff 6.2
    S Wed 6.2
    Wolves 6
    Leic 5.7
    C’ton 5.6
    Palace 5.6
    Watford 5.6
    Millwall 5.4
    Derby 5.3
    Ipswich 5.1
    Hull 4.6
    Boro 4.6
    B’burn 4.3
    Birm C 4.2
    Hudd 3.8
    B’pool 3.8
    Bolton 3.8
    Burnley 3.4
    Bristol C 3.1
    P’boro 2.8
    B’sley 2.5
    The wage stats show we had the 10th largest wage bill, casting doubt on Gibson’s assertion that, save for one or two teams, we had the highest wages in the league. It seems to me we have a middle table wage bill and perhaps not surprisingly we are also a middle table team.
    Paying your players more doesn’t guarantee success, look at Wolves last year for example, but generally it helps. Of the top eight last year, six had wage bills bigger than ours and one of the others was Watford who exploited the then generous foreign loan rules.
    This year’s figures aren’t available but you can safely swap QPR, Reading and Wigan for Cardiff, Wolves and Hull which would put us 10th again.
    There is no justification in Gibson, or anyone else, demanding a top six finish as a minimum requirement based on this. We have an outside chance of promotion and no more.
    The match day income stats are even more sobering.
    Under FFP putting bums on seats is the single biggest factor in a club’s financial success. We came joint 14th! That’s pretty poor and emphasizes what a massive job the club has to increase its turnover. It also shows how barmy it is to even suggest a cut in ticket prices is the answer.
    I think we are making some progress under Karanka; we could do a Burnley next season but it’s far more likely that we won’t. The best we can realistically hope for is steady progress and perhaps edging into a play off spot if a couple of the relegated teams from the Premier league implode. Sensible realism.
    I appreciate that doesn’t fit in with the Veruca Salt “I want it NOW “ world of the average cyberfan but given the cold harsh facts do we have the right to expect anything else.
    **AV writes: Perhaps more importantly, the first column can easily be tweaked but the second can’t. The club (Steve Gibson) can easily put more money into wages and can just as easily slash it by buying far cheaper players (ie reduce levels of ambition) but they can’t do anything (directly) about income levels: gates.
    For a lot of angry fans the answers are either “buy better players to win games and promotion and the crowds will come back” (which is a massive risk and comes with no guarantees of either success or increased crowds) or “slash prices and the crowds will come back” (which is a massive risk and comes with no guarantee of increased crowds and damages the ability to buy players and compete.)

  27. At a post work ‘meeting’ and the discussion turned to football.
    There was an omen. As I have mentioned I am a lot of space to be a waste of, a Burnley fan had to go to the bar and he had to sit down halfway around me.
    We were not quite certain if he was a tight fisted thing or whether it was a premonition of a potential game plan.
    Aitor Karanka’s fat and red army!

  28. Interesting figures PP, though you’d have to take into account that Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves were relegated from the PL the previous year and were carrying baggage in the wage department – incidentally it didn’t do them much good as they finished 7th, 17th and 23rd respectively.
    Cardiff were on a ‘twist or bust’ mission to the PL and luckily it paid off but we’ll be seeing them next season again despite the many millions thrown at the project.
    I can’t see the gate receipts of Boro increasing by any significant amount given the continued price freezes and the apathy towards continued Championship football – plus if we do go on a run and start attracting the fans it won’t be part of our pre-season budget anyway.
    I also don’t think football does steady improvement anymore – either you build on the momentum and make it count or you go back to the drawing board and try something different (fans are an impatient lot).
    OK money probably helps but as we know it guarantees nothing – though the worry is FFP will make it harder rather than easier to bridge the PL financial gulf and give relegated clubs with their £120m advantage an easier ride to promotion. It may ultimately mean spiking your budget every few years to give it a go then regrouping and trying again – next year is probably our chance given our current momentum.

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