Self Inflicted Sharp Wound Ends Dirty War

OK, LEEDS… never been a better time to play them ;  confident Boro are tight at the back and flying up front and with  Kike looking as hot as El Nino;  Leeds in their annual disarray with boardroom mayhem, an influx of unknown players and a non-league boss. Who supports Boro. What could possibly go wrong?

BORO suffered a self-inflicted wound at Elland Road as Billy Sharp stabbed home at the death. The striker – making his debut for Leeds after signing from Southampton in midweek – pounced unmarked on the loose ball and slotted home from close range after Boro’s Spanish shot-stopper keeper Tomas Meijas fumbled a low shot from Tonge.

For many Boro fans the goal two minutes from time would have had a familiar feel to it: Sharp has now netted for four different teams against them. Their old Nemesis Sharp had already scored against Boro for Southampton, Doncaster and Sheffield United and was booked for removing his shirt and over-celebrating as he added Leeds  to that list.

Typical Boro. And at Leeds too. It was a  moment that deflated a pre-match bubble of optimism. That was a cruel blow for Boro who had dominated for long spells in the televised clash and had what looked a good Albert Adomah goal ruled out in the first half.  The winger’s acrobatic overhead kick on 25 minutes had been disallowed by infamous “ghost goal” referee Stuart Attwell for “a dangerous high foot” – defender Warnock had stooped to put his head in bravely in an attempt to clear – when almost everyone in the ground, including his linesman, thought it had counted.

Boro players and fans were celbrating and the lino was dashing back to the half-way line for kick-off when Attwell finally decided five or six seconds later that it had been a foul.

That twist of fate decisively swung the tide in a full blooded Championship crunch that Boro had bossed up to that point. After that Boro’s side started to lose some of their swagger and stopped passing and probing crisply as they gradually got dragged into Leeds more direct and scrappy long ball style and then into a toe-to-toe street fight before being mugged with the game fizzling out into a draw.

Boro had plenty of the ball but struggled to find the final pass to get behind Leeds and lacked some fizz in and around the box. Kike twice lobbed over the bar and there  were a couple of balls that skidded into the box that threatened but Leadbitter dragged a shot wide and Ayala stretched and shinned one straight at the keeper. And Boro had no Plan B and few options to change it. Bamford and Baker may have helped or the other mooted marksman and wide left player. But for now  Boro are limited in approach.

Had Albert’s goal been allowed to stand with Boro in the ascendency they would probably have  gone on to win comfortably and gone top of the table leaving Leeds in disarray and in deeper crisis. On such moments do games turn.

And it wasn’t just the Sharp strike that prompted deja vu. Anyone who saw Meijas in action at Hillsborough last term will have seen some familiar flaws at Elland Road. At Sheffield Wednesday he flapped at crosses, edged tentatively into crowds and dropped the ball and fumbled a couple of routine shoots, although  it must be said that was his debut for Boro and his first game in the hurly-burly of the Championship.

As at Leeds that was a game where Boro had bossed and were robbed of  good goal – Jacob Butterfield’s ball over the line – only to lose after a fumble.

Meijas’ display can most generously be described as patchy.  He twice had to charge into sliding tackles to tidy  up in his box after defensive mistakes left him exposed (although for the second one his own poor touch from a strongly hit Abella  back-pass was poor) and he held a Bianchi free-kick well in the first half. But the hesitation on high balls and fumbles were still there. And while English football may well have more aerial balls it is not as if Spanish football has outlawed the corner. Before Leeds scored, Meijas came and flapped and missed it leaving Sharp to glance a header wide.

Already the lynch mob are gathering. He’s not as good as Dimi. he’s not as good as Steele. What is Karanka thinking of? He’s thrown certain promotion away! Who-ah. Firstly,  it is only his third competitive game for Boro. That’s a bit early to write anyone off. And secondly Karanka has proved shrewd with signings so far and isn’t the kind to risk everything on one player. Let’s cut Meijas some slack and trust the gaffer to make the right choices to turn out a winning side.

On the debutants, Damia Abella started well  with a couple of good tackles, a few good balls up the flank and surging run or two but he faded. Boro completed the move early on Friday but asked us to keep it under wraps as sneakio Karanka wanted to keep Leeds guessing tactically.  As Abella explained afterwards in cartoon heavily accented but passable English, he has only played two 45 minute sessions for Osasuna and is nowhere near match fit.  But he looks like he ticks a lot of boxes and will get fitter and stronger and click into the system in the weeks to come.

And Adam Clayton laughed off the Leeds boos and jeers and introduced himself with two crunching tackles and a searching ball forward for Kike to chase before settling into a good rhythm of chasing and scrapping. He’ll get better too.

Yes it feels a bit flat right now but we have seen plenty of positives so far this season. It is still a work in progress, it is still being tweaked – the gaffer wasn’t happy –  and remember, there are still players to come.

 Here’s the Gazette picture gallery from the game. I spoil you lot.





107 thoughts on “Self Inflicted Sharp Wound Ends Dirty War

    1. Looking at your breakdown Jarkko, despite injuries I’m happy with our options in goal, at CB, LB, holding midfielders. right wingers and left wingers.

      Few world beaters, but this is the Championship and two decent options for each place is a good squad at this level.

      I think, therefore, that we might be short at right-back, up front and in the no. 10 position unless Ledesma and/or L Williams can kick on.

      Bamford will provide an option in both attacking positions, so I think the current squad is good for quantity and not bad for quality.

      Mentality, management and luck may now be the deciding factors as to whether we finish midtable or top six.

  1. Boro-in-Brisbane –

    Shay Given, at £60k per week are you sure?

    The goalkeeping situation is an odd one both Dimi and Steele seem solid and reliable to me, but its a little early to panic on this issue.

    Its early in the season and too early to draw any conclusions, but it was a big disapointment not to get a result at Leeds, it seemed the perfect opportunity to do so, but that’s the beauty of football, its a very unpredictable game, especially in the Championship. At least we’ve got a mid week game to look forward to.

    1. I think Dimi is a good back up Keeper at this level but not as a No.1, Steele is probably our best of the bunch but has weaknesses which I think makes him somewhat suspect at times.

      For Mejias read Andy Dibble I’m afraid unless there is a massive reincarnation in him. At this stage of his career you expect to be able to see the makings of a decent keeper but with a few rough edges perhaps. I think the lad is technically good but bottles it on the big stage, If he was one of our development players I’d say stick him out on loan in the lower leagues (maybe back in Spain) which might still be the best option for him.

      Any way you look at it AK and LP need to seriously rethink the position because Mejias isn’t the answer. Given would be ideal but way out of our price range which for me leaves Steele who should be given a chance to prove or disprove once and for all.

  2. Definitely think we need another goal scorer, unless if we do sign Bamford on loan, AK believes he can be that person.

    We must be well beyond our FFP limit now, and will need to off load at least 2/3 players, and possibly a few of the youngsters on loan as well.

    AK will continue with 4-2-3-1, because that is his way. That is why Butterfield was surplus to his requirements, he is not a true holding MF nor does he fit as one of the three. However to make it work and score the two goals to win us matches, we need more men in the box. We have not improved on that score since last season. It did not show either in Marbella in my opinion.

    The system only allows for a limited number of players getting into the box anyway, so making opportunities harder to come by. How many times did Reach (who I thought had a decent game, and I do not remember Adomah getting in many crosses) knock balls across with nobody except Kike and his two Leeds mates around the box?

    You really are relying to a great extent on the number 9 & 10.

    1. The way Arsenal, and more pertinently Chelsea, play the system, the wide players come in off the line whilst one of the two holding midfielders gets up in support. The fullbacks provide width, more so at Arsenal than Chelsea.

      Adomah got himself into the box once or twice but I think it would be easier for both wide players to drift in from the opposite flank, coming onto their stronger foot.

      With Leadbitter partnering Clayton I think we’ll see more attacking support from that deeper role.

      I complained in the early part or Karanka’s reign that the way we played the system was too conservative but I saw enough at the back end of last year to make me think that we’re working towards a more balanced approach.

      Work in progress.

      1. No I don’t think he did Jarkko.

        I don’t know if Reach has that in his game but at the moment but what he does have is a rocket shot from distance.

        Playing him on the right would give him fewer opportunities to cross but more chances to cut in and get shots off.

        We didn’t get enough bodies in the box OR shots on goal in at the weekend.

  3. Bamford looks tall from the videos, scores with both feet, but took a penalty with his left.

    A different type of player maybe, but one who hopefully will add to our abilities to score goals

    Not sure how he did at Derby, were they keen to have him back?

    AV or Ian might answer that question.

    **AV writes: He goy eight in 21 at Derby and 18 in 37 for MK Dons before that.

  4. Given is warming the bench at Villa and would surely welcome a return to Boro and first team football. ‘Given’ Shay is rumoured to be on a fair wedge at Villa, but perhaps there may be a compromise in the split of wages I am sure it would be money well spent on a quality goalkeeper. How many points a season does a decent keeper save us? do you think Given would have safely collected Tonge’s shot? I reckon he would and that was another point in the bag for us instead of a defeat.

    I think it is too late for Steele, his confidence must be shattered by now and probably get worse under the spotlight.

    We are strong in all departments now with the signing of Bamford, I just hope a decent keeper will reinforce our Premiership ambitions.


    1. If it wasn’t for his current contract and wages I think SG would have been happy to reach some sort of agreement just to get us out of this league but the gap is far too wide and Shay is not going to walk away from his last big paycheck. We can’t afford to take it over and I don’t think Villa can afford (or want) to pay him off.

      With Steele i think he would relish an opportunity to prove he is No.1 and shove it down the supporters and Coaches throats. That for me is reason enough to play him instead of a current nervous wreck or an ageing understudy. If it doesn’t work we have a few weeks to find someone, another Paul Smith from somewhere.

  5. What is the fuss about getting Given back? We couldn’t afford him anyway. Towards the end of last season everybody said we are not conceding any goals now the defence is sorted. It was the same versus Brimingham and Oldham. There hasn’t been many goals leaked for the past 10 games (or 20).

    So let’s see how the season pans out and see who takes the goalkeeper’s shirt for Boro. We have three decent goalies, I think – at least for Championship. After one game we cannot dismiss a goalkeeper Aitor knows very well from his time at Real Madrid. Let’s trust Aitor and give Meijias a chance first.

    Up the Boro!

  6. I do not always see it as Jarrko does, but on this occasion I think he is correct, and do not agree with RR, who normally I do agree with.

    Yes Mejias was a little “flappy”, but I was happy with Dimi last season. Increase the goals for and we won’t be having this conversation.

    1. Pedro

      I can see where you are coming from, Dimi I can live with but he seems a bit stiff to me, sometimes hesitant and ultimately there is a reason his career has been lived at a lower league level but he does put in an honest shift but is that the best we can hope for if we truly want promotion?

      If it is the best we can afford and the theory is Boro then splashing their scant cash resources elsewhere then OK. Spending on better flank players (Damia?) to prevent the crosses from coming in and who can also attack. Buy better defensive midfielders (Clayton?) who can break up the opponents build up play leading to shots and better central defenders (Omeruo?) who can clear their lines and better strikers who can actually score more goals than we concede (Kike?).

      In fairness I think that is AK’s plan and if successful then we can probably live with saving a bit of money at the back. Dimi (uncomfortable though it is for me to think it) possibly is that bargain as was proved at the end of last season, plastic bottle tops aside of course.

      I still think Steele has the edge though and commercially a better investment for the club. There is certainly absolutely nothing about Mejias that makes me think he will ever make the grade at this level. Coming out and missing a punch happens, even the shot he saved which went straight back to Sharp happens (eg. Man City’s second yesterday) but its the overall level of confidence he doesn’t give which is a worry.

      Against Wednesday last season we were unconvinced but gave him the benefit of the doubt, against Birmingham he looked OK but had relatively nothing to do so even I could have looked good in goal. Against Leeds he looked like the Wednesday game again and Billy Sharp spotted it which is telling and I’m guessing our defence felt the same. At 18 or 19 you expect a young keeper to flap but at 25 its disturbing, lets hope its just first night nerves through a lack of first team action and he comes through it. I’m not convinced that Ripley will make it either for much the same reasons except he has 4 years to go to reach Tomas’s age.

  7. If the referee disallowed the goal for dangerous play then he should have sent Adomah off. Dangerous play I beieve is a straight red whether it is deliberate or not.

    1. I think the rule is specific to bicycle or scissor kicks, not under the dangerous play umbrella. In short, the rule says it is down to the referee to decide if the kick was dangerous or not.

      That sort of ruling breeds inconsistently and I think we can therefore count ourselves a little unlucky that the ref saw it as dangerous when others wouldn’t. That said, we have to live with it as Atwell applied the rules correctly.

  8. Looking ahead to tomorrow night. Bolton are struggling at left back and it looks like they will be forced to play Tim Ream there. It could be the perfect opportunity to play Nsue from the start and let him run and dribble at the big fella, twisting and turning him. I’d play Albert out on the left and encourage George to overlap and cut in pushing Albert a little nearer to Kike.

    Wheats will like as not be trying to drag Kike all over so I would ask Kike to drop his starting position back a little deeper and run at Wheats rather than scrap and tussle with him.

    I wonder if Bamford will make the bench as he has been playing for Chelsea reserves recently so should be fit.

    **AV writes: I’ve been speaking to their loc al press man today. They’ve leaked seven goals in three games and are trying to bed in new full-backs and he said they have looked very susceptible down both flanks.

    1. PPP

      He was at Rockcliffe today for a medical so I’m assuming that he wouldn’t be having a medical unless everything else was sorted. I’m sure he knows where Middlesbrough is and has had the opportunity for chats with Ken and Nat before arriving.

      With him being a loan I’m guessing that the medical is more for insurance purposes rather than to determine if we will take a risk on any medical condition.

      Based upon the Damia Abella smokescreen of uncertainty this is probably following the same path to surprise Bolton.

      1. I think he trained with Boro last week, returned to Chelsea for the Friday night game and came back on Monday. But he won’t play at Bolton accordingto AK.

        A 1-1 draw tonight? Up the Boro!

  9. Andy R –

    You are right re the bicycle kick rule, dangerous play is also only an automatic sending off if it denies a goal scoring opportunity, I’ve learnt something today!

  10. Still very disappointed.

    We should be able to bounce back from set backs like dodgy refereeing decisions and not let them completely reshape the game. Fact remains that Leeds had the best three chances of the game, did their keeper have to make a save?

    Now essential we avoid defeat at Bolton. I remember – after a promising first day win – losing the 2nd game of the season at Elland Road due to a goalkeeping foul up. Don’t fancy been in the bottom three with 40 minutes of the season remaining as we were that year.

    Admittedly Saturdays howler was not in the same class as the great Kevin Poole all those years ago. In the very next home game he managed to bounce one off Tony Agana’s shoulder and into his own net from a corner. Could never work out why Brucie persisted with him, even in Pears forced absence.

  11. Cheers RR, but I remember a certain Robert Lee signing for the Skunks instead of us because if I remember rightly, he was told that Newcastle was closer to London than we were. If there’s a grain of truth in the tale, then I have serious doubts as to whether people from ‘Darn Sarf’ have a ‘Scooby Doo’ to where the Boro is!

    But, as you rightly point out, he’s probably been given directions from Ken or he’s used one the many “Apps” on his smart phone to get there. Pity we couldn’t get a ‘goalie app’ for Mejias!

    1. PPP as well as Robert Lee don’t forget Diego Forlan!

      I’m optimistic Bamford was on the 7.00 out of Kings Cross and being picked up at Darlo at 9.21 hopefully. Better still he came up yesterday and stayed at Rockcliffe with all the staff sworn to secrecy.

      Its getting very close to GHW time now, just wondering when he will pop out of the shed.

  12. RR, I’m so glad that you’re up to speed with the BR (or whatever it is these days on the rail in the UK) timetables, but I would have thought that a star spangled arrival would have merited an arrival at Teesside Airport, plus sunnies, fake tan, WAG, and Armarni suit, after all, we are the Boro! There again, maybe GHW has left the shed and done some train spotting at Darlo, the mind boggles.

    1. PPP, sadly Teesside Airport is like one of those old train stations you see in John Wayne Westerns with tumbleweed blowing across the platform and the ole timer saying ruefully there will be one along in a day or two. Seeing any type of plane at Teesside Airport is like spotting a Boro shirt in Stockton High Street (allegedly).

      **AV writes: Oh no! No planes at Teesside Airport? How is Jelle Vossen going to get here on deadline day?

  13. Karanka wants 20 goals from Bamford, another 20 from Kike and for Albert Adomah to chip in with a dozen. That is a massive 52 for the three players.

    Karanka said in the Gazette: “I want Patrick because his best position is a striker and he can score a lot of goals”

    Does that mean he will play two strikers? I think this could (!) mean a 4-4-2 system.

    I know Bamford can also play at the nr 10 position usually occupied by Tomlin, too. Interesting to see where he ends up playing for Boro.

    Up the Boro!

    PS: I can see GHW lurking in around the penalty area like Kike ….

  14. As well as up front or in the nr 10 position, Bamford could also possibly play in the wide left role in the three behind the striker.

  15. I remember when it was the old ploughed muddy blogfield, not this new namby pamby level snooker table like surface. You had to rely on Mrs Vickers as to when AV might update the latest comments, or how long it took the Gazettemobile to get back to Middlesbroughshire.

    You youngsters have never had it so good. Pah!

    PS Len, just read Michael Parkinson’s Biography, the first part is excellent, but it gets a bit “luvvie” in the latter parts.

    1. GHW, the days of Cork Studs, Leather Caseys and Dubbin are long gone. Its a fast paced, slick modern game these days where Agents, Metatarsals, Wags, Bling and Beards are simply a must have. Toey Nobblers are so passe!

  16. RR, you sound like Ron Manager off the Fast Show. I played with a lad who could cross a ball so acurately, that he reckoned he could get it on your head with the lace facing the opposite way. He was good, very good, but the beer and betting was more attractive, how many times have I seen that.

    Any way, was AV dropping a hint in regards to Vossen a few posts up?

  17. Am I behind with the news on Bamford, because I am not overly happy that he wants to think about it.
    Why come for a medical.
    Has he got a southern WAG or something?.

    Omeruo did not need convincing.

  18. Ah the season is hardly started and one mistake and we want the head of the young Spaniard between the sticks, except I am not sure it is just the one mistake, Thomas and Steele arent very commanding in the box and both have an aura of vulnerability about them that Dimi doesnt, its an intangible and one that a lot of good keepers have fallen foul of over the years, the most notable being Mark Crossley, who did nothing but good, but when the shinier model came back was replaced by someone who in my book wasn’t as good for the boro, I feel the same about Dimi…we just want them to help the defence and keep the ball out the back of the net!

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