OPTIONS all over the place. Not just for Aitor. Where to start reflecting on bubbling Boro’s polished and potent performance against Bee-leagured Brentford?
The goals? Boro don’t do boring routine goals. They don’t scramble home scruffy six yard toe-pokes in a messy penalty area scrum or have average shots take a deflection and skid or spin over the line. No, Boro only do spectacular long range sizzlers or perfectly engineered effort at the end of sweeping moves or deft text book finishes.
Boro started the 4-0 drubbing with a deja vu double: Grant Leadbelter’s opener was another hammer-footed 30 yard Exocet. Like his Huddersfield ‘thunderbastard’ only not from a set-play (in fact it was his sixth league goal of the season and the first from open play.) Then Albert Adomah scored straight from the Cardiff template, sweeping home from close range as Kike had after Nsue had taken up his own role with the inviting cross.
*Grant Leadbitter: Another hammer-footed Exocet
Then, as the private Goal of the Week contest continued Bamford headed in his first goal (on his first start) after a textbook well worked set-piece short corner (which 99 time sout of a 100 never work) then Kike deftly scooped an angled effort over the advancing keeper after latching smoothly onto a bouncing long ball forward from Gibbo.
The debutants? Bamford worked hard on his first start, made intelligent moves that helped peel aside the Bees defence and linked up well with midfield and then capped it with a neat goal. Vossen was making his first home start and was industrious and looked alert but was often too deep and grew frustrated and looked tired as the game wore on.
The pick of the bunch of the new boys was Ryan Fredericks who stepped in at right-back for his first appearance and had a storming game. He put in ferocious tackles (and was deservedly booked even if he claimed later it was ‘harsh’), had a nice first touch, never looked flustered closed down quickly and made some surging overlapping runs forward.
The stats? Three wins in eight days with two clean sheets has lifted Boro up to fifth after a galvanising week. That game-changing nine point haul has taken Aitor Karanka’s kick-started Conquistadors to 15 points from eight games, just shy of the two points-per-game they will need to compete for the play-offs.
And four goals? At home! It is the first time Boro have scored four this season. They have scored three twice but both times against lower league clubs in the cup. The last four goal haul was on the closing day last term at already relegated Yeovil. The last time they got four at the Riverside was the #SpiritOfTeesside 4-0 demolition of (soon to be relegated) Doncaster when Mark Venus was caretaker-boss last October.
Not that we can complain about narrow 1-0 wins. They all count. But if Boro are to build momentum and some atmosphere and put bums on seats then they need more swash-buckling shows to get the Riverside rocking.
Perhaps the most important result of the day was that supporters will have seen a few pieces of the Karanka jigsaw being jiggled into place. Aitor was in full-on “for this one thing we are happy” mode in the post-match press conference. And rightly so. He can see his hard work of the past year and his summer shopping starting to bear fruit.
The new recruits have slotted into the shape and tempo and look comfortable. The deadline day signings are getting up to speed. Important relationships between individuals and within and between the departments on the pitch are startling to blossom. The full-backs are adding width; the industrious midfield looks increasingly solid; the front pairings (a different one again today) are fluid and they create a lot of chances. It is all very encouraging.
It is early days yet to be talking about the play-offs but given the battering of Brentford and the changing complexion of the table (not that we are legally allowed to look at it for another two games) at least people can’t sneer at the suggestion now.