Buzzing Boro Are The Bees Knees v Brentford

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.


62 thoughts on “Buzzing Boro Are The Bees Knees v Brentford

  1. All I’ve seen of the game is Kike’s goal on Vimeo, an excellent finish but that pass – well it was a bit Bobby Moore wasn’t it? Fair play to Big Ben.

    We seem to be racking up a fair few cards which doesn’t concern me too much. Wasn’t Whitehead sent off today? It demonstrates a desire not to be bullied and a determination to win both of which are welcome. It will bite in the future but with string competition for the central places I’m not unduly worried. Yet. Leads seems undroppable. Oh and Dimi of course.

  2. Let’s get my natural pessimism out of the way first; Brentford aren’t that good although they work hard and most of their points have come against poor teams. However, you can only beat the team in front of you and that was as comprehensive as it gets.

    The defence looks good and that’s my preferred five right now, as I’ve been waiting for Fredericks to get a chance and boy did he grab it.

    I would have chosen Clayton over Whitehead, but we won’t have to worry about that for a few games now – what kind of fool goes in two-footed, at 3-0 up in the opposition half?

    Nsue started ahead of Reach, which wouldn’t have been my choice, and the former didn’t do very well in the first half, but delivered in the second half.

    Bamford and Vossen did okay, but it is hard to know whether Tomlin and Kike would have done better, and I think it is to AK’s credit that we now have 4 people for those 2 positions who all have claims on the starting position.

    Final word, Kike’s finish was awesome, was it Viduka-ish as I have seen compared or was it Boksic-esque in the dink factor? Whoever you can compare it to it was a sublime finish

    Whatever happens against Liverpool, and to be honest I don’t care too much, as the league is more important. I think the next 4 or 5 games can provide a good platform for a promotion charge.

    That’s it, I’m finishing on a note of optimism…

  3. Superb really. you just had to look at the bench and the players we brought on (Kike, Clayton, Reach) to see how good this squad is now. Think of the players not even in the squad today – Abella, R Williams, Wildschut, Ledesma, Carayol, Ayala.

    The only area where we look a little short is CM – and unless Morris is ready to come in Leadbitter and Clayton are going to have to play the next 3 games which isn’t ideal. Leadbitter is on some run of form – already the same number of league goals as last season and his best ever is 7 which will surely be beaten this season.

    Adomah has been getting better and better and was probably my MoM today – a constant threat and he didn’t seem to tire at all. A welcome goal for him, hopefully the first of many.

    Nsue looked a bit Phil Stamp-esque in the first half, running down dead ends and mis-controlling the ball, but 2nd half looked a different player and the cross for the 2nd goal was superb.

    Fredericks slotted in like someone who had played 100 games – will clearly be a threat going forward as well.

    and Kike’s goal at the end – marvellous. what a performance. possibly against poor opposition, but I thought Brentford looked better than Birmingham or Huddersfield.

    *** Adomah ** Leadbitter * Nsue. Honourable mention for Big Ken.

  4. Very impressed with Fredericks. Difficult to pick a MOTM as everybody played well, even Whitehead, who didn’t deserve the Red Card. Four cracking goals and a clean sheet. What more could we ask?

  5. Whitehead had a very good game. I think people need to realise we are going to rotate a lot, which we can afford to do with the squad we have. It isn’t a case of ‘x was dropped’ or ‘x is better than x’, it’s giving everyone a chance and keeping it fresh. We have a full squad of players where I would be happy with pretty much any of them playing at the moment.

    **AV writes: The bench today was as strong as I can remember in the Championship.

  6. Thought you were unfair about Vossen lying too deep. It was from two of his astute passes that we scored two goals. A very intelligent player who can only get better as you rightly observed is still not fully fit.

    Fredericks was superb and omeruo will be in the Chelsea first team next year.

    Roll on Liverpool

    Fat Bob

    **AV writes: Yes, maybe. I like Vossen and he never stops working and in his first few outings he has shown he can spot a pass but I think he looked frustrated at times as he wasn’t getting the ball when he made good runs up front and had to drop too deep to get involved when he would probably prefer to do it 20 yards further up the pitch. I think he needs a few more games to get up to speed before we see the best of him.

  7. You can be as picky as you like about missed chances it was only Brentford, but we won, we won 4 – 0. What is there to chew on about?

    Well done Boro and a bit of Teesside steel too. March on Boro, there’ll be a few teams looking over their shoulders and the psychological advantage is with us. After three more games… ?

    Don’t care about Liverpool, not a toss, I’d like us to beat them but use the occasion to experiment a little Boro. Liverpool are not that important in the grand plan.

    Happy Saturday, lovely.


    John R

  8. It is still early days, I would have settled for a play off place at the end of April, 5th is great but plenty to play for.

    It looks like a good balance in the squad, at the moment players are not getting dropped, they are rotated, Tuesday is another chance for game time for partnerships to develop, a good pay day and a chance to impress.

    A win next Saturday is far more important than being in the next round of the League Cup no matter its sentimental importance but I cant see why we cant go to Liverpool and give a good account of ourselves. Liverpool have an excellent squad but are not playing well, Brendan Rogers has a tricky selection facing him.

  9. There can’t be many better performing midfielders at the moment than Leadbitter – we never doubted his work-rate and leadership but now he’s added goals galore – and what a strike again (caught the first half on the internet before the connection went awol).

    I suspect all those Adam Reach scouts will soon be turning their attention to Grant – especially as his contract is nearly up – is he now our own Stevie G?

    Three points off the top spot (better update that table AV) after eight games is looking good and hard to imagine after the two home defeats before the international break – I think we have the squad to give it a real go this year.

    Though AV I bet your celebration of the fourth goal was a tad muted given that you were holding that 3-0 winning ticket with a minute to go.

    **AV writes: Gutted. Still, another noble sacrifice for the cause.

  10. Hearing the team news there were a few mutterings and raised eyebrows in the concourse before kick-off. Fredericks was expected but not the wholesale changes made for a side trying to get a run together. The logic was that the League Cup has serious commercial value in terms of FFP as a means of income and AK is taking Tuesdays game very seriously!

    As the game started both sides looked up for a win and there were a few end-to-end runs which made for an entertaining game. Fredericks to me looked a bit rusty and edgy, keen to impress and not let his teammates down.

    He clattered into an early challenge and was fortunate the rf let it go as it was early days but it came back to haunt him when the ref didn’t look so kindly on his next clumsy challenge earning him a yellow. Strangely the booking seemed to calm him down and he settled into a confident and at times commanding role on the right side where very little got past and indeed as the game wore on he started a few forays of his own going forwards, taking players on, dribbling past them, beating them with assured skill and bravado.

    Nsue ran but sometimes seemed to leave the ball stuck behind his trailing leg and didn’t pose much of a threat in the first half. With Fredericks behind him the two of them were a new pairing and it looked like they were needing time to get introduced. As the game wore on the pair of them became more assured and in the second half showed real promise and were transformed. Fredericks looks like he could be a really classy RB. Nsue lacks some of Albert’s or Muzzy’s flair but wears his heart on his sleeve and never gave up, constantly battling scrapping and bursting down the flank putting in deliveries.

    The crosses were interesting as Vossen, Bamford and Albert were all getting into the 18 yard box, a marked change from the early days of the season!

    What can I say about Grant Leadbelter? He seems to be three times the player he was the last two seasons. He is playing with drive, determination and confidence which is rubbing off on his colleagues around him. Just as the game was ebbing in the first half he unleashed another even better Thunderbastard rocket.

    I just hope the munitions men at Rockcliffe have ordered a fresh batch of heat seeking missiles because their storeroom must be looking fairly empty the way Grant is unleashing his firepower. As a player he quite frequently frustrated me but this season he is a revelation and probably the best player in the championship so far and by some distance, take a bow Grant!

    Dimi dealt with everything with only one minor questionable piece of handling but the defence and the crowd trust him and another clean sheet speaks volumes. Big Ben wasted a few balls with his wayward distribution but redeemed himself with a plum of a ball for Kike to finish at the death. Ken was a different class, coolness personified, his reading and anticipation was sheer class, if it wasn’t for Grant and Albert he was a surefire MOM. George rampaged with Albert on the left flank and were rarely troubled. Whitehead did all the menial stuff required to allow Grant to push further up, one silly off the floor challenge aside he put in an impressive performance and evidenced that AK shook his hand when he was sent off rather than be dismissive of his defensive midfielder.

    Vossen ran himself ragged, chasing and closing down defenders and Button in the Brentwood goal regularly had a few panicked clearances under the Belgians attention. As he gets acclimatised to his teammates and the Championship he will improve immeasurably.

    Bamford put in a decent shift, nothing too spectacular but got his glanced headed goal on his first Boro start which is fine by me. Kike when he came on was unplayable, the Brentford CB’s had a handful and he rattled them and his goal was just reward for his cameo.

    What was interesting was that the players knew what the tactics were, they knew what was expected of them and although it took Grant’s opener to lift the pressure they always looked composed and structured. Squad rotation will be needed over a long season and on this showing at the final whistle my thoughts were that apart from Dimi, Grant and Ken I’m not sure I’m overly bothered who AK selects. AK has options on the bench and in the squad generally, as AV stated the bench looked strong, Tomlin. Woodgate, Husband, Kike, Clayton and Reach looking on at 3.00pm rather than playing and all could slot in and not weaken the side. Throw in Ayala, Ledesma, Rhys and Muzzy and as Borophil says above we look to have a seriously capable squad building steam.

    There was a strong sense of camaraderie in evidence with the red shirts today, almost a mutual appreciation (and respect) society for one another and it transcended into the crowd.

    Liverpool looms but its Rodgers who will be the more anxious manager, does he play a few youth players to conserve energy for Pools “bigger games” or use it as a springboard to try and get his charges back to winning ways. Either way its Boro who will be relishing the Anfield tie the greater.

  11. A great win, and a good time to do it with all the draws happening. We picked up 2 points on just about everyone in the league including Forest and Norwich.

    As AV has pointed out, great to see some squad depth. That we could take Leadbitter off and replace with Clayton, take Bamford off and replace with Kike, and take Vossen off and replace with Reach speaks volumes for the recruitment we’ve done.

    Also, I thought AK used those subs very intelligently today. Taking Leadbitter off as soon as the third goal went in to give him a 20 minute rest makes a lot if sense. He’s in excellent form and the longer we can keep that going by protecting his body the better.

  12. We should give the players who haven’t had a start lately a game on Tuesday. There’s nothing to worry about,they were a one man team last season.

    Anyway we win we win,we lose we lose.


  13. A great result. Looking at the stats is it right we only had 40% of the play – and still scored 4 times. It is an interesting style if it is. Was the possession noticeable?

    **AV writes: That can’t be right. After the first 10 minutes of so Boro totally dominated.

    1. I saw the whole game on internet and I couldn’t understand the possesion stats on the BBC site. Surely we had more possesion than the Bees? So Brentford had possesion of 58% vs Boro’s 42% according to BBC. And the Bees had seven shots and Boro had 22 shots.

      Great game yesterday. Mind, Brentford were not terrible but Boro were superb. I hope there will be more people to see Boro next time at Riverside.

      Up the Boro!

      1. I have logged in to one of the betting companies. I never bet – I only do pools coupons – but I have been able to see the last few games live. Usually listening to Ali on BBC Tees via Boro+ but of course the voice and picture are not syncroniced (except yesterday just a 5 sec delay). The betting company have no commentary. Also I have #borolive on on Twitter.

        I am happy with these but I still miss seeing Boro live in a stadium. How I envy those who can go to the matches more often than once a season. Especially so this season when we look to have a proper team on paper and the manager looks above average so far. I hope all the success to Karanka.

        Up the Boro!

  14. Having watched the highlights, the only lowlight was the swathes of empty seats and what can only be described as a scene from a club much worse off than we are and showing drastically less ambition than the Boro have shown both pre-season and in the transfer market. Very disappointing, very disappointing indeed.

    What does it take to get us sorry Teessider’s off our hypocritical backsides and support both the team and the back-room staff’s effort to make us respectful once more? Maybe we should play all of our games away, at least then we get unwavering support and a true measure of what the fans believe, the ‘Chicken Runners’ and ‘Foam Hander’s’ are taken out of the equation that way.

    On a plus, the team look to be the real deal, Tuesday will be a very good benchmark to measure our progress against, let’s hope that we can heap more misery on the “Scalley’s”.

    I’m still mumbling to myself, two wins away on the trot and we still only muster just over 15,000 for the next home game, pathetic!

  15. Followed the London reports from BBC link and the view was Brentford were blown away so like many I cant understand the possession stats but I was listening in London with my son and girlfriend. It sounded especially one way second half, it is difficult to reconcile the shots with possession.

    We set off back at 3-0, my parting shot Kike will get the fourth and sure enough he did.

    Good to see we got our fair share on the Football League show

  16. peasepudin –

    The “Stayaway’s” leaked away over a few seasons so as frustrating as it is i don’t suppose they will suddenly return en masse (as nice as that would be) anytime soon.

    We have now lost a “window” of supporters who would have been taken as youngsters to watch the Premiership Stars and become hooked on Boro. That broken “window” cracked a year or two before relegation and we have had six years or more of fanbase attrition rather than stability or growth. 11 unbroken years in the Prem attracted more fans than our demographic and history would suggest was sustainable in any case.

    Our attendance figures are still far better than my early memories of Ayresome Park so perhaps its not as bad as it could be (glass half full). Glory hunters exist at all clubs but in Boro’s case its around 10 to 15 thousand and only a bandwagon in full tilt will be good enough. My guess is that if we were eight points clear at the top going into the new year I would doubt more than 18 to 22 thousand would turn up. If we achieved the ridiculous and reached a cup final though just watch all the refuseniks suddenly come out of the woodwork!

    On a positive the crowd made a good noise yesterday and will be talking to their mates at work and in the pubs of Teesside brimming with positivity. The problem with the TV pictures are that despite the reconfiguration of seating this season, the bulk of the crowd sit in the West Stand behind the Camera and sit higher up in the top levels (balcony versus the stalls) of the other 3 stands making it look a lot worse on the box.

    If AK continues to build it they will come, who knows we may even be able to make a Teesside TV series to rival the French TV series “The Returned”. A few more days like yesterday and the trickle will commence.

  17. Wow. What a fantastic win. Let’s not belittle Brentford, they started the game only a point behind us. This was a cracking victory.

    There was a little bit of pressure on this game. The home form hasn’t been quite what it should be and expectation was high. Making a raft of changes could have been seen as tinkering but instead it has proved a great piece of squad management. I suspect Kike in particular will benefit from the rest as he has worked so tirelessly all season.

    I agree that the league is of vastly more importance than any other competition but perhaps the fact that we have genuine squad depth for the first time in years means we can have a crack at Liverpool. That line up will be interesting.

    Redcar Red –

    I’ve long rated Leadbitter as one of, if not THE, best player on our books. Perhaps having a clearer role in the team and better players around him is allowing him to flourish.

    1. Andy R

      I think you are probably correct about Leadbitter. Having better players around him probably gives him more space, time and options and the opposition more to worry about and diluting their attention.

      One of my biggest gripes was at his set pieces which were routinely wasted and just plain ineffective. Now there appears to be a plan, something organised, deliberate even approaching pre ordained. That I suspect comes from coaching and training sessions. Whatever the reason he is born again, like a new signing and lets hope he stays injury free!

  18. Following on from AV’s tweets I think a new competition is called for – Boro Time. A bit like goalden goal.

    You have to predict the time Boro’s highlights will be shown on the Football league Show.

    I tried it this morning by clicking on the bar on the recording and got pretty close, I clicked on 25 mins 50 second it started at 26.02 I think.

    To make it trickier you have to nominate the actual time rather than the elapsed time. In my case it would have been 00.05.50. Tie breaker to be the seconds devoted to our game.

    As for the Kike chip, more Viduka than Boksic.

    Redcar Red –

    Derby fans comment on how empty our ground is and having been to Pride Park as a neutral on a few occasions there are some factors that make their ground look fuller than hours apart from the fact in normally is. I would say a 22000 in pride Park looks at least like 4-5000 more in the Riverside.

    In part this is due to design, the ground capacity is around 1800 less, the left hand corner in the main stand is filled in with corporate boxes. Those are displaced fans not normally visible on TV. The fans are more evenly distributed around the ground, the area occupied by our Red Faction has always been used at Pride park.

    The final point is the colour of the seats, empty black are not as obvious as red.

  19. Great win at home and absolutely necessary given the last two defeats. I was feeling a little pessimistic and expecting a 1-1 draw seeing we have not had one this season. I would accept one at Charlton though.

    Nice to have the luxury now of being able to squad rotate and cover for injuries and suspensions. I was not happy with Whitehead, as posted, 3-0 up, 10 minutes or so to go and he makes a tackle like that in no-mans land. Yes he had a good game by all accounts and AK acknowledged that, but behind closed doors he wants a good b*****ing. That puts more pressure on the other two MF-ers.

    What was interesting and some have already commented on the possession stats, Boro only having 42%. If true, was that to draw out Brentford and hit them on the break as they only had one up front I believe. Against Sheff Wed, Reading, Hudd´d we had the majority of the possession and shots on goal, against Cardiff it was all square.

    Most disappointing aspect was of course the crowd, less than 15K of Boro. I agree with RR, and have said before, if we were top, I do not think we would get more than 20/22K.

    However I still think the walk up pricing is wrong and the games should be structured according to who we are playing and when it gets to midweek in late November/February. This could be done without upsetting the season ticket holders. Also agree with Ian re the ground seating. I would close the corners, if it was practical.

  20. Stats can tell a story.

    Dimi back in goal for three league games, only one goal conceded, and overall he’s let in two goals from five games. Enough said.

    Home Games. Wednesday scored in 6 minutes. Reading in 7 minutes. Yesterday, no early goal against to flatten the atmosphere and jangle the nerves – and a big score follows – as it surely would have against Reading as well. Wednesday were strong and are now also in a play-off position, but we have improved since that game.

    Against Brentford, five outfield players changed from previous game (two enforced by injury / suspension), but still able to comfortably overcome a team with a solid record. Looks like rotation is working, but presumably it will be the best 11 against the likes of Forest and Norwich. Aitor’s system enables the personnel to change while the team pattern continues effectively.

    Kike brought on towards the end of games has scored two goals (Oldham, Brentford). This is canny management, bringing him on when the game has opened up and players are tired. I previously suggested that the position of keeper couldn’t be compared to any other. Striker is the other position which seems unique. Other outfield players who play well and are effective can be regarded as successful. But a striker isn’t successful unless he scores. Over 4 years Torres wins the FA Cup, UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup at Chelsea, as well as UEFA Euro 2012 with Spain, scoring a few valuable goals in those competitions. He’s declared a flop!!! Why? Not enough goals in total.

    Aitor has helped Kike to reach five goals with those late substitutions, which gives him a healthy record of 5 from 10 – thus hitting the gold standard for strikers of one per every two games, looking even better if calculated by minutes on the pitch. I would do the calculation per minute, but if I keep this up I might turn into John Motson…

  21. The possession stats are baffling but we are talking about the BBC here, so no surprises.

    To get all the shots in, having been dominated by Brentford, we must have soaked up tons of pressure then raced up the other end had a shot and run back so they could attack us again. This must have happened may times too.

    Maybe the stats were compiled by some of the referees we’ve had because they definitely see a different game.

    The football League Show is dreadful and I never watch it. The BBC were the same with MotoGP when they had the rights to that too, BT Sport do an infinitely better and more insight filled job now they have the programme.


    John R

  22. If we look at those changes Aitor made we must also look at the fixtures.

    13.09 Huddersfield away
    16.09 Cardiff away
    20.09 Brenford home.
    23.09 Liverpool away
    27.09 Charlton away
    30.09 Blackpool home
    04.10 Fulham home.

    Befors Blackpool, that has four away matches in 15 fifteen days sandwiching one one home game. Assuming they have the day off after a match, lots of travelling because of where we are, then there is little time to do anything but light training.

    Keeping players hungry and fresh is essential, the fact we have a good squad will bear fruit later in the season.

    Counter to that is that most players say they prefer playing to training especially when they are winning.

  23. I think Brentford played in to our hands a little bit, they obviously came to play football which is commendable – but that gave us space to play in and counter attack. We all know we struggle to break teams down when they play defensively and break up play (eg Reading), and they will be the harder games.

  24. Pundit warning, Ian Wright has predicted we will go up, he has been impressed by the way we are playing.


    **AV writes: How can he possibly know from the weekly 42 seconds of highlights?

  25. Redcar Red: Thanks for your excellent match report. Really appreciated the detail, and your summary of each player’s performance. It provides a very interesting supplement to, and point of comparison with, AV’s main piece. I’m sure I can’t be alone in looking forward to your post-match observations as a regular feature of this blog. Keep up the good work.

    1. Len, glad you find my musings of some interest. Got to be honest and say its cathartic more than anything but like the other contributors on this site its good to read and hear all the views, concerns, angsts and optimism between us all. Its what makes AV’s blog the best by far, the fact that we have reasoned and at times heightened debate but ultimately united in our hopes and dreams.

    2. Totally agree with Len here. AV’s and Redcar Red’s parts is always read with great interest. And ususally twice – especially so if we win ; )

      Up the Boro!

  26. A brilliant performance. And all the better when you consider that this team hadn’t played together at all before Saturday. Yet they ‘gelled’ superbly. Splendidly encouraging games from Nsue, Fredericks, Adomah, Vossen and Bamford, and all the others, too! Leadbelter (what a fantastic name, AV!) was simply outstanding.

    I absolutely agree that the crowd was a huge disappointment. Given the economics, which AV has explained so often, I really don’t know what else the club can do to attract more paying customers. I’ve tried many times to persuade my mates, all of whom used to watch Boro regularly through the 60s and 70s but don’t any more, that they really need to get down to the Riverside. I’ve told them that something special is happening this season, that this Boro is the real deal, and that they’re really missing out. But I’ve had singularly little success thus far. I just hope that they and thousands of others start to come back as we continue our impressive surge up the table.

  27. Great win yesterday and for once not clock watching in the last ten minutes, feeling stressed and tense and having a heart attack being 4-0 up.

    Don’t have a bad word to say about anyone except maybe Whiteheads moment of madness resulting in his sending off which I presume will be a two match ban now. He’ll be kicking himself now as I’m sure he would have had some part to play at Anfield on Tuesday.

    Fredericks was impressive, Nsue had his best game so far for us. All the attacking players look capable of scoring, even Adhomah looks like he’s enjoying playing again and looking more like his old self.

    As for Grant, excellent start to the season for him,need to keep him fit and booking free.

    Competition for places has made every player up their game, they know how ruthless Karanka can be, one bad performance and there is always someone else to replace them.

    Shame about the attendance but it will take time before people will come back, we’ve been top or thereabouts at Xmas many times and still failed to even make the play-offs. If we are in a healthy position come February then people may begin to believe.

    Hope you get a good turnout tomorrow AV!

  28. Leadbelter as he seems to be called these days, has improved more than any other player. He was always Mr Dependable, 7 out of 10 every match as AV used to say. But now has moved to another level, helped as RR said by better players around him. I am sure that is true and will be the same with the rest of the squd.

    Problem now is getting to sign another contract. His agent will have upped the ante now.

  29. Has Leadbitter got a bet on with the lads as to how far out he can shoot from and score? At the rate he’s going he’ll be scoring from goal kicks soon.
    Just back from a charity bike ride in Glastonbury, so just looked at the Brentford YouTube highlights, four fantastic goals.

  30. AV

    During 606 Ian Wright was asked who he fancies for promotion, his first choice was Forest because they had a good squad, then Wolves because they were on a roll. The final place he said was Boro, he had seen a bit of us and was impressed.

    Now it could be he has seen more than the highlights we get or he saw two lots of highlights. As i posted before Talksport reckoned we had one of the best windows, the bookies now have us 4th favourites at 9/4 for promotion.

    As a Boro fan I am not getting carried away, three wins in a row shot us up the table because we were lower mid table, a couple of poor results would see us drop a few places.

    It is promising but that is all with 38 games to go, it is interesting people are now looking at us.

  31. As the matches are coming quick and fast in the Championship I am a bit worried about the two defending midfielder positions now that Dean Whitehead will now miss the next three games.

    “It’s one of the positions we don’t have a lot of players,” Karanka said. “We just have Clayton and Grant at the moment.” At Liverpool we must stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation but how about the two following matches?

    If we cannot put Bryn Morris on the bench, we might try to play with 4-4-2 or even 4-1-3-2, perhaps? I am not the biggest fan of Deano but now realise he is very important player to the squad. Actually this is the only two places in the field we do not have two players there competing.

    Again we might need Rhys Williams there – but he will be out until November at least.I am not worried about the Liverpool match but we can have problems with playing two holding midfielders with the current squad.

    Saturday was brilliant as AK said. Let’s hope we’ll continue so in the Championship. Up the Boro!

  32. I can’t see Leadbitter playing against Liverpool, the League Cup isn’t important, surely Karanka will give him a break? Maybe Whitehead’s ban doesn’t include cup games, I’m never sure how the system works. I’d rather see an Academy player play rather than risk Leadbitter. He could put a defender in as a holding midfielder if he needed to.

    Leadbitter’s goal gets better every time I watch it , those sort of goals combined with decisive wins will slowly start to draw crowds to the Rivesided I hope, but what really pulls them in is league position. A draw or win at Charlton would keep up the momentum.

  33. Whitehead being suspended for the Liverpool match (thanks Pedro), is good news in so far as it means he’ll only be unavailable for two league games.

  34. I may be in the minority that I think winning the league cup game is important.

    In a financial world where we need to boost income a win will raise interest in the team, raise team morale and generate a positive buzz around the club. Plus every extra game raises revenue. I don’t know about the rest of you bit I enjoy going to cup finals. I’d rather win a cup than get promoted. Promotions are temporary but trophies are forever – as the club motto should read.

    The very least I expect is that we get among them with extreme prejudice, only Chelsea, City and Burnley have decent defences in the Prem, the rest are fallible.

    1. I agree with you – the league cup is important. But I wouldn’t say it is more important than promotion. Perhaps we’d say it’s OK to go out and concentrate on the league – as we wouldn’t be so disappointed if we lose at Anfield. So Liverpool start the favourites but deep down I wish for a win on penalties. And I am sure AK will field his strongest team tomorrow.

      After tomorrow the onus is on Charlton game though. They are still unbeaten in the league so far and Karanka wants to distroy that record. A draw will be the minimum there I hope.

      Up the Boro!

      **AV writes: No! Not penalties! Think about the deadline!

  35. Football is such a simple game when done properly. However achieving that is elusively tricky and takes a smattering of genius. On the evidence to date, AK has that.

    As somebody commented, it was clear on Saturday that the players knew their roles and what was expected of them. This is hardly rocket science and supporters and chairmen should be able to expect that as a minimum from every manager. It makes you wonder how anybody can send out a team that doesn’t understand what he wants them to do.

    Yet, for all the high regard I had for Mogga and the success he’d had, thinking back a year or two, there were few signs of that understanding then. The team regularly started flat and on the back foot and often got worse from there and it was no different with Strachan and Southgate.

    That was most notable in defence. Under TM, the rearguard had long been a disorganised shambles that regularly conceded cheaply from set pieces and crosses and were so fragile that they were sometimes at risk of falling apart. Let’s no even recall the Strachan and Southgate eras. Yet, with the same players, AK had them well-drilled in no time at all.

    The same applies to our own set pieces. As somebody highlighted above in relation to Grant, his set piece delivery is transformed. Under previous managers there seemed to be no set plays or at least minimal evidence of training ground drills being transferred into match days. All too often it was a hopeful lump into the middle that looked impromptu.

    Consequently I’m not sure whether to wonder how those managers sent out players who looked so ill-prepared or whether to admire AK making it look so easy. If we recall his early weeks, he had the same players as Mogga and yet quickly had them gelling and performing.

    Further evidence that we now have a manager who knows what he’s doing: like many others, before the game I was concerned by the number of changes. Abella and Ayalla were forced on us so why go so much further, especially in giving new players their first game? As I said on Twitter, if we won, AK’s a genius; if we don’t he’s Tinkerman. Genius it is.

    In defence, AK seems able to change selection without disruption. Everybody comes in, knows the job and seamlessly picks up where his predecessor left off. We’ve sometimes seen 2 or 3 of the rearguard changed with no hiccup. Yet one of the common criticisms of Mogga was the constant chopping & changing, especially in defence, that never allowed a pattern to establish and understanding to develop.

    So what’s the magic ingredient that makes it so simple for one manager and an insurmountable task for another? Why can one manager deploy the same approach with such success while another is berated foir the same thing?

    With AK’s limited English, it’s hard to believe it’s down to better communication. Nobody ever suggested that Tony or previous managers were found wanting for commitment and effort. So what does AK do that makes such a difference comapared to what his predecessors did?

    Answers on a postcard please – or perhaps a 10,000 word thesis on management might be more appropriate.

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I deal with non-English all the time and they communicate more effectively, without nuance, double meanings metaphors etc. It could just be that he’s says do this and that so simply that there is no room for interpretation.

      I’m also sure that he know what he wants and doesn’t compromise and that message also comes through. No prima donnas, no creative individuals, just do it, and do it the way I want!!

      Even with the modern footballers limited abilities I think they get the message.

  36. I wonder who could play in midfield if Leadbitter or Clayton couldn’t – perhaps Ken could do a job as he looks comfortable on the ball and reads the game well or maybe even Tomlin has the strength to play as an attacking midfielder who can pass the ball.

    Is there still a possibility of Baker being an emergency loan? I’m sure he was penciled in as the fourth midfielder.

    **AV writes: Chelsea won’t let Baker go right now as they have an injury crisis so he is one more knock/ban away from being in the team. I think it is still on the cards though.

  37. What struck me on Saturday was the strength of the bench. Kike, Tomlin and Clayton would probably walk into any other Championship side (bar Forest and Derby), Reach has been decent this season and Woody and Husband are not bad. Compare that to last year when we had the likes of Haroun, Halliday and Curtis Main. That’s the difference: better players.

  38. Nikeboro

    Many were criticising Karanka in our goalless run and earlier this season. He should change the way we play, 442, etc.

    He may well get criticised when things don’t go so well.

    My guess is that he has brought some simplicity to what the team are doing, ‘this is what I want you to do’. The recruitment has been targeted to bring in people who will buy in to his way, players have gone who don’t, cant or wont fit.

    He isn’t defensive but he wants structure, defenders have to defend. Several players have blossomed under him. Two obvious ones are Leadbelter and Friend.

    Grant looked like the Duracell bunny with no end product, he seems much more focussed and his set pieces are 200% better.

    Friend has added defensive solidity to his marauding.

    His English is fine, I suspect he is understood well enough on the training ground. Ask Carayol. I certainly don’t think any players are confused about what they have to do.

    On many occasions I have posted over the lack of shape, no coherence in how we play. We have a way of playing, a structure to build on.

    We are not the finished article but making progress.

  39. NikeBoro –

    A thought provoking post as usual.

    I can only speculate but I think that AK has a clearer, more minute, vision of what he wants to achieve than many of his predecessors. The messages he puts to his charges appear to be very consistent, which doesn’t leave much room for misinterpretation.

    I also get the impression that training is a more serious affair than it has been for some time. The result is a more professional approach based around discipline with clear boundaries and standards.

    Veterans in the game often say that football management has changed these days, that players “need an arm around the shoulder”. Despite being a management newbie, AK appears to be a bit old school on this issue, happily dishing out public ear-bashings on occasion, though I’m sure he is supportive as well.

    Amongst some rubbish, I think that TM found a few Championship diamonds in Leadbitter, Friend, Carayol and Adomah but couldn’t set the environment for them to flourish in. AK seems to be setting the right tone and that, backed up with a promising (but fledgling) scouting network and a few quid injected onto the wage bill, seems to be coming together.

    1. I’m probably certifiable but I’ve put a tenner on at 7/1 for a Boro win tomorrow. Liverpool don’t know whether to play their full strength team to try and kick start their season or play their squad players to rest the first 11 for the Merseyside Derby on Saturday.

      They also have a few injuries, a manager suddenly under pressure for the first time, and an ageing Gerrard. Things are not looking rosy in the red half of Liverpool just now and I strongly suspect that they are going to get an awful lot worse before they get better.

      Boro on the other hand have a squad brimming with confidence and belief. Tomorrow will be a good test and with the added benefit of nothing to lose. Pool’s back line is as porous as Man U’s and it looks like they may play Toure and Sakho as CB’s. I fancy our Strikers even against their first choice pairing of Louvren and Skrtel so if they do resort to Sakho alongside Toure it could be more than just a single goal difference.

      Lambert will their obvious main threat yet I don’t think he will be able to break our defence on his own however. Borini on the other hand could be a problem with a point to prove so for me he’s the man to watch.

      Tactically get at them down the flanks as their RB and LB’s are nothing of note and I think we will stretch them. Get crosses fizzing into the box and watch their back line panic. If Brad is in goal it just adds to the likelihood of an inevitable spill or fumble for an easy tap in.

      I’m looking forward to another tactical masterclass from AK.

  40. RR

    Received an email from a Liverpool fan hoping we would play a weakened team because they need a win more than we do.

    I take on board all your comments but Premiership clubs are another step up so we will have to play well. Give it a real go and see what happens, we don’t want extra time.

    A chance to show how far we are in terms of progress.

  41. Ian

    I look at it that they are 15 places above us in the league and in a tailspin, we are on a roll with zero pressure. I’m not convinced the depth in quality of their squad is Premiership standard and I think Rodgers and their fans know it. Without Suarez to rescue games for them they are looking decidedly average at best.

    In one off Cup Games belief plays a major factor. Could Rodgers be the next Boro Managerial scalp?

  42. RR: No.

    PP: Took Jones into account. But I also calculated that Karanka rates dodgy keepers more highly than we do and that we might not put him under maximum pressure. Since this is the first time we have had a substantial disagreement, can I suggest a compromise at 0-2?

  43. I think we can hold our own against Lpool.

    They will play a ring rusty second team, not up to speed, confidence in the squad must be low, danger of taking us lightly (Cardiff anyone?), we are on good form, hunger is in our team, ref might be a champ or lower league ref and allow a few championship standard tackles to fly in, this might rattle them. We play better away from home. Our strikers are scoring. Plus Leds is on fire. Might have been nice to give him a rest but he can do that when he retires!

    Yes Lpool are more than capable of spanking us. I just don’t think it will be tonight.

    1-2 Boro!

  44. Whatever Rodgers says about wanting to win silverware he won’t be interested in the League Cup. The Champions League and a top four finish will be the priorities, he’s bound to field a second choice side. The question is how strong will our team be and will it be good enough to overcome a premiership second eleven when yo take into account the Anfield factor?

    I’m sticking to my vow of not predicting the score, looking forward to watching the match on proper TV.

  45. RR

    I don’t disagree with that but they will have enough quality to win, imposing it against a good championship side in form with a decent squad is another matter.

    We will have to play well to win.

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