WHAT do you think of it so far? Careful now…
A two week coitus interruptus as football takes an international break gives leaden-legged Boro a chance to recharge their batteries after seven games in 22 days. A break! Oh no! What are we going to talk about now?
With 11 games gone, unless you want to quibble over decimal places, we are have played a quarter of the season. We are legally allowed to look at the table now and there is a body of statistical evidence building up. So it is probably fair enough to start looking in depth at what has happened so far and what could happen in the weeks to come.
Here’s some stats and analysis of the season so far that I did for the old school paper and clunktastic website. With data graphics and video and everything. I’m really rocking this “digital content across a varity of multi-media platforms” gig.
MEANWHILE …. Here’s the previous pig sick post-match Fulham flu-mix..
VIRUS ridden Boro shuffled out of quarantine and sent in-form Fulham home feeling pig-sick after raising the Riverside temperature with a sizzling second half show.
The squad were on medical alert during the week with five players going down with the dreaded lurgy that had sent Adam Clayton queasily down the tunnel midway through the first half on Tuesday. The infected quartet were isolated and sent home and training was disrupted. Three were on the bench, Patrick Bamford didn’t quite recover in time and Ayala played and had a stormer in Boro’s 2-0 Riverside win.
But while Boro looked sluggish in the first half they burst back into life in the second.
A sprint start after the break forced an opener after just 45 seconds, then with urgency and intensity restored, some incisive quick breaks – especially down the right – sliced into Fulham as Boro carved out a string of good chances. There were two good goals, a couple of efforts scrambled away, one scooped off the line with what looked like an outstretched hand and long spells of sustained pressure right up to the final whistle.
Flying winger: Albert prepares for take-off
They were solid at the back too, with bodies thrown in the way to stop Fulham’s flurry: George Friend put his handsome face in the way of one strike; Daniel Ayala threw himself in the way of a goal-bound piledriver. Ross McCormack was completely shackled with only the occasional outbreak of booing reminding us his presence on the pitch. Fulham clipped the post at one point but it wasn’t an icy-hand on the heart moment, it didn’t induce nausea. By then it felt like Boro were in firmly charge. It was a good show.
But it the was archetypal game of two halves. The lack-lustre, pasty-faced first was in danger of flat-lining as both sides settled for languid, laboured shadow-boxing. It was tired. It lacked focus. There were lapses in concentration. It was drowsy. It probably shouldn’t have been handling heavy machinery. There were long spells of cagey possession that invariably broke down with wayward passes and poor decisions.
It took a quick break from Boro to administer CPR at one point to prevent the entire crowd slipping into comatose slumber. It was the first real attack on 12 minutes as a crisp passing move suddenly woke the stadium up, Reach squaring from the left to Kike who swivelled neatly and spread it to the right in to the path of over-lapping Ryan Fredericks to drill a low cross to the near post where Adomah stetched and stabbed against the upright. That was pretty much it for the first half.
The second? Well the second was much more like it. Boro performed like they did at Cardiff and hinted in flashes at the Brentford game too. It wasn’t quite there. It didn’t quite click. But it was good enough for long enough and they got goals at the right times, were well organised and battled non-stop to take the points against a good side.
Fulham remember were the red hot form side with three wins on the bounce after a subtle players’ mutiny got rid of Felix Magath. They arrived being spoken of as a revived Premier League side. Some Boro fans, depressed after the draw with Blackpool (which obviously registered as a defeat in some quarters) appear to have bizarrely written the game off. But Boro made them look ordinary, stopped them playing, set the pace and shape and got two well worked goals by getting behind the defence. Excellent work.
Boro have now gone undefeated between the two spells of international coitus interruptus and look to be well placed: six league games undefeated (and a 2-2 draw at Liverpool); four clean sheets; 12 goals and only at Charlton have they failed to score; they are in fifth spot (or joint second) and just a point off the top after 11 games. You’d have snatched their hands off if offered that a months ago.
After a sticky start – three defeats in the first five – this team are getting better. The squad is gelling. The shape is sticking. The downward blips are further apart. They look solid at the back and have the ability to score. If they can keep that up it’s a good platform for a promotion push. Boro look like they are in rude health.