Bubbling Boro Can’t Bridge Watford Gap

WHEN Boro scored early in the second half of their 1-1 draw with Watford they were briefly joint top of the Championship table. “Steve McClaren’s Derby” were drawing – they went on to lose 2-1 at home to Wigan – and there suddenly was a huge prize on offer for Boro’s biggest game of the season.

Had Boro held on, or had they got the second goal they deserved at that point, they would have been sitting pretty now with a slice of a three way share of the summit. There would be a tangible background buzz building and those extra bums on seats that turned up  (17,000 home fans there today, it is steadily nudging up) would have gone away bubbling about a great display and spreading word for mouth, doing excitable missionary work among the cynical masses of stay-aways.


 Kike scores and Boro go top of the league. Briefly.

But then Watford scored and Boro ‘lost’ two virtual projected points. And Wolves came from behind to beat Leeds 2-1 (seeing off the perma-shambles club third manager in eight months) to nudge ahead of Boro. And Bournemouth went [BRACKETS] as Bimingham did a Sunderland and collapsed to ship eight sending the Cherries leap-frogging ahead of our heroes on goal difference.  Just to add to the frustration of not winning, Forest lost 3-1 at home to Blackburn and Norwich drew at Sheffield Wednesday.

From touching the top soon after half-time, Boro slipped back to fifth, although they remain just two points from top. Which isn’t the end of the world. But. But. But. The fag-paper gaps between the teams at the top make it frustrating to see points slip away.


If only Boro they could have pressed home the the first half spell when George was ripping them open down the left and Fredericks was terrorising then down the right, when Boro were carving out a buffet of chances. Or been just that little bit more ruthless and clinical in the spell immediately after Kike’s opener early in the second half when they were turning the screw and had some very chances to put the game to bed.

Then, Watford changed their tactics, pushed closer to the Boro full-backs to stop the supply down the flanks and stabilised the game. Then enter Troy Deeney as the Hornets went to three up-front and threw everything forward (although only until they scored when they swiftly reverted to their starting shape).  Deeney changed the game and for  10 minutes Watford  zipped around the edge of the box and pulled Boro out of position.

And  after a few close calls Watford got their rewards as they gatecrashed from the right, cutting past and then tricking past an exposed Ayala to set up the substitute to score. There was a nervous spell and the visitors clipped the post from a poorly defended free-kick before Boro gradually got a grip on the game again and finished on top but without ever really looking like regaining a stranglehold.

It was very frustrating. Boro were so close to taking a massive leap forward. Not just mathematically had they taken the points but also mentally. In back-to-back games Boro have been pitted against their promotion rivals and at Wolves they didn’t show up then against Watford they let them off the hook. Had they won today it would have shifted the psyche of Teesside up a gear, as a team and as a collective with the crowd and the layers in the hinterlands waiting to be coaxed back by the prospect of success.

Still, mustn’t grumble. A point against Watford wasn’t bad. They are a good team and will be up there come May. And they will be just as frustrated as we are going away with just a point from a game they will feel they too could have won as we are. It was the archetypal “a draw was a fair result” kind of game.  Both bosses were happy with the result. Aitor Karanka was delighted with the performance   (if not the finishing) and he’s right. It was a good display.  Boro played well.

Both full-backs were superb; Bamford looked hungry and played well in a unaccustomed wide role;  Clayton had a storming game on his return; Kike did what he does well, dropped deeep, linked up and pulled defenders all over the  place and got a goal that will do his confidence the world of good; Tomlin played some perceptive balls from the tip of the diamond; Dimi made two great saves when called on; and the rest of the team put in a real shift too. Boro played fluid enterprising football in a hugely entertaining game between two side who set out to attack. It was great fun to watch.

Still  frustrating though.



60 thoughts on “Bubbling Boro Can’t Bridge Watford Gap

  1. From a distance it doesn’t look a bad result and the top 2 are still within one match. This league has always been difficult – look at Derby who would have thought….. so onwards upwards and keep grinding out the points.

  2. 17000+ Boro fans today so we edge upwards.

    A win would have been better, that is what will bring back the crowds more quickly, joint top is better than fifth. Until we win against a side around us the stay aways will do just that.

    But it was great to listen to, I am not having a go, Sometimes you have to say well done both sides and move on.

  3. Entertaining from end to end but Boro missed Leadbitter in midfield,despite the contributions from the other midfield players.

    Thought that Albert was quiet and doesn’t suit the left wing and even when Reach came on I was surprised to see Reach take up a position on the right wing with Albert still on the left.

    Kike put in a full shift and both full backs were good until Watford changed their tactics in the second half and pushed up on them and stopping them going forwards. Thought

    Fredericks went missing for their second goal which meant Ayala having to cover on the right wing and didn’t prevent the cross coming in and of course him not being in the middle left a gap for Troy Deeny to score from.

    We all settled for the point after Watford scored as they are a good team and put us under a lot of pressure.

    Don’t know what the Boro have to do to get the crowds in? Only 17 thousand odd there but they were certainly vocal and we need regular crowds of 20 thousand to help the team in this genuine promotion push.

    Would like to see more game time from Jelly as I think he needs a run to show us what he can do and 10 minute cameos do not really do him justice.

    Dimi made two good saves and looked injured at the end of the game hurting his shoulder hope he can continue his run……..

    Hopefully the Boro management might do a special price game,soon to attract more punters!!

    Up The Blog

    Fat Bob

  4. Phew! that was end to end stuff and had me up on my feet in anticipation more times than in recent memory. The result was disappointing as a win could have seen us with a nose bleed near the top but it keeps us under the radar still I suppose (tongue in cheek).

    Both sides wanted a win, both went for it and overall it was a very good and enjoyable game spoilt only by a referee who actually makes Andy D’Urso look good. Petty whistling and being seemingly very one sided was a huge frustration but we are used to inept officials at this level.

    When I saw the Team before KO I must admit to not being impressed seeing Bamford paired with Kike or so it seemed. Reach being benched wasn’t a surprise after Tuesday night but there didn’t appear to be an obvious wide man replacement. As the Teams took to the pitch (nice to see Watford actually wearing their first choice yellow kit instead of the by now obligatory “away” strip for the commercial sake of it) and lined up things looked different. Adomah was on the wrong side and Bamford looked like he was in Albert’s role but both were inside rather than out wide on the wings.

    AK had changed the shape and played what looked to me like a diamond come 433 type set up. Friend and Fredericks were unleashed and bombed down the flanks, Tomlin was splaying balls about with Souness like precision to the pair of them. Whitehead spoiled and mopped up in the middle and had an excellent game (no doubt still not good enough though for the blinkered perma whingers).

    Bamford had his best game to date and put a lot of effort in and like the rest of the Team showed a bit of fight. Kike benefitted from having some support and options alongside up front. AK must read this blog (tongue back in cheek) as he clearly agreed after Tuesday that our strikers either didn’t fit the tactics or our tactics didn’t fit the strikers. The new set up clearly provided far more crosses and Red shirts in the opposition box than I have seen for a long time, just a shame the opposition were also very good and the goals count didn’t match the near misses and close shaves. If we play like this every game we will win far more than we lose this Season.

    Clayton was buzzing around in the middle and linked up defence and attack and had a superb game. Tomlin seemed to go off a little as the game wore on but then ironically came to life just before being subbed nearly nicking a winner. Gibson was strong at the back and Ayala showed some nice composure but picked up a silly yellow after miscontrolling and then lunging needlessly in the middle of the park. Dimi at the back dealt with everything and caught crosses cleanly, he also made at least three excellent saves to keep us in the game.

    The crowd played their part and at times it was hard to believe there was only 17,000 in the Riverside judging by the noise they created cheering the Boro on. Reach came on for Bamford late on and made a good claim to be reinstated for the Rotherham game as he tortured their right hand side and got some good crosses in. A little work needs to be done now to ensure all these balls fizzing into the box are converted, Kike got on the end of a few of them and scored after Fredericks and Clayton linked up well to lay on a cross come pass for him to knock in.

    17,000 pure Boro fans through the turnstiles is a positive shift and although we didn’t win surely the “returnees” must have been impressed with what they saw. At the end there very few were leaving early for the exits, Boro had shaded the first half, scored in the second, were put under the cosh with Deeney leading the Hornets fightback and in the dying minutes we showed glimpses that we might just nick it.

    A standing ovation for the players and they reciprocated leaving the pitch and a huge panto style cacophony of jeers and boos for the gentleman in black as they approached the tunnel. Well worth the entrance fee today, more of the same please!

      1. Thanks Len,

        Just noticed an error in the report, I said above that Fredericks had linked with Clayton for our goal when in fact I meant Fredericks had linked with Bamford who then crossed for Kike.

  5. originalfatbob

    The crowd was another increase, as I posted earlier a win would have been better because a good performance isnt as good as being second.

    If we keep in the top six then the crowd will increase but not by huse amounts, a win at Rotherham will increase the numbers. I think we will see a discount effort probably coinciding with the visit of Derby in the televised match.

    If we stay in serious promotion cotention then expect to see an increase of fans ‘who have been to every match since before they were born’ as the prospect of a Wembley trip is a possibilty.

  6. Excellently summed up, as usual, AV. If only we had a clinical finisher like Deeney we would have been home and dry at Half Time. Frustrating is how it is but we’re still hanging on in there and the crazy results elsewhere just keep on happening. UTB

  7. Ian: How right you are! It’s amazing how low the attendances can get when 20 thousand people swear they never miss a match. Where are they hiding?

  8. I enjoyed the game. Two decent sides playing to win, plenty of goalmouth action, a decent atmosphere. That was value for money. I hope most of the extra thousand who came today return having told their mates that Boro are worth watching again. A shame that we couldn’t hold on after scoring but I’m not going to criticise players after a good display against a very good Watford side. It was a good point.

    Just a word in praise of Patrick Bamford. There were plenty of volunteer taxi drivers offering him a lift back to Chelsea in midweek because obviously after four or five cameos without setting the world alight the lad is obviously rubbish. Sheesh! Our fans and their famous patience. Bamford played well today out of position as a wide(ish) man. He worked hard, gave their defence a hard time, got into good positions in the box, had a hand in the goal and had a couple of efforts blocked. He deserved a goal (and probably needs one for his own confidence) but that was his best game so far and bodes well for future.

    One more thing AV, can you tell MMP to turn the PA down before the game. It is so loud and tinny in the West Stand that it is actually painful to listen to.

    **AV writes: I’ll try but I suspect he won’t be able to hear me. You are right about the eardrum shattering pre-match racket . There is a Ramsdens add that blares out a weapons grade volume before the game and I literally can’t make out a word. I’m not even sure what language it is in, could be Welsh, could be Korean.

  9. Spoke to some Watford fans walking back into town and they said we are the best team they’ve played all season (they were probably the best we’ve played too). They said they thought they were lucky to be only one down but after getting back in it thought they should have nicked it. They were full of praise for Fredericks and Friend and said were best full-backs seen all season.

    They also said that if Gomes hadn’t been injured in warm-up they would have started without a single English player for the first time ever. Shocking. We had eight (Adomah is from Peckham!). And people say we are being swamped with Spaniards.

  10. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the match today. It was the first league game I have been to this season (as I very rarely have a Saturday off work), and I’m delighted it landed on a match such a good and positive performance. I suspect I won’t get to another game until Forest visit on Boxing Day, and hopefully by then we’ll be starting to pull away (ever the optimist!)

    But it was a great performance to watch and, while it was frustrating that we didn’t manage to keep the lead and grab all three points, there was an awful lot of promising football played and a good feeling around the stadium.

    I wonder if the clocks going back will have solved the time stamp issue on these blog comments?

  11. Excellently summed up, AV. You know your stuff. Having seen the match in the internet I must agree. So not much to add on you introduction.

    There is one point I want to correct, though. As Derby lost at home and we took a point off Watford, we closed the gap to the summit by a point. So we are TWO points from the top (not three). And we are a point closer than before the match.

    Odd results elsewhere. Interesting to see where we are by Christmas. Up the Boro!

  12. I thought Boro would be up for this one from the noises coming from Karanka this week – just a pity we couldn’t convert a few more of the chances created – especially that long-range effort by “Curtis Main” (he must have been around 83 miles away from goal when he unleashed the shot in Doncaster). OK Bamford came to Boro in order to become the main striker but he probably had something different in mind.

    So we’re still in the congested pack with teams looking to put a run together and break free – I know the Championship is a marathon but at this rate everyone will be dipping at the finishing line come May.

  13. Dan I

    By the sound of it Bamford played more of the role he played at Derby, more as the wide man of a three rather than as an out and out striker.

    AV mentions the 55 seconds on the box. When we went one up i was tempted to post that if we won we would get 40 secs, if we lost about 15 minutes.

    On to Rotherham with warnings about boro fans buying tickets in other parts of the the ground. Is it so difficult to allocate another section? I am not saying it is easy and it may be the ground is designed in such a a way it isimpossible to partition.

    It always struck me as odd that MFC punsihed away fans for standing by reducing the numbers, they still stood but the club turned away a couple of thousand paying £25 each.

    On Tuesday the fans behind the home goal stood as did the Parmo Army, nary a problem.

    Of more importance than the 2600 limit is the need for the same 2600 to come back happy, Rotherham are unbeaten in five with two wins and three draws. Three points is not a given.

    A good result and we would be set up for the visit of Norwich.

  14. This was my first time down at the Riverside since the midweek game against Chelsea in the FA Cup a couple of seasons ago and what a game to pick!

    Apart from last season, I’ve been to at least two home games per season since we’ve been down in the Championship and wow, what a difference I saw in the team yesterday. A solid defence, marauding full-backs, combative midfield (Clayton was my MOTM) and for once since we’ve been in the second tier, strikers who create chances and look like scoring a hatful of goals!

    Don’t get to many home games (I have the misfortune of working for Berwick Rangers FC on Saturdays) but after yesterday I’m dying to go back again.

    A really entertaining game of football between two fine teams which, for once since we’ve been in the Championship, fully justified the £29 ticket price.

    Already got the Derby game in December earmarked for a possible return!

  15. I only managed to watch the last 30 minutes, just as Watford had scored, so thank you for the whole match reports from AV and RR.

    Apart from the snatched half chance from Kike, for me Watford looked the more likely team to score. They are a big team and our defence did not look that assured, making a couple of mistakes that almost let Watford in. Is this the difference playing against a better team.

    Failing to to take the chances created is becoming a little bit of a worry, and by all accounts we really should have had the points sealed before they scored.

    Can AK do anything to change this or is this the best we may get from the forward players. Vossen does not seem as though he is going to get the shout before Tomlin, and Wildshutt did not even make the bench. Unless he is injured, is he on the naughty step?

    November is going to be arguably our hardest month, but we have three home matches out of the five. If we want to get the crowds back and retain them, we really do need to do better at home in terms of winning. That is all that counts unfortunately.

    **AV writes: IF you only saw the last half hour you will have a slightly skewed view of the game. Boro dominated the first hour tactically, territorially and in terms of fluid football and chances. That forced Watford into changing the way they were set up. They put an extra striker on and threw everything forward and for 10 minutes Boro struggled to cope with the extra men -and of course that is when Watford scored and hit the post – but for me, they quickly got a grip on the game again and it finished evenly balanced again.

    1. I can’t agree AV, it’s still only 11 vs 11, AK should have reacted to Watford bringing their prolific striker on. There should have been a plan in place for just such an eventuality.

  16. The first half arguably produced our best attacking display of the season,pity we didn’t have goals to show for it.

    Fredericks and Friend were outstanding,Reach take note how many times Friend beat his man and crossed a decent ball in!

    I was one of the many after the Wolves game who was ready to pay Bamfords taxi fare back to Chelsea’s but he was a different player yesterday,definitely his best game so far.

    Pity “Curtis Main” didn’t score to give us all three points (FLS becomes more of a joke each week).

    No good moaning about attendance figures,they won’t improve until we get back to the premiership,there will always be an excuse for not going.

    That aside we need to improve on our home points tally,ten points in seven games dropped already,carry on like that and you are talking thirty points plus for the season which wont get us promoted!

    1. That’s the point I was trying to make in my post. I do not think the defence are quite good enough to keep a clean sheet against the better teams.

      We need to convert more of the chances we create to keep us in the top six as a minimum. The top two as some have espoused to, is a step too far with our goals difference.

      Also the winning at home is paramount, with regards the crowd.

  17. This was my first trip to the Riverside since the midweek FA Cup game against Chelsea two seasons ago.

    Since being in the Championship, with the exception of last season I went to at least two home games a season and wow, what a difference yesterday was to any of my previous trips to watch us as a second tier side.

    Despite just getting a point, I thought the team were excellent. A solid defence, marauding full-backs, a combative midfield (Clayton was my MOTM) and for once, strikers who create plenty chances and look like scoring goals!

    It was a really entertaining game, justifying the £29 ticket price (another rarity in previous trips) and it was just a shame we couldn’t kill the game off after going 1-0 up.

    I can only make it to a handful of games per season (I cover wee Scottish League Two side Berwick Rangers) but me and my Dad were so impressed with what we saw from Boro yesterday that we have already earmarked our next trip, possibly attending the Derby game in December so here’s hoping we can stay near the summit!

    Viva Karanka!

    **AV writes: Oooh, an extended remix.

  18. Just a thought following the last two matches.

    Dicko and Sakho played for Wolves last season, Deaney and Vydra did the same for Watford, Martin the same for Derby.

    We are in the top six, other clubs can bemoan the chances to pull away, Derby, Forest, Norwich, Watford can all bemoan missed opportunities.

    Painful though it is we need to show patience (and before we get incoming from Mogganistas, Tony got plenty), the team will improve and score goals.

    Dont get blinded by the eight Bournemouth scored, Birminghamunderland are a club in even more disarray than ever and were one down with ten men after six minutes.

  19. I don’t feel as positive about yesterday as most people on the blog seem to. I’m a perennial worrier about Boro and I continue to have niggling concerns.

    Firstly let me clarify that I thoroughly enjoyed the game, despite the disappointment with the result after our earlier excellent play. The match was in stark contrast to Tuesday’s dross. Both teams were good and have every chance of being there at the death. It was like watching two heavyweights slug it out toe to toe.

    It was great to see us throw everything at them in the first half. AK is usually pretty cautious so it was refreshing to see him urging both FBs forward to good effect. To have 4, 5, 6 players in and around their box was a revelation. With better finishing we could have had 2 or 3 goals.

    Nevertheless the fact is we didn’t. It seems that, no matter how much we attack and how many we throw forward, we don’t have the strikers to capitalise.

    All that pressure can leave us prone at the back. Furthermore the better teams suss out that there is actually little danger from our attack and feel safe to go for it themselves, just as Watford eventually did yesterday.

    We struggle to sustain our attacking play. It’s more graft than craft. As yesterday, we rely so much on effort, throwing numbers forward and the intensity of our play, that we usually run out of steam.

    Consequently as teams realise that, for all our pressure, there isn’t much real threat, they only have to wait for our lull to step up a gear and pick us off. That’s exactly how it panned out against Watford. They brought on an extra striker when we fizzled out and came close to beating us.

    A particular cause of this problem is Tomlin. He is our main source of craft and guile and, at his best, can run the show for us. Unfortunately he cannot last 90 minutes and struggles to exceed much more than 45. On top of that he turns it on only about every other game. Without his astuteness we are left mainly with huff & puff.

    Let’s get all my Boro anxieties out there – it’ll be cathartic. I’m also less sure about our defence.

    On Tuesday our back 4 were inept at times. Wolves were far from the best attacking force but they sometimes opened us up all too easily. At the game, I couldn’t work out what had happened for their second goal. However, watching the TV replay, it was clear that our ‘tackles’ were far too timid and tentative and the striker was allowed to waltz through.

    Yesterday the defence was better. However we paid the price for throwing players up in concerted attacks. Having been urged forward by AK, Fredericks was caught out of position for their goal.

    Once Watford realised we’d stalled, they sliced open our rearguard on several occasions. In just 20-30 minutes, they created more good chances than we did in the entire match.

    So my ongoing concerns:
    1. We lack the creativity to reliably create chances.
    2. Even when we do create, we lack clinical finishers to consistently convert.
    3. We rely so much on effort & intensity that it cannot be achieved evey game and can’t be sustained for 90 minutes.
    4. Tomlin is a key player but he blows up after HT and too often doesn’t turn up at all.
    5. Our defence is not as solid as it has been.

    Having wrung my hands, it has to be said that there isn’t much to beat in this division. Derby look the best but even they lost at home. Wolves looked good yesterday but were mediocre against us. We are good enough to be there or thereabouts.

    On the other hand (here I go worrying again) there are signs of Blackburn, Wigan and Cardiff coming good.

  20. Nikeboro

    I fully understand your anxieties but this is the Championship and not the Champions League. Had we players without those frailties we would be pushing Chelsea instead of blooding their young players.

    Derby and Forest were both well turned over at home yesterday and against sides that we would be hopeful of beating at home. Neither Derby or Forest are suddenly garbage its just the nature of this league. If one side can put together a long slogging laborious ruthless run they will pull away. Question is can Boro be that side? I think they have as much likelihood as any of the rest of them.

    Fulham looked dead and buried but they are the side I think most likely of putting a run together and come February will be in the mix. Cardiff are clearing their heads and Norwich have been up there but going through a dry spell. We keep repeating on here that anyone can beat anyone. Wolves were having a confidence crisis then won two on the bounce and look to be in the ascendency. At half time yesterday I saw that derby were one up and I thought bugger they are going to start to pull away from the crowd, 45 minutes later and I couldn’t believe the result. By the same token I was ecstatic when I heard Leeds were one up against Wolves. This league does not change by the week or month it literally changes over 45 minutes.

    The main negative for me from yesterday was that we were too reliant on playing the ball out wide. Nobody played through balls for Kike or Bamford to run onto. Tomlin can create that bit of magic but unfortunately he looks a stone overweight and blowing through his backside after 60 minutes plus he spends a fair amount of time doing an impersonation of Skippy and whining at his team mates instead of getting on with the game. Vossen I think is a more intelligent but lighter weight player and could perhaps create the extra dimension we need.

    One player who can undoubtedly do it would be Ledesma but the problem there is which Ledesma turns up, the willing team focussed workhorse or the self-centered individual totally out of sync with any semblance of a game plan.

    1. Redcar Red –

      Spot on. Boro are not a perfect team – neither are the others in the Championship. See how Derby or Forest have played yesterday.

      We need to keep there or thereabouts (preferably just a point or two away from the top) and if we then hit a run like since the first International break, we will go up.

      So a lot to look forward to and play for. If we are in top six around Xmas, Mr Gibson – the chairman – will give money for an important signing. This is gonna be our season.

      Up the Boro!

  21. Yes I know you’re both right, RR and Jarkko. I knew that already but it doesn’t stop me worrying. Many thanks for caring enough to reassure and counsel with wise words.

    Actually, thinking about it, I suppose it’s not really worry: I want us to be good; I want us to be best.

    I’ll be as ecstatic as anybody if we eventually manage to go up. However it will have a tinge to it if it’s because the rest were crap while we were just mediocre.

    I know I keep insisting that you don’t need to be particularly good to get promotion but the reality of that is not endearing.

    Ah well, it is what is is (as a wise man once said – many times). This seems to be a season for pragmatism and compromises – onward and upward.

    1. Keep thinking positive thoughts Nikeboro, we didn’t have Leadbelter our player of the season yesterday. Omeruo wasn’t even on the bench. Come the New Year, Rhys will be back to bolster the squad along with Muzzy providing even more attacking options and creativity. Damia should also return as we enter the final hurdle.

      Each month we look to be making slow steady progress and that’s my reason for optimism. At the moment we are as good as the rest, no better, no worse but the difference for me is that I can see us getting better granted only gradually but improving none the less.

      As I see it Derby are as they were which granted was very good towards the end of last season but I don’t see great improvement on that. Same goes for Forest despite their big spending and as for the Premiership parachute clubs they haven’t exactly set the heather alight despite their Premiership Class players, wages and squads.

      As a club and as a team we have stabilised and are improving. We also have a manager who as the months go by is learning very quickly and undoubtedly has made a few errors but he does seem to accept his failings and address them and make changes.Add to that the best chairman in the division plus what will be slowly improving attendances as the months go by and the future for me only holds good things. Please bear in mind that I have also put £40 on this lot at the start of the season so my views may be a little biased!

  22. This so much early days, our stall has been laid out, we are no longer pushovers, we will stand up and be counted, come Christmas, we will not fall off the table, we are here, we are now inspired and motivated, and credit to our manager and his staff he has assembled for giving us, belief,conviction, this could well be a special time, for the club, maybe more for Steve, what a chairman, our last opponents have had four managers already had four this current season, sweet mother of Jesus

  23. I read Katy Morris’s letter about coverage, we mentioned on here the shock when it was revealed Woodie was injured.

    Well done Katy, dont hold your breath waiting for a response.

    **AV writes: Manish tweeted to say he will pass her observations on to the appropriate people. Also, the commentator Dan O’Hagen tweeted me to apologise for his mistake. So they know.

  24. Strange mixture of being excited by how good the team played at times (two, sometimes three up front, winger bombing on, MF getting to edge of box) and how much possibility there is for the season it they can just fine-tune that and frustration/worry that we let them off the hook and back into the game and could even have lost it.

    I think all the ingredients are there now. The team just needs a little a bit of tweaking. We have to remember that some of the players (Fredericks, Bamford, Vossen, even Kike & Clayton) haven’t really been here that long and haven’t played double figures yet. When they gel I think we’ll get better. That excites me. COME ON BORO.

  25. Personally I’m quite happy with our position in the table,in the play off positions a few points off automatic.

    I’d rather stay there until the final ten games then make a late push for automatic places rather than hit the top now and have the pressure every week playing to stay there.

    Every season one team falls away from the top and another sneaks in,let that be us this season.

  26. **AV writes: Manish tweeted to say he will pass her observations on to the appropriate people. Also, the commentator Dan O’Hagen tweeted me to apologise for his mistake. So they know.

    The BBC? That smacks of the long grass. royal commission, Yes Minister. Just for Len, the proof is in the pudding.

    Back to my post about patience, it doesnt alter the fact the missed opportunies may cost us later in the season. I have always disagreed the point may useful at the end of the season, the two dropped are even more important, the ones dropped at home during Mogga’s first full season did for our play off hopes. We, as fans, just cant do anything about it.

    1. Ian,

      The fans can do something about it, when the results at home are not what they expect, they do not turn up for the next one. As CroydonBoro said, one point from six against promotion hopefuls like ourselves is not good enough. Any excuse!!!

      I do not think we will surpass the 17000, that I predicted, against Norwich.

  27. So it may have been an improved performance over the Wolves game but that’s one point from two teams nearest to us. That’s not encouraging. Yes other results went our way but I don’t want our game plan going into the final straight of the season to be hoping other teams do us a favour. If we have to score twice to guarantee three points then it’s the play-offs at best for us.
    If the forwards can fine tune their boots then the spring may be a warm one. That’s a big if though.

    AV – on my previous comment about a recommend button I was suggesting the thumbs up option that other sites utilise. So I’ve been told. *cough*.

    **AV writes: I’ll poke about in the box of bits that came with the blog and see what I can find.

  28. There’s an excellent bit of data analysis to address the concerns of nikeboro over on the latest (and always excellent) experimental 361 blog:

    Not only does it show that we create a good number of chances (though are somewhat unclinical at finishing them), we have a stout defence that prevents that many shots coming in.

    Suggesting, perhaps, a well drilled tactical plan that creates much and defends well, but has perhaps not found the final bit of quality to run away with the league.

  29. Pedro and Croydon

    The points are gone, we can do anything about that. If we win at Rotherham there will be a small increase in the crowd.

    1. Ian –

      Even if we thump Rotherham 0 – 8 there would not be more than 15,000 to maybe 16,000 on Tuesday against Norwich. Its midweek and Norwich Fans have a ridiculous journey to make for their longest trip of the Season.

      I wonder why the wonderful FL72 computer couldn’t have had Boro away at Rotherham on the Tuesday and Norwich at Home on a Saturday or is that too reasonable and sensible for an all thinking, all dancing piece of software to fathom out in its myriad of permutations. Clubs lose income, fans suffer and overall the game loses out.

      Going back to the Norwich crowd, Boro traditionally lose support midweek for various reasons be it shift patterns, being a school night, too tired after work, too cold and dark or simply working away from the area during the week as I often have to. More typical I think will be a crowd of around 14,500 with about 350 hardy souls making their way along the A47.

      We will only get over 15,000 if we have a good win against Rotherham which is far from guaranteed, a draw will deflate and a defeat will bring out the “Typical Boro, they have always done this ever since I was a lad my great great grandad always use to say before the Boer war” brigade. It was ever thus unless its Manure or Chelski in the cup.

  30. We’re not scoring enough goals to threaten the top 2 positions this season and will probably be fighting for 5/6 spot at the end. Look at the number of goals we have scored (19) compared to Derby (24) and Watford (26). About a fifth of those are penners or freekicks from the ‘freescoring’ leadbitter, bringing the grand total from our forward line to Kike (6), Tomlin (1), Bamford (1), and Vossen (0). Infact, without those deadball specials we’d probably be lurking around mid table such is the paucity of goals from open play.

    I suspect if Mowbray had these players/investment we’d be 5 points clear.

    1. Even as a Mowbray-sympathiser I think we had the same problem then – not scoring enough goals.

      In Mowbray’s case it wasn’t that we didn’t score plenty of goals, it’s that we didn’t score enough to win as we conceded so many.

    2. Masham Wiggy-

      You are correct to a point in that we may have scored more goals under the theoretical Mowbray game plan except when we consider the more likely Mogga tactic of split strikers (one in Seal Sands and one in North Ormesby) and it loses impetus plus of course giving the customary goal away in the last 5 minutes would put the goals against column probably nearer a bottom 6 side.

  31. Boromadloon – thanks for sharing.

    All stats have to be seen for what they are. They are indicators but nothing more. It is always difficult to quantify qualitative data but the stats are interesting nonetheless.

    Somewhat contrary to much terrace opinion (including my own), the stats suggest that we are not a side that struggles for creativity. At least not for getting shots in – only three sides have had more shots. Our conversion rate is average for the league. Not good, not bad.

    Defensively, only Brighton allow fewer shots on their goal but again we’re pretty average for the league when it comes to shots faced per goal. What does that say? Defensively a good team but an average keeper?

    The overall picture seems to be one of a sound overall unit that could do with a bit of sharpening up at either end.

    1. I meant to also say that these stats strike me an endorsement of Karanka’s tactics.

      I would say that the purpose of tactics are to maximise your chances of scoring whilst minimising your opponents’. How many you actually score and concede may be more about the quality and motivation of your players.

      Karanka’s tactics appear to limiting opponents shots whilst allowing plenty of our own.

      I’m not fan of Chelsea-esque football but it is effective. If we have the quality and motivation then we should do well.

  32. Andy R –

    I think you have discovered the key to our promotion.

    We simply need Peter Cech and Didier Drogba on loan in January (or should that be Shay Given and Danny Graham) ;-).

  33. Redcar Red –

    Misread the fixtures and in my mind had us playing Norwich on the Saturday – I have an excuse, I slipped up and ended up chest deep in a pond on Sunday, the water must have affected my reading. It certainly did my mobile no good and my right shin looks like it has had a chat with Dickie Rooks without shin pads.

  34. Redcar Red –

    January will be interesting. AV has hinted that Gibson is willing to gamble if promotion is a possibility.

    Karanka will take the lead on what more he thinks he needs but perhaps the stats suggest that it is up front and in goal where we could most improve.

    My own view, as I’ve said before, is that the lone striker in this system needs to be a pretty complete player to score lots of goals. They are hard to come by at Championship level but it doesn’t matter if the goals are coming from elsewhere. A goalscoring number ten would be very useful.

    Likewise for the goalkeeper. You want someone who can command and organise those in front of him (reducing the number of saves he has to make) but also be a top shotstopper. There’s not many of those all-rounders in the Championship either.

  35. I’m not sure dismissing our Dimi as an insufficient goalkeeper is the right response to those stats. Although they suggest that our shots faced / goals conceded ratio could be better, there’s no consideration for the quality of shots faced. It could be that we’re very good at shutting down the hopeful long range efforts, and are just doing the best we can against the few high quality openings we do allow.

  36. Tactics are dirt cheap Andy, they don’t cost a bean. Troy Deeney on the other hand isn’t.

    It was the introduction of the latter that changed the course of Saturday’s game and it is that kind of quality that will separate the automatic promotion contenders from the also- rans.

    If we had substituted “Walter the Softy” Bamford for Deeney instead of Jelle Vossen we would have won. No doubt at all.

    Can we forget all this mumbo-jumbo about “shape” and “pressing”(which used to be called winning the ball back when I played). They’re even shouting this kind rubbish during my son’s games – he’s 9!

    Pressing won’t get you up. A balanced squad with competition for places with the right mix of characters and most of all with a lot of good players at this level possibly will.

    We’re getting there but whether we have quite enough depth of attacking quality overall I’m not sure. We certainly won’t fall short through lack of tactics.

  37. I still feel annoyed with this result, yet I agree with the logic that it was a very good performance and a draw is not a bad result..but I still feel annoyed! In fact, I feel annoyed with myself for feeling annoyed. If that makes any sense.

  38. Boromadloon –

    That is exactly the problem with quantifying qualitative data.

    But “insufficient” isn’t the word I would use. Dimi is a decent keeper. He doesn’t make many mistakes. He doesn’t throw points away. Most importantly, the players in front of him seem to like having him between the sticks. The only criticism you could make is that he perhaps doesn’t win you points by making unexpected saves. That is asking too much.

    That said, it seems unlikely that we are unlucky enough to suffer higher quality shots than most others.

    Have a higher proportion of our goals against been from point blank range or counter attacks with Dimi isolated?

    **AV writes: You also have to factor in that six of the goals against were in the opening few games when Mejias was between the sticks.

    These things are interesting snapshots and give a general impression but there are so many variable factors and for every team on the grid (new managers, different players, changes in tactics, maybe “easier” or “harder” fixtures) that they can’t give any true objective or definitive picture.

    1. Ahh yes, AV. If in doubt, blame Tomas (actually, weren’t you the one defending him?).

      In all seriousness though, I agree. As I said earlier these statistics can only only be indicators.

      It’s more fun to make inferences though.

  39. PP

    I agree with a lot of that though I would add a couple of caveats.

    The idea of pressing is getting the ball back but I guess most of us mean 35 yards out from their goal rather than ours.

    Tactics, Mogga did tactics in spades, he also had more shapes that a bag from Haribo. What is crucial is that the players buy in to they way they play rather than being confused, a bit like Bob Hope as Son of Paleface.

    1. Son of Paleface? Crikey Ian, even I can barely remember that, and when i started going to the pictures Gabby Hayes used to get the girl.

  40. Urgent memo to Steve Gibson and Aitor Karanka: Get Tom Ince. Hull want him out on loan, and are currently in discussions with Forest. Pace, creativity, class, and a good eye for goal. Just phone a Friend. He knows.

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