TASTY Jelle showed this team are not to be trifled with as Boro served up a treat at Millwall. Vossen has had to wait 12 games to get off the mark but got his just desserts with a delicious first on his way to a mouthwatering 23 minute -hat-trick before Bamford and Kike put cherries on the top. In a fantastic first half bubbling Boro created a flurry of chances: they could have had hundreds and thousands. Almost.
There were a string of clear cut chances, a couple of good saves, a strong penalty claim and one that bounced in off the post only to be clawed back into play by the keeper. It was party time for Boro who really could have scored seven or eight. Nine? In an awesome first 45 minutes that looked not only possible but likely.
Tasty Jelle: Made Millwall defence wobble
To be fair, Millwall were woeful. Ian Holloway – who Boro have never beaten before – made a panic midweek tactical switch from his usual 4231 and played three at the back with two wide midfielders in a bid to stop Boro’s wingers: it was a disaster.
They were ripped open down the flanks ruthlessly in a cruel first half. Adam Reach had his man on toast on the left and free reign in the vacuum where the full-back should have been while on the right Albert Adomah and Emilio Nsue took it in turns to launch raids into the space on that side and deliver testing balls in.
Reach was on fire. He tortured them down that side and put in a series of excellent balls. The first few led to good chances that were squandered as Boro got their sights in then Jelle took centre stage and the floodgates opened. Excellent stuff.
Vossen has hinted for a while now that he has quality and showed it. He said calmly and confidently only this week that he felt the goals would come soon. He could have had a hat-trick before he finally scored and you could sense people starting to wonder if he would ever score. But he soon put those fears to bed. He was great, and not just in scoring (although his opener was sublime). He also linked up superbly with Bamford – who has now scored five in six – in a dominant display of liquid movement, deft touches and crisp passing that made them look a formidable frontline. And then Kike came on and scored within a couple of minutes. Impressive options and tough choices for Karanka.
The backline all did well too. They shackled penalty box plank Fuller and one-time Boro ‘Naughty Step’ Messiah Scott McDonald, headed away the ever more desperate high-balls and both central-defenders claimed assists with lovely long balls. The engine room pair quickly seized control of the midfield and started pushing the ball wide for Boro’s flying flankers to scythe forward. It was a clinical dismantling of a side soon in disarray.
McDonald got some half-hearted booing early on but it soon turned to sympathy. He was working hard and getting nowhere fast. He got the consolation goal but Boro hit back within two minutes to reassert their total control.
After the game it was a long wait before a chastened Holloway came up to the press conference and when he did he was still looking shell-shocked. Not many quips this time. The sad pirate said it was his “worst day in football.”
It was Boro’s best win since a 5-1 victory just down the road at QPR in December 2009, Gordon Strachan’s first away win. And it was the first time Boro had scored four in the first half since a 4-2 win at Hull in April 2011… and that was also the last away hat-trick, scored by hapless former internal exile McDonanld.
It was perhaps a politically potent victory. Plenty of people were waiting to use Higgy’s exit as a stick to beat Boro with and a defeat would have given them free reign to extrapolate for England. That issue may not have gone away but it has been defused.
It was a great day out for the 1399 Boro fans who were in high spirits from before kick-off (even on the way down on the train they were serenading fellow passengers with a selection of Christmas carols) and jubilant afterwards.
You get the sense that a real belief is starting to grow among the fans now . One defeat in 14. Best away record in the league. Best defensive record in the league. The goal difference deficit has been clawed back (Bournemouth’s eight goal advantage has been wiped out in a months, Derby are just one goal better off) and any question-marks over the strikers ability to hit the net are being answered.
The rout pushed Boro back to within two points of the top – and with “Steve McClaren’s Derby ” in a small screen showdown at home next week the summit is again within touching distance …. bring it on.
MILLWALL: a land lost in the mists of time, where herds of strutting Danny Dyer’s roam free in their natural habitat, being top, top geezers and pwopa nawty. Change at Tower Bridge and get an overland train to the eighties.
It is hostile, old school intimidating and always lively. The last few trips have seen the home fans raining bottles on the linesman and trying to lynch the manager – hated Hammers icon Steve Lomas – promoting bemused Aitor Karanka to tell us in the tunnel after the mob had been cleared away: “It is crazy, they are trying to kill the coach and it only the first home defeat of the season.” Welcome to Millwall , Aitor.
But the trip is usually productive for Boro. Last time out was a small screen sizzler – 90 minutes of mediocrity in a monsoon and swirling wind punctuated only by a cracking Emmanual Ledesma goal and his assist for Albert Adomah to seal it.
was a turning point for Karanka, his first away win and the start of a long good run as his style and system started to loom out of the dislocation of the dug-out change. Let’s hop it is a similar launchpad this time, a good win to catapult Boro on a hot streak.
The post-match press conference last season was amusing. It was the first time the language barrier presented a problem for Karanka – and not because of HIS accent .
This is the closest phonetic transcription I can get to the opening exchanges after Aitor was ushered in to the spartan New Den ante-room to face the London local press with their dense dialect and metropolitan Mockney vowel mangling.
Gordon Cox: “Gentlemen… Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka… any questions”
Stereotypical Cockernee Reporter: “Sooooo Ai’oor, you know Jo-zaaa Mo’weenyo don’cha? Well we wuz taw’in to Jo-zaaa vis week wight, an’ he sez’at Middews-buwwaw is the furss wesult’e looks f’arrfter games… you mus’be very flattered an’ awl vat? Wot wiv’ ‘im sayin’ vat?”
Aitor Karanka (looking non-plussed): “Errrrr… sorry?”
SCR (slower, louder): “Jo-zaaa Mo’weenyo… he sez Middewsbuwwaw is the furss wesult ‘e looks for. Wot you fink ov vat then?”
AK (looking non-plussed): “Errrr… sorry?”
SCR (very slowly): “Sooo, wuz you ‘appy wiv winning the game today? Did you fink Middewsbuwwaw d’served to beat Mi-waaaaaw?”
Personally I think Boro will click, their impressive away day form will kick in and they will ease to a early lead before ‘comeback kings’ Millwall (who have clawed back from two down to draw with Bournemouth, Wolves and Blackburn of late) get a consolation in a late flurry with their spittle flecked fans baying for blood.
Meanwhile episode four of the new podcast is out and it now not only has a name but also a graphic that I rattled off. The gentleman with the stovepipe hat looks a bit like Dom Shaw and the one seated to his right is the spit of Phil Tallentire. None of them look like me.
This episode covers HiggyGate, the delicate dug-out dynamics of a successful club and theimportance to the team of Mackem midfield metronome Grant Leadbitter and the strategic significance of his signing. You can listen to it here.
PLUS, as part of my multi-media bid for world domination, and my remit to ‘provide engaging content across a variety of platforms’ Untypicalboro is now on Facebook.
I’ve always resisted it because I can’t be doing with walls, pokes and people trying to buy lives for Candy Crush off me but there is a demand there (I get e-mails all the time) and apparently there are I’ve been set up on a “brand” page so you can “like” me but you can’t be “my friend.” It’ll be snippets, trivia, pictures videos and the occasional quiz. I know a lot of the demographic on the blog are hsotile to it but equally for many younger people Facebook is there first instinct. So, if you do that kind of thing, I’m there for you.