The Promotion Push Starts Here: (Pt 2)

HUDDERSFIELD away in September was when the season really started. After a unsettled August and a blip of back-to-back home defeats to Sheff Wed and Reading there had been an international break. That allowed Aitor Karanka to complete his squad building and spend two weeks instilling the “methodology and philosophy” into the new boys. Then the real Boro were unleashed at the MacAlpine/Galpharm/John SmithsBeerdome…

That game was a bit of grind at times and there was a frantic finale but Boro showed spirit before winning. It was the day when Clayton showed why he was a better bet than Butterfield, Dimi showed he was a safer pair of hands than Meijas, and Grant Leadbelter announced his howitzer intent for the season with an outrageous molecule melting 35 yard “thunderbastard.”  There was a loud and proud sell-out 4,000 travelling army there as well.  That game was a sign of things to come:  that match was the start of a now well balanced Boro’s long climb towards the promotion pack.

Fast forward five months and Boro ground out another win against Huddersfield that could prove just as crucial and just as timely a boost as that first clash. And which was just as tense right to the final whistle.

11table

On a day when six of the top seven won to make it very tight at the sharp end of the table and to really ratchet up the pressure it was crucial not to slip up as Derby had. The Rams being felled by Forest was a big boost but with all the top teams having ‘gimmee’ games (if there is such a thing in the Championship) it was a day when Boro had to win by hook or by crook. And they did that. It wasn’t pretty.  God no. In fact the last 20 minutes was as pock-marked, shaven headed, snaggle-toothed broken-nosed bruiser of a game as we’ve seen all season but you could still pucker up and give it a big kiss at the end. Three beautiful precious points.

It wasn’t one for the purists, even if Huddersfield were wearing a Brazil kit. Boro made hard work of  a game they dominated for a hour, passing and probing with a swagger against a side that had come for a draw, started with five at the back and who dug in and dug trenches from the off.  But despite the visitors work-rate and organisation Boro still carved through repeatedly and created good chances without forcing a save.

Then, after Tomlin got the awesome opener, what should have been a routine victory slithered towards a chaotic and threatening finish as Boro lost their grip and the defence started to creak and spring leaks and Huddersfield threw everything forward.

22thunder

 

                       Thunderbastard! Lee Tomlin unleashes an exocet for the opener  

Otherwise erratic and over-elaborate Lee Tomlin may have redeemed himself with those goals – an absolute screamer to start and a cool headed sweep into an open goal on the break at the death – but the points were secured by Dimi Konstantopoulos. The keeper barely had a thing to do for 70 minutes then suddenly was the center of the action  with a string of superb safe hands stops to deny ex-Boro man Butterfield then Nahki Wells twice while the latter also crashed a shot against the post in a coronary inducing last 20.

The Greek shot-stopper left the boss gushing after the game and Aitor even admitted he was close to agreeing a new contract with a keeper  brought in under Mogga just to help out with the numbers in training.  He has kept four clean sheets in a row and 13 in 23 this season. Yes, he is playing in front of a well drilled defence but that is impressive stuff.

Many of the recent problems were still evident though, not least the lack of a cutting edge. After two frustrating league games that have seen a dozen or more good chances go begging,  severe woodwork rattling, balls (plural) scrambled off the line and some spectacular goal-keeping displays, Boro still seemed totally unable to hit the net.

Whether they are trying too hard I don’t know.  Are they rushing it?  Are they scared on taking responsibility? Are they just not good enough? I don’t think so. Karanka said they have been practising finishing all week so they know there is a problem and are trying to rectify it.  It will come. It is an easire problem to solve than not creating chances at all.

But for a while it was a case of “here we go again.” Kike fired against the post, Patrick Bamford shaved the outside of the upright with  a close range header and the rest of the relentless flurry of chances being carved out were deep in banjo/cow interface territory.

When the goal finally came on the hour it was an unstoppable rocket. It was in before it left the sweet spot. And That should have been that. There were chances to seal it…  but then suddenly Boro were deep in trouble and the normally rigid rear-guard suddenly looked porous and all around me people were squealing and biting their nails. It was as tense a finish as we have had to endure since the Mogga era when it was our default.

Then their keeper went up for the stoppage time as the kitchen sink was thrown into the box and in a moment of football comedy gold he was left stranded as Jelle Vosen pushed a half-cleared  corner forward quickly for unmarked Tomlin to trundle forward with two defender in hot pursuit and the crowd urging him to “shoot! shoot!” before finally slotting home. I like to think he was laughing with childish glee as the open goal loomed.

So, frustrating at times, and a tense finish that was a flashback to more chaotic times but overall a good day’s work. Goals for the first game in three games. Another clean sheet (four in a row now and 14 in 26 games overall ). Unbeaten at home since August. One defeat in 13. Still well placed and in touch with the top. Tomas Kalas made an impressive home debut. Boxing Day blip aside, the crowd continues to nudge up slowly by the game. And for a change it was our keeper having a worldie.

Cardiff next. Then Man City. Then Brentford away… it’s not going to get any easier over the months to come.  Just as back in September, victory over the Terriers has to be a step change and the start of another sustained push. Come On Boro!

 

 

 

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124 thoughts on “The Promotion Push Starts Here: (Pt 2)

  1. .
    I work all night, I work all day, to save the balls I have to play
    Ain’t it sad
    And still there never seems to be a single shot left for me
    That’s too bad
    In my dreams I have a plan
    If I got me a striker man
    I wouldn’t have to save at all, I’d fool around and have a ball

    Dimi, Dimi, Dimi, it’s a gimme, in the Boro Goal

    ABBA – Money Money Money

    50+ years of being a jazz and blues man and it comes to this. Old attendees from Redcar Jazz Club will turn in their graves.

    1. Ian –

      Don’t think Gino Washington or Long John Baldry would have approved from Redcar Jazz club but as a Boro ditty it’s great!!

      Fat Bob

  2. I agree we don’t need anymore creative players, with Kike, Bamford, Vossen, Reach, Adomah, Carayol, Nsue, Wildschut, Ledesma and Tomlin there’s more than enough there to get us goals in this division. It’s the missing of clearcut chances that’s the problem not the creating them.

    If we miss out on the play offs or automatic this season it’s down to our own players spurning the guilt edged chances. It’s not the opposition that’s beating us!

    Much as I would like to see Stewy Downing coming back, can’t see it happening anytime soon. Just watched him put in yet another Man Of The Match winning performance and score for West Ham in their 3.0 win over Hull. Much improved player this season and to think he was heavily linked with coming back to us last season. How fortunes change for players and clubs.

  3. News about the cup tie.

    Toure is away in Africa, Kompany has just been booked so is suspended.

    Only Aguero, Dzeko, Bony, Silva, Nasri, Navas……….. to worry about

  4. Redcar Jazz Club? Remember seeing Ben Wester there,but the Starlight Club in Redcar was the place in my day where Ronnie Aspery’s group Back Door worked out before they moved on to Blakey Ridge, Ronnie Scott’s and Warner Bros. I still have their first LP.now reputedly worth many hundreds of pounds. Ronnie also played at the Kirk with Steve Gray when they were both in their early teens, Steve eventually becoming Quincy Jones chief arranger. Fantastic Teesside talent of international quality that hasn’t ever received the local recognition it deserved.

    1. Len

      Played at all those venues and the Swan at Redcar where I met my future wife nearly 50 years ago! I played keyboards in a group called the Satellites who started with 60s covers and graduated to R &B and Soul . Our lead singer still is professional and does cruise ships. Oh happy days.

      Fat Bob

    2. I remember Free at the RJC, also I met a colleague out here who remembers Edgar Broughton at Redcar outside. I remembered that too – more cops than music lovers!!!

  5. Apart from another goalie I don’t think our squad needs strengthening. A win on Tuesday will take into 2nd place(even if only temporarily) and hurtling up the form table.

    It is extremely tight at the moment but it won’t stay like that. Sooner or later a group will break away. If we want to part of that group we need a lot of points in the next few games. Now is the phase of the season that can decide if we launch a genuine bid for automatic promotion or end up trying to defend a place in the top six.

  6. Nervous about Tuesday v Cardiff, a must win for us, a massive massive match for us.. if we can grab three points put them in the bank, brilliant. Bournemouth have to come a cropper at some point, nice if it came against Leeds on Tuesday and we win, six point swing…UTB

  7. Once again, I marvel at the talent and creativity of the bloggers on this site. Liked Ian’s Abba adaptation and the various reminiscences of long lost Teesside music venues. To quote Ian again, it looks like we could once more be straying off piste. Which brings me to the weather. The thermals were out yesterday and I still fet a bit cold, so it looks like a further layer may be required on Tuesday. I’ll be looking like the Michelin man soon!

    Let’s hope for a cockle warming performance. UTB

  8. Paul Rodgers of Free was a Boro lad.

    One of my memories was John Mayall turning up with his semi acoustic band, many were half expecting a Bluesbreakers type group.

    One of the best acts was Fleetwood Mac, they did a long double session, where they played everything from R&B to more modern rock (modern at the time). They only played that type of show a couple of times a year, the rest was set piece with supporting acts.

    Then there was Nice before the Five Bridges Suite.

    Enough of that.

  9. Ian –

    There’s not a lot to add to the numerous in depth analyses of the match and all things Boro we’ve had in the last 24 hours, so I guess we have to talk about something else to avoid any uncomfortable silence. Roll on Tuesday.

  10. Why do people keep on saying “we need a creative player” We don’t.

    We are creating about a dozen chances a game. And four or five gilt edged chances a game. The last few games we have mullered team. Blackburn – battered them, hit teh woodwork, had balls cleared off the line, missed sitters, keeper makes good saves. Reading – battered them, had balls cleared off line, missed sitters, keeper makes great saves. Even Barnsley we could have been 4-0 at half-time. Then Huddersfield same again – hit woodwork, screwed wide, missed sitters. We have no problem creating chances so why tinker. If it’s not broke…

    What we do need is to start sticking the chances in the back of the net. Not new players because the ones we’ve got are working well in the system. We just need the ones we’ve got to start doing their job. They need a rocket up their arse and extra shooting practice, possibly involving a barndoor or a banjo. If they could just score one in the three or four golden chances we get every gaem we’d be top by now.

    But I’m not going to panic. We’re still well placed. Still rock solid. Still creating chances. So I’m still confident. Long way to go yet.

    Come on Boro.

  11. Its not squeeky bum time yet. Some think its a ‘must win’ for some games. The last maybe eight or nine games are it – top teams are going to play each other, the teams out of it will be looking to the next season and will play younger lads to see what they can do, older players will not play with a slight injury, its contract time. In fact I’m prepared to say four more games for all teams and you’re looking at the run in.

    1. GT –

      I agree that its not squeaky bum time yet. Derby losing hasn’t finished their hopes for this season and no doubt Boro and others will have unexpected set backs before May.

      We do have some top of the table clashes though before then. We know we can keep clean sheets, its easier if a draw suits us as we know we can ride it out and generally play better when teams take it to us.If we don’t pick up points however from expected places then those top of the table clashes could be winner takes all.

      I’d rather be calm and in control and hold all the aces rather than rely on a slice of lady luck in a must win 6 pointer.

  12. Neil M –

    I believe we do need a creative midfielder because we need goals from elsewhere as well as from our strikers. Reach and Adomah aren’t doing it. Grant has scored a ludicrous amount of penalties. Clayton doesn’t score, Friend doesn’t get many nor does Ayala. If we are to go up we need to score more.

    Fully agree that we are missing a lot of opportunities but for me one of the problems is that those opportunities are often “built up” the same way, that may or may not be a factor in the misses. We do seem to overplay and overcomplicate at times and try and walk the ball in from the flanks or from crosses either from the wings or set plays.

    Ironically Tomlin showed yesterday what a benefit it is to the side with someone creating in the middle. He fired over from just outside the 18 yard box before he latched on to his first with the play coming down the middle ironically with Kike being the provider. How many cutting through balls does Kike receive to his feet or to run onto, not many, if indeed any.

    If our current strikers up their rate then a creative option in the middle may be a luxury but meanwhile we don’t have that game changing player or if we do he hasn’t come to the fore (Vossen?, Tomlin?, Ledesma?). In an earlier post above I said that we had reduced wing play on Saturday with Kalas not being a wing back by nature, AA playing deeper to cover and neither Bamford or Tomlin are true wingmen and consequently we struggled with George limited in attack without a foil like Reach.

    I think we definitely need our strikers to end their confidence crisis and start scoring but I also think we need more options and flexibility. Freddy almost back will help, Muzzy nearing fitness too is good news along with Nsue returning next month but despite all those positives I think we need that extra bit of magic in the middle and not another defensive midfielder as has been touted in some circles.

  13. Fatbob –

    Loved The Swan. Used to get the train from Thornaby on a Saturday night, then hitchhike home – picked up by some oddballs but that’s another story

  14. It was the Excel Bowl for me,(All the Classy Birds)

    And if you got chucked out you could go in “The Claggy Mat” (Speakeasy) just down the road. (Not so Classy Birds)

  15. When I was young I always looked forward to a midweek match, it seemed to have more atmosphere.

    In theory, after a home win, we should get a few more home fans in but I suspect it wont happen.

    I’m guessing you get less of fans travelling from distant parts due to sheer time pressures including work. It may be harder for local fans a s well, kids and school, working, even the odd season ticket holder wont be able to make it.

    For some the sheer cost of two matches in a few days may be a genuine issue.

    Estimate, 16800 home fans. As we took under 400 to Cardiff on a Tuesday in September I will be full of praise if Cardiff even match that on a Tuesday night in January

  16. Every game is a must win game now. The teams above us will drop points and we, in a perfect world won’t drop any. But we will. Some of the attacking power has been sacrificed for the clean sheets, Albert for instance, so we can’t have everything can we?

    All we need, as I said, is the hypnotherapist to calm our strikers and to get them back in the zone. Amazing really, it used to be pulled and tweaked hamstrings now it’s forwards firing the ball all over the place but not into the goal. The talent is there, no doubt about that, but something isn’t quite right. As target shooters talk about ‘grouping’ I wonder what our strikers shot pattern is.

    Defensive discipline, is it easier to achieve than attacking discipline in front of goal.

    We won, Tomlin scored, and nerves were frayed but somebody is due for a pounding when it goes right.

    UTB,

    John

  17. GHW –

    I was at Leeds Uni at the time, most of my Redcar visits were in the late 60’s as well as trips organised by Ackie Hall sixth formers up to Newcastle City Hall.

    At that time before the mega concerts Leeds was on the tour schedule with the likes of Stones, Moody Blues, The Who, Curved Ai, ELP et al so I stopped going to the local venues – I wasnt physically in Teesside.

  18. Just seen the “highlights of the game.

    I thought Kike was unlucky, as he only had the inside foot of the goal post to shoot at. Bamfords´ was the miss.Tomlin did extremely well to make space for himself and then get the shot off, and what a shot.

    However the Wells shot against the post, I think Dimi would have got his hand to it if it had been inside, but what was Clayton doing, and Reach not tracking back. AK will not have been happy with that.

    1. If Lee Tomlin had consistently been able to extend his flashes of brilliance into 90 minute performances, he would have been unlikely to be playing for us. There is more to come from this man, and from the other forwards.

      Tomlin’s first was a great finish of course, for his second, he deserves credit for staying calm and passing the ball into the net when he was good and ready. How many times have we seen players miss from distance?

  19. “As we took under 400 to Cardiff on a Tuesday in September”

    500 actually made the journey to the land of the dragon slayers.

    Massive game Tuesday, vital we get the three points!

  20. JCABoro –

    Official MFC figure 368.

    I still think they will do well to get that many to travel on a cold Tuesday in January.

    It is a huge game, they all are at this time of year but they were back in November and December. It those games we steadfastly refused to go top, tomorrow would be bad news if we don’t take advantage of playing early, being behind having played a game more can be construed as careless.

    The view from Derby is that they threw the game away, the moral is score when on top, we have seen even poor teams have a spell in a match. If Tomlin’s thunderbelter had made it 2-0 that would have been game over.

    My colleague also thinks it will be tight until the end and no one is going to pull away, too much multi throat cutting for that.

    My own view is we should be looking up but keep a weather eye on the tail view mirror. In many local fans eyes Boro v Derby was for the title even in December, even Forest fans thought so. A bit early for that as shown by the fact Bournemouth and Ipswich keep winning and teams below us are making a move.

  21. JCABoro –

    One of them will be right, maybe the Gazette were given a figure and the MFC is a corrected one.

    The Nottingham Evening Post had 2,000 trees for the boxing day match which looked over generous. The official figure was 1399 which looked closer to the mark if not a bit generous.

    **AV writes: Whatever it said on the Gazette report is the figure the Cardiff press office gave us on the night. Boro may have worked on the number of tickets they had sold. That may not have taken account of any sold on the door on the night. I’m not saying that is what happened but it is a possible explanation of any discrepency.

  22. If we win all of our home matches and don’t get beaten away for the rest of the season, picking up a point every away game this would be a remarkable achievement, but still not enough to guarantee a top-two spot. It would give us a total of 87 points which would not have been enough in three of the last five seasons.

    Moral? It’s not enough to avoid defeat and rely on a principally defensive approach away from home. We have to go out to actively win games. AK’s ‘philosophy’ that defence is the best form of attack may need some revision.

  23. What wouldn’t we give for someone who could score ,say, 20 goals a season for us?

    Last season Adomah and Clayton scored 19 goals between them. Shouldn’t we be harnessing as much attacking potential as possible from the players we already have. I would estimate that Clayton has had fewer shots at goal here than he scored goals at Huddersfield

  24. Adomah has been excellent in his defensive duties, but these have confined him to a wide role. Last season he was our top scorer, netting as many as Graham, Kamara and Juke(ie all of our main strikers) combined. Many of those goals were scored from a central position when he moved inside to finish off attacks from the left. Neutralising one of our own most successful attackers in the cause of a tighter defence makes little sense to me.

  25. Len said:

    ‘Moral? It’s not enough to avoid defeat and rely on a principally defensive approach away from home. We have to go out to actively win games. AK’s ‘philosophy’ that defence is the best form of attack may need some revision.’

    In the Blackburn and Reading games, (and let’s not forget Barnsley) we have gone away and attacked. We have squandered opportunity after opportunity. For example, which part of 60% possession at Reading but wasting chances is not attacking? Any modicum of half decent shooting would have us top of the table.

    Where is the link between poor shooting and not attacking? Memory tells me that if you are missing chances you must be attacking. Unless of course OPTA is recording Dimi’s goal kicks as shots.

    We can criticise the team for many things but not trying to win isn’t one of them. Maybe we should revert to Mogga style 3-0 down at Barnsley football?

    **AV writes: Another ton! It’s like watching that cricket bloke.

  26. I thought these things are to be shared around. Nip out for five minutes and the chance is missed. Just like our strikers.

    When AA was scoring all those goals he wasn´t defending, and we were letting more in I believe? (correct me if I am wrong)

    Where does the balance and compromise lay.

    1. Pedro Hola –

      Soy Fat Bob

      It was interesting to hear AV at the last tripe supper saying that he disagreed with everyone’s comments about Albert and thought he was a better player this season. I think whilst he has contributed to the defensive duties we have lost something up front. The evidence was clear to see on Saturday when BamBam went off it cleared more space for Albert to play in and he became more effective as the game went on. Coupled with bringing Reach on it allowed George to bomb on and we started to make gaps appear in the Huddersfield midfield.

      Adios Amigo Hasta Lego

  27. len –

    If nothing else your comments unite Ian and I.

    My own eyes and various statistics tell me we are an attacking team that creates lots of chances and we have a mean defence to go with that. That’s why we’re fourth place, in a play off spot four points off top. I’m enjoying this season immensely, its the best season we’ve had for years, I have nothing to complain about.

  28. Ian –

    Congratulations. The first ton I’ve seen where someone was actually making a point.

    There’s nothing more pointless than two blokes arguing about matches that they have not seen. I wasn’t at the Reading game. But from what I did witness at Wigan and Blackburn, and from what I saw of the Ipswich game, you could not say that we went out to attack.

    The tactic seemed to be to defend from the front, our attackers spending most of their time chasing down defenders. Most of our attacks came from the success of this tactic; picking up loose balls from hurried clearances or making interceptions in promising positions. This led to a few chances, some of them quite reasonable ones, but they were so few and far between that the significance of missing them became greatly magnified.

    I cannot remember any periods of sustained, pressurised attacking that led to chance after chance in any of the games that I saw- the kind of pressure that makes you feel a goal is coming. Indeed the closest we came to breaking the deadlock at both Blackburn and Reading was when Kike and Bamford respectively hit the woodwork with exceptional individual efforts from distance. Reach has squandered a few chances recently from reasonable positions, but our three main strikers have performed pretty well, given that they are spending more time trying to create opportunities rather than converting them. They haven’t missed any sitters. Their shooting has not been noticeably poor. They have encountered some inspired goalkeeping. And they may have had a handful of half-decent chances per away game between them, but no more than that. But most of all none of them has had the luxury of a situation in which they would thrive- as main strikers at the cutting edge of an attacking team which creates the kind of decent chances and tap-ins on which they would thrive.

    Indeed across all of our games this season, the times when one of our strikers has simply put the finishing touch to a move can almost be itemised. Bamford’s goal v Derby. Kike’s at Bolton. After that I’m struggling.

    Against Huddersfield our two biggest threats on goal were both individual efforts from distance- by Kike and Tomlin-before the bizarre finish

    In this situation, having a pop at our strikers and telling them to get their shooting boots on isn’t going to help. As I’ve said we need to harness the attacking potential of the whole team and get them as energised in going forward as they are scrupulous in their defensive work.

    We have enough talent to make automatic promotion. If we don’t, it will be the away draws that kill us.

    1. It worries me when much respected poster’s highlight the fact that our attackers actually try to stop opposing defenders going past them and running at our defence.the root cause of our habit of conceding late goals, remember them, was caused by the lack of that very habit.

      I can still visualise, insert your own players name at this point, some dumb forward, brought on to close it out in the last ten minutes, standing idly by as some defender with blood in his eye tore past him at 100 miles an hour powering his way up to our box, where of course one of our defenders (a) gave away a penalty (b) gave away a corner or (c) scored an own goal.

      The point I’m trying to make is 90% of those goals should have been stopped by our old friend the professional foul. Nothing serious. A simple body check, or a trip or a pull on a shirt. All the things they do to us on a regular basis.

      **AV writes: Boro do all those things. And do them on the half-way line. And in a rotation so that no one player catches the eye of the ref. It’s the Spanish way.

  29. This looks like it could become a season where you need less points than usual to finish top two, and more points than usual to finish top six. It’s very tight. We still have to play most of the top eight away from home. Draws in those games could turn out to be very valuable in the final reckoning.

  30. Len at 2.46pm –

    “they haven’t missed any sitters”?

    Is that in the games you listed (Reading, Blackburn and Wigan)? How about Bamford’s header against Huddersfield? We did go on to win 2-0, though I KNOW Tomlin didn’t at first realise the goalie was not at home before his last-gasp 2nd goal.

    **AV writes: At Reading Reach fired over from about three feet out.

    1. Dormo: I wasn’t at the last game. On TV the Bamford chance looked like a reflex header from a knock-on that missed by a coat of paint. On the whole I don’t think too many will be critical of Patrick. He’s done well.

      AV: As I said, Reach has missed easy chances. That is a matter of some concern. But It’s clear I was talking about Kike, Vossen, and Bamford when referring to missed sitters. There may have been some. But not in the games that I have seen.

  31. Before we sell Lee Tomlin here on the blog, he was named in the Football League team of the week. And scored a couple of goals on Saturday.

    Seriously, most of our opponents keep on saying that Boro are the best team in the league. Like Cardiff striker Alex Revell in today’s Gazette. Perhaps we don’t see how good team we have. I still think we can only get better as a team. We haven’t seen yet the best of Tomlin, Adomah, Carayol, Kike or Vossen.

    I trust we will be in the top two by the end of February. I am gonna just enjoy the ride and not worry too much.

    Up the Boro!

  32. I tell you what. the heater’s in these Trabants are even worse than the finishing from our strikers.

    Just a thought about James Morrison. Whilst he was with us he was the player who wasnt given a chance, then the one who got away, now he is the no 10 we need. If he did come back he could become useless.

  33. Good post Jarkko. I keep forgetting that we won (again) on Saturday. You’d be hard-pressed to realise that from the posts on this edition of the blog. Cheer up people!

  34. Len –

    The dropped home points have put us where we are, Wednesday, Reading, Watford, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Blackburn have done more damage than the odd away draw.

    1. Ian:

      Our season didn’t get started until Huddersfield away.

      Since then even I have had some success in predicting scores, Comfortable clean sheet wins at home and low scoring draws away has been a pretty predictable pattern.

      And whilst that doesn’t look like changing any time soon, we do have an apparently easier run of fixtures coming up in which a more adventurous approach away from home could pay rich dividends. Indeed I am one of the few who think we will be either top or second after another ten games.

      I suspect that criticism of our strikers will be rather more muted by then.

  35. Len at 12:26pm, and a host of other come to that.

    Taking the 87 point mark as not being enough to get us automatic promotion is a valid point, until you look at the tables at the same time last year in regards to the points accrued by the top eight teams.

    Jan 18th 2014 Jan 18th 2015

    1. Leicester 57 1. Bournemouth 51
    2. QPR 52 2. Ipswich 50
    3. Burnley 51 3. Derby 48
    4. Derby 47 4. Boro 47
    5. Forest 44 5. Brentford 46
    6. Reading 41 6. Watford 44
    7. Brighton 39 7. Norwich 43
    8. Blackburn 37 8. Wolves 43

    There was a massive 20 point gap between first and eighth at this point last year with only an eight point gap at present and the number eight spot having 6 more points. It all points to a tighter top end this year which I can only see getting tighter. I’ll take 87 points at season’s end please, because I reckon that instead of a runaway Leicester on 102 points and Burnley on 97, I think that Derby’s third spot finish of 85 points will be more of a realistic bench mark.

    I sincerely hope that the Boro prove me wrong and burst clear, but I can’t see anyone doing it this time around somehow.

    **AV writes: That’s really interesting. It I was a mathematician I might be able to extrapolate something from that.

    1. PPinP:

      Thanks for that. I agree, it looks like it will be tighter this season.

      The bookies have us finishing 3rd on 80.75 and Derby 2nd on 81.25 points on the spreads. That’s their statistical probability rather than the actual points of course. But you couldn’t get much tighter than half a point.

  36. According to my chart we are now bang on for 87 points so this is going to be a rough ride.

    As an aside, the chart was originally set up for the annual relegation battle, in fact it was entitled just that in the latter years of the premiership. I guess we are safe from the drop by now don’t you think.

  37. PPiP

    I agree, I think it will be really tight this season and, oddly, I think the standard of football is slightly better. No matter what some may think Bournemouth, Derby, ourselves, Brentford, Watford and Norwich all try and play good football.

  38. AV – You want to be careful extrapolating at your age…

    I’m with Jarkko, enjoy the ride, its a cracking season which might get even better. When I look into my glass which is always at least half full I see next season as being either another cracking Championship season or maybe even a return to the ‘promised’ land. Either way its all looking bright and rosey to me.

    As For James Morrison, he needs to steer well clear of Boro, if hewere to return anyrthing less than superb promotion winning performances from him would be deemed as failure from a significant part of the Boro faithfull. Never go back.

  39. PPiP

    There could also be that the element of luck, be it good or ill, is being shared out more evenly this time round.

    We can all think back to the goals Leicester and QPR got against us and they went up. Toon had a load of good fortune before they ran away with the league.

    I do believe you are in the part of the table where you deserve to be, the final position is often down to small things and luck plays its part.

    You can see it in all sports. In tennis net cords are supposed to even out but the winner has the net cord in his favour on break point one way or the other, the loser gets it at 40-0. In golf two players hit the top lip of the bunker, one kicks forward towards the pin, the other bounces back and plugs. Normally favours the chap in the lead.

    I remember in cricket, on one day Pakistan took three wickets with no balls, the umpires realised their folly and the next day called the no balls, England were bowling and lost the match.

    England were winning a rugby match in Ireland and their winger got the ball out right, stepped over the line and came back in to play, not touched the whitewash but plonk, several inches over. Line judge started to put his flag up then put it down. Try given and Ireland won.

    I remember these because they went against the team I supported, everyone has similar tales so it isn’t a case of bias.

    You create your own luck by playing well, by doing so you get more chance of the dodgy decision in the box because it is in their box more often. But you do need the balance to be in your favour

  40. Just read the piece on televised matches and I have my personal favourite for the worst selection taking all things in to account.

    The Friday night televising of Cardiff against Colchester in the FA Cup must rate as one of the worst of all time.

    The 220 mile trip over to Cardiff was a bad start, on a workday, on a Friday, M25, M4 and all that.

    If it was Cardiff at Colchester it would make some sense, lower league at home, chance of a shock.

    If it had some appeal for TV you could make some sense out of that, there wasn’t an appeal for Cardiff fans, only 4000 turned up.

    Barnsley against Boro made more sense.

    Cant even blame Sky.

    Having 12.15 kick offs for promotion games makes more sense.

  41. AV –

    I was hoping that there was a number cruncher out there that could help me, because like you, numbers to me are, well, just numbers I’m afraid. There is a pattern in there somewhere, because the two tables are somewhat maladjusted to a point where even a complete number numpty like myself can see that there’s a tale to tell, we just need a tale teller.

    Sorry Exmill, I tried to forecast but, my choices were so stupid at the time that I was embarrassed to post them to you. But, after predicting that all the top teams would win this weekend and seeing that they actually did, can I please post a prediction minus last weekend’s results?

    Len, Ian –

    Last year we had two teams that ripped the league apart with Derby and QPR playing a very significant second fiddle by ensuring that the top four remained just that, the top four. Nobody else could get a look in, it was two, two horse races, two for top spot and two for third spot, the rest were lost in their dust.

    This season it’s a case of being able to virtually throw a blanket over the top eight, they are that close together. I still think that this will be the case to seasons end and to be honest, I honestly hope it does, I’m perversely enjoying seeing the league change from weekend to weekend. All extremely entertaining stuff, long may it continue, this season is seeing a lot of teams being able to match each other and play some bloody good entertaining football, isn’t this what we pay our money for?

    Ian –

    Luck is yet another one of those horrible four letter words! There again, as you quite rightly say, it depends on which side of the court the tennis ball drops after hitting the tape. Once more, I thoroughly concur in that it never, ever drops on our side, because I’m not looking at the opponents side of the net. It always happens to us, why us every time, I can’t believe that we are so unlucky! I spent a lot of my childhood in Chesterfield and still have a lot of friends and relatives there, try asking them the decision behind Elleray disallowing their perfectly good goal to go 3-1 up against a ten man Boro in 97. Surely we weren’t lucky that day? Oh yes we were!

  42. Thanks for those tables peaspudinperth. It illustrates exactly what I was trying to say. If you say that the top four are playing for automatic promotion you can see that they together have 11 points less than the top four at this stage last season.. And if the next four are playing for the playoffs, together they have 17 points more than the teams in those four positions at this stage last season. All of which is an indication that you’ll need more points than usual to make the playoffs and less than usual to get automatic promotion.

  43. peasepudinperth:

    If you post your prediction before kick off tonight then it would be fair to others as most joined after the first match anyway. I need your predicted points total for Boro, Derby, Ipswich and Bournemouth after matches of the weekend of 28 Feb/1 Mar. If you miss the deadline don’t worry as round 2 will be open to everyone to predict points total after the next (penultimate) 6 games then again for round 3 for the final 6 matches.

    Also anyone else interested.

    Come on BORO.

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