Numbers Add Up For Dragon Slaying Boro

MATHS of the Day:  Two games, four goals, six points.  Second place.  One point off the top. Two ‘doubles’ in four days. Unbeaten in six. Undefeated at home in 11.  Four successive home wins with nine goals scored. Six clean sheets in eight games. Only 18 goals  leaked in 27. One goal conceded in 581 minutes. Stats pretty good no matter how you look at it.

Boro may have ‘leeked’ late on but they did a professional job against hard-working Cardiff to clock up what felt like a second successive significant important result at a pivotal point  of the season – and on a night when leaders Bournemouth slipped up at Leeds, a results that prompted a very Riverside rare cheer for our Southern cousins.  Boro are now just one point off the top. Is it only a week since it felt like we’d lost ground?

Of course, some will take a more jaundiced view of the 2-1 win over Cardiff.  Listening to some of the more morose half-time concourse chuntering about Boro’s blunt front-line being totally unable to score and the defence looking fragile you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a team in trouble, an impotent side with shaky foundations that had lost momentum rather than one who had been awesome at home for ages . And they they leaked a goal late on and had to dig in for a frantic finale was treated as a personal insult, a twist was described sneeringly as “typical Boro.” What do these people want? Borocelona?

11pen

          Penalty? Close call but it looked it to me. Great angle here – you decide.

Yes, the past two home games have been hard work and have involved long spells of scrappy grind and jittery closing stages. The two before that were stalemates. But ‘typical Boro’ would have seen those games being thrown away late on. That isn’t happening now. Just as the ‘down with the decorations post-Christmas slump’ hasn’t happened.

The team is well drilled, well organised, well motivated and is producing results. That is the reality and it is recognised further afield where rival managers and press say on a weekly basis that Boro are the best team in the division.  Yet a narrative has developed on Teesside that Boro lack creativity, don’t dominate midfield, chop and change and are somehow lacking and the past two games fans were just starting to get vocally anxious before the team scored.  Yes, sides around us – and behind us – have been winning  and it has not been the promotion procession some had hoped.  But hey, that’s the coupon-busting Championship for you. Bubbling Bournemouth lost to leaky Leeds.

Sometimes we are guilty of tunnel vision and we focus on the presumed flaws of our own team but  there are two teams on the pitch remember. The other lot have not read our script. Or have read it but are not prepared to follow it. They are there to spoil, frustrate and  impose their own dramatic tension and game plan.  And Cardiff were good. Seriously. They may not play the kind of flowing football to please the punters  but they set about their job effectively and stopped Boro being as fluent as they would like. Aitor Karanka admitted it wasn’t the best of games but insisted that it is the points that count.

Cardiff pushed high up the pitch and stopped Boro playing it out from the back, they closed quickly and  swamped Boro’s dynamic duo in midfield leaving little time or space to impose a pattern or set the tempo and tried to drag the game down to a long ball exchange that suited them. And for spells they succeeded in that. They made the game scrappy. Tetchy. They dragged Boro away from a technical short passing approach and  tried to get it bogged down in the gutter and it wasn’t  really one for the purists.

But Boro were still on top. They had the upper hand in the first half and created the bulk of the chances, had a couple of decent opportunities and had a strong penalty call when Kike seemed to be bundled over as he tried to round the keeper. The ref didn’t see it as a foul but didn’t book him for diving some he must have fallen in a very grey area.  Boro edged the chances after the break too, although the balance of play was far more even and Dimi did have to make a good full length save from Harris.

But in the end quality told. Boro matched Cardiff tactically and physically and worked harder,  kept stretching them at high intensity and eventually they dipped and cracked and Boro scored two well worked goals. As they did against Huddersfield.

Lee Tomlin – starting to take some tentative early sniper fire a week ago scored his third goal in two games and Patrick Bamford, himself attracting some tutting, also netted. Kike worked hard but didn’t get the goal he deserves after recent shows so will no doubt be the target for gripes this week. The midfield were forced to work harder than they have for a while but coped while the backline looked comfortable until the final 15. They were  gutted to have leaked for the first time in almost seven hours to a late Kenwyne Jones header. “It felt like a loss,” said Ben Gibson. That’s the sign of a team with a winning mentality.

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It is still too early to invest too much anxiety in the now very tight table or fret too much about the results elsewhere – but Boro are back in an automatic promotion spot for now.  And deservedly so.

Now we can take a break from the bread and butter of the  league and enjoy a glamour trip to the top flight Champions in the FA Cup. That will be a great day out with no pressure and the opportunity to  pull off a shock. But I can’t wait to get back down to business straight after that go to fifth placed Brentford. This season is starting to get really exciting now. Let’s enjoy it.

*********************************

While you are waiting have a quick glance through these bits I’ve done in the last few days:

Here’s my bit on  clean sheets and how Boro’s Greek Demi-God between the Styx is heading for legendary status; and here’s this week’s Big Picture column on how small screen fixture switches make it testing times for travelling fans.

 

 

 

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133 thoughts on “Numbers Add Up For Dragon Slaying Boro

  1. The third strip sale has attracted one or two adverse comments about getting fans to pay out even more money. It is Bournemouth who are the problem yet again with a kit clash.

    I see the Gazette used the kit sale as an excuse to repost pictures of Mrs Karembeu.

    No complaints here, better than looking at mad dog or Ziege. What is amazing is finding footage of sick note at an away match. And how young Robbie Mustoe looks, I always thought he looked the same now as when he was born.

    It is a long wait for post 200.

    **AV writes: Everytime a product is launched people squeal at me about the club’s cynical profiteering and I have to remind them that purchase ISN’T compulsory.

  2. Ian Gill –

    I hope they do more than try to get it back. The reason for my comments are based on some of what’s been said out of the City camp that they are taking this game very serious. And I’m sure their fans remember eh, remember a 8:1 result a little while back.

    The result will be what it ends up. I’m hoping for a good performance that won’t knock our confidence for the rest of the season

  3. gt

    Don’t get me wrong, I will be disappointed if we get knocked out, I will be gutted if we don’t turn up and go out with a whimper.

    Like many, I am hoping for an upset. First time of asking will do nicely, often that seems to be the best chance home or away.

  4. I can’t help but wonder if flying back from Abu Dhabi less than 24 hours before kick off will have an affect on the City players. Seems rather a strange decision to me and not something I can recall previously.

    Any thoughts?

    UTB

  5. Stanleystreet

    I wonder if Dubai has anything to do with Etihad Airways, isnt the stadium called the Etihad?

    I suppose Bulkhaul is closer.

    I must admit I think it is barmy, for us it is shot to nothing, a free play. Start quickly and who knows?

    1. Direct Flight to Manchester probably first class in beds straight to training ground for overnight stay and gym.

      Boro training at Rockliffe in snow and cold and nearly 3 hour bus ride not really much difference!

      Fat Bob

      Go for 1 1

      **AV writes: Boro always travel down the day before for away games. Massages, tactical meeting, meal, early night, light stretching session in the morning, meal, then on to the ground. Everything at the club now is planned in detail and micro-managed.

  6. kæmpen drabet! That’s one better than big Jack’s Champs.. A miserable rain lashed 4th round exit to John Neale’s Wrexham.

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