Gong Show: Silky Boro Shrug Off Boss Curse

THROW that poisoned chalice on the pile of broken hoodoos over there….

The “curse” of the manager of the month award (and Charlton’s run of 12 games without a win) may have had superstitious supporters and the old school once bitten cynics quaking before the match and predicting  a “typical Boro”  nailed on home defeat.  A long history of institutional inconsistency demanded a post-gong flop at home to a team on the slide.

11gong        Poisoned chalice? Aitor and Tomlinho look to dump these broken hoodoos

But Aitor Karanka is no respector of this club’s traditions as the 3-1 win over Charlton showed.  He doesn’t do “typical Boro.” Whatever whispered medieval mumbo jumbo is floating around the Teesside ether,  he goes about his meticulous preparations, gets his team focussed and organised and demands daily incremental improvement. He’s a fiercely driven and professional individual. He’s not going to let fan’s fears seep into his universe.

So, no curse of the boss gong. Or the player gong. No post-Christmas slum. No January jitters. No buckling  at Brentford as predicted in their first away trip to a top six side. No freezing in front of the cameras.  This is a meaner, mentally stronger Boro fixed on the prize of promotion.  They are winning even when not at their best. And that is in a division where so often the opposition game plan is geared to not letting you be at your best.  Good. We are going to need that strength and determination in what is shaping up to be the most cut-throat Championship summit scrum ever.

The terrace tension was almost tangible as Boro – dominant in the opening spell – were pegged back just before the break while rivals Bournemouth and Derby were both cruising. You could hear the quiver in the tannoy voice of MMP’s little helper as he read out the scores. It isn’t and can’t be in early February but it felt like a watershed moment in the season. Had Boro stuttered and stumbled to a draw – or worse – at that point you sensed that the belief that has built up over the last month may have fractured.

But Karanka gave his stuttering squad ‘Los Hairdryos” at the interval and they came out firing to quickly score and settle nerves in the stands. It has under-pinned a growing sense of possibility: this team CAN win promotion. They ARE good enough.

And it was, on reflection, a polished display, the shaky 10 minutes leading up to the leveller aside. There was some criticism of course. Boro looked creaky at the back – and especially down the ring rusty right  between  Fred and Ken – and there were a few early warning sirens but Boro quickly played their way back into a dominant position. They plugged the gaps, took control of midfield and then started to carve through and create chances. It looked a foregone conclusion as the front  line picked into the penalty box.

Then Boro were punished for taking their foot off the gas, for over-elaborating, and show-boating a bit, becoming a little complacent and allowing the intensity to drop.  The goal came from the one real lax moment at the back – Big Ken allowed his man to wriggle away and put the ball into the dangerzone  when really he should have made the tackle or committed a foul – but after that Boro rebooted and refocussed.

But either side of that sluggish spell Boro played well, especially going forward. Lee Tomlinho played like he suddenly believes he is a match winner. He put together a clip reel of deft flicks, tricks, drag-backs, spins and a sublime range of  well weighted passes into shrewdly observed spaces as well as working hard closing down and linking. It was a fantastic  individual display and he claimed a good assist and hit a sizzling goal.


                       Engrave that! Tomlin cracks home Boro’s third goal

When he won the gong I think there may well have been some eye-brows raised among Riverside regulars. Overall he probably hasn’t been Boro’s best player of late (Gibbo for me but there are other candidates too) – but against Charlton he put in a display that engraved exclamation marks and underlined his name on the precious glassware.

But he wasn’t the only one. It was a good performance, if not quite a classic.  Aitor was disappointed that they fell short of his high demands but for me it was competent and comfortable. here was plenty of movement, creativity and crisp passing; energy and industry; organisation and tactical nous; spirit and determination. The whole promotion palette was being used.

Charlton boss Guy Luzon was impressed and pronounced Boro the best team in the division.  And coming hot on the heels of the battle at Brentford, the game showed this side can mix and match styles, shapes and tempos and can do whatever it takes to win.


And it was needed. Boro’s win – more comfortable than the scoreline suggests in the end – was a timely one.  The top four won again. The pace is not dropping off at all. The intensity at the top is incredible. It will come down to the ability to scrap and claw to victories, especially over the congested coming month, the February #fixturebomb .

Boro go into the sandpit at Blackpool on Tuesday for another high-stakes encounter on a night when the top two clash. Something has to give. All Boro can do is keep on raising the bar, grinding out wins, breaking hoodoos and closing in on the real prize.


130 thoughts on “Gong Show: Silky Boro Shrug Off Boss Curse

  1. I started taking notice of the fixtures November’ish.

    Many were bothered about having played few of the top of the table teams, my oft expressed view is you can only play who is front of you. My concern was dropping too many silly points at home, away draws are not such a bother . We needed those points on the board so when you do play teams around you they need to win.

    A defeat is always possible whoever you play.

  2. If fixture lists and predictions based on form was that simple we would all have won the Littlewoods/Vernons pools years ago (or at least those of us old enough to remember carefully placing 11 X’s on a coupon) and be sat in our yachts in the Caribbean or fake nouveau 6 bedroomed Spanish Hacienda’s overlooking Skinningrove/Brotton/Loftus.

    Reality though is as Ian above states you can only play what is in front of you at any given time. Three points at home to Derby and Norwich plus home and away wins to Brentford meant 9 valuable points off contenders we probably wouldn’t have predicted (and how many goals for and against?). Yet we were diabolical at home to Blackpool when AK perhaps didn’t show enough respect and gave some squad players a chance who then went on to spectacularly underperform, disappoint and play for themselves rather than follow the team ethic.

    Our away display at the Etihad has us upbeat about Arsenal next and it being a good litmus test should we gain entry to the greed league at the end of this season. Blackpool tonight however is all that matters. One game at a time and tonight we need to ensure we do not get overly obsessed with three points and keep to our normal game. If we keep it tight at the back and tenacious in midfield the breaks over 90 minutes will come.

    I suspect one of our quick breaks will expose Blackpool and a desperate lunge could result in the Tangerines going down to ten men. We have to turn up firstly and a slightly more Lee Clark coached resilient if not resurgent Blackpool awaits us on their cabbage patch of a pitch. I fancy a nervy 0-0 at half time with Boro running out 0-2 winners at the end of a scrappy feisty affair.

    1. Last sentence isn’t a bad shout, RR.

      This is the easiest away game of the season according to the league tables, but it’s always looked like a possible banana skin to me. On my predictor it’s the game that could bring our 4 match winning run to an end.

      My worries are the pitch, Blackpool’s familiarity with it, and the fact that the Boro are already concerned about it before a ball is kicked. We will get caught if we try to play any football from the back, though the conditions should suit our high pressing game.

      We should put out our strongest side. If any need resting we should do that next Sunday. Having one eye on the high profile Arsenal game will be fatal. This is the important one. Add to that our poor performance at Brentford and Blackpool’s two last home wins and you have at least some ingredients for a possible shock.

      Against that Aitor has masterminded the best organised Boro defence that I can ever remember. I don’t think it will be unduly tested, not least because Blackpool will be quite content with a point, and like Reading try to hold what they have from the outset.

      So for me it will be largely a defensive affair on a ropey pitch with few chances created. I think RR may just about have it right. But we will drop some unexpected points before the season’s end, and this might be just such an occasion. I’ll stick with 0-0.

      To Blackpool then. For fresh air and fun. To cheer on Albert and the Lions. Now where’s my stick with the ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle ?

      Come on Boro.

  3. I’m with len on team selection tonight, this is not the time to rest players and I’m sure Karanka knows that, we need our strongest team out for what will be a challenging game. I’m optimistic regarding the result I think we’ll win. My belief is that our winning run has a few more games to go yet (ignoring the FA cup).

  4. I have a feeling that Kike will get a game tonight. Vossen and Tomlin have been fantastic over the last couple of games, but I can see one if not both of them having a rest.

    I also think that Dani will come in for Ben, rather than Ken. That wouldn’t be my first choice, but that seems to be the Aitor way.

  5. We need a dose of ” Hicktonite ” to break the Blackpool rock so I would like to see Kike start with Vossen dropping to the bench . I also would rest golden balls Tomlin and play Forshaw as it will be a scrap and not suited to his temperament.

    Ayala has to return for this one to partner Gibson and I would prefer not to rush Fredericks on what will be a wild night and bring back Kalas but that may be a change too far .

    I know Aitor may have got it wrong the last time we played them but now we have a much greater resolve and full focus on the top two objective .

    I’m going for another 2-0 Boro win Kike and Adomah .

  6. I am hearby resolving never to question Aitor ever again. Not about who should play,or how many changes there should be,or what tactics we should adopt,in fact,not about anything, ever. I am simply not equipped to quibble, sorry about that, with such a master of football.

    Hands up who called tonight’s chess moves? Woody in, Tomlin on the bench,seven changes, about a hundred to one against I would say. And as usual good use of subs. And great result, top spot at last with a home match to follow.this might just be the moment of the season when we wave by by to the rest of them.

  7. I’m feeling alienated. This is is not my Boro.

    Where’s the traditional post-Xmas slump? How can AK win Manager of The Month and keep on winning? It isn’t done. A winless January is hard wired into our DNA – what’s going on? Tomlin wins a gong, finds his best form and scores for fun. It just isn’t right and proper. Just to rub our noses in it, we now top the table.

    Boro have character and fight. We’re organised and well balanced and with tactical astuteness. We’re resilient, adaptable and have the capacity to just get on with it, no matter what, without fuss.

    This is not my Boro. Genuinely untypical.

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