Semi-derby Slip Turns Up Promotion Pressure

BLOODY hell Boro! There had to be a stumble at some point. This is the Championship. And in the wider scheme of things a defeat now is not a disaster. Especially when it the first of the year after nine unbeaten.  And when it is the first at home since August. And it leaves you top (albeit briefly) with 14 games left. But did it have to be bloody Leeds?

Well, I suppose it did really. Leeds have only lost once at the Riverside. Someone who keeps records of these things said Boro have only ever been in front against Leeds at the Riverside for EIGHT minutes in total – once when Juninho set up Fjorfoft before being quickly pegged back and then again after Curtis Main scored late on. So if Boro were going to blow up we should have known it would have been to them.

It was a very frustrating game.  A 1-0 home “derby” defeat is always a kick in the teeth but there was a feeling that this was self inflicted,  partly because of the cheap goal conceded and partly because of the failure to make a blizzard of chances count.

The early goal against was a comedy of errors -a  poor throw out by Mejias (now firmly back in the scapegoat frame) to Leadbitter who nodded off and allowed it to be stolen away, then  a collective failure to not retrieve the situation and close down Cook, then a deflection off Ben Gibson to send the shot squirting home.

One concourse critic was really laying into Big Ben at the break citing two own goals, a soft penalty and getting Dimi sent off in the past few games which seems harsh.  Especially as that was his first time on the losing side in the league this season.

1noway

             No way through: Boro battling through the massed Leeds defence

After the goal Boro went for it, pressing forward, getting bodies into the final third and pinned Leeds in their own box for long spells but then they struggled to find a way through the crowd with crosses being nodded away, shots being blocked and with creative players getting in each others’ way and struggling to find any space.

Most of Boro’s 27 shots  were from awkward angles or distance and the vast majority were charged down in the forest in the box.  And, as usual, the keeper was on form and Silvestri “had an Eastwood” and made a string of fairly routine saves plus two very good ones.

It felt like “one of those days” when no matter what Boro did they were never going to score.  And when it felt like Leeds may get another. As Boro committed men forward it left space and  Leeds looked sharp on the break with Cook and Mowatt very lively on the counter and there were a few scary moments. And in truth Leeds had the two best chances of the game but one free header flashed wide and another hit the bar.

Aitor was happy. Not with the result obviously. But he was satisfied with the team’s endeavours, creativity and energy in keeping creating right to the end.  Although he was at a loss to explain how they had not scored.  And his team are still well placed. 

Still, a good game. Entertaining, enterprising, full of action (even if much of it was scrappy and frantic) and there was a crackling atmosphere with both sets of fans in good call-and-response form, taunting each other but roaring the teams on too.  The Red Faction unveiled a  new banner giving their verdict on the club’s ownership  – a massive image of Steve Gibson with the slogan “Fit and Proper,”  a statement of both the integrity of the Boro boardroom but also a barbed dig at the visitors’ behind the scenes soap opera.

1jelle

                                                      Ouch:  Jelle Vossen spark out

Jelle Vossen – who had been a lively presence up front – was rattled by a clash of heads and was left spark out needing lengthy treatment before being stretchered off needing oxygen. With all the subs already used Boro were down to 10 men for the second game running for the last five plus 10 minutes of stoppage time.  He Belgian striker later tweeted from hospital to say he was alright but didn’t remember a thing (insert your own joke here).

1asas1

It was a slip up but not a disaster. Boro got away with it and finished the day still in second place as Bournemouth lost at Brentford and both Ipswich and Watford lost too (although they went down to Norwich which may not be all good news).

It could even have been an unbelievable clean sweep and an but Derby came from behind to win at Sheffield Wednesday who had their keeper sent off to concede a decisive late penalty.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Boro have taken just one point from two games this week and failed to press home their advantage at what may have been a pivotal point of the season.  Looks like we’ll have to do it the hard way

 

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Here’s the pre-match stuff….

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TIGHTENING tourniquet  tension. Nervous twitching and beads of sweat. Excitement. Expectation. Anticipation.  Euphoria. Sudden bubbles of fear forcing their way up through fissures in the fragile facade of  confident swagger. Bloody hell.  It’s going to be like this going into every game all the way through to May now isn’t it?

Aitor insisted in his pre-match briefing that there is no pressure on the team and that the hard bit was getting to the top. But life in the promotion pressure cooker is getting tough for fans, especially for those of nervous galls empty disposition who are anxiously looking for any signs of wheel-nuts loosening along the road to glory. And it’s Leeds next!

But this is what we all desperately wanted. We wanted to elbow our way to the front. We yearned for and dreamed of being in top spot.  And we deserve it. We’ve served our time. It has been a long wait through teeth shattering false dawns and morale sapping long nights dark as Satan’s soul.  Boro have rebooted, instilled a steely philosophy, recruited well in terms of quantity and quality,  played some sizzling stuff at time and dug deep and ground out the results when needed. They have clawed their way to the Championship summit with a focussed zeal and we should be enjoying it. But it has been torture in recent weeks.

Blackpool last week was a taut affair. Watching other results on Saturday was a turn of the screw even though most went our way.  Tuesday night on twitter was a long drawn out agony as Derby fought back to draw at Rotherham. Boro fans were on mogadon and we weren’t even playing.  And watching the game on Wednesday at Birmingham constituted a breach of  European human rights legislation as a cruel and unusual punishment as with top spot on offer Boro went behind and went down to 10 men before a galvanised second half show salvaged a point and put our heroes to the front of the cut-throat pack.

And there’s still almost three months and 15 games to go. There are going to be emotional casualties from all this. People will crash and burn watching dodgy-vision streams of games that don’t go to script.  Relationships will crumble on ill-timed stupid questions asked innocently under the intense pressure of wartime conditions. And that’s after a nine game unbeaten run (won six, drawn three) and with Boro top of the table. Imagine the squealing, hysteria and  meltdowns that beckon should they wobble. Draw a few say. Or even forbid lose a game in a crazy division with coupon-busting shocks as a default.

That’s the landscape as we go into the culturally charged retro-derby with Leeds.  Imagine how psyched up some people will be on kick-off with the traditional hostile atmosphere added to the mix.  It is bad enough being desperate for the points to cash in for a bigger prize without having to worry about more parochial concerns like the battle for bragging rights or the prospect of sporadic sniping from our southern hinterlands. Given the volatile mix, just think of the raw tangible neurotic tsunami tides that will sweep the stands if Leeds score first. Or at all.  I can’t bear to consider the explosive possibility.

On a cold, analytical level I think Boro should win. And will win. They will be motivated slightly by a desire to put right the 1-0 early season defeat when Albert Adomah’s over-head kick was ruled out. Had it gone they would have eased to a routine win. But the bigger incentive is the points needed to open – briefly – a four point gap at the top and tighten the screw on their Championship title rivals.

1albertover

         Adomah the top: Albert’s acrobatic effort ruled out for dangerous play. 

My daft quid is on 2-0. Leeds looked deep in trouble in six weeks ago then dragged themselves to safety with recent revival but Aitor Karanka’s side are in excellent form, whatever the fears of their mortality. They have won five in a row at home beating Derby, Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield, Cardiff and Charlton, scoring 12 and leaking just two.  At times they have played some exciting fluid high tempo football that has been a delightful to watch but when necessary they have dug in and ground it out. Good signs and all part of the promotion palette. But that won’t stop twice bitten Boro fans worrying.

Anyway…. usual drill. You can post your pre-match score-casts here and predict how you think the game will unfold then we can all regroup after the match to point and laugh at how wrong the the wild-eyed optimists/doom-mongers were. You can give your on the whistle debriefings and I’ll get my own impressions up as soon as possible.

COME ON BORO.

 

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161 thoughts on “Semi-derby Slip Turns Up Promotion Pressure

  1. GT and RR
    I’ll be gutted if we don’t win promotion this year but I can’t make it happen. Given our expectation in August and what we’ve achieved, this season has been great so far. I’ve posted on several occasions that, if our finishing was more clinical, we’d have had this league sewn up. As I say, it’s up to AK and the players to try and step up a gear but all we can do is wait and see. Harsh but true. UTB

    1. I couldn’t agree more Slaggy, a little more composure and precision and we’d probably have two 20 goals per season strikers. We’re still second though and our fate is in our own hands, forget the others.

      UTB,

      John

  2. Ste Mac

    I dont see that from of the comments, the vast majority of the comments are constructive, it is just a chat after the game in the pub. To those who live far away this is our pub.

  3. Having had a little more time to reflect, the weekend didn’t turn out as badly as was hoped as our game drew to a close. I couldn’t believe my eyes watching the BBC scores as promotion hopefuls one by one contrived to drop points and keep us in the automatic promotion places.

    The problem is, we’ve said it time and time again, you can’t ride your luck and rely upon others. I appreciate that to some the criticism and the worrying is ridiculous, and likewise to others the constant “look on the bright side” talk is obscuring faults within the team, but ultimately if Boro get more points than the teams below them between now and the last game of the season, we will be promoted automatically!

    My concern though, is relying on others. There are bound to be times, particularly given the teams we have to play, where we slip out of the promotion places. There are bound to be times where we slip behind and need to pull out, but we need to keep things in our hands. How many times during the Southgate relegation season did we slip up only for our relegation rivals to do likewise and extend our stay of execution? I suppose you could view that from their point of view to, we kept throwing them lifelines. Let’s cut that out right now and make sure we don’t need others to keep us up top.

    Looking at the table, I firmly believe that one of the current top 3 could spiral right out of the play off places by May. Brentford are coming back and fired up, Norwich are rising like a diver onto their last breath, and Ipswich and Watford look solid enough to keep a good record going, although perhaps not “spectacular” enough to run into the top 2. Bournemouth are having their wobble now, but we can’t expect that to go on forever, or can we?

    Predicitons time: I’m going for Derby to get one of the automatic slots. They look too strong, particularly with Bent and Ince. I’m not going to use either as a stick to beat Karanka with though, we loaded our squad earlier in the season, both of those players were a risk, and well, you know Boro, if we’d signed either of them they’d have been utter donkeys right through until the end of the season. That’s just the way of the world. However, if we are going to claim the other automatic slot, we need to get the best 11 out, and more often than not.

    There’s been a lot of teeth-gnashing about the rotation, but perhaps Karanka is rotating now with an eye on keeping players fresh for March. I’d rather he saves the legs of some of our key players if he can for that critical period where we play most of the current top 7 AWAY FROM HOME. If you need freshness – that is going to be the critical time, in a series of 6 pointers where the loser loses more than just the 3 points on offer.

    Either way, we have to get back to winning ways on Tuesday. I’d like to echo some points from others as well, I think we need 2 wingers to play the “Karanka way”, especially if Tomlin sits in the number 10. Whilst Tomlin can turn out of a tricky position, he also is dangerous turning and running, and without the width of Reach or Albert, the middle of the park gets congested and we allow defenders to close down his space. Having two proper wingers, with at least one in Stewie Downing touchline-hugging mode spreads the pitch, splits the defence and hopefully gives Tomlin more room to be dangerous. Especially at home, that has to be the way to play.

    Anyway, I’ll be watching anxiously for the team sheet on Tuesday, and even more anxiously to see how the game pans out. Fingers crossed it results in a net-busting goal fest, with Bamford bagging 3 and Tomlin 2.

    Stranger things have happened after all.

  4. Just watched the Leeds game this morning.

    Disappointed with all the changes Karanka has been making, one or two to freshen it up plus enforced changes for injuries suspensions etc but six is disrupting for the team. His concern with keeping players fresh for me has had a negative effect on performance,we were playing better and getting results with less changes.

    Wouldn’t solely blame Mejias for the goal,Leadbitter did shout for the ball didnt anticipate anyone around him and wasn’t quick enough going for it,still time enough after that to stop the danger but after Friends block deflected off another Boro player into the net everyone’s pointing at the keeper unfairly again.

    Ridiculous amount of chances to score,keeper and defenders saved and blocked but our players mainly Kike and Vossen were the main culprits a combination of poor finishing and poor decision making. They have to do better than that,Kike in particular tends to go it alone far too much instead of looking up for other options. Putting their foot through the ball would help,no power in half the attempts.

    Plenty of possession with a lot of corners but they hardly ever possess any danger never hurt the opposition and easily cleared.

    Verdict! Need to be more clinical in front of goal,strikers brought in this season to allegedly get us promoted haven’t delivered Kike (7) Vossen (5) not good enough in a team challenging for promotion. Wide players Adomah (3) Reach (1) really poor and have to step up and contribute goals.

    Bolton home on Tuesday and has to be won given the games that are coming up away soon

  5. If it’s OK by Ian, I’d like to post an opinion.

    I think we’ll be fine and at least make the play-offs, and that we have a good chance of automatic promotion.

    I think it’s been Len (amongst others) that has been pointing out you are better off picking up the odd loss as long as you’re getting a bunch of wins, and we’ve just done that. Five wins on the bounce before the last two games has given us the leeway to have a couple of bad results and stay in the top 2. I know, we weren’t particularly good in most of those wins, but we still won them.

    Given the amount of games the team has played in the last month or so I don’t think we should read too much into a draw and a loss. I’ve no problem if others are inclined to see it as the wheels coming off, the beginning of the end etc, although I do think some of the criticism (of Karanka, Gibson and Mejias especially) has been a bit rich, but as Ian correctly points out, this is a virtual pub and each to his own.

    I’m still trying to get my head round “being blinded by the league position” when we’re 3/4 of the way through the season and sitting in 2nd spot. Isn’t the league position the whole point? We’re not Tottenham.

  6. Never Give Up –

    Tsk, tsk. Expressing opinions again. Same for you Smoggy in exile.

    I think the result tomorrow is important in it’s own right. A win ensures our fate remains in our own hands, that is crucial whatever games are coming up. We will have to win one or two of those tough fixtures to go up automatically in any case but daft points will be dropped by everyone, you just don’t know where.

  7. I’m not sure why Karanka is getting criticised for making changes on Saturday. Kalas looked very good as did Nsue. Kike and Vossen were lively and had plenty of chances to score, we’ll never know if one of Bamford/Tomlin would have taken or even created any of those chances.

    We’re playing two games a week at the moment, some players will need rest to stop niggles becoming injuries. I can’t see any argument for dropping Gibson, he did nothing wrong on Saturday and Mejias was sound, blaming him for the goal is a bit daft in my opinion. It was one of those days they happen sometimes.

    Fortunately we’ve got Bolton to focus on now.

  8. Nigel –

    I for one didn’t criticise his changes for the game on Saturday, the biggest problem was scoring.

    I did think taking Reach off meant we lost shape, we didn’t stretch them after he was hooked. I am not praising his performance but having someone over that side makes the pitch bigger.

    I do think you have to be careful over the changes by staying with the same structure as much as possible, we have enough players in our squad to do that. Still don’t like Adomah left and Bamford right, too narrow and plays in to teams hands who want to be compact.

    Tomorrow is another day, lets enjoy.

    The ticket pricing seems sensible and I hope the take up is healthy.

  9. What Nigel said.

    It seems to me that everyone at the top has been dropping points of late. That suggests to me that we are not alone in our dip in performance levels and that that dip is not down to dodgy tactics or team selections, but a very demanding winter schedule where even the best squads are stretched.

    In the main, “Fixturebomb” has been good for us – we’ve moved up from 3rd/4th to 1st/2nd. Hopefully that is evidence that we do indeed have one of the best squads.

    Yes, we would have been clear with better finishing. Our rivals will be saying the same if ony they had a defence like ours. No team is this league is perfect. And freak results like on Saturday just even the score for our win at Brentford for instance.

  10. Ian –

    Dreadful, no criticism allowed only praise!!
    Maybe I should get back in the kitchen!!

    Kookaboro –

    “Blinded by League position”

    People look at the position in the league and think because we are top we are brilliant and easily the best team. Lately we havnt been playing well and games we have won could have easily gone the other way. An odd defeat or draw doesn’t matter but I am sure we would have expected those dropped points to have been against Bournemouth,Derby,Ipswich Watford or Norwich not Birmingham or Leeds who are in the lower half.

    Makes tomorrow’s game a must win and more pressure when we play teams in the top six!

    **AV writes: Have I missed something while I was away from the lappy swearing and kicking the dog? Why is no one allowed to criticise?

  11. Ian –

    I’m with you on the Adomah/Bamford thing. Adomah is far better on the right and Bamford is far better up front.

    I think Saturday confirmed what we all knew really but hoped wouldn’t happen, the promotion battle is going to go right down to the wire.

    I’m not sure Brentford will come back they’ve lost five of their last ten, Bournemouth may be sliding a bit, too soon to tell. Derby are going to keep going, the question is what will Norwich do. They’ve got tough games coming up to, including a match against Ipswich.

    1. Yes, that’s a cracking description and one I particularly like as I have strong family roots in Suffolk. When I talk about roots I don’t mean turnips or beetroot’s….

  12. Here is another thought, Martin Atkinson had a refereeing shocker against Chelsea. You never know he might get the usual punishment of dropping a division. Who normally gets officiated by such miscreants?

  13. Nigel –

    I agree. I know that we’re all worried about our lack of clinical finishing but we seem to have slipped away from the Nil conceded of late, so the guarantee of at least one point disappears with it. So, we need to return to the watertight defence and start converting more chances. Simples.

  14. Forgot to mention Season Card increase. Given how long prices have been frozen, I think they’re reasonable, particularly if we are in PL.

    Regardless of which league we’re in, we can’t expect prices to remain static forever. Some will, no doubt, suggest that it is the wrong time because we are trying to win back the waverers or encourage new Season Card supporters but there’s never a good time to increase prices.

  15. Slaggy –

    You are right about prices, if I lived 140 miles closer I would have a season ticket. The crippler is the fuel and time.

  16. AV –

    Apparently it’s wrong to express negative comments because we are top of the league which must mean there’s nothing wrong with the team??

    Having been going to the games for forty years I’ve seen us be in this position many times only to be disappointed.

    On a positive note, I’m back on my feet again and we may have Muzzy back for part of the game tomorrow. Just hope people arn’t expecting him to bang a hat trick in!

    Season ticket increase:

    Couldn’t stay frozen forever but didn’t expect them to rise this year. In the event we get promoted it would be reward to freeze prices for those who have stuck by the club since relegation.

    This price from today until Apr 2nd then a further increase around end of season for new applicants and ST holders that didn’t renew early. Could be tricky if we don’t get promoted given all the complaints this season about it being too expensive to go,will end up with less ST holders.

    Won’t affect me I’m paid up for the next two seasons anyway! UTB!!

  17. Ian –

    Your commitment to the Boro cause was never in doubt. Given your location, you attend a lot more matches than I would if I was in your position.

    Hope you haven’t had to endure too much gloating from your Derby colleagues. UTB

  18. I said after the Birmingham game that to get the team promoted Karanka needed the right tactics and a lucky rabbit’s foot in his pocket, well I did not see much wrong with the tactics employed for the Leeds game but obviously he forgot to take the rabbits’s foot along.

    Apart from the result it was a great game of football, especially for the neutral to watch full of tension and drama, with the extra eight minutes added on I dared to dream but it was not to be.Here’s to tomorrow night, if Nottingham Forest can put four past Bolton surely we can do the same, another night of tension, I can’t wait.

    John C

  19. John C’s comment made me burst out laughing, (much to the wife’s chagrin) “if Nottingham Forest can put four past Bolton surely we can do the same”.

    With our Strikers (Bamford aside) that would be a truly remarkable achievement based upon their “goalscoring” exploits. Bent has scored 7 goals in 8 games for Derby since joining them, Assombalonga has scored 15 for Forest all season and he didn’t score at all against Bolton. Just check how many Vossen and Kike have scored all season!

    We are struggling to keep clean sheets at the moment and have struggled to score generally and especially from open play for a side with an intent on promotion. Our most prolific Striker is played out of position (almost Mogganesque) out wide (if played at all) and our other top scorer is a midfield player with possibly the largest haul of penalties in living Boro memory (any statto’s out there?).

    Our most creative midfielder/No.10 is also occasionally square pegged out wide to “accommodate” our Jaffa strikeforce (when he is playing). I’m hoping for a cold dreary spawny 1-0 to Boro tomorrow night at the very best.

    Of course the foam inhalers will be convinced we will walk it and all recent displays like, Brentford, Blackpool, Birmingham etc. never happened and everything in the Riverside is fine and our Gritty displays will carry us through irrespective of reality until the end of the Season. Just hope they are right and our rotated regulars run the Riverside roost (one for Fat Bob there!) come 9.45pm tomorrow.

    1. RR

      Cluck cluck the riverside rooster chickens will squawk quite loud if we don’t win tomorrow !!

      Probably lay a few eggs as well!

      Let’s be positive we are still second and I love this team and really rate the manager.

      Who could ever forget Stricken?
      Fat Bob

  20. I don’t know whether some of the following will seem incendiary but here we go:

    1. People on here are allowed to be critical unless there has been a change that has been kept a secret from me. Contributors are allowed to say it as they see it. That might be positive or negative, or a combination of the two. It is helpful if criticism is constructive though – no-one wants to see abuse or criticism for the sake of upsetting.

    2. I agree that the team has perhaps changed a little more in recent weeks than might have been required if the only criteria for selection were fitness and form. There is merit in playing a settled team, though I accept some account has to be taken of a crowded fixture list and the need to ensure players are kept fresh as well as fit. For example I can understand if it was felt that Tomlin and Leadbitter were exhausted. Still, no doubt the training is light when the games are Saturday, Tuesday, Friday evening, Tuesday etc. My gut feeling is that not all of the changes in the team have been necessary. (And no, I don’t want to enter the argument that top tennis players can play a 5 set match today, followed by a 3 or 4 set match tomorrow and the possibility of another one a day or 2 after that).

    3. Looking at it in bald terms, Boro has lost at Arsenal, drawn (perhaps creditably in the circumstances) at Birmingham, and then lost again at home to Leeds. In light of our experiences since September, that might be seen as something of a slump. Perhaps people expected the loss at Arsenal (even if dreaming that it might have been otherwise), but expected 6 points from the other 2 games – or a least 4 points. Of course had it been 4, Boro would still be top of the league. Whether “foam-handers” or “chicken runners”, I guess everyone is very disappointed with the single point won.

    4. The team is second in the table, so it is by no means the end of the world. But maybe it could be better. I accept the margins between success and failure may be thin, but that should drive us on to be better and to ensure we are on the “up” side of the divide. The issue can’t be about the defence despite having conceded a few recently. Overall the defence is the best in the league. There can’t be much criticism about the midfield, especially when Clayton and Leadbitter seem to be as good as it gets in this division. If you have the best defence and the best midfield and a manager everyone (including me) seems to think is the real deal then, with a decent attack, the team could be expected to be running away with the league. We are doing well but clearly not running away with it.

    5. I do not argue that the attack is useless. However, bearing in mind the amount of possession we have, the amount of chances created, one might have expected our strikers to be amongst the top scorers. It’s like being at Hartlepool – if the team is under the cosh most of the time, the strikers might get the odd runaway goal against the run of play but you’d hardly expect them to be 20 odd goals a season merchants. On the other hand, over the last 20 years or so (until the last 2) Manchester United had the ball in their opponents’ penalty area so often, and created so many opportunities, that one would expect even “decent” (as opposed to “top notch”) strikers to end up each season with a reasonable bag.

    6. I may not have the figures perfectly accurate, though hopefully they are in the right area, but I heard Boro had 63% possession against Leeds, had 27 attempts on goal and had 19 corners. On that basis I suppose scoring 8 or 9 goals in the game might be considered “par for the course”. I realise football doesn’t work like that all the time. Yet on the other hand it wouldn’t have been greedy to expect 4 or 5 goals in those circumstances. How many of those chances would have been put away by, let’s say, a 36 year old Kevin Phillips (I realise we couldn’t afford a 27 yer old version). And if it was 19 corners, that serves to suggest we are not very good at corners! I do remember Bamford’s header a few weeks ago, but NINETEEN? At this rate, teams will start giving us corners because they’d feel safer that way.

    7. I would always start with Bamford playing as a number 9. He is more dangerous there than on the wing. He is more likely to score from there and more likely to be able to hold it up for an oncoming colleague following up. I would start with Dimi from now on unless injuries or suspension prevents it. I accept Reach may not have had his best game on Saturday but I would still start him with Friend behind him unless he has a string of further poor games there. He makes things happen more often than not. Adomah had a decent game and with Carayol on the way back, we should be OK for width which should further help Bamford up front and the lad coming up from behind (Tomlin or Vossen).

    8. I agree Kike and Vossen’s returns have been less than wonderful. If they scored a few more, let’s say Kike ended up with 14 and Vossen with 9, despite playing in a team with the majority of possession in a successful Championship season, how many would that translate to if we were to be promoted – maybe 7 and 5 in the Premier League? Not really enough, is it? And I would have to say that Kike’s touch on Saturday….kicking the ball against my garage wall would have resulted in a lower average distance of bounce-back. It was the proverbial inability to trap a bag of cement.

    9. I hope that game was a one-off. But the first half at Birmingham, before Dimi received his marching orders, seemed to be similarly one-sided and Boro could have been at least 2, maybe 3 goals up before the sending off. Had we done the business up front it would obviously have been a different game. Would anyone expect Birmingham to come from 0-3 behind even if they had gone on to score a penalty, even against 10 men?

    10. I am sure that even though all supporters must have felt sickened by the result against Leeds, the players will have felt at least as bad. They are in a better position to put it right than we are. All we can do is shout and cheer. I suspect they will be able to do it. However margins are so tight that it must start against Bolton. It isn’t something that can be allowed to drift.

    Incidentally, at the Flattened Frog after the game were a selection of stars from the past who had been at the Leeds game. Gordon McQueen, Peter Lorimer and Joe Jordan were there having a pint or two and sharing conversation. How much would they be worth if they were each 20 years old now?

  21. “**AV writes: Have I missed something while I was away from the lappy swearing and kicking the dog? Why is no one allowed to criticise? ”

    Mea Culpa, I introduced a no discussion rule. You may have missed it or more likely dismissed it as the ramblings of an elderly fan.

    There was severe concern in certain quarters that bedsprings would rust through bedwetting. What is more some posters actually expressed opinions that flew in the face of the accepted wisdom of Karanka san.

    I suggested a facts only approach to posting, no Rafa opinions posing as facts.

    It appears doomed to failure, if I have stepped out of line I bow to your greater knowledge oh Great Blogmeister.

    **AV writes: For all your criticism of workers’ states you would make a great commissar. Carry on comrade.

  22. Re “blinded by league position” again.

    Objective measures of how Boro are going after 32 games:

    League position – 2nd
    Form table – 3rd (one place in front of Leeds)
    Home table – 3rd
    Away table – 2nd
    Offence table – joint 7th
    Defence table – 1st
    Goal difference – 3rd

    Subjective measures of how Boro are going after 32 games:

    Some Boro supporters – “we’re rubbish”
    Other Boro supporters – “we’re brilliant”
    Yet more Boro supporters – “we’re somewhere in between rubbish and brilliant”.

    That about covers it. I apologise if I impinged on anyone’s rights to post a criticism of Boro (team, manager or individuals), but if it’s alright with you lot I’d like to maintain my view that looking at the objective measures things seem to be going along pretty well, and to be allowed to post that…even if you all think I’m a ra-ra!

    1. I must say that objectively you are quite correct. We must be where we are because of results and doing something right.

      Subjectively, I am in your 3rd category ( somewhere between rubbish and brilliant )

      While watching from afar on live TV here in the Midwest of the USA, the 3 matches I have seen this last month do not fill me with the greatest optimism. Despite seeing the wins at Brentford and Man City, there is still something lacking in “bite” up front. The inability to score against Leeds with so many opportunities and the % possession, corners, shots etc. may come back to haunt us.

      Hope I’m wrong..

      Stephen in Kansas

      **AV writes: Welcome aboard.

  23. Blimey,. In the space of a week Karanka seems to have gone from better-than-Mourinho to “Moggaesque”!

    Was the Leeds game that bad? Or was it just a bad result? Granted (pun intended), the corners were poor, but the general domination, particularly of the first half, was pretty good I thought.

    We have had a number of below par performances recently. Most of them have been away from home, most of them wins and all amongst a busy schedule when squad rotation was always likely to occur.

    We’ll have to wait and see how the result affects us. Bolton will also be looking for a reaction.

    I fancy a decent, if unspectacular, 2-0 Boro win.

  24. Andy R –

    Most of the comments can be summarised into a few categories

    1. We are missing chances

    2. Some dont like Bamford right, Adomah left.

    3. Some are not keen on rotation.

    4, Some seem to get upset if anyone says anything that isnt a North Korean lauding of Aitor.

    Personally I think he is doing a great job, happy for rotation as long as he doesnt disrupt the balance of the team.

    Three points tomorrow. Someone asked about Derby gloating. I fear we will have to suffer more of that in the weeks to come. Despite our misgivings Ince and Bent have added some firepower to an already decent attack, their defence isnt brilliant. They still think they will be champions and we will go up but it is very condescending. Problem is I think they may well be right on one count, hopefully both.

    One thing that has stuck in my mind, Albert saying Saturday was like last season’s drought where it didn’t matter how well we played we couldn’t score.

  25. Maybe a lot of teams are looking at Boro as being the Chelsea/Man C of the division thus putting in a more focused approach, giving a big scalp.If so this is why we need to really bear down ,and makes it more important to finish the chances when they are created.

    I think its fair to say most of our games are nail biting apart from Millwall, we haven’t over ran teams.
    Just saying.

  26. Well it will be interesting to see the predictions for tomorrow night. I dare not even think about one, only hoping for a win.

    Still we will probably get the normal 2 ,3 & 4 -nil or something like. Just hope that if Like oir Vossen play they pay back some there investment.

  27. Ian –

    Nothing new there – points 1, 3 and 4 have been the case for many a month (or more) whilst point 2 is a rehash of the old “square-pegging” debate.

    As an aside, the case for Bamford up front is a fair one but I think he’s scored the vast majority of his goals from his right-side role. I just want what’s best for the team but see no clear evidence either way on that one. Bamford looks to have the best positional instincts and finishing but we ask a lot of our number 9 in the 4231 system.

    I too think Aitor is doing a great job. I think we all do really. I’m on record a few times as saying that his “philosophy” isn’t my personal footballing utopia but you can’t argue with his results, nor the spirit, determination and general organisation of his group.

    I think if Karanka was due some stick over dodgy forwards the time for that was in the summer when he was largely afforded blind faith, not now just because we’ve had a bad week of results. He was well backed and brought the players in. He can’t score for them.

    Having said that I’m not sure they are dodgy forwards. I’m almost as desperate as Kike himself for him to get a goal as I’m convinced there’s a fine player in there somewhere. He’s trying too hard at the moment but I’d much rather that than Emnes-style lethargy.

    Vossen too has a great attitude and work rate but we haven’t seen enough end product yet. It could still come.

    I still think the three attacking midfielders, and combination of the options, haven’t contributed anywhere near enough goals.

    Getting the defence back to their brilliant best will ease the problem as it has for most of the season.

  28. **AV writes: For all your criticism of workers’ states you would make a great commissar. Carry on comrade.

    Some fans are more equal than others.

    Andy R

    I would be happier with Bamford on the left of the attacking three and Adomah right, to have them the other way round is too narrow. By nature Bamford gravitates to the penalty spot though the key to the attacking four is movement.

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