Blunt Boro Fail To Fell Forest

JOINT top and still well placed? Or fourth and fading fast.  It’s all in the eye of the beholder of course but Boro currently exist in both situations simultaneously after another crazy day in the Championship.

After losing to Leeds in a one-sided game Boro have squandered another golden chance to seize control of the promotion race after failing to make the possession and shots stats count in a disappointing defeat at Forest. Instead they have become enmeshed in a four-way summit split that makes the post-match debate all about perspective.

With 10 games to go Boro are level on points with the leaders. Whatever people say now, you’d have taken that in August. Boro are in a good position: while they are having a wear and tear wobble after nine games in 29 days, their rivals are also feeling the heat and dropping points.  Derby let slip a two goal lead in stoppage time and have now picked up just one point in nine. Ipswich, Brentford and Watford all dropped points too. The collective creaking and serial slip-ups have gone on for weeks now.

Their destiny remains in their hands and while the run in is tough – they play five of their direct challengers – that gives them a chance to assert themselves and deliver some killer blows to the opposition. They can prove their credentials.

But equally  it is clear that Boro have slipped up themselves. Three defeats and a draw in five games  is their worst run of form all season. Boro have only kept two clean sheets in that sorry sequence. And worst, they are struggling to score.  All three against mediocre Millwall were well worked but other than that they have been flaccid up front.

Against Forest, as at home to Leeds, they dominated possession, they picked and probed and passed patiently looking to unlock a massed defence and laboured away to create a blizzard of chances without every really troubling the keeper.

1kikesaved

            Kike makes it easy for the keeper with a gentle poke into his arms

The stats showed Boro had 26 shots but just four were on target. Most flew high or wide or were charged down in a crowded box. Kike stabbed against the post from close range on the turn and put a back-heel just wide and there were a couple of routine saves from Darlow but this time there wasn’t even the consolation of the keeper picking up the man of the match gong after having “a worldie.”

Forest were probably second best but did their job well. They dropped deep, dug their trenches and strung out tactical barbed wire with two rigid banks of four – that is what Dougie Freedman does – and invited Boro to try to find a way through. And they failed.

So the strikers are taking the flak with Kike the new popular scapegoat. But Boro were caught twice on the break by a Forest side that spent much of the game playing counter-attacking football as if they were the “away” side and the defence must take responsibility for that. Boro failed to close down for the well struck opener and  Nsue lost the ball and Kalas – other wise impressive – was barged aside by dangerman Antonio for the second.

Boro didn’t play badly. Dougie Freedman was quick to praise Boro after the game and said they were the best side in the division. They dominated possession. They passed crisply. They put together some fluid attacking movement.  But they weren’t great. They lacked punch in the penalty box. The final ball in from the flanks was predictable and easily cleared. And several times they got caught napping on the counter. They will come away disappointed, frustrated and smarting at the set-back but the harsh truth is that Forest made their game plan work more effectively than Boro did.

Aitor was angry. We’ve said that a few times over the last few weeks. I think he is getting frustrated at the failure to convert the possession and chances and also feeling the pressure as the season comes to the sharp end – although he was quick to point out that pressure comes with the territory for a team with ambition.

But Boro are not stumbling in isolation. Everyone at the top is taking it in turns to wobble. Presented with a chance to break away team after team has shied away and crumbled. Bournemouth are back on track after five without a win. Boro have three times wasted chances to open up a lead. Derby have got the jitters. Ipswich and Brentford are fading. Right now it is Norwich and Watford’s turn to turn the screw but can they stay the pace? We’ll see as the season comes to the boil.

1finaltable

A crazy day finished with four teams on 66 points and the league leadership changed five times. Bournemouth were top after battering Fulham on Friday but the second the games kicked off Boro took poll position. Derby leapfrogged them by getting the opener against Birmingham then Boro’s goal put us back ahead for five minutes until Forest scored to put Derby back on top.  The second Forest goal knocked Boro down to fourth then Derby were pegged back in stoppage time pushing Bournemouth – who had briefly been down to fourth when Boro, Derby and Watford were all winning – back to the top of goal difference.

It’s going to be like this all the way until the end now. Or until we win at Norwich to take control three games for the end.

 

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

Here’s the pre-match scene-setter…

 

BORO must be Forest fired up for a Tricky trip to (yet another) hoodoo ground. The table is tight as a gnats chuff after Bournemouth battered Fulham 5-1 on Friday. Just one point covers the top four. The stakes are high as our heroes go to the City Ground where they have won one just once since decimalisation for a game where they really need to pick up both points and momentum to propel them into the “Week of  Destiny.”

1asit

Obviously, the consensus is that  Boro have a “poor” record against Forest – especially at their place – and they cast a long pyschic shadow. And they are in good form too  – their midweek defeat at Charlton was their first in seven – so there is much historically ingrained pessimism as well as the mounting pressure cooker jitters that come as standard in a summit scrap as intense and close as this.

Yet Boro haven’t lost at the City Ground in the league since 2011.  And that was the last defeat to them in six games. Since that last lost Boro have drawn 0-0 and 2-2 away and  won 2-1, 1-0 and 3-0 at home, the latter a one sided Boxing Day braying  in front of a bumper crowd.  So while  the public perception is that Boro generally struggle, recent form suggests not. Forest fans may even think we have the Indian sign over them.

1garnt

                     Spot kick specialist joins the festive fun as Forest are felled

Last time there was a fiery 2-2 draw in a pulsating game in which Jason Steele saved one penalty, Boro escaped another couple of strong shouts and clawed into a commanding 2-0 lead before contriving to let that slip in a chaotic last 20 minutes that was to become the hallmark of the final frantic days of the Tony Mowbray. My blog from the night was much shared (and praised) by Forest fans – but Mad Billy read it and wasn’t happy and I was threatened with a writ and a City Ground ban by the Forest legal people. Although by then there were so many people banned it was almost part of the press pack.

So what have we got? Boro’s historic hoodoo weighed up against the power of Football’s Inevitability Drive that suggests local lad, life-long fan and former Forest player Patrick Bamford is #NailedOn to score. Forest’s recent good form ending in midweek against Boro ending their “wobble” with a solid win against Millwall marked with three quality goals.

A win will take Boro back to the top. They know that. They know they need to get a good start going into the next three matches that even Aitor admits are massive.  But everyone else is under pressure too – and given the results in recent weeks they are all wobbling as much as or more than Boro. It will come down to mental strength as much as  ability over the games to come. And I think Boro have that.

My  instinct is that Boro will stay strong and keep a clean sheet.  Logic – and the bookies – suggest this will be a draw. So that makes it 0-0. But I believe in football fairytales and  the power of the Inevitability Drive so my  #DaftQuid is on Boro winning 1-0 (Bamford, 88).

Anyway…. usual routine: let’s have your scorecasts and predictions as to to how the game will pan out now and we’ll gather later on to laugh at/gasp in awe at your prescience. Then after the game you can post your on-the-whistle reports. I’ll put my own post-match impressions ASAP when I get back.

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145 thoughts on “Blunt Boro Fail To Fell Forest

  1. Has len scored? I bet that brings back memories of Marton Burn Road.

    I to would like to see Bamford start up front from now until the seasons’ end.

      1. Now Uncle Ken has told me that whenever he played centre back no one ever got past him, I’ll have to have a word.

  2. Werdemouth –

    That was my team selection about 80 posts ago.

    Fredericks went off injured on Saturday so I would play Kalas there,Carayol favourite on the left if fit but if not Reach. First eleven virtually pick themselves on current form.

  3. Werdermouth –

    Going back to my Derby colleague again, he described Bamford as a luxury player who will score you goals but is best playing off a striker. I think he is better than that now but the point is valid, his instinct takes him to the penalty spot.

    I agree about Reach and Adomah which then leads on to Tomlin. I cant see Aitor playing without his midfield two so Tomlin wont displace one of those. So somehow we have to play Bamford, Tomlin and Kike/Vossen. Three in to two just wont go.

    We have played Bamford on the right, choice was on the right or the bench. Do that and we take away space for Tomlin to do what he does best because Adomah shifts over to the left and we become very narrow. On Saturday Tomlin would run past people, look up and the only option was the full backs, they cross in to the box against big centre halves.

    Leave Bamford on the bench and we can’t score and wont get people in to the box.

    I am a big fan of Tomlin, he offers something different but somehow we have to get back to being effective. Is it a case of Vossen and Bamford or Kike and Tomlin? Or is it Bamford and Vossen/Kike with Tomlin on the bench? Is it Bamford/Vossen at home, Kike/Tomlin away and making changes in the second half if need be?

    This is not hindsight, it has been discussed before and it is age that leads to the urge to go to the toilet not anxiety.

    I know I wrote it so I WOULD think it reads sensibly as a discussion on they way we are playing. I can only write based on the evidence of my own eyes and ears. I cant see what Aitor sees on the training pitch.

    I HAVE DONE IT AGAIN AND EXPRESSED AN OPINION!

  4. I literally cannot handle this league anymore – Fulham beat top of the table Derby then get spanked 1-5 away from home in two games. Derby 2-0 up on 90 minutes then drawing in what will feel like a defeat. I don’t see the point in predicting anything – the only certainty here is uncertainty itself. Rip up the non-form book, and get the soothsayers in for a Vikings style sacrifice to Odin, at least the Voodoo chickens blood might be more useful at providing some insight to the outcome of results at the moment – All I know is we know nothing.

    This is going to be a truly horrible run in.

    UTB!

  5. Ian –

    I’d go for Bamford and Tomlin with Kike and Vossen on the bench. Bamford and Tomlin seem to be our most effective strikers, although a few more goals from Tomlin wouldn’t go amiss.

    The problem with playing Carayol from the start is that he’s a bit of an unknown quantity having been out for so long, he could come back in and have a complete loss of form. I’d stick with Reach and Adomah

    Is Ayala back for Saturday?

  6. yorkshire red, your post made the hairs on my arms stand on end. For me it’s a contender for post of the year. This season is what being a football fan is all about. The emotion, passion, disappointment, joy, despair, elation… bring it on

    COME ON BORO!!!

  7. Nigel –

    As a Boro fan I’ve rarely had faith. Some when I was too young to know better, it returned briefly under Robbo and eventually evaporated.
    What I do have is hope. An entirely beast and far less forgiving. I agree wholeheartedly I am stuffed.

    I agree with your first definition of to criticise – though perhaps I meant to critique, which to my understanding may be positive or negative.

    I do agree with your choice of Bamford and Tomlin at 9 and 10 respectively.

  8. Nigel –

    Ok, Tomlin and Bamford at 9 and 10 but that relies on playing a higher line.

    I would agree about Carayol, absence makes the heart grow fonder but playing him on the left is the same problem as playing Adomah there. He is right footed and we need to stretch the play

  9. Ian –

    I think playing a higher line would certainly make us a more offensive threat, but of course as we all know that is not Karanka’s style, I suspect he is conservative by nature. Or maybe he knows his players strengths and is playing to them.

    Whatever the outcome of the week of destiny is I hope we give it a right good go and if we go out in a blaze of glory then so be it.

    I don’t think playing a conservative style against Derby and Bournemouth is the way forward, inviting them on to us would seem unwise. We got away with it against Brentford, just. I think Derby and Bournemouth will be entirely different, although Derby seem in a generous mood at the moment.

  10. Nigel –

    I agree but I would be careful because you are expressing opinions, it will get you a bad name.

    We wont play a higher line and, in my unbadged, non professional view, I think you need that if you play Tomlin and a lone striker especially one like Bamford who seems best at appearing to pick up sundry balls.

    Lee seems to like dropping deep and driving forward. That is probably better with someone like Kike who seems able to play the lone striker.

    That is why I suggested Bamford/Vossen at home amd Kike/Tomlin away. In both situations with wide men giving width.

    We are having a wobble, goodness how we describe the cricket team.

  11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/31795576

    This is Boycott on England. I know some dont like cricket but listen. Dont bridle, dont chunter, just listen to the views towards the end about watching the game.

    It sums up the position of many of us.

    And AV, it isnt question time, Boycott it is a working class product hated by the establishment.

  12. Interesting evening!,

    Arsenal beating Manure at Old Trafford and playing some great football. Hopefully our dispirited troops can take some form of comfort from that and restore their shaken confidence since the Kryptonic Emirates experience.

    Nigel offering a tactical and selection poser, is he coming over to the dark side or does he have a UEFA license under his desk?

    Bradley Fewster scored two for the U21’s against the Baggies at the Hawthorns tonight as they win 3-1 and move 5 points ahead. Fantastic achievement for them, could Bradley perhaps be the answer to our striking question. Lets face it how often does a Boro shirt net twice in the same game. At 19 maybe its time to stick him on the bench.

  13. AV

    Looked at the article about Brentford, there predictions are as valid as anyones because the season is so difficult to predict, We have been predicting the demise of many as a our super squad, along with Derby, outlasted the rest.

    If you just use points per game Ipswich would finish seventh on 78 points!

    Grief it is tight

    1. I think any side that averages two points a game in the 10 game Run-in will achieve automatic promotion which means 86 points.

      With everyone playing each other and nerves jangling, wobbles and anxiety setting in there will be plenty more twists and turns, highs and lows for all the clubs.

      Bournemouth and Derby had a decent run then imploded, Bournemouth are possibly pulling back out of it, Derby are still “wobbling”, whilst we are “wibbling”, Brentford shot themselves in the foot but are healing, Ipswich have dipped and Norwich and Watford have gone on a good run but we know that in this season’s Championship these great runs of wins last for 5 or 6 games at best then the draws start occurring along with the odd surprise defeat.

      The sides that holds their nerve and stays resolute will come though it, if AK can get our defensive mini crisis (by our own amazingly high standards) resolved then we should nick one of the two automatic spots. Lets face it with ten games left we are not suddenly going to start scoring like Bournemouth do so whilst they rely on hatfulls of goals we need to revert to tighter than a you know what at the back. The unqualified non professionals amongst us would refer to it as “play to your strengths”.

  14. Redcar Red –

    I have a level one ‘badge’ from when I used to coach the kids, not sure that counts!
    I’ve always been a secret admirer of the dark side and I’m always happy to give an opinion on tactics, player strengths etc but generally I prefer not to do it in the context of deconstructing a defeat. With an exception being Mejias after the Sheff Wed home match debacle.

  15. I agree with Redcar Red’s comment.

    Through gritted teeth, I said a while back (January?) something along the lines of “now that we are on this path of being primarily very hard to beat, we should stick with it”. Now it is case of getting back to that.

    Being rock solid at the back, and frankly horrible to play against, is what has put us in the promotion picture all season. It’s who we are and we’re the best in the league at it. It’s not as if we’ve gone to pot at the back. We’ve conceded six goals in our last six league games – hardly criminal – it’s just that we’ve become used to, and based our play on, an extraordinarily tight defence.

    Fairly recently AK said he wanted to fix the problem up front. I wonder if in concentrating our efforts on improving the weaker side of our game, we’ve drifted away from our strengths.

    Who knows? It’s all to play for and we’re as good as any of the teams around us when on our A game. Bring it on.

  16. Andy R/Nigel/Redcar Red –

    The way we play is to try and score goals but don’t cave in at the back.

    Think back to the Derby win at home, Blackburn draws home and away, Reading away, Leeds at home, Forest away.

    Lots of good football played, 6 matches with tons of chances, four goals for and against amongst the lot of them and only six points.

    All not for the want of attacking intent, in five of those their keeper was man of the match.

    We have won very few points which we didn’t deserve.

  17. Ian –

    I don’t see being solid and trying to score goals as being mutually exclusive. It’s a sliding scale of risk/reward.

    I’m not saying we’ve gone gung-ho lately, nor am I saying it was eleven men behind the ball previously. But if we can get back to conceding less than a goal a game on average over the remainder of the season, we’ll nick enough goals and enough points to get ourselves up in my view.

    I’m looking forward to it.

  18. A wonderful post from Yorkshire Red somewhat lost in a deluge of micro-analysis from the regular contributors.

    We are part of the most exciting promotion race in the last 30 years and we’ve somehow persuaded ourselves it’s all doom and gloom. It’s not – it’s a great, pulsating, nerve wracking, rollercoaster ride with all the ingredients that makes sport great.

    Anyone who still calls the Championship “this godforsaken league” needs their head looking at. It’s brill. Competitive, unpredictable and exciting.

    Nothing is certain in football but I’d put a few quid on this, if we do get promoted,at some point twixt Halloween and Hogmanay this board will be full of new contributors moaning about getting thumped by Arsenal or Chelsea or losing comfortably to WBA or Stoke City. Treading water while waiting to be relegated quickly becomes very dull particularly if you haven’t got the perspective that paying to watch Lee Miller and Jay O’Shea gives you.

    Every single fan of QPR, Burnley and Leicester will have enjoyed last season in the Championship miles more than their struggles in the “promised land “, just as I enjoyed 1986/87, 1987/88, 1991/92 , 1994/95 and 1997/98 much more than any of our seasons in the top flight. You just imagine the “glory days” of 1996/97 with Rav, Juno and Emo but without the cup runs. A disaster.

    I hope we do get promotion, largely because my kids haven’t seen us in the top flight and also for Steve Gibson who really does need and deserve it. My biggest hope though is that, if we fail to go up, the whole town doesn’t go into a negative tailspin and a slough of depression because we’ve done a “typical Boro” and aren’t “back where we belong”. That would harm our prospects of enjoying another brilliant season of Championship football.

    **AV writes: Yes, I agree with all that.

    1. I’m sorry paulista but people were saying when we got relegated “it will be good for the club, time to retool and come back more competitive.”

      Exciting or nerve racking ?

      I’d rather be ten points clear

    2. Good post Paulista

      I for one have enjoyed this season more than when GS1 and GS2 and to the end Mogga .

      I even stopped going under Strachan I didn’t like him as a player and I think quite a few have forgotten how bad it got under him.

      These players excite me, yes they are a bit raw round the edges but that is why they are playing in the championship.

      Our coaches have done wonders with raw talent like dimi and Ayala and many more.
      If we don’t go up like Derby didnt last year I’m sure we will be stronger next season
      Keep the faith
      Fat Bob

  19. Agree with Pailista. It would be gut wrenching to fail but I’d get over it as I have the numerous disappointments over the 50 years that I’ve been addicted.

    Everybody wants the glamour (and the cash) of the PL but it’s debatable whether they’d be happier being on the receiving end of regular defeats as opposed to seeing a winning team challenging at the top of the Champonship. I think PP is probably right that all the faint hearts will see failure to win promotion as the end of the world. As I said above, I’d be gutted but I’ll still be back again next August. It’s in the DNA!

    UTB

    **AV writes: The first year up will be exciting and if you stay up it is seen as the biggest victory since Agincourt. But three years in the battle for 17th spot will become mink-lined purgatory.

  20. Swansea Southampton Stoke are 7th,8th and 9th in the Premiership. It doesn’t have to be a struggle. With the large amounts of money that become available being spent wisely, there is no reason why the top flight shouldn’t be enjoyable. Get that Boro chip off your shoulders.

    **AV writes: It will be enjoyable- but a lot of people will need to recalibrate their emotions because we could lose more than we win and bang our heads on the glass ceiling.

  21. Everyone remembers the cup runs, they were interspersed with mind numbing dross with the odd big scalp.

    The 0-0 against Bolton with four centre backs!!

    I take the good with the bad and will post on come what may.

  22. I don’t think we have anything to lose anymore. And our squad is stronger than most.

    All we need to do is play as we have for most of the season before the “wobble”. And I just concentrate on supporting the team. This is just a great season and I am going to enjoy it.

    It won’t be as bad as last time around (hopefully). Karanka is better manager than Robbo (as a MANAGER). Up the Boro.

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