A Millers Tale: Job Done

JOB done. It wasn’t a  classic or memorable match and it didn’t have intensity on the pitch or in the stands that reflected the high-stakes – Aitor may have thoughts on both those factors –  but it was three more precious points in a routine win over Rotherham.

The first half was stodgy although Boro dominated throughout. They bossed possession and forced Rotherham back and penned them in their own box but then struggled to get the final ball through a massed defence, although they did have chances. Two efforts were cleared off the line, lively Albert Adomah brought two good saves and fit again Daniel Ayala hooked an overhead effort into the keeper’s arms.

The first half  wasn’t anything to write home about but it wasn’t bad. It was typical Championship fare with one good side being held by one lesser one. We’ve seen it a dozen times this season… yet incredibly the side with the upper hand were booed off by a section of the fans. Not for losing or playing badly but presumably for not winning easily.

That may have been an sarcastic verbal flicking of the Vs from terrace wags toward  Aitor for his “negativity” comments (top #bantz),  it may have been politically motivated militant libetarian malcontents pointedly exercising their birthright to boo, it may have been Pavlovian proof that the was bang on in what he said about the atmosphere around the club or it may have been just the product of the end-of-term tension getting to some more emotionally fragile fans. But it was a strange brew and out of synch with the game.

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                And relax:  Lee Tomlin cracks in a nerve settling solo opener

The second half wasn’t too much different in style of shape but Lee Tomlin got a nerve-settling early opener and after that the Riverside relaxed.  Real chants broke out.  There was an upsurge of optimism. Aitor was requested to and gave us a wave. Boro started to stretch Rotherham more, the quality gap started to widen  and soon they carved out a second to seal it. Patrick Bamford slotting home to equal Fabrizio Ravanelli’s 16 league goals for the season, the joint best tally ever in the new ground.

Bamford has been top notch  this term as he has grown into the campaign with a calm assurance and an increasingly impressive strike rate – 18 in 39 appearance in all despite starting the season on the bench and six in the last eight as the season comes to the boil. He is Boro’s most potent player, the club’s most important transfer target for the looming summer and should be regarded as the key man in the final fixture flurry.

So who’d have thought at that point that our top goal-getter would have ended up getting booed by sections of the North Stand? Crazy but true as the terrace sniping identified by the boss took a surreal turn.  Surprised Bamford found himself being jeered for the crime of being the designated penalty taker.  He did that job even after Kike stamped his feet petulantly in a bid to take the stoppage time spot-kick he had won despite his team-mates intervening to try to end an embarrassing spot-kick squabble. In fact the selfish Spaniard appeared to still be chuntering vocally as Bamford took his run up.

And incredibly as Bamford prepared to take the kick, some misguided loyalists with an axe to grind were clearly chanting Kike’s name – distracting at best, downright stupid and overtly counter-productive at worse  – and continued to do so – and some to even boo the on-loan Chelsea man – after his penalty effort was saved.  God knows why.  That said, I almost joined in myself, although mainly because I had 3-0 on my bookies slip.

Still, another one for Aitor to consider – both the bizarre booing of the main marksman from supporters and Kike’s act of open dissent against clear team orders.  Some  people are suggesting Kike should have been given the chance to score for sentimental reasons, or to boost his morale after a goal drought or because he is “our player” rather than a loanee (and some appear to be retrospectively validating their position because it was missed) but I can’t see Karanka taking any of those viewpoints.

The negativists and conspiracists will have a field day looking for imagined dark nuance  in the spot kick squabble (an echo of Bernie and Parky wrestling at Ayresome Park) but the pair made up and had a man hug in the warm-down. Bamford later stressed he was in the right but revealed he had diplomatically said sorry to Kike as he felt guilty for missing.  He said something about the booing too but I’m saving that  for the paper next week.

1spotkick

               Squandered: Bamford kick blocked after spot-kick squabble

For me it was a solid days work at the business end of the season. They won, kept their impressive home record going, kept a clean sheet, bedded Ayala back in,  Forshaw was decent,  Clayton didn’t get booked and they got a result which will keep confidence high in the squad and hopefully among fans too. We are still in the title chase after all.

Victory was the only thing that mattered  and Boro did what they had to do on what turned out to be weekend when all the team above us won  – although none of them were particularly polished either.  The summit squeeze remains as tight as ever:  we are two points off the top and one point off the automatic spots with four games to go. We are still in the mix. We still have a chance. The best chance in years.  It is still all to play for.

The basic situation remains the same: if Boro win their last four they will almost certainly go up – Aitor thinks so  –  especially as that would mean they had torpedoed Norwich. But there will be twists and turns along the way.  I don’t think in a crazy coupon-busting division like this it is possible for all the teams at the top to go through without dropping points. Somewhere gaps will appear above us and we will need to take advantage.

To be successful Boro will need to stay focussed, keep on doing whatever it takes to win and remain ambitious and united. And that applies to fans too. They will need to do their bit – if not by actively urging the team on, at least by  not booing.  Jesus wept. Get a grip. There are four games left. We can do this. Keep the faith.

COME ON BORO!

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AITOR Karanka has built a good team that is still firmly in the promotion mix so is puzzled at the “air of negativity” from some fans, some questions from the media and the low key atmosphere in home games.  He discussed it at the weekly pre-match presser yesterday and the issue has set the Gazette website on fire.  Phil Tallentire, who asked some of the questions and observed the body language  believes it was something he had been thinking about for a while and was carefully considered. His bit’s here. 

Here’s a sociology lecture  I did to outline some of the nuances of  Teesside’s peculiar football culture, its history and current convolutions.  I think this – twitching nerves expressed as fear and pre-emptive pessimism at what is seen as inevitable impending failure when success is within grasp –  it will be the first real brush Aitor has had with the  complexities of the concept of  “typical Boro.”

Remember, we are used to it. We grew up under the crossfire from philisophical polar extremes of foam fingered ra-ras and the Chickenrunning rusties. We know how the eternal batole plays out and can tune out.  We know how that informs every debate, no matter how trivial, we know the code words used to frame an argument and we are acutely attuned to how events, results, situations will be viewed and shaped then packaged and projected to feed into and reinforce our own personal perspective. Aitor doesn’t…

Here’s me outlining the psychic landscape for him.

 

 

 

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231 thoughts on “A Millers Tale: Job Done

  1. I go away for the day and missed all the fun!

    Sticks and stones and all that, I have broad shoulders and a ducks back.

    On the subject of getting people to pack the Riverside I know from the lads (grown men is more appropriate) that I used to go with and have fallen away I doubt no more than one or two out of half a dozen would possibly return. Their lives have moved on and their interest never got to the heights of having a Boro dependency or addiction. Had we survived in the top flight and steadied the ship they may have stayed but they were worn down by McLaren’s dull entertainment (despite the Cup runs remarkably) then Southgate, followed by Strachan, by which time they had filled in their Saturday afternoons with something else more personally rewarding.

    Me, I find it difficult to give up and abandon something that I’m passionate about but I guess that if you just view Boro as an alternative to cycling, shopping, cinema, restaurants, gardening, jogging, family time etc. then rational people will make rational judgements. They all still talk about the Boro but its just a passing “see they got beat again” or “the Boro seem to be on the up” but that’s as far as it gets. They have gone and may return I guess only if they feel they are missing something that makes it worth the entrance fee and a credible alternative to what presently occupies their Saturday afternoons.

    I know myself my support was intermittent at best for a number of years after I bought my first home. I literally couldn’t afford to put the heating on and pay the mortgage in those early years so luxuries like hobbies and entertainment were not even an option. I would guess that there are a lot of Boro fans who fall into that category. Supporting Boro as a boy then through their teenage years, starting work and then at some point meet someone, settle down and suddenly have responsibilities and bills to meet. Like myself getting those back is just a matter of time when their finances permit but the others who have moved on to other interests will be more difficult and a lot more picky, the fainthearts/glory seekers if you like.

    Of my two sons the eldest is not remotely interested in Football despite me dragging him and his younger brother kicking and screaming to the Riverside in their formative years. The youngest one now only goes intermittently, ironically it was this season when he got “fed up”. In fairness they both started during Southgate’s time and suffered Strachan etc. so for a youngster I guess that wasn’t the best timing. For me though I started with Stan Anderson’s era but in those days there wasn’t Sky, Xboxes, Multiplex Cinema’s and PS4’s etc. to compete for fun.

    In time the crowds will grow but when my youngest does accompany me these days and I ask are you coming next week I invariably get a shrug and “don’t know”. When I say they have just won why not? the reply is “yeah but it wasn’t much fun was it”?

    This season we have fought and clawed our way up the table, possibly punching above our weight and whilst effective it hasn’t been enthralling very often and that I suspect is a major reason why those who are “waverers” are not forming queues outside the ticket office.

    I’m not knocking AK because his achievements this season have been beyond most expectations but the entertainment is more of a strategic and technical enjoyment rather than scintillating. AK I suspect thinks the same as my youngest except when my son says it wasn’t much fun AK sees it as not killing teams off or lacking a cutting edge.

    With only two home games to go there won’t be a huge shift in attitudes tomorrow night but if AK keeps doing what he is doing the crowds will slowly drift back but it won’t be an overnight miracle.

    The Family Zone is a brilliant long term investment of attracting and getting kids hooked early on and trying to make the experience fun.

  2. I’ve said this before,you won’t get more people back regularly until we are back in the premiership.

    They will be back in their thousands when Arsenal,Man Utd Chelsea and co visit

    At the moment in the championship we have lost one game in eighteen and it still doesn’t encourage people to come and watch the given excuses being cost and boring football.

    They would rather watch us lose a lot more than we will win should we be promoted instead because we are playing the elite teams and most likely slate the team even more than now for not playing attacking football.

  3. It seems to have taken a long time for our lack of scoring power to be acknowledged. Along with others on here, I been talking about that since long before Xmas.

    It’s not just that we repeatedly dominate but fail to finish teams off, the lack of goal threat also invites the opposition to have a go. Safe in the knowledge their goal is in little danger, teams feel able to counter in force. There was a stage before half time when Saturday’s game looked to be heading that way.

    However I don’t entirely agree with AK’s view of the issue. He seems to view it as ample chances not being converted, to which the solution is more clinical finishing. There’s truth in that but I am far from convinced that we have always created the number of chances he appears to think we have.

    To my eyes, there have been a lot of games in which we have been well on top and dominated possession while creating very few good chances – lots of huff & puff but too much sideways passing and recycling of the ball.

    Too often, even in games like Saturday’s where we have eventually gone on to win, there has been a hole in central attacking MF. With little creativity from that engine room, there has been inadequate penetration, leaving the striker(s) starved in the way Bamford was at Watford.

    As he showed against Rotherham, Tomlin can pull a flash of something extraordinary out of the bag and Vossen has done the same in the past. However neither of those key players are reliable. There have been too many matches for which they didn’t turn up and, even within a game, they usually blow hot & cold. They deliver the goods for at best 30-40 minutes in a game, creating 2 or 3 chances, and only do that every 2 or 3 games.

    It’s not good enough and has cost us goals and points. It has been a weakness in the Championship and would be fatal in the PL.

    I think it has been Len who has floated the idea in the past of using only one holding player. Surely that must be worth a try in an effort to boost our creativity and give our striker(s) a more reliable supply line?

    1. Nikeboro –

      I think our biggest problem is that we break out and attack too slowly or its too contrived and therefore easier to defend against allowing defenders and midfielders to get into position.

      Watching other sides like Arsenal, United etc. they can turn defence into attack in a split second. we roll the ball out to Ben who knocks it out to George who then dribbles forwards and tries to find Grant or Clayton who then dink it out wide back to George or Albert who then go on a run at the defence.

      On Saturday Rotherham pushed up on a few rare occasions but with players in our box instead of hoofing it upfield for Kike and Bamford to chase he rolled it to Albert who got it stuck under his studs and gave away a throw in in our own half.

      I understand the theory of retaining possession but sometimes we just need to take advantage of teams and get it upfield quicker.

  4. Redcar Red and Never Give Up –

    I used to go regularly with my son, well, probably see a dozen matches a year split home and away.

    It was even OK when he went to Uni because it was Newcastle so I could pick him up at Darlo.

    Then he started working, oddly at Rolls Royce in Derby and played rugby for them in one of the lower feeder leagues. That meant Saturdays were out, subsequently he has moved down south so has been to watch Boro twice. Home to Forest and away at Arsenal.

    I will probably attend one more game, against Brighton, making eight for the season.

    My support goes back to the days of Dennison so been through may highs and lows. I don’t know how many of the newer supporters will still be doing the same in 50 years time, I guess it will be the same. The average attendances were (starting with 1961/62); 15810, 16528, 18786, 14612, 13450, 16536.

    The last of those was in the Ayresome Angels season.

    I am still here so I must have replaced an old fogey like me.

    The dark days before 86 saw horrific attendances down 5-6,000 but I was nowhere near Teesside then. Rioch’s team only attracted 10,000 in the third division, 14000 in the second and 20,000 in the top flight. In those early days there was full’ish employment on Teesside, ICI and British Steel were still going. In Brucie’s time the recession was biting.

    The truth is there were not the alternatives available today. Work and family pressures still applied back then.

    I suppose it tells us our current level of support is historically about right for where we are in the table.

    Sorry about the boring stats.

    1. Ian –

      The stats are far from boring, they add a little factual perspective to the illusion that there are 10 to 12,000 plastic fans hiding in a Teesside cupboard somewhere.

      They indicate that historically 16/18K is a decent crowd for Boro and the 28/32K crowds are for when we are punching well above our weight.

      Tomorrow night I don’t think we will break the 17,000 barrier. Its Tuesday, I doubt Wolves will bring two thousand with them midweek and with it being a school night a lot of younger fans will be at home along with their Mums and Dads. As we know a lot of Boro fans work out of the area so will struggle to attend. I had to be creative in my diary this week to ensure I can make it.

      1. Redcar Red –

        The high points were post war when mid 30k was the average followed by the early Riverside years when low 30k were regular crowds. In those Riverside years many crowds were limited by away fans with all Boro seats sold.

  5. PS

    Tuesday’s match against Wolves. 17350 Boro fans plus visitors. Low as it sounds that would be our biggest Tuesday night attendance at the Riverside this season.

  6. No amount of airbrushing will change the facts that the behaviour on the pitch from Kike and off it from a significant minority of “fans” was totally inappropriate, a minority that from my vantage point in the NE corner seemed to be in the hundreds. No application of nuance or regional irony can explain booing your own penalty taker.

    Quite how anyone could describe Bamford as looking smug during the unfolding pantomime remains a mystery, the kid looked mortified if anything and his body language suggested that he just wanted the incident over with. Hardly ideal preparation. If goal difference plays a part, then they will have something to complain about.

    Nikeboro –

    I couldn’t add to or improve on your assessment of what is missing in our current performances. I have read many times this season of our dominance of possession and people have posted to the effect that “someone, somewhere was going to get it soon”, but I just haven’t seen the evidence to support this. When we have scored goals, I think that this has said more about the opposition than it did about us. Millwall and Norwich both sacked their manager quite soon after losing to us, clearly teams in turmoil.

    Back in January I posted that without addressing our lack of creativity and finding a finisher I thought that we would be likely to finish fifth or sixth, but was optimistic that we would be a good bet for the play offs because we would be hard to beat. Then as now, I see this as the fruit of the manager’s emphasis (although as Len has observed – obsession might be a better word) on defence. I’ll slightly revise the position to fourth, but more worryingly the evidence of the mini-league we have played out against the better clubs over the past weeks suggests that we will find it very difficult to get even the one goal we would need to defend to go up via that route.

    It’s good to hear that the manager has recognised this as an issue to be addressed, and perhaps this is just part of his learning curve, but like Len, I would prefer that he started on it this morning rather than waiting for next season.

    Finally, long ago Jimmy Hill* offered the opinion that four or five years spent as promotion contenders might be a better experience for a fan than promotion followed by deathly struggle against relegation. This view has been expressed on here too. I can certainly see why. However, the financial stakes were a lot lower in those days and there is no guarantee that being in the shake up but missing out this time ensures that you will be up in contention next time. The dynamics can change so quickly depending on who comes down, who comes up or who stages a recovery from their own problems. It really could be a case of its now or never.

    *even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    1. Wiggy’s mate and Len –

      I imagine that Karanka and the other coaches are working every day on the scoring with the guys they have. So the job has gone on for a while – and certainly Bam Bam has improved.

      I think by “next season” Aitor meant he can buy better strikers or get Kike really hit the ground running. Let’s remember we have a lot of new players and it is a project in process. We have done much better as a team than anyone anticipated a few months ago.

      And there is still a great chance of getting promoted. Either top two or play-offs. Up the Boro!

    2. Very interesting comments, of the three teams that were relegated from the Premiership last season only Norwich have a chance of promotion back to the premiership, whilst the the three teams that were promoted look as though they will be straight back down unless Sunderland can help one of them out. I have been supporting the Boro since 1966 and I must say this is the most fluid season ever, the most dramatic nail biting,season I have witnessed.Last day of the season home to Brighton need to win to go up who would dare to predict the result? certainly not me, I cannot wait.

  7. Nikeboro –

    As I demonstrated in the previous blog, our scoring record at home is pretty much comparable to our promotion rivals (we’ve scored 40, Bournemouth 43 and Watford and Norwich both have 46) – it’s really our scoring record away from home that has been the Elephant in the room.

    OK everyone would like their team to score more but we’ve already scored more at home than the recent automatically promoted teams Cardiff, Hull and Burnley did – and it’s possible we’ll end up with nearly as many as Leicester did when they broke the 100 point barrier (46).

    So we can have no complaints with the home form with on average only one goal conceded every two games and two scored per game.

    No it will be our somewhat cautious approach to away games that may cost us a top two berth – but if Watford lose tonight by a couple of goals and we win by our most common score against top eight teams (four) then our goal differences will be identical – only Bournemouth’s goal difference is out of reach – So everything still to play for!

  8. Regarding the booing, approaching half-time, my North Stand chunterometer was picking up strong readings as the break approached. I actually said to the Mrs. “they’re going to get booed off here.”

    I can’t say whether it was in jest or not (I suspect not) but I can say for certain that the majority of it was coming from my left, towards the north-east corner. Maybe it’s the acoustics of the Riverside, but whenever there’s been an audibly negative reaction it always seems to come from there, going back as far as when Brad Jones was regularly jeered as his name was read out before kick-off.

    Like most of the comments here, I find it astonishing, but it now seems almost inevitable that a goalless first half against moderate opposition means a minority will feel the need to voice their displeasure, regardless of context.

    As for the penalty incident, maybe you had to be in the North to appreciate what went on. We all know Kike is desperate to score, but despite putting in a good honest shift – mostly with his back to goal – he never had a sniff. As soon as the ref pointed to the spot he set off earnestly after the ball, grabbed it only to turn and find Bamford standing on the spot. Paddy looked almost smug as he pointed at his chest, saying ‘Mine.’

    It seemed obvious to me that this meant Bamford was the designated taker, but I think what got the crowd on Kike’s side was the look of utter desolation on his face. He was absolutely distraught and could be clearly seen, even as Bamford was about to begin his run up, wailing “Paddeeeee!”

    Although it was unedifying to see Kike having to be dragged away by Dean Whitehead, it really was almost touching to see how upset he was, and I think the crowd chanted his name purely out of sympathy with what a pathetic figure he was cutting. Obviously this was unwise given that Bamford had a penalty to take, and it was no surprise that he was put off.

    Unlike at half-time I am sure the booing that followed was ironic, especially as it seemed to be coming largely from the 12th Man section at the back of the stand, who are not known for getting on the team’s back. Still, Bamford wouldn’t have known that and I’m sure he was rightly cheesed off with the whole affair.

    To digress slightly to the topic of Teesside’s apparent refusal to give Aitor’s side the backing our rivals are getting, I would say the main difference is expectation. A quick glance at the history books shows that, were Boro to slip out of the the play off spots (they won’t), this would be the first time since we joined the Football League in 1899 that we have finished below the top six of the second tier for six consecutive seasons.

    Even in the eighties, despite all the turmoil, we were promoted back to the top flight at the end of the sixth season after Bobby Murdoch’s side went down. It’s true that we spent twenty years in the wilderness before Big Jack turned up, but we had regular top-six finishes (admittedly this was long before the play offs were introduced, and we were often miles away from the promotion race). In short, we’re overdue a genuine promotion push; rightly or wrongly being where we are now is just the least that many people expect.

    Add to that the fact that, as Boro fans, we were utterly spoiled between 1994 and 2008, the prospect of watching us grind out a functional win against another of the division’s makeweights simply doesn’t inspire very many of those fans who have drifted away. As Tim Booth sang: “If I hadn’t seen such riches/ I could live with being poor.”

    By comparison, of those clubs Karanka compared our fans to, Bournemouth and Brentford are having their best seasons ever. Norwich have retained much of the positivity engendered by a double promotion and have hung on to both their Premier League fans and – importantly – most of their squad (as we did in 97/98 but not in 09/10). Watford have hardly been putting out the ‘sold out’ signs this season, ditto Ipswich and Wolves. Only against Derby do we really fall short by comparison.

    In addition, Aitor was comparing the Riverside atmosphere to our rivals grounds without taking into account the contribution the sell-out Boro ends both generated and inspired in the home fans on the days we visited. Leeds apart, no-one has brought a large and noisy following here to bring the best out of our fans.

    I’d like there to be more and noisier fans at the Riverside but, given our recent history, we probably won’t get them until we make it back to the top flight.

    **AV writes: Good post. Agree with a lot of that. Expectations have definitely been raised.

    1. AV beat me to it….excellent post.

      I also believe we suffer from having such a large ground..as much as SG thought he he had found the holy grail, he has had his hands burnt with the 35000 seats.

      **AV writes: Not really. We had a decade and more of sell-outs which brought in revenue and ensured whole layers of Boro fans got to experience a golden age. No one said Ayresome Park (record crowd 50k) was too big when Big Jack’s side were rattling around on crowds the same size as we are getting now.

  9. Yes, the away form is the problem. But we can keep a clean sheet – and they do win games sometimes. Like earlier this year, just when the decorations came down and Boro went unbeaten for around ten games.

    When was the last time we played as well as now at home? And Bam Bam is the best goal-scorer since … Ravanelli. For nearly 20 years ago!

    Up the Boro!

    1. I agree that clean sheets give you a chance to win games but you may be surprised to see that our defensive record away from home is pretty similar to our promotion rivals – we’ve conceded 21, Bournemouth 20, Norwich 23 and Watford 27. So it’s definitely a scoring problem away from home that has prevented us from coasting to automatic promotion.

      1. Werder –

        I believe we can go back to clean sheets away from home and winning 1-2 than seeing us scoring a few away goals. That’s what I tried to say. Concentrate on where we were good earlier as there is no time for changing the attacking game plan totally. Unfortunately that is for next season.

        Up the Boro!

  10. Its interesting that at the climax to one of our most ‘exciting’ seasons in recent years we seem as divided as a fan base as during the final days of some of our recent managers, whethe that be on here, at work, or in the ground.

    The problem for me is the sterility of the football. I remember the CT play off failure, the LL/BR promo and relo seasons, as seemingly much more exciting than this years campaign. Maybe this is as I am older and more cynical, but I seem to remember those seasons throwing up more goals, victories, and defeats. This year the games have seem somewhat humdrum. When we played Bournemouth at home I was for the first time ever, genuinely bored and felt like leaving, as we did our best to not lose a mid season home game.Subsequently we were taught a lesson in attacking footballat their place where we could not even lay a glove on them. Adam Clayton is the case in point of our style. We have converted a goal scoring midfielder into a D to D player who has barely registered a shot all season.

    However, I believe this team can play attacking football and bring back the fans. The home games against Derby, Brentford and Leeds were brilliant for the attacking display and entertainment, where we shook of the shackles of fear and played to win.

    Tomorrow night we play a team who need to win, rather like when ipswich came hear a few weeks ago. That should mean there is plenty of space behind their defence to attack attack attack. Lets go for it, get players in the box, batter them,and take that approach into the remaining 3 games. That will ensure we remember this season for the right reason

    I’m going for 4 nil boro with a kike a hatrick and a clayton

    UTB

  11. In my view, the discussions on goal difference and the various mathematical manipulations therein (witness wedermouth’s reasoning above – I’m not confident that Watford will lose by 2 and even less confident we’ll win by 4) are all irrelevant. The chances are that only points will matter.

    With a 16 goal superiority in GD, we can rule out catching Bournemouth – this Boro is never going to emulate their 8 goal score. That leaves us with Norwich and Watford in our GD sights.

    Our GD is 7 and 6 goals worse respectively. There is no sign of us suddenly exceeding their scoring rate by 2 goals per game so, assuming we don’t burst into an unprecedented goal fest, then the only way we could pull back those GDs is for those teams to lose or at least draw while we consistently win. In short, we need them recording some minus GDs.

    However we’re only one point behind so, if that happened, we would overtake them on points anyway. We might or might not overhaul their GD but it wouldn’t matter if the points were in the bag regardless. If Werdermouth turned out to be prescient (and we were all clamouring for his lottery numbers) then, yes, we would overtake Watford’s GD. However the resulting 2 point lead would be more important.

    I can see no scenario whereby Norwich and Watford match our results bar one point, leaving us level, while we score enough to beat them on GD. For Boro to go on 3 and 4 goal sprees for the remaining 4 games is the stuff of my teenage dreams.

    No, IMHO, even if we win all 4 remaining games, we are relying on the teams above to drop at least a couple of points and the only one in our control is the game at Carrow Road. It can happen- we’ve done it before.

    Keep the faith, keep the pressure up and let’s see what happens. Enjoy the ride, this is a whole lot better than working out how we might avoid relegation. The landscape could look different even by tomorrow night. Tonight even.

  12. Great post Nikeboro.

    I agree; it is unlikely that we will see a scenario where both Norwich and Watford contrive to throw away points and we all end up tied on the same points tally. However, imagine this: Norwich and Watford lose tonight, and we draw with Wolves. That places three teams on the same tally and it’s all tied up bar the GD.

    That would make things very interesting, because with 3 games to go, a draw between Norwich and Boro would be a poor result for both teams, as it would hand the initiative to Watford to go and win and take a 2 point lead. However, it Watford then drew their game at the weekend, well, with 2 games to go it becomes a straight shoot-out to see who gets the best goal difference. Unless Fulham have one of their “mares” and we spank them, which, bearing in mind the analysis above regarding our away goals scored is unlikely, then we would be the losers.

    However, imagine that Watford lose tomorrow and we win (and Norwich). That puts Norwich in the driving seat, as they would open up a 3 point lead on Watford, with us coming up at their place. A point would then be enough for them, as it would still keep them above Watford, by 1 point, whilst keeping us a point behind. How would they approach that game? Try and counter-attack Boro who would need to win? Go for the win themselves so as not to rely on others? Play for the draw (unlikely)?

    And now imagine that Watford draw and Norwich and Boro win. Norwich suddenly have a 2 point cushion on Watford, but only 1 point on Boro (who go 1 point ahead of Watford). If Norwich draw against Boro it may be enough (GD pending) to keep Watford at bay, even if Watford win, but if they win then they keep the distance on Watford.

    In short – I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, but the sheer number of permutations week by week make this easily the most exciting league in Europe, and the most exciting Championship season for a Boro fan for a long time. I’m not a foam-finger-fancier, but I think we need to throw off the shackles and embrace the chaos! Probably the best case scenario for Tuesday is for Watford to draw/lose and Norwich to draw/lose. If we get the win we leapfrog both of them and Norwich will absolutely have to go for the win against us. That could play right into our hands and we could beat them to keep the momentum going.

    I’m going to end there, as the foam fumes fermenting on the breeze are starting to cloud my judgement.

    1. Because of the above, Aitor and the players can only concentrate on their own game plan for the Wolves match. And nothing else. So easier in a way than for us, fans.

      By far the best and most exciting league ever!

      Up the Boro!

    2. Please desist from discussions of us drawing home games. Positive thoughts only! Never forget, the gods of football are always listening.

      P.S. Doesn’t spanking mares count as a perversion?

    3. Good posts Smoggy and Nikeboro, any thoughts of requiring GD at this stage are extremely optimistic. That ship sailed a while ago and unless we suddenly start banging 4 or 5 goals a game as per Bournemouth I can’t see AK changing our style.

      Cue beating Brighton 2-0 nil with 10 minutes left and needing another 3 goals to clinch an auto spot on the final day now!

      Agree with Masham that as the best Boro season in years is now drawing to a close whatever our final position or indeed even failing to go up via the play-offs its astonishing and saddening to see the level of bickering between home supporters.

      It seems to have rapidly accelerated this season and more so in these final few weeks. Is it because the stewarding once focused attention and created a warped sense of unity? Is it because the stress and anxiety is just getting to everyone? Is it because the Red Faction was just a rowdy little group in the corner last year and now taken over half the South Stand making the most noise leaving those in the North Stand washed up? Is it because of AK’s recent comments about atmosphere backfiring and taken far too literally? Is it because Kike has replaced MacDonald as the forward they love to rate/hate?

      Whatever the reason there are only two home games left so hopefully those who believe themselves to be the perfect Boro supporter can indulge and join with those who are vastly inferior part time/sober/judgemental/non-judgemental/moaning/non-moaning/occasional booers/non flare loving/happy clappers/anti or pro Chelsea dagger or just plain average supporters who were/were not at Victoria Park in 86 and just support the bloody team together.

      United we stand, divided we fall.

      1. Excellent post Redcar Red. Let’s just forget our various labels for now and remember we are all after the same thing, even if we have very different views on how that should be achieved. At the end of the day we have chuff all control over the ‘how’ anyway, so we’ll just have to leave it to Aitor and the lads.

    4. I got Maths and Further Maths at ‘A’ level but all these calculations of GD possibilities are giving me a headache. It smacks of multiverse Championships – if enough Bournemouths, Norwiches, Watfords and Boros play enough season ends in enough parallel divisions then, along with the chimp writing Shakespear, in one of them Boro will win on GD.

      Not for the first time, I’m with Jarkko. Lets just win all 4 games, throw the gauntlet down and see if any of the others lose and let us in.

  13. Smoggy in Exile –

    You don’t need foam fumes to have you head spinning in this league. Any permutations for the top four are possible.

    The goal difference battering has come about with recent away defeats, in the last five away games we have acquired three points but a net goal difference of -7.

    We simply have to win, Aitor is saying strongest team, living on a diet of humble pie following my half time comment you cant play Tomlin and Bamford together, I am loathe to stick my head above the parapet. It is a case of every time I type some fool posts!

    I still think it comes back to tempo, movement and playing further up the pitch rather than just the people or formation. I will leave it there.

  14. Our U18s and U21s play in front of sparse crowds and have won their leagues. Maybe low crowds are to our advantage: we don’t want Wolves to get up for the game. We want to lull them into boredom so nobody go tommorow. A crowd of 3175 should be enough to spur our gladiators.

  15. I genuinely believe that a football crowd can, when they get their act together, act as the 12th man and affect the outcome of a match.

    I think back to the 3rd Division and Rioch, when the support propelled our team to successive promotions in adversity. It seems to follow that a negative atmosphere must have a negative affect. What was particularly disappointing about Saturday was I had the impression that after a slow start, the support at the Riverside increased in intensity. This may have contributed to the improved home form this season.

    What’s fascinating about the end to this season is with 4 teams covered by 2 point, one unexpected defeat could mean the play-offs instead of automatic promotion. The last day might be a sickener for somebody.

    It looks like I will be able to make the midweek match at the Riverside for a change, so like everyone, I look forward to a hard fought victory.

    A mention for Adam Forshaw, I thought he grew into the game on Saturday, his performance left me thinking; rather Adam Forshaw at full throttle rather than Grant Leadbitter holding back.

  16. I do not think Reading will put out a strong team on Wednesday against Bournemouth, with the FA cup match at the weekend. After 2 matches my predictions have taken a battering with 4 to go and if the rest of my predictions are correct the final table will look like:

    Watford 91
    Bournemouth 90
    Norwich 89
    Boro 87
    Derby 82
    Ipswich 79 (on G/D)

    If correct I believe Norwich v Ipswich and Boro v Derby semi final play offs or are they drawn out of a hat ?

    Saying that it could all change by Sunday lol.

    Come on BORO.

    1. Exmil
      It’s not drawn out of a hat its already agreed that out of the remainder of the top 6 teams for the playoff 3 play 6 and 4 play 5 simples!

      Fatbob

      1. Thanks Fatbob it is what I thought, which is why I put the semi as above, would I be correct that 3 and 4 would play the away leg first ?

        Come on BORO.

  17. Ian’s comments on the attendance stats over the years are thought provoking.

    What strikes me is that a crowd of 18000 at Ayersome could create a far better atmosphere than a similar crowd at the far bigger Riverside. But, of course we’ll need that bigger stadium when the premiership supporters return, this season or next.

    I’m praying for a thumping victory against Wolves to propel us into the final three games, I’ve got my Norwich and Brighton tickets, can’t wait.

    Another thought is that Boro’s performances have been a little too measured recently, probably because Karanka demands a disciplined approach, maybe allowing the players to play with a little flair and passion in the next four games might be the ingredient we need to take us over the line.

    **AV writes: Can’t see a major change of approach. Why would you risk changing the methodology and philosophy that has got you to within two points of an automatic spot (and could stand you in good stead in the play-offs)? You could see the logic if you were six points adrift and it was a case of “sod it, we’ll have to go for it” but even then I don’t think that’s Karanka’s style.

    1. AV-

      agreed, we are where we are primarily because of Aitor’s influence – how could it not be so? Then again he’s been climbing the learning curve and by his own admission has made mistakes (credit to him for saying so). There’s also the fact that player’s injuries and loss of form have taken their toll. The cup excursions also didn’t help. Magnificent games to watch & savour but following results suffered due to the excessive loss of physical and mental energy.

      For me philosophy and methodology although important are secondary to mentality. Aitor has buckets of desire to win and therefore the squad understand clearly what the aim is. l’m a little concerned that he mentioned the play-offs as being the end goal. Perhaps this has had the effect of leaving slack in the system. If auto-promo had been the stated desire then that aim would have been the one reached.

      Finally, l think that Aitor’s character (essential for understanding how a leader operates) is one of being a Controller. It has its positives but also its downside in that players are boxed into systems and aren’t allowed to express themselves creatively on the pitch. Allow for individual creativity and unimaginably great things can happen aka Brazilian football. Box things up and yes you can achieve positive results but it can never possess the ultimate title of ‘the beautiful game.’

      Just sayin like!

      1. Spartak –

        Big Jack and Bruce whilst different would fall into the same quadrant as AK. Management style plays a huge part (Fergie, Wenger, Clough, Mourinho) and a controlling disciplinarian style is probably most effective which in part may explain why a young Southgate struggled or indeed why the great Bobby Charlton before him decades ago in Management.

        Conversely consider Roy Keane who succeeded briefly then crashed and burned, Strachan, Psycho, Di Canio etc. which indicates that a dictatorial style does have an effect but there has to be ability, knowledge and skill behind it for it to be sustainable. Management then becomes 3 dimensional and more substance than just style alone and that is what differentiates the really successful Managers (of which I’m convinced AK will become in time).

        Interestingly and topically the same can be applied to the general election and why we are looking at a likely hung parliament again. No Churchill, Wilson or (cringe) Thatcher type characters so the nation has great difficulty identifying leadership qualities hence the reliance upon the main parties negative electioneering campaigns.

  18. 3rd v 6th and 4th v 5th

    3rd and 4th get the advantage of the home tie 2nd. and of course no away goals. I’d fancy us to beat anyone at the Riverside…we’d just have to make sure we weren’t out of it by the time we brought them back

  19. Good spot, Exmill. I agree that Reading aren’t going to be going flat out tonight and I’m glad that it’s Bournemouth who they are playing. I can now see Bournemouth winning all of their last four games and ending up on top spot..

    As it stands my final order is

    Bournemouth 90 plus a possible 2 more from Reading
    Watford 89
    ————
    Boro 88
    Norwich 87
    Derby 84
    Brentford 83
    ———–
    Ipswich 80
    Wolves 78

    The Watford total includes a draw at Forest tonight and three wins. I’ve got us down for a draw at Norwich and so for us to get ahead of them either they need to drop more points or we need to beat Norwich. If Watford win tonight, I’m not sure that we can catch them even with four wins.They would need to slip up in their last three games and they are not that difficult.

    If it does go this way, our final playoff position may depend on the Norwich game and I’m not sure who we would prefer to be playing home and away.

    Anyway, I’m still hoping for a win tonight and some more twists in our favour. Nothing like blind faith when it comes down to the crunch.

    UTB

  20. As long as we don’t finish 3rd….I haven’t crunched the numbers but teams who finish 3rd more often than not don’t win in the play offs
    I know it makes no difference if you finish 4th, 5th or 6th and don’t qualify it’s just that 3rd you’re so close and if it’s because of the dreaded GD even worse and then you don’t make it up through the play offs…………

    Tonight looms and it’s going to be tense Wolves need the points so look out for a smash and grab I just hope Boro start off on a high tempo and defend from the half way line….

  21. Just read Bamfords comments in the Gazette and agree 100% Come on get behind them tonight………..

  22. Ron –

    I’ve just read Bamford’s comments too and he’s dead right. Two years ago the position we are in now wasn’t a dream, it was pure fantasy. A lot of people, the boo boys in particular, forget that all to quickly.

    In some ways we’ve over-achieved this season and despite putting some money on us winning the league I always felt that it would be next season. However we do deserve to be where we are but I still feel that there is a bit of the jigsaw, a catalyst if you like, that is missing in the chemistry of the team.

    Boro will win tonight but I’ll mull over the wrong prediction of the score for a while yet. Don’t mention Goal Difference, it’s a dead Albatross…

    UTB,

    John

  23. I’m scared of the play offs, things don’t compute. Can you seeing us beating Derby four times in succession? Or any of the others? Its a tall ask, but then again they have to beat us

    1. Steady there gt we’re all getting twitchy now, in fact a couple of gt’s tonight may just steady the nerves

  24. Redcar Red –

    Sticking to the theme of football (politics and by definition politicans don’t engender any other feelings other than negative ones for me due to the self serving nature of many of the sycophantic lick spittles that frequent the egotistical halls of power-always have done, always will – see Procopius ‘The Secret History’.)

    There has been some comment on Adam Reach. The lad was going great guns earlier in the season and then he wasn’t getting forward or creating as many opportunities and thus got some criticism for it. l think this is a direct result of Aitor’s defensive mind-set and his directive to his two wingers, Adomah and Reach, to act as wingbacks (hope that’s the right term). Thus, without them pushing forward so much they don’t create for themselves or others. Hence goals for becomes problematic ( see GD comparison to top four peer teams). Conclusion- we play to a defensive system where counter attacks count but when opposition teams play the same against us we don’t have the creavity & confidence to score against 9 or 10 men in and around the opposition box.

    That’s not to say we’ve not been effective but it does say we’ve not been exceptional because mainly the manager’s style, philosophy, call it what you wish, hasn’t facilitated the type of game that throughout the season can beat others conclusively and regularly.

    Should we stick or twist regardless of the outcome at the end of this season? Well l think most people would say stick and l would tend to agree given we haven’t had anything to compare with present successes for 7 or 8 seasons. Still, the watch word would be due vigilence. The most important factor has to be the success of the club and as long as Aitor is consistantly being seen to deliver that then he and his management group should be encouraged to stay – if he isn’t achieving then a smart succession plan should be actioned. That shouldn’t necessarily mean SG’s best mate be given the job arbietarily. That lMHO would just mean going backwards, but more of that in the future perhaps.

    1. Spartak –

      You are right about Adomah and Reach. Earlier on in the season fans were saying that Albert wasn’t as good and not contributing enough goals but as the season progressed it dawned on people that Albert was required to get back and defend which hampered his ability to get forward to the same effect. Likewise Damia/Freddy/Kalas were expected to get up more and lend width and numbers to the attack.

      On the left side Reach has been performing a similar role with Friend but his attacking play has suffered greatly. Defensively he has been superb cover for Friend when he counter attacks but at a detrimental cost to his personal game. I expect to see him back in tonight or perhaps rested until Friday night against Norwich as I believe despite what the fans think AK does rate the lad because he sticks to the team game plan meticulously.

      AK does not appear to have favourites, Mejias has been given opportunity but has been dropped without ceremony. Kike was his “big money” Striker whom he rightly persevered with but perhaps a little later than would have been preferred he switched Bamford up front and benched Kike.

      It will be interesting to see if Kike is involved tonight, I suspect that he will as his was a crime of passion as oppose to being premeditated as it were. That said knowing AK I wouldn’t be surprised if he was “rested”.

  25. Back on-line after our Easter break and have just caught up on all the posts I have missed.

    I see GHW has been alert around the box just now !

    Much interesting reading and I am detecting there is a distinct air of anxiety around. I was disappointed to see the Watford result, but its still all to play for. Both Norwich tonight and Watford tomorrow night have tricky away fixtures to contend with. If we beat Wolves, that will add to the pressure on Watford for tomorrow.

    I’d love to see us score freely against Wolves tonight, but everytme I’ve predicted we will go out and score 3 or 4 times we have failed to do so. So, I think we will scrape a very tightly fought encounter 1-0 with us having to endure a last 10 minute barrage as Wolves struggle frantically to get back into it. Dimi to play a blinder and the woodwork to save us twice !

  26. Powmil –

    I don’t think there is a great deal of anxiety amongst us on the blog, looks like there is plenty elsewhere.

    On here it is probably a mixture of emotions, pleased with where we are, could easily have been better.

  27. I think the Linesman (sorry Ref’s Assistant) on here needs some new specs. In between diving in the box as usual he was at least a yard offside for that last 200 post.

    Boooooooooo!

    1. Thanks! That’s quite a handy tool – I could have done with that for the Exmil Challenge.

      I’ve now ended up with

      Bournemouth 90
      Watford 88
      Boro 88
      Norwich 87

      Basically if Norwich v Boro is a draw then Watford are the main gainers – though I’ve got Watford to lose tonight and Boro to win well so that +6 goal difference advantage could be close to evens for the last three games so it’s too close to call.

      Besides, with the top four finishing within three points of each other then it’s still anyone’s to win – an unexpected Bournemouth loss puts them out of the top two – the safest plan is to win all our games!

  28. For what it’s worth I think we’ll go up in second behind Bournemouth. I really can’t get my head around the negativity of a lot of fans. But I guess it’s a ying and yang situation after all not everyone can be as high on the smell of foam as I am ha ha.

    I’m a massive believer in the theory that the crowd makes a massive difference and can give the team that extra push, I also don’t believe it’s down to just the team to get the crowd going I think as fans we have an obligation to raise the roof from the, I’d liken it to being at a gig, playing in a band I feel I know the difference a good crowd can make it lifts you, you work harder and you push yourself more. Now I’m not saying you can’t do these things without a good crowd but man it makes it easier and way more enjoyable to play, and I think as fans we have the ability to do this for our beloved Boro.

    Many fans moan about the team being negative and not entertaining enough but I think that could also be a good description of our home support. If we truly want the team to go for it and take the shackles off we need to do the same in our support, if we want the team to be more positive we need to do the same in our support… BELIEVE !!!

    1. Rory:

      I know exactly what you mean. Our skiffle group really used to take off when everyone at the youth club brought along their own washboards.

    2. Rory

      As an ex keyboard player in a band I know exactly what you mean about the crowd lifting the players and performing better. It’s a two way thing and hope the crowd respond tonight but would settle for a 1 0 win

      Fatbob

      1. Nikeboro

        Thanks, but what’s obscure?

        Skiffle? The last attempt, before commercialism closed in to monopolise ‘popular’ music, to create a genuinely participatory popular music that would give expression to the struggles and aspirations of ordinary people, using whatever “instruments” (like washboards) that came to hand.

        Washboards? What every woman had to use (and a symbol of their work and subordination) before the widespread availability of washing machines, circa the mid-1950s

        Isn’t all this common knowledge?

  29. Agree entirely with Spartakboro’s last two posts. General level of discussion as brilliant as ever. Thanks gentlemen for a great and essential read.

    Congrats to my old mate GHW, still the quintessential fox in the box.

    Boro to win convincingly tonight, 3-1.

  30. Spartak –
    You earlier advocated the freedom of the Brazilian play. Reminder: Brazil 1 Germany 7.

    However, all joking aside, that may well be a useful illustration. If the improvised virtuosity of the Selecao is now redundant, then the Germans may offer the new model.

    They showed lots of creativity and flair but within a clear team shape, with well defined and disciplined roles. The Germans make concerted and devastating attacks but also defend in numbers and switch from one to the other with lightening speed.

    These are not mutually exclusive. AK quickly established the structure and inculcated the discipline. What we now need more of is incisive creativity, flair and clinical finishing. It could well need only a couple of positions to be strengthened.

    1. Of course you have a point there Nikiboro regarding Brazil Germany but apart from seeing the match and watching said Brazilians take a pounding, I also saw the game in Munich where a certain Michael Owen and an England team beat the Germans resoundingly – my German/Bavarian neighbours were a bit miffed to hear my roars of celebration rattling in their ears at the time.

      I think it does prove a point though about the tendency of managers to go for the control system, as I think they understand it to be statistically the safest route to success and thus perhaps they themselves prolonging their oft short lived stay in the game. I particularly admired Ian Holloway’s approach when he was in the Premier League with Blackpool. His team were electric to watch and scaled the dizzy heights for a while before they crashed and burned.

      Overall, I think the Germans got the right mix just when it mattered and the quality of the players was matched by the expertise of a management team who knew exactly what they wanted. It does help to have the healthy pressure of an expectant nation and a history that says ‘We are Germany and we expect to win!’ That brings me back to the point of ‘einstellung’ or in plain English, attitude. Which led me to be surprised at Aitor’s goal statement of reaching the play-offs. My old favorite Cloughie would not have settled for something so mundane in his prime – only the best is good enough. If you want to build a legacy where or what ever you do, that is the mantra you take with you and then produce it in your actions/results.

  31. Nikeboro

    We were playing a higher tempo game but we seem to have become more pedestrian. That could of course be due to the opposition or a drop off in form and confidence, more likely a combination of all of them.

    As we sing open the doors to the last chance saloon we may well see a more up tempo game.

    Despite my foot in mouth display at half time against Rotherham I still think we are better with width and Bamford partnered by Kike/Vossen rather than shoe horning Tomlin and Bamford in to the system.

    We could play more of a 433 pushing Adomah further forward.

    We will see. Aitor will have his plans.

    I will miss the televised match on Friday, prearranged 60th party for a friend and it is no pressies but contribute to a collection for cancer research. Some things transcend football.

    1. Yes, I agree about the tempo and what AK refers to as intensity.

      Previously our game was based on winning the ball back quickly and preferably in the opposition half and then instantly counter-attacking. However our pressing game seems to have diminished and is happening 10-20 yards deeper than before. That means our counters have that much more ground to cover and, on top of that, are being carried out with less speed: as you say, pedestrian.

      We are blessed with speedy players but are exploiting that advantage less than in earlier months. I suspect the emphasis on defence is the reason. The likes of Adomah and Reach seem preoccupied with their covering duties to the extent that a swift breakout is a secondary consideration.

  32. I think we have to recognise that despite any complaints about the home support, we have the best home record in the division – 46 pts from 21 games. The next best is Ipswich, 44.

    We’ve only lost once at home in the last eight and half months. That is truly extraordinary. If we had better fans, we’d have surely won every game!

    But – that’s probably partly where Bamford is coming from – he looks at the performances and results the team has delivered at home all season, and yet we still get booed off?

  33. One last bunch of stats – we have conceded 11 goals at the Riverside this season.

    3 of those came v Sheff Wed. that is 27% of our home goals conceded in one mad hour in August.

    By my reckoning, Dimi has conceded 6 league goals at the Riverside all season!!

  34. Some good points made RE Bournemouth needing to avoid a slip up. The way things are going, it would look as though there could be 3 or 4 teams still fighting over the two automatic spots as we go into the final day. I hope Sky are planning some kind of 4-way split-screen-super-soaraway-Saturday-soccer-spectacular-shoot-out.

    Unbelievable Jeff.

  35. Tonight’s game is going to be tough, Wolves are on a decent run of form despite their slip up against Birmingham. We have both won 6 out of our last 10 games but their need for points to make the play offs are as desperate as we are to avoid them.

    They haven’t faced our defence at the Riverside though, big question is which defence will they be facing. Will AK hold his nerve and keep the usual suspects or will he tinker. In fairness he usually saves his tinkering for away games so I think he will keep with Kalas (unless suffering from the several head injuries he received on Saturday), Woody, Gibson and Friend but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amorebeita and Freddy return keeping things fresh for Friday.

    The below is from the Kickoff betting website:

    “The West Midlands outfit have put up some impressive numbers when it comes to attacking, averaging two goals per game recently. Wolves have found the net with every fifth shot during this period and that puts them on a par with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain.

    Middlesbrough hold the edge in three of the four defensive categories, matching Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea by conceding to just 9% of the shots taken against them. The men from Molineux have not done a bad job at the back themselves, however, conceding only 11 times in ten matches of late.”

    Its looking like a 1-1 draw unless one side blinks early on. Lets hope not, I had this one down for 3 points in the Exmil challenge.

    **AV writes: Good stats. I’m nicking those.

  36. Well I’m staying up late to watch the twitter coming in. No predictions though it is going to be too horrible to contemplate. Just hope and lets see what the table looks like tomorrow, 3 games permutations will be easier to get my head around.

    Come lads – you can do it!!

  37. The result vs Wolves is personal for me. I was unfortunate to go to the game at Molineux but had to sit with a mate in the Wolves crowd.

    I’d been extolling the virtues of our team all the way there so the reality on the night was a big let-down and embarrassment. Wolves were far from good but we weren’t anything.

    To make a bad night worse, the surrounding old gold supporters figured out where my allegiances lay and I was subjected to a lot of ribbing. Good natured but skin-crawlingly humiliating nevertheless.

    Tonight has to be my revenge.

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