Blunt Boro Celebrate Big Day With Familiar Flaws

WELL what better way to celebrate 20 years at the Riverside Stadium than with a demoralising defeat that sent frustrated fans home chuntering?

What could be more fitting than following the swaggering show against Bolton with a disjointed defeat to a limited side who had been leaking for fun?

You could pop back at midnight and Boro still wouldn’t have squeezed one in.


                No way through: Stuani crowded out on by City party-poopers

Once again it was a tale of fruitless possession and endless pressure without a potent punch, the lack of a final killer touch and a superb show by a stand-in shot-stopper.  Their keeper Ben Hamer had a ‘worldie’ with three fantastic saves when the  screw was being turned. Good old Boro, one of the reassuring certainties in life.

And who better to inflict the coupon-busting anti-climax than perennial party pooping pirates Bristol City. The Robins have several times rained on our parade in the past and casually ripped up the script again.

It was the closest game to the landmark anniversary of that first game at Riverside – a sun-kissed August of new age optimism in a box fresh ground when Chelsea were the visitors and anything seemed possible.

With the anniversary red-ringed, the woeful form of the newly promoted visitors and Aitor Karanka unleashing £12m of new talent together for the first time it was all set up for a Riverside romp in the mould of the battering of Bolton.

With Cristhian Stuani and David Nugent making their first starts on home turf and Stewart Downing in the hole for the first time everything was set for Karanka to demonstrate his new creative goal machine of a team.

Whoops. Bristol scored early on against the run of play on eight minutes and the pre-match buzz flapped and flopped as flew around as the air escaped after an archetypal balloon bursting.  In fact, they could have a had a second on the break before Boro regained their composure and started to pile on the pressure but the damage was done and the visitors were happy to don tin hats, dig in and soak it up.  

And Boro failed to breach those lines. Shots flew just wide, or were deflected behind by the forest of defenders in the box, or Hamer went full length to claw them away. Boro pushed forward and got the ball and bodies into the box but the two rarely connected. There were sweeping moves in numbers that inexplicable buffered on the edge of the box. There were moments of over-elaboration, one trick too many. There were poor deliveries from both flanks. The final killer ball never came. There were poor decisions. Or no decisions.

Boro had all their creative and attacking players on the pitch at one stage or another but they failed to gel. There were flashes in the first half as Yanic’s pace caused problems but there was no end product then after the break Boro stepped up a gear as Albert added zip and invention and the best moments came from his endeavours on the right but again, Boro couldn’t find a way through. It was all very frustrating.


                                 Second string shot-stopper super show. Episode 9

It is a familiar story. It was only the second defeat at the Riverside in 2015. The  other one against Leeds back in February played out in almost exactly the same way:  an early goal on the break then 80 minutes of incessant fruitless pressure from blunt Boro.

And if you want to rewind back to the previous defeat, against Reading last August, it was more or less the same, an early goal nicked by the visitors then relentless heavy but unimaginative pressure that failed to break down a poor  side.

That the problem persists may be teething problems with a new team.  Or it may just be co-incidence.  Or it may be a worrying indication of a deeper seated tactical or methodological problem. We’ll see. We are only four games in. But Boro can’t afford too many repeats of what was a fatal flaw last term.

Of course, City are serial offenders when it comes to spoiling the big day.  Last time they were here was the first half of a BOGOF season ticket offer with Boro flying high and a bumper crowd turned up in November 2012.

Typical Boro! It was all was all a bit of a dog’s breakfast as Tony Mowbray set up to bully Bristol new boy Matthew Bates and played with two targetmen – Lukas Jutkiewicz and Big Ish Miller – but were left confused as the former Boro man didn’t play. They lost 3-1. Albert Adomah ran riot for the relegation-bound Robins and Boro missed a chance to go into one of the automatic slots in front of a bumper ticket offer crowd.

On their previous visit City did it again. It was a Mowbray’s first match in charge after the exit of Gordon Strachan and amid high expectations of an emotion fuelled instant revival our lunar leader was left on the launch pad.  Boro lost 2-1 to the relegation strugglers and frustrated fans drifted away scratching their heads or waving their fists and discarding their free Gazette Mogganaut masks as they trudged away through the underpass.

The only previous Riverside win was in February 2007 when Boro were Premier League big boys and edged it 5-4 on penalties after two 2-2 draws. For the last win on Teesside you have to go back to Ayresome Park and an Uwe hat-trick in a 3-0 romp.

So, the sinking feeling was perhaps predictable.

It has really poured cold water on any pre-season notions that this term would be a promotion procession. And it has really put a dampener on any anniversary celebrations we had planned. Typical.


HANDS UP who guessed the team…. not you Aitor.

We know there’s no point trying to second guess the Boro boss. Every week the boss produces a selection curve ball.  Get a reshuffle right and you are a tactical genius and hailed a hero. Get it wrong and sections of the crowd declare you a numpty.


                               Hmmmmm. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

That is the risk that always hangs heavy over any dug-out. Aitor explained his decisions after a frustrating fixture with some familiar flas.

Early season goal-getter Kike and ex-Bristol City man Albert Adomah have been mainstays so far this term while Diego Fabbrini has been so eye-catching he has claimed cult status and even has his own song.

All three were dropped. Or rested. Or rotated. Or whatever terminology you want to use for the inevitable rejig midway through August’s seven game fixture flurry. And all three may have a gripe about that. Especially as Boro lost. That is always a convincing retrospective argument.

But the other sign of the coin is that there are big players who have been itching for their chance while even some of the players who been in the shirts have been taking flak after some stodgy early displays.

Fans have been calling for them to be given a chance, demanding that the boss used the players he had splashed out on.  

And at last Boro opted to give it both barrels. Aitor finally unleashed his big ticket summer striker signings against Bristol City with Stewart Downing pulling the strings

After an impressive outing at Oldham and a couple of brief cameos from the bench Uruguay World Cup star Cristhian Stuani was given his first Championship start. And marksman David Nugent was also blooded. He had a snippet of action at the end of the 3-0 win over Bolton then was back on the bench after a minor back tweak.

But both have been training and were hungry to be unleashed. They are proven quality. They are what we were crying out for last term. They are going to be key to this season’s startegy.

We had to see them sooner or later. And putting firepower on the pitch can never be a bad thing…. unless you lose.

233 thoughts on “Blunt Boro Celebrate Big Day With Familiar Flaws

  1. Having been in management for years I learnt the best workforce was one who enjoyed coming to work felt appreciated yet knew if they didn’t put in you would pull them into line and had a laugh along the way, you will never get everyone to like you but you led by example. The days of a yelling snarling belittling boss are long gone bit like a Dictator lets hope AK is not one who holds grudges and lets individuals be just that. I may be wrong but it seems players with flair and that extra something get turfed out or turned into robots. Players should not be scared about trying something that little bit special.

  2. After all the IN’s it was inevitable there would be OUT’s.

    Always better to blame the departing player.

    (After he’s signed the non disclosure clause of course)

    Anyone heard from Hignett or Tomlin?

  3. The very idea that Sr.K would engineer the exit of a previously settled player in an attempt to avoid unfavourable comparisons with a player he had brought in is of course ludicrous. Just ask Jason Steele.

  4. The clubs statement about Albert, is it reassuring ? Alas did they not issue a similar statement about Tomlin just before he went !

    Come on BORO.

  5. It clearly seems Adomah has been unsettled – I doubt the relatively normal act of starting on the bench for a game in a squad that boasts plenty of options is the reason.

    Whether rumours of a bid for Forest’s right-sided player Antonio has left him wondering if he really is an ‘important’ player in Karanka’s plans (I’m sure players get to hear who’s in for whom through the football grapevine)

    If true does he suspect he’ll suddenly become a deadline day offering – there are enough struggling teams with money who would fancy a punt on Albert (you know who you are Sunderland).

    But this is the danger of attempting to recruit ‘better’ players to your club – they can’t all play. In the Championship, if you going to spend several million on a new player, they aren’t likely to be a ‘squad’ player.

    The possibility that Adomah didn’t like being singled out for defensive errors after the Derby game – as defending is not really his day job – may be a reason for falling out with the boss – but I’m sure this happens to players every other week in the heat of the moment.

    Is there a possibility that Adomah’s agent has unsettled him with talk of other clubs being interested? Often employees start feeling a little easy with their comments when they believe other ‘options’ are available.

    Anyway, I hope this little storm blows over as Adomah has bought into Karanka’s methods and has become a key player and getting someone in at Championship level to come and get up to speed may be more of a set-back than an improvement – so an unnecessary gamble in my eyes.

    A bigger squad with better players is not always a better squad – it may actually make it harder to get everyone performing to their best if it upsets the balance within the team. We only needed a few extra tweaks this season not a major overhaul.

    **AV writes: The way I understand it is that he wasn;t singld out, the gaffer pointed the finger at a string of them following the chain of culpabilty.

    1. Spartak:

      You may well ask, having seen tonight’s team.

      Rowntree’s Randoms indeed.

      This is tactics as Display. An attempt to demonstrate a tactical sophistication, based on an advanced analysis of a fearsome opposition that is beyond the ken of ordinary people and bog-standard footballers.

      Is it 5-3-2 with full-backs bombing on as wingers. Or 4-2-3-1 with Stephens in a holding midfield role. Who can tell? What is being demonstrated is how important and at centre-stage the coach is compared with the artisans who are there merely as instruments of his genius.

  6. One of the things I most hate about football (and there are a few…..) is the fact that those in charge of clubs, whether managers or in the Boardroom, often feel it is acceptable to be “less than open and honest” with the people they should value – the supporters.

    Do we like being lied to? Do we like to be kept in the dark? At then end of the day, does it do the clubs any good?

  7. Werder, agree with your final paragraph and Dormo I agree that the Club are in danger of alienating supporters with double speak.
    I hope I’m wrong but I get the feeling that last season’s dressing room camaraderie is also disappearing.

  8. AK said:

    “I will play my strongest side”

    Redcar Red said:

    “I’m not particularly bothered if AK tinkers tonight as for me its Promotion or nothing, death or glory this season. I suspect though that we could be talking “Patterns” again tomorrow morning so I’m going for a disarrayed, disappointing and disjointed 2-0 defeat.”

    I’m not sure what to make of that line up or what message it gives. It certainly looks like tinkering, it sounds like tinkering, it smells like tinkering and I wouldn’t doubt that had I made the trip to Burton it even tastes of tinkering.

    At 1-0 down at half time I’m seeing “Patterns”. We don’t come back from a goal down, players being square pegged, players “naughty stepped”, players not at the ground. AK is starting to display some very peculiar traits, Mrs Red has heard me chuntering listening to the radio and suggested that maybe the poor man is Bi Polar?

  9. Just what we needed, 120 mins before the Sheff Wed game. AK might want to rest some more players.

    As a supporter and one who cares about the club for donkeys years i am concerned over the Albert situation, I do believe he is the best right side attacking player in the division by along way. He was bought for not a great deal, and he could be sold for much more, but i doubt we will be able to get anyone who can hit the ground running and make the impact Albert has or will. I implore the club not to sell him, no matter what may have transpired.

  10. For all we know Albert may have a buyout fee clause in his contract, I think the closer to the deadline we get there’s going to be a frenzy in all divisions,it seems everyone is looking to stay competitive, after many seasons of status quo.

  11. I tend to agree with those who smell the evaporation of team spirit. A side that did well with limited ability fuelled by the aforementioned cohesive liquor is now perhaps losing its most valuable asset…

  12. Len

    At times it looked like 4-1-2-1-2. To be fair Stephens looked fairly accomplished if not a perfect midfielder.

    First half was a mishmash, as the second went on, we dominated more and more. Their keeper did well – as always, some great blocks by their defenders.

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