WE are going to have to learn to be patient.
There were some audible groans of frustration at the Riverside as the frustrating first half fizzled out into a turgid low-tempo grind. And on the interval whistle there was a short-lived smattering of scornful booing.
Now, that is understandable. Boro have raised the bar this term and have spent a lot of money on proven quality top flight and international players with the avowed intention of being more potent and with that comes heightened expectations – especially when playing against the sides viewed as Championship cannon-fodder.
Boro looked laboured at times as they grafted against a well organised MK Dons side who had come to defend in depth. It was frustrating for long spells as they dug into tactical trenches and strung out barbed wire 25 yards out and invited Boro to attack.
That’s fine. They are allowed to do that. You can’t blame them. We would do it. It will become a familiar theme this season. We are the big boys now, the spenders, the pre-season promotion favourites, the team packed with big ticket talent. It is only natural that more limited teams will come here and defend. It is something we will have to get used to.
Another raid down the right comes to nothing
So far this season we have seen three teams come to the Riverside Stadium looking to park the bus. Bolton were blitzed in the first 10 minutes and fell apart at the seams but they explicitly came to string five across the back and stifle the game.
Bristol City came to do the same and also set up with five across the back but they nicked one against the run of play early then somehow resisted the onslaught that followed leaving Boro fans bemoaning what seemed like a familiar fatal flaw.
And MK Dons almost did the same. They were tightly organised and worked incredibly hard: they pressed, they closed, they harried, they chased and they kept a compact shape at the back inviting Boro to go outside and put crosses or square balls into the crowd. They denied Boro space behind them to thread passes into and fought for every ball.
And they almost succeeded. In fact, they rattled to post on the break just before the hour mark and on another day they could have nicked it. So credit to them.
But credit to Boro too. They were patient. They kept the ball, kept probing, kept trying to stretch the defence, trying to find space, trying to prise open the locked defence. At times the movement on and off the ball was superb and the and slick passing impressive.
And even when they struggled to find the final killer ball they didn’t get frustrated or lose confidence in the system and try to force the issue with freelance headline chasing. They kept their shape and style and beavere away confident that it would come.
Aitor made some tweaks from the bench and then the lucky escape after Simon Church hit the woodwork added urgency and zip and Boro stuck to the task and kept pressing and passing waiting for a tiring team mistake – and then punished it ruthlessly.
Boro’s two goal-getters celebrate opening their account
Stewart Downing curled home a deft strike into the bottom far corner to open his account in his second stint then after a poor defensive clearance was cut out and played back to the edge of the box David Nugent followed suit with his first for the club. It was a fair reward for Boro’s persistent pressure and hard work through a tough game.
Yes, we’d all like to see Boro play cavalier football with a swagger and sweep teams away – but that isn’t going to happen often. We’ve been in this division long enough to know that.
There are always two teams on the pitch and in a dozen games this season one of them will be set up to strangle the game and stop Boro playing. Aitor Karanka must find a way to deal with that. Maybe Carlos De Pena will be his a lock-picker. We’ll see.
But we need to deal with it too. We will need to be patient. No game in this league is a given, No team will roll over for us. There will be a lot of games where we need to be every bit as patient in the stands as the team is out on the pitch.