Boro Breakthrough Ghoul Only A Matter Of Time

PATIENCE, persistence, probing, passing, possession…  add potent to the mix and Boro are a real team more than capable of getting out of this league.

On paper the three goal win over Charlton was a one-sided affair. The possession stats, the shock and awe shot imbalance, the corner count, the scoreline all suggest a routine romp for the promotion contenders against hapless basement battlers. And it was. In the end.  The breakthrough ghoul was only a matter of time.

After the whistle we can look back and make a sober assessment that Boro ticked all the boxes to get past what was potentially a Bristol City shaped banana-skin.

But at times it can be very hard work watching them.  If Boro don’t come out of the blocks with a sprint start goal they can quickly lose some steam and momentum, settle into a low-tempo toothless pattern and look laboured as they beaver away to slowly turn the screw on the opposition, to recycle possession and stretch the game sidewards, backwards and inside out in pursuit of an error or a lock-picking moment of magic.


            Trick or treat? Scary striker Nugent poacher prank scares Charlton witless

Unless Boro get an early opener to force the opposition to come out and play the intensity can seep away and make the match feel like doing the breast-stroke in porridge.

And that is what we saw against a very poor Charlton side, another slow attritional grind straight out of the big book of Championship stereotypes.  After the Lord Mayor of Salford’s Show at Old Trafford on Wednesday night Boro were back to the role reversal bread and butter of struggling to penetrate the massed ranks of team set up to defend.

Charlton were awful. They were possibly the worst team we’ve seen this season. Even Bristol had a go, they had a plan to break-out onto long diagonals, they had a threat.

On Halloween they looked like a limited lifeless zombie team lumbering through the motions, doing just enough to get by but always looking likely to collapse when the first goal flew in. If it flew in.

Boro were doing all the attacking but as the game lost momentum and intensity and inched towards the break fans grew frustrated as a thick duvet of ordinariness stifled Boro’s attacking intent.  They bossed it on 80% of the pitch but still looked blunt in the box as the usual banjo/bovine bum note sounded an alarm.

After four games in five without a goal there is a fear not far from the surface that Boro’s set-up has “struggle to score” stamped into its DNA (despite being the leading pack’s top scorers and with the best goal difference to boot).


Albert’s haul. Adomah ghoul makes Charlton rearguard look like right pumpkins 

And there is a fear that teams “know how to play against Boro.” That’s true. They do know. Just as we watch our heroes in action and know their strengths and weaknesses.  Teams will come here to sit deep and defend with two rigid banks of four or five behind tactical trenches and barbed wire and hope to hold off the assertive home side . But knowing and being able to put a text-book strategy into practice are two different things.

It takes 96 minutes of concentration, relentless hard-work and a dollop of luck to keep Boro at bay. And not every team will be able to do that.  A string of teams have come to the Riverside and dug tactical trenches – but Boro have blown most of then away. Eventually. Not all of them but most: Leeds, Bolton, MK Dons, Wolves, Charlton.

You expect to see some bus parking – after all we are the big spending promotion favourites – but this season has felt that the Riverside has become a popular tourist destination with charabanc drivers circling around Car Park B looking for a space.

Rotherham will come and try to do the same on Tuesday – and Boro will set about trying to dismantle them again them in the same methodical, well drilled way they did against the rest. Aitor said it was “perfect.”

Sometimes an early goal will fly in, they can relax and the opposition at some point will push out to chase the game and create space.  Sometimes it will take a new ice age of slow picking and passing and probing until and opening can be deftly fashioned or forced by a more direct route. Sometimes it feels like purgatory.

But that is something we will need to deal with as fans this season just as the team must learn to deal with it on the pitch.



What we said before kick-off…. 

BUBBLING Boro must put aside the champagne fizz of their coupon-busting cup win  at Old Trafford and get back down to the Championship bread-and-butter against Charlton.

Teesside has been on a high after the deserved victory over Manchester United – part euphoria after the pulsating spot-kick shoot-out and part sleep deprivation after the three hour crawl across a ten mile section of the M62 –  but we must make that dividend count.


             Champagne spot-kick celebration. Now its back to bread and butter

The win at Wolves ended a three game goalless blip that brought the first real ripple of nerves through the fan-base. The win over United ignited excitement again but for all the teasing glimpse of glory in knockouts this season is about one thing and one thing alone: securing promotion. That means Boro must not squander the Old Trafford dividend.

Aitor Karanka’s team are still just one point off the automatic spots after the stumble  of one point from nine and need to get emphatically back on track in the league and put the pressure on the leaders . They can do that against a fragile looking Athletic, the first of two very winnable games at home to strugglers under new management.

Charlton has been a gimmee in recent years. Just as Boro fans fear Forest or Leeds or Ipswich, Charlton fans blanch at travelling to Teesside. They have won just once here in 25 years. They don’t win at their place too often either. In the last decade going back to the  “Operation Riverside”  FA Cup quarter-final when they arrive en masse on free coaches the Boro stats are:   P10  W7 D3 L0 F20 A7.  We have to extend that run. In style.  After  a barren spell in front of goal – United was the fourth game in five Boro have drawn a blank. We need to build on the Old Trafford heroics with a potent display at home.

Charlton are vulnerable.  The club has slipped into the relegation zone after losing eight of the the last 10, they haven’t scored in three and have conceded six in last two. That saw Guy Luzon axed and Karel Fraeye as interim boss, their fifth in two years.

Fraeye was previously at  Belgian third division side VW Van Hamme, 12th in a league of 18 teams when he left, with two wins in 11 games. It is an appointment that has done little to pacify a fan base now close to open revolt against  trigger happy Belgian owner Roland Duchâtelet, who has presided over one cock-up after another.

“It’s the football equivalent of a FTSE 100 company whose share price is plummeting and suffering from profit warnings picking a shop manager of an outlet with struggling sales as the chief executive to turn things around,” was the damning verdict of a Charlton webzine.

So, let’s twist the knife for them. Boro need to match the intensity and spirit of the Old Trafford heroics to relaunch the promotion push, score the goals to ignite the Riverside and fire the  team back towards escape velocity.  I’m going for 3-0.

Usual drill: predict the scoreline and script the game and then regroup later to swap notes and relive the EIO excitement.


89 thoughts on “Boro Breakthrough Ghoul Only A Matter Of Time

  1. I will certainly enjoy this season. I have just booked flights to Manchester to see three Boro matches in December/January. Cannot wait to see Boro at Blackburn on Boxing Day!

    I know the flights cost me a few hundred pounds and the nine nights double the price of flights. But it will be worth it. I hope Mrs. Jarkko will enjoy the three matches. Last time around we went to the Reading away match a year ago – and I dragged her back to Boro around 3 o’clock. But she still have a poster of the match in her study. I am lucky to have a converted Man U supporter as wife.

    Tomorrow is tough – all matches are in the Championship. That’s life and Boro just have to drag then through. Up the Boro!

  2. Normally when something happens the post follows I told you so format.

    In this case it is a collective told you so, I doubt there is much surprise around the Diasboro that Paddy has stalled at Palace. No pleasure in a young players career stuttering be it here or anywhere else.

    Hope it works out for him, just the same with Adam, Janic and Muzzy.

    First things first, three points tomorrow against the Millers.

    1. We all thought albeit selfishly that Paddy would be better off here for another season where he would have galvanised into a top Championship striker in a successful side. The Palace gamble was understandable and had it worked it would have fast tracked his career, hindsight is a wonderful thing as well know on here.

      I would be happy for him to come back here in January as its going to take a great effort through winter and the back end of the season and the more quality we have in the squad the better plus of course preventing him maybe going to a competitor. That of course is pending if Chelsea do decide that his stay at the Palace isn’t improving him.

      Would he get into this current Boro side though? I would guess that Nugent and Stuani would take some shifting and I prefer pairing Albert and Stewy (de Pena maybe) on the wings. Injuries, form and suspensions would see him get game time though and perhaps the opportunity to force his claim for a starting spot.

      Like Ian says, hope it works out for the lad regardless where his career takes him, he always tried his best for us.

      Onto tonight and the Millers come to town. This is one of those games that we all expect to win comfortably and handsomely at that but like Bristol the opposition retain the right to spoil the party and turn the form book upside down. With Hull away on Saturday I suspect that AK will keep a few of his core players on the bench fresh for Saturday but available just in case.

      Suspect that de Pena along with Zuculini to start with Nsue continuing at RB with Kalas continuing to be rested for the more physical threat of Hull. I also suspect that Mejias may get an opportunity between the sticks as reward for his OT heroics and Dimi getting a well earned rest.

      Therein however lies the risk that we could underestimate the opposition by tinkering too much and come a cropper against a side who will be licking their wounds after another defeat on Saturday.

      I’m going with 18,783 seeing another 3-0 Boro win.

  3. Instead of whining, Bamford should get his head down and work hard at trying to win a first team place.

    His time here is over, he had his chance and we are thankful for his goals, but ultimately I think he is too weak to become a top striker.

    Millers Ground Down By Boro

  4. Redcar Red

    I don’t think the comments were hindsight, I think it was a very tricky decision and said so at the time.

    It wasn’t a view he should come back here but a case of where next for him? I didn’t see him as an out and out line leader, probably best with a workhorse No 10. It was difficult to see where he could go to and get game time, the top flight clubs tend play a lone striker with pace and physicality.

    Come back here, I doubt that will happen, I don’t know if Aitor would want him back, I don’t know if it would work.

    I think we will just get 20,000 Boro fans and a comfortable 2-0.

    I will be a guest at derby v QPR so can have a gander at rivals unfettered by bias.

    1. Sorry Ian the hindsight I meant was with his agent and himself rather than the DiasBoro, like you said most of us thought at the time that it was a move that could end in frustration at a lack of opportunity.

      It’s an interesting evening of Championship football with Hull away to Brentford, Derby like you mentioned have a tricky home game against QPR, Burnley at home to resurgent (and our 0-0 spoilers) Fulham and Brighton away to Wednesday. All tough games and I wouldn’t be surprised if Brighton suffer their first defeat with Hull, Derby and Burnley all drawing. Could be interesting if that was the case and we collect three points against the Millers.

  5. I’d love Bamford back, he fits into our system well and can play in a number of positions – but if he did come back he’d have to realise he wasn’t guaranteed a place either.

    If the opportunity arises in Jan, what would he prefer – a promotion challenge with his mates or a scrap at the bottom with someone like Bournemouth?

    Tonight’s team. I’d be amazed if Dimi was rested, I think Friend and Kalas might come back though he might be tempted to stick with the back four that played on Saturday and give Friend a full week’s rest ahead of Hull. Ayala is probably due a rest though – might be a chance for Stephens?

    Leadbitter perhaps in for Clayton and De Pena for Downing? Kike might get start as well?

    So many options.

    I think I’d go




    De Pena


    1. I think Kike may get a start resting Nugent and I still have an inkling that AK may give Mejias a run out in an effort to both develop and rehabilitate him. Who knows we may even see young Dael back in the frame. I don’t like tinkering but with the Hull game coming up, suspensions hanging over Ayala, Leadbitter, Clayts, Fabbrini and the calibre of opposition I think AK may be tempted to “rotate”.

      Warning though if one were needed was what happened to LVG when he done Boro a disservice last week!

  6. I wouldn’t have Bamford back, not because I don’t like him, on the contrary he was great for us last year. Because I think he’ll struggle to establish himself in our current side. Getting picked ahead of Nugent or Stuani would not be easy and sitting on the bench would be pointless for him.

    As others have said I wish him well for the future.

    I’m going for another 3-0 tonight, with an early goal (first twenty minutes) opening the game up for Boro.

    As for the team, I haven’t got a clue!

  7. I suspect that Patrick Bamford would only go to a Championship club who agreed to make him first choice, assuming he is in form. He doesn’t need time to settle in with us, he knows the way we play and most of the players.

    He would be great for us as injuries to Nugent or Stuani restrict our options, and injury to both of them would leave us in a deep hole. Sorry, I’m having a panic attack just thinking about it…

    Amorbieta paired with Gibson might be a way to rest Dani, given that they have both played several games already, but only if one of them has a strong right foot to enable them to take the right-sided position, and I’m not sure about that. It would help to have Kalas rather than Emilio in at right back if we rest Dani, to give a bit more defensive strength on that side.

    AK will know the strengths of Rotherham, for example if they have a dangerous left winger he will probably put Kalas back in at right back even if Dani plays.

    It would be better to score and then bring people like Stewy off, rather than start without him then find we can’t break them down.

  8. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pretty similar team to Saturday as the task tonight will be to break a defensive team down – which probably means those of the tricky feet (Fabrini, Downing and Adomah) will be needed – Nugent is likely to be more effective than Kike too.

    There’s also no reason to change the midfield two as I’m sure AK would prefer to have Leadbitter available for Hull and not risk him getting a booking.

    Perhaps, Friend will return and Gibson will partner Amorebieta to ensure Ayala is also available for Hull.

    On the Bamford front, I think he’s not had much pitch time at Palace and that means he’s probably won’t be match fit come January – so it will be a Catch 22 situation if he then came to Boro as he wouldn’t be favourite to start games and that would leave not that much better off. Perhaps if either Nugent or Stuani were subject to a long-term injury then he may be an easy option to come in but otherwise he may have missed the boat at the Riverside.

    Going back to AV’s article it was an interesting piece about how Boro are trying to come to terms with dealing with the way around two-thirds of visiting team will set out to play. Though, they may think that if they can avoid conceding an early goal we will struggle – but it seems this Boro team are content to be patient and have banged in three late goals against both Charlton and Wolves.

    An early goal tonight may see us knock in five – plus there’s an outside chance of ending up top of the pile by the end of the evening.

    So a Rye smile from Karanka as Boro earn their Corn against the Millers following a few Maizey runs from Adomah and Downing – note for the purpose of puns some words have been incorrectly Spelt.

    **AV writes: Reet good work flower. I allowed myself a rye smile.

  9. I am no believer in resting players because of cards, better to take things as they come.

    Resting for fitness sake makes sense, Ayala has played five games in 14 days. Leadbetter and Friend were rested on Saturday so let them have a run out tonight. Adomah has come back after an ankle injury, maybe put him on the bench. Those sort of changes make sense.

    Get the three points now, as long as players are not at risk, try and keep a relatively settled side.

  10. I worry when lots of posters start advocating widespread resting of players. Can we just recap: the universal opinion on here was “play the team when the results are flowing, form is the golden ticket to the Prem”. We are in form, let’s just collect the points, they may not come our way again. One other thought: if you are the striker you love the chance to play the bottom teams, they are the source of a lot of goals.

  11. Very interrsting piece on the present and historical Boro manager’s approach to player management AV.

    I suppose because they were and one is quite naturally flawed (as we all are) it should come as no surprise that they all failed to one degree or another.

    El Tel coming to the rescue at the time should for all intentsive purposes have been a wake-up call for SG. The lesson should be don’t leave a manager to sink or swim on his own & proven past success over an extended period is the biggest indicator of success in the future.

    We shouldn’t forget there is the rub of the green to the manager’s benefit as well. Also the best type of person, regardless of profession is the one who can genuinely learn from their own mistakes. Still it helps to have access to a skilled mentor who can assist you overcome the challenges created inheritantly by your own personality.

    If all and sundry are are telling you how great you are then that should set all the red lights flashing and the klaxtons wailing as to the danger. A true friend will tell you hard truths as a false friend will keep stroking your ego.

    Maybe SG needs to reconsider his hands off sink or swim approach too and give his manager the real support he needs.


    **AV writes: Yes, I think the club as a whole has learned too. After McClaren left Steve Gibson was desperate to keep the collective knowledge of the bootroom on board but they gradually left and weren’t entirely or adequately replaced and then when the belt-tightening began the entire infrastructure was neglected and started to rust. This time Gibson started to put the behind the scenes technical and financial framework in place before he brought his next technocrat (Karanka) in. There is definitely a professional air about the place now that has echoes of the McClaren years, if not yet the money to maximise it.

    On the wider point, I think as a general observation people who set a high bar for themselves do expect those they work with to show the same attributes and levels of commitment they themselves do and assume others have the same mentality and abilities. And they can get frustrated when they don’t. Speaking from personal experience.

    1. There is understandably a uniqueness to the psychological make-up of the ‘high achiever’. Their inherent need to succeed becomes and is all-consuming. It is what separates them from lesser mortals. Still how many great players, sticking to football, don’t become great managers? Yet, if the club had identified the, let us call them the ‘at risk issues’ & consequently addressed them with personal and professional support they too could have developed into great managers.

      Referring to your point about the achievers disappointment with less motivated people, I had a friend who passed a most difficult military course where there was a high level of failure. That friend later went onto manage teams of employees who to no surprise failed to match my friend’s expectations. He too suffered a deep sense of disappointment. AK can improved his player management skills through the acquisition of this valuable learning experience. Still, if he could benefit from a mentor’s presence I believe he could gain from it all the more.

      Further still, from what I see in general across the UK football management spectrum, many new managers could benefit from a quality professional/personal development approach being implemented, aided and abetted by their chairman and the club’s board of directors.


      1. I would agree that there is an inherent uniqueness about high achievers – my anecdotal observations have been that the drive to achieve often comes from a desire to prove something due to some form of hardship or unmet approval in their formative years.

        Basically high achievers are mostly by their nature flawed characters in some way. By definition, unless they are exceptionally talented or close to genius, then the need to constantly prove they are the best is the personality of an individual who is not content within themselves.

        OK, the flip side of people who don’t achieve their potential is a lack of confidence that is normally brought on by the same circumstances that created high achievers – they just reacted differently to the same pressures and give in rather than fight.

        Then there are the people who are told they are better than they are – they generally end up on X-Factor singing badly or go to Eton and end up running the country equally badly.

  12. The point about resting players is that we have a squad now of 22-odd players where I would be pretty much happy with whoever AK picked – it is that good. It isn’t like we have sub-standard players to come in. Look at any potential bench tonight.

    So rotating (rather than resting) is necessary as it keeps players fresh, reduces injuries and keeps the players happy.

  13. Borophil

    I largely agree with that though there is an element of a spine to a team. It looks as if we have enough players good enough to maintain that spine whilst still restating – a new word for us!

    I still say ignore the cards, play for the next three points.

  14. Where is everyone. Come back from Derby v QPR and there is no one around.

    The match I saw was poor in the first half to be honest, second half Derby came out and had a good 15 minute spell during which the scored. The game then drifted a bit and QPR threatened but never quite looked likely to level the scores.

    A typical Championship match. Had a couple of beers before the match with the usual Rams fans and they are adamant it is a four horse race. Hull, Burnley, Boro, Derby.

    They are looking forward to Friday when a win at Forest will take them top.

    Meanwhile I followed our progress with updates from JP. Three points vital.

  15. Well we started on fire, crisp passing, fluidity, pace, movement and probably our best game all season. It was Havana’s and deck chairs at the ready, the Pimms was ready to be poured and the Champagne corks popping as Boro put on a real show of total domination football.

    The standard of football was sublime, men against boys, Samson and Delilah, whoa what? Samson and Delilah? Well we all know how that ended. And so it came to pass that on a misty night in November at the Riverside the whipping boys came to town and were roundly being whipped and Stewy broke the deadlock by pouncing on a ball just over the half way line, charging single handedly towards the Rotherham box and hit a low left foot drive across the goal, leaving Camp no chance and into the far corner. Sixteen minutes and euphoria, this was it, 5 no 6 maybe even 7 nil it had to be, it was all one way traffic, what could possibly go awry?

    For the next ten minutes we looked comfortable in the knowledge that we knew this bottom side were going to implode as they searched for an equaliser and we exposed them and tore them apart (please no Merseyside police tweets here!). All right then maybe after half time we would put them to the sword, after all we couldn’t expect to have it all our own way, I mean Rotherham inevitably would have some decent passages of play but nothing to worry us surely.

    I’m Sorry to say but after 25 or 30 minutes it looked very uncomfortable. In fact it was excruciating at times, Did we score too early? Where we overly confident? had AK switched and changed too much? Whatever the reasons the rest of the game just ground on and was less than pleasurable to watch. The last 30 minutes and last 15 in particular where edgy, nervous and had me worried about the state of my undercrackers! Soiled but not stained best describes them especially after Fernando’s late back pass (insert your own joke).

    AK was reasonably calm throughout but the last ten minutes had him as animated as I have ever seen him. If ever he thought some of his players thought they were better than they they are then this was most definitely the night. The last ten minutes was like Tommy Cooper spinning twenty dinner plates on those wobbly poles. Its the only way I can convey how nerve wracking it really was.

    In the end we held on, clung on, and thanks to Stewy’s first half display and solo effort we won all 3 points. Bizarrely and as bad as we were for the last 60 minutes in the first half de Pena had a header which clipped the crossbar, Albert took out the KLM flight approaching from Amsterdam (when scoring was easier) and then in the second half de Pena had a header just narrowly over the bar, George hit the post, Fabbrini just after he had come on had an open goal in front of him from the corner of the 6 yard box after Nsue had managed to take on and beat two defenders on the right then lose the ball, win it back after they tripped over each other and then put in a fab cross to Diego only for him to hit Temenos! Stewy then likewise had a similar opportunity and managed to at least keep it within the lower seats of the North Stand but well over the crossbar.

    We could have won by 3 or 4 had those gone in but in all honesty it would have been a travesty. Realising the need for a bit more oomph AK had brought on Zuculini for de Pena and pushed Grant further forward and Stewy wide left but Grant wasn’t having one of his better nights. The pairing of Grant and Clayton earlier did look negative, ponderous and slow. in his short time here Zuculini certainly adds a bit more drive and positivity to the middle of the park. So much so that I think on Saturday AK may well start with Zuculini and Grant on the bench. Who would have thought that our talismanic Captain would be looking over his shoulder and based upon tonight’s performance he better get some wing mirrors fitted to check for overtaking loanees.

    4 big wins in a row now so reasons to be cheerful without doubt despite tonights inept display after our goal. AK however will be less than impressed with some of the performances, even Albert and Nugent looked a little jaded. The next three days at Rockcliffe should be interesting as I suspect there are a few shirts up for grabs for Saturday’s table topping encounter.

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