Boro Role Reversal Wins Battle Of The Bosses

BORO are back on the two-points-per- game golden trajectory and back in second spot after winning a tough game 2-0  in atrocious conditions at Huddersfield.  

They worked hard against a fired up team looking to impress a new boss, were resolute and organised at the back, industrious in midfield and kept yet another clean sheet – and then when the chances came the took them.  Both of them. Deadly.  “We’ve only had two shots” deliciously sarcastic Boro fans taunted the frustrated home fans. 

In-form midfield metronome Adam Clayton slammed home a deflected first half opener against his former club 15 months and 69 games after joining from the Terriers for £1.5m then dramatically   improved over-lapping full-back Emilio Nsue sealed it with a late second, also his debut strike after joining at the same time.


It was Boro’s fifth win in six league games and while it wasn’t a classic (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) it is three more points banked and pressure piled on our rivals.  

It certainly wasn’t the perfect away day;  the first half was scrappy and the fired up Terriers snapped at loose balls, dominated and created a string of chances and but for the safe hands of alert Dimi the tale could have been very different indeed. “It wasn’t good,” was Aitor’s verdict – although he was beaming after the game and happy with the points.

Huddersfield had the bulk of the possession. At one point in the first half it was over the 70 per cent mark and had created the better of the chances while Boro had one and Adam Clayton rammed it home in scruffy but determined fashion.  It was like a Riverside reversal with Boro under the cosh for a change and hitting on thebreak.

But having weathered the storm – literally – Boro settled into a shape, took the sting out of the opposition and gradually gained the upper hand.  It was a solid display at the back with Dani Ayala outstanding again in a fine illustration of Karankanaccio on a day when once again the focus was on the managers as reflections of higher powers.

For the second time this term the Boro boss found himself cast into a sub-plot focussed on a philosophical proxy battle against his dug-out rival. 

Earlier in the season it was honours even in the battle of Madrid dug-out deputy face off when he was pitted against fellow former Real assistant Paul Clement at Derby in a game presented as an arms length Bernabeu battle between the acolytes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.   

On that occasion Karanka’s side again scored early then dug tactical trenches and played Ellerman Beeline possession football and looked destined for what in retrospect would have been a massive victory until a late Ram raid forced a leveller.


This time it was a Kulture Klash with Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund mini-me David Wagner who has swept into West Yorkshire branded as the Anfield man’s disciple of Deutsche high tempo approach and who has embarked on the grand adventure of bringing their ‘gegenpressen’ to the Championship. It was second shelf Jose v Jurgen. 

His impact looked obvious. Basement battlers Huddersfield were zipping about in assertive clusters, looking to turn over possession quickly and going mob-handed looking to retrieve the ball when they lost it.  Then when they had it they looked to pass it quickly, find width and space and get it – and bodies – into the box.

It isn’t yet the finished product but you could see that, if the team buys in to it and can keep up the fearsome tempo, it could be effective. It will swamp the disjointed defences of lesser teams than Boro and will be interesting to watch over the season.

The German former USA international arrived last week but this was his first home game and the Terriers gave it the big build-up. The fans certainly seemed to appreciate the change and the 15,000 plus crowd was far higher and louder than usual – although much of that was because of the 3,900 Boro making a right racket.

Huddersfield cashed in on the easy imagery of their German boss David Wagner on his home debut by introducing new run-out music: the Ride of of the Valkyries. I love the smell of cliches in the morning.

The game was far from an epic symphonic tale of romantic heroic adventure beloved of his German controversial composer name-sake Richard – but neither was it the cheesy pastiche of the unkempt Brazilian Wagner who was a karaoke flop on X-Factor.

It was an entertaining encounter in very difficult conditions with both sides giving it their best shot in demonstrating very different approaches.

Boro scored an early goal through Adam Clayton – who has waited longer than the entire Wagner Ring Cycle to net his first for Boro.  His effort, against this former club naturally, came in a rare Boro first half attack, took a deflection and was powered by Football’s Inevitability Drive – as predicted in the Gazette match preview.

After that Boro found themselves in unfamiliar territory as they dropped deep, closed players, squeezed the space and made it very difficult for the opposition to get behind them and looked to hit on the break. It was hard work in the first half as Town created three good chances and hit the bar from a free-kick but as Boro got to grips with the game they started to take control and the second was far more comfortable with the home side barely created a serious opportunity.

Boro soaked it up – which was fitting on a day when the pitch was heavy and slippy and the rain lashed down – and did what so many teams had done to them this season in fact… but with added goals. It showed another string to their bow and one that is part of the promotion armoury.  Sometimes Boro will need to do that.

It could be a useful dress rehearsal for the Everton game.


JUST a quick word on the amazing show of support for Ali Brownlee from the 3,900 travelling Teessiders.  After the game Aitor dedicated the victory to the Positronic BBC Tees microphone man in a sincere and unsolicited comment which was a nice touch.

Perhaps more poignant though was the loud and chanting of “One Ali Brownlee” and “He’s one of our own,” at various points during the game after a co-ordinated campaign on social media to show the fans’ backing for Ali, who is battling bowel cancer. Ali has been part of our cultural landscape for 30 years and more and has been central to the sound-track of all our supporting lives. And wherever you stand on the rara-chickenrun spectrum there is no denying that he is Boro through-and-through.

There are plenty of clubs where the players and managers have their name chanted. There will be very few where the chairman’s name is hailed enthusiastically. But I can’t imagine there are any others where the local football commentator’s name rings out like that.


What we said before the game…


THUNDERBASTARD!    And  a Mist Opportunity.   That’s the recent stand-out trips to Huddersfield covered.  Now – after what seems like a month of dreary doom-laden talk about an on-going crisis – Boro go there again knowing they can go top of the Championship table …  if they win by two goals and Brighton don’t beat Birmingham, the team with the best away record in the division that is. So there is everything to play for.


Fogs of war:  Boro lose their way in a game that precipitated yet another crisis.

Boro will be highly motivated. They know they have a point to prove.  They know they have not yet ignited.  They are grinding out the wins – four out of five – and they all count. But for a variety of reasons they have not taken off yet: an inter-continental injury to Cristhian Stuani hasn’t helped, neither has the slow bedding in of Carlos de Pena  meaning the boss has yet to field what would appear to be his “first choice” front end.

And the tendency of opposition teams to set deeper and set out tactical tank traps has been a recurring problem too – although players queue up to tell us after games that they are “getting better” and dealing with it and results (if not always performances) suggest that is true. Last season, or the season before that many of the games of that complexion ended as draws. Or defeats. So we are inching forward. Slolwy.

Yes, we would all love to see cavalier football with Boro blowing teams away but sometimes we have to recognise the presence of the opposition and their dogged determination to organise and fight and frustrate our aspirations.

At Huddersfield Boro face a demoralised side on the back of a poor run. They have a new boss – the Kop Klopp proxy David Wagner – that may prick them into action in a bid to impress or may leave them disjointed in a flux between changing tactics,  a new philosophy and tempo.  Boro can’t afford for Huddersfield to frame the game; they must  impose their own tempo and style on the game, get on the front foot from the off and get the first goal early on and then take it from there.

I think Boro will win by the two goals they need – although I can’t call Brighton v Birmingham so I don’t know if our crisis club will end Saturday at the summit.  And as a romantic and a firm believer in Football’s Inevitability Drive I have a sneaky feeling that Adam Clayton will finally score his first Boro goal against his own club. He certainly deserves it on showings so far this season.

It would be nice to “do it for Ali” as well. Boro fans will have been rocked by the sobering news that Ali Brownlee is suffering from bowel cancer and will be backing him to win his battle.  I’m sure Boro’s motor mouthed microphone man will be listening and kicking every ball. And I’m equally sure the 3,000 plus travelling supporters will express their support for him in some way. He’s one of our own.

Now over to you. Usual drill. Nail your colours to the mast. Predict the score and how the game will unfold now then later on we will regroup for a debrief.



95 thoughts on “Boro Role Reversal Wins Battle Of The Bosses

  1. I’ve almost written off the Ipswich game. If we get anything from that after Tuesday it will be a bonus. They (and Murphy) also seem to be hitting some form.

    However, we should rotate on Tuesday and a lot of it seems to be quite obvious (to me anyway). Mejias will come in for certain, I’d keep the back four the same but I guess Nando might come in for Gibson.

    Leadbitter will come back and as Forshaw started his career at Everton (is he a fan?) it would be nice for him to start.

    Then De Pena, Downing in the middle and Stuani on the right. and I’d play Kike up front.

    Would AK agree? Not sure. De Pena and Kike played against Man Utd so he might – wouldn’t be surprised to see Fabbrini/Nugent in their place though.

    1. ‘I’ve almost written off the Ipswich game!’

      Pouquoi mesame?

      Do I detect a slide in your otherwise strident adherence to the principles of ‘Positivism’. Are we not 2nd in the league and moving forward with panache under the firm guidance of our excellent manager AK?


    1. Is the problem to be psychological, physical, tactical or a bit of a combination? Will the players be off a high mentally below optimum due to increased effort? What about travel? Ipswich is a long journey.
      Solution- there are some!

  2. I can only get home once a season working where i do, so i wasnt at the match so i can only really comment once maybe twice a season, but what i can say is Nsue’s goal specifically the build up was brilliant. Also Claytons goal showed some determination that you do not see every day, credit to him for that.

    So, AK will need to be at his best to rotate the squad Tuesday with the bigger prize being Ipswich on Friday.(in my opinion) Rest Nsue and bring back Kallas for Tuesday ? Rapid Yanic would have been an option for Tuesday, his pace on the left to get behind Everton would i think been a decent option. Kike to lead the line on Tuesday ?



  3. I think I disagree a bit actually, it’s a cup QF, they don’t come along that often. Wasn’t that bothered about the Man U game but this is a stage further on and if we win, well who knows.

    Though having said that, after my earlier post I’ve realised we can rotate a bit and still be strong in both games whilst keeping the majority fresh.

    1. That’s the ticket, borophil – PMA in good measure.

      ‘I believe!’

      I firmly believe due to the fact that we are now 18+ games into the season, that the Boro squad is well drilled to cope defensively and we’ve even got Woody in reserve. No team is perfect mind you and the keepers will have to be on the ball (:) ).

      You shouldn’t need to motivate the two midfielders coz anyone we any professionalism will want to get their teeth into Premiership opposition and prove they can best them.

      The real issue remains in the forward line. Solution? Go for set pieces with a passion – free kicks and corners. Get Stuani on the add a bit of energy to the front. As someone has said Nugent can play left, Stuani centre and Albert right. Stewi D can play at no.10. All for the LC QF. Then onto the Ipswich game where I’d play the same team again if when we win Tues 🙂


  4. Wagner couldn’t hinder our progress to the Holy Grail of the Prem.

    One of the reasons I enjoy Italian football is the dedication to the defensive cause. It’s one of the reasons I appreciate AK’s Karankaccio and his large proportion of clean sheets.

    While all agree the match was dour that does not necessarily mean we played badly. Good teams don’t only ride their good fortune but create it. Were a group of Italians reading RR’s match report they may well just shrug their shoulders at the 25% percent possession ‘enjoyed’ by Boro, sigh with content at the clean sheet, three away points and 2nd place in the league.Th en they would grin broadly and chatter animatedly at the sentence ‘.. [Stuani] played a brilliant ball through to Nsue who took his shot calmly and stroked the ball home for our second.’

    We defend and defend and defend and assume the front four have enough about them to win the game. It’s how many a scudetto has been won and why the no. 10 is even more revered in Italy than the no. 6. I am aware AK is not Italian. We are, by all accounts, playing badly and underachieving. And yet we’re second. I don’t believe we’ll kick on and start annihilating teams, but we’ll grind our way through the mud fields of the Champo.

    I don’t agree with all of AK’s tinkering but I do recognise his method and can’t help but admire it.

  5. Defensively AK has organised us brilliantly and we are grinding out results but there is more to come offensively from this side. It hasn’t clicked yet and I don’t mean at the expense of our defensive superlatives. We have too much talent at the offensive end and probably more so than at the back especially when you consider how much both ends of the Team cost.

    Add up the spondoolies spent on Nsue, Kalas, Ayala, Gibbo and Friend then throw in Dimi’s huge expenditure and contrast that with Nugent, Downing, Stuani, Kike and de Pena and the difference is almost scary, something has to give at some point surely.

    Looking at Everton AK will undoubtedly rotate again, Mejias will come back in, I suspect Nugent will be rested for Ipswich and that Amorebeita will return but who will drop out as both Ayala and Gibbo have been immense defensively and will be wanted in tip top shape for Ipswich so will Stephens partner Fernando at the back?

    I think AK will possibly favour Forshaw instead of Fabbrini. Whilst Fab can literally be Fab he can also be (and often is) the weakest link. Everton can score goals and carelessness in giving away possession will not be part of AK’s thinking against a Premiership side who see this Cup as probably their only chance of silverware in quite some time.

    If Forshaw isn’t 90 minute fit then Zuccolini might get another start despite his lacklustre showing on Saturday but in the No.10 role with Clayts and Grant behind him. Failing that Albert may be put left again (I know !!!!) with Stuani right and Stewy central and some switching and swapping going on with Kike up front.

    I’m not certain that AK would throw de Pena into this one so will probably keep him on the bench. Whilst Everton can score goals they are also incredibly porous at the back so if we keep a clean sheet we have proven recently that two shots are all we need (OK maybe three).

    A Cup Semi Final would be great (as would a final in February) but the pessimist/realist/pragmatist in me would have my hopes leveraged more towards three points at the Tractor men on Friday and whatever unfolds on Tuesday night will be a bonus if we pull off another Cup fairytale.

    With over 30,000 in the ground there will be a cracking atmosphere and I think we will put on a sterling display regardless of our line up and I have a hunch that it may end 0-0 after ET and go to penalties again. If so then I suggest the North Stand end if we win the toss as although the South Stand will be bouncing there will also be a large contingent of Toffees at the same end in the SE corner.

    The Optimist in me thinks we will win on Penalties on Tuesday with a sterling rearguard action and then go to Ipswich and break another hoodoo on Friday.

    1. 2-1 to the Boro RR! Goals coming from a corner, Ayala and a free kick in the second half by Stewi D.

      The above is of course when AK follows my advices from my post above.

      ‘NOW is the time for PMA! NOW is the time for the Boro to win!’


  6. Great reports by RR and Clive. Two ecellent goals at Huddersfield and magnificent three points. Of course I was not on the match but saw extended high lights on Boro+. I am gonna enjoy the season how ever we get the points. And I agree with RR that we can still improve a lot.

    Downing’s pass to the other side for Nsue just before the second goal was world class. As was the flick-on by Forshaw, too. A great gols in all by Nsue.

    I was devastated to hear about Ali Brownlee’s cancer. I hope all the best for him. I am able to hear his commentary even here – and if needed in my car via Boro+. The commentary is not the same without Ali. Hope to see him back soon.

    Up the Boro!

  7. Redcar Red

    Well over 30,000 looking at the ticket map especially as there will be a full allocation for Everton. I am going for 33450.

    The thing that struck me from the extended highlights and having listened to the match was their seemed more control second half. I know the commentary said we had a strong wind behind us first half, from the highlights it looked like Huddersfield were over hitting crosses and passes second half.

    From those who went did the conditions have a big effect? I know when I have played you often played better in to the wind, had less difficulty controlling the ball and making passes, there again I was not the worlds greatest footballer.

    1. The wind was awful, Ian. I blame the plate of baked beans I had for lunch.

      Seriously, though, whenever either keeper kicked the ball from a goal kick against the wind the ball only went a few yards and kept ballooning up into the air. Conditions really were very difficult.

  8. May have missed it but did AV have a daft quid on 2-0 with Clayton scoring?

    **AV writes: Yes, but two separate bets. Quids in again. I’ve been doing 2-0 and 3-0 every week all season and I’m well ahead. I do the occaisional gut-feeling first-scorer but I don’t do those doubles. There’s far too many variables and it hands the advantage to the bookie.

  9. The first ten minutes will be vital. Everton will come out to to get an early one and I think they have more fire power than MU and are as good as anyone on their day.

    A big game for Ayala and Gibson to prove if they really are Premiership players.

    1. It’s a great game for all boro fans, if we go out, so what, if we go on we get another fun match to enjoy. Strange thing, the three great cup games have been against three teams who enjoy enormous prestige and played us as though we were worthy opponents, and didn’t we love it, settling down to play our own game regardless of the result, and nice to see. Will Everton address the match in the same way, interesting, or what? Will they rest a handful of players? We shall see.

  10. I can’t imagine Everton resting players, you would think this is a cup they want to win. To be serious about it, playing a team away that’s second in the championship and with a big crowd, would demand Everton’s first team.

  11. Nigel

    After their leaky 3-3 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday Ian Snodin in the Liverpool Echo commented:

    “There’s no time for Everton to be licking their wounds after the Bournemouth game, not with such a huge fixture coming up on Tuesday.

    The trip to Middlesbrough is, in a word, massive. It’s a chance to put ourselves in the semi finals of the League Cup, a couple of games away from Wembley. And look, how much do we all want to go to Wembley to cheer on the Blues?”

    That sounds to me like Everton are perhaps putting greater importance on this game than their League games which is the opposite to us and of course could be their Achilles heel. As Boro fans a trip to Wembley for a Cup Final would be nice but I think a trip to the Premiership would be nicer and more profitable.

    The whole article is here and would indicate that Everton are far from solid:

  12. Damn! Working with Skysports news on in the background. Kit Symons has tipped us to nick it.

    Odds 7/4 Boro, 8/5 Toffees, 12/5 the draw.

    Tight, my view is Everton should be favourites.

  13. Anyone who plays the fantasy premier league game know Everton are in good form – Barkley, Duelofeu and Lukaku in particular. They are big favourites and will surely be desperate to win. Will be nice to see the opposition come and play some football though.

  14. If we can keep a cleen sheet ….

    Everton is not good at defending but deadly in scoring. They are favourites, sure. Tough!

    Up the Boro.

  15. No prediction …. I daren’t. So long as whatever happens we come out with heads high before the tricky trip to Suffolk. Lets hope its a good match for all the neutrals out there as well with neither team parking the bus.

  16. Powmill –

    It doesn’t sound like Everton are very good at parking the bus, the question is are our strikers up to making the most of the opportunities that arise and can our defenders raise their game to Premiership standard?

    Can’t wait.

  17. I think it is literally too close to call, 50/50.

    Everton can score goals but we can shut up shop. We don’t create many openings or chances but have a high conversion rate when we do. If Everton come out and try to batter us they may leave themselves exposed at the back. I can’t see us going on the offensive as its not AK’s style but I can see him dropping Fabbrini in favour of someone more stable and my hunch is Forshaw to come in as the No.10 with Fab on the bench to bring on if we are chasing the game.

    I think he will also drop Albert to the bench with Stuani preferred wide right to battle and scrap and maybe create some space for Nugent (or Kike if he gets the nod). Big question for me is if Kalas is fit does he play him for his defensive solidity? I suspect AK will stick with Nsue to counter Baines and give them something to worry about defensively.

    I’m going to stick my neck out and say 2-0 to Boro, should be a cracking atmosphere!

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