BORO 1 [Your Name Here] 0
PHASE two: having got to the top spot it is time to fight tooth and nail to keep it.
We’ve been here before. Under Mogga, Boro were in a promotion spot on Boxing Day and in the post-Christmas games lost human shield Nicky Bailey to injury, lost their shape, lost their solidity and lost their momentum.
Last year Boro were in a promotion spot and enjoyed a 10 game unbeaten run after Christmas but couldn’t shake off the pack and got caught in a four (then three, then four again) way scrape for top spot and every time they got to the summit they slipped back. They couldn’t quite open a gap. They lacked the mental strength to grab games by the throat and kill them off, although it must be said they were up against two pace-setting teams that stuck in all the and ratcheted up the pressure by the week.
This time it feels different.
JOSE Mourinho turned up at Brighton to spark a pre-match pap pic frenzy and everyone was talking about the number two.
And that is not just his natty new buzzcut hair style.
The presence of the axed former Chelsea boss naturally put the spotlight on his former dug-out apprentice, Aitor Karanka.
Given the emphatic nature of Boro’s 3-0 dismantling of Brighton, Aitor has learned a lot of the better aspects of the Sacked One’s skill set and systematically applied it ruthlessly on the pitch.
SOMETIMES you just have to trust the manager. He picks a high-risk pick and mix team that bamboozles the fans – and then Boro comfortably beat a title rival in a promotion six pointer and finish the night on top of the league!
Aitor can throw some curve ball selections that raise eye-brows but by and large in his tenure he has got it right. Naturally when the team was named there was a mandatory weekly gnashing and wailing: “What is Aitor doing?” “He’s clueless.” “Why drop X? Y should start.” “This has a one nil defeat written all over it.” It is a weekly ritual. And as so often before, the manager is proved to be right. Continue reading Boro Go Top With Tasty Pick And Mix Selection
BORO blew hot and cold in a Baltic battle with Birmingham .
Despite the atrocious conditions in a rain lashed refrigerated Riverside, Boro almost brought the game to the boil in an entertaining first half as they picked and probed and passed with panache – but they froze in front of goal time and again after carving open Birmingham. They had the chances to put the game to bed before the break.
Then in a soaking sub-zero second half City looked slicker. They started well to sound the alarm then several times almost caught Boro cold and only Dimi’s mandatory weekly wonder-saves kept them in it. “Freezer jolly good fellow.”
HEX-FACTOR! It’s been a journey. But we nailed it. And we really smashed it – the long- standing East Anglian hoodoo.
On a night when both sides went into the game tentatively and labouring under the weight of history, Boro finally delivered a Suffolk Punch as Ipswich Nemesis Nugent tucked home a goal that had “inevitable” engraved on it. Two-nil. Yes. Get in.
Yes, our jinx-busting powers were more potent than theirs.
WHATEVER the result, spirited Boro – the club as a whole – did themselves proud and flexed some Premier League muscles on a night that felt like a trailer for next term.
I know it is terribly unfashionable these days when only emphatic victory in swaggering style is deemed good enough, , and it seems heresy after a cup quarter-final exit , but I really enjoyed that game and that experience. I know you are not allowed to say it these days after a defeat but it was a great match.
Boro did well at times, they competed, they created a couple chances, they never stopped beavering away but even Aitor admitted they were beaten by a better team and by two moments of magic from a quality player, Gerard Deulofeu. After the early goals well organised Everton were fairly comfortable. Had Boro nicked one it may – may – have sparked a fightback but in truth it never looked likely. It is easy to look for scapegoats and lace into individuals but there are always two teams on the pitch and one of them were markedly better. Especially up front. It happens.
But beyond that, it was great night.