Nugent Boils Over In Nithering Nil-Nil

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.”


Then, as feet turned numb and fingers froze among frustrated fans, the thermometer blew in stoppage time as tempers bubbled over and David Nugent had a hot-headed moment as he put a choke-hold on Stephen Gleeson and threw him to the floor as the City man tried to prevent a quick free-kick. Aitor wasn’t happy but said he won’t appeal. How could he?

Arguably the ref could have nipped it in the bud – the City man stole the ball from the official’s toes and  carried it away.  A  whistle then and a card would have prevented the escalation in a mini-melee and we wouldn’t have to worry about the three game ban.  Not that there are any excuses for such rash action two feet away from the ref. It was born of frustration but it was stupid.  A hot-tempered moment of madness to f-f-f-f-f-inish off a nithering nil-nil.

It was a grey day for the battle with the Blues. Heavy ice-flecked rain from a slate sky and a bitter blast created the kind of harsh wind-chill micro-climate that makes you seriously question your sanity. It was colder than a penguin’s bum.

It was the sort of day when in darker times – the Tartanised perma-frost of the Strachan era for example – thousands said “sod it” and voted with their feet opting to stay at home in front of the fire with Jeff Stelling. And thousands who turned out today may be regretting they didn’t take that option.

It was a day when only goals were going to warm the soul.

The pitch was just a few fork prods away from being saturated after a morning downpour. The conditions made for moments of clown-shoed chaos on the pitch with a sticky slippy surface meaning the ball would not run true or bounce evenly while players were sliding and stumbling in cartoon surprise at key moments.

At the break Teesside’s former Premier League ref – who has called a few off himself over the years – suggested that if the rain stepped up a gear back to bouncing stair-rods then the man in the middle would seriously think about postponement. It eased off. A bit. But the temperature continued to drop. And the pitch remained a greasy test.

Despite that, Boro played well with some precise passing and neat exchanges… but they were always only a studless slither away from farce.

Boro went close in the first half as a loose ball ran to Stewart Downing on the edge of the box and he slipped as he shaped to shot then tussled on the floor with a defender who won the battle but then promptly miscued his clearance which squirted to Grant Leadbitter and sent a shot skidding through the box only to come back off the inside of the far post.

stewie slips

And down by the flag in the South East corner there was so much surface water that every aqua-planing run down the flank threw up artistic splash-back trails. At one point George did a passable impression of the Tom Finney statue at Preston.

There were two ridiculous slithery scrambles in the Blues box that lead to shots charged down and screwed clearances as Boro kept their cool if not their feet in the first half of the nithering nil-nil.

But temperature at football is directly proportionate to the scoreline. It didn’t feel too cold as Boro dominated the first half, patiently carving out chances that insulated us with the inevitability of goals to come.

So as the game wore on and the final ball floundered the mercury plunged as Birmingham came into the game, looked sharp on the break with Gray and Maghoma – a former Boro target under Tony Mowbray – dangerous.

And it was positively perma-frosty at times as City looked dangerous on the break and the icy hand of fear gripped Boro hearts. And their nether regions.  Jesus it was cold.


It was a frustrating game that Boro should have won – but could easily have lost.  But it is another clean sheet, one of the building blocks of a successful season and another point banked. And Boro remain second and just two points off top spot. But it was a missed opportunity and  leaves the table just as tight although results everywhere teased Teessiders: “Let’s see what you could have won.”

It was a chiller to start a run of B-movies that could set up a blockbuster finale to the season.  After Brum, Boro face Burnley on Tuesday then go to Brighton before a Boxing Day beano at Baltic Blackburn.

That run of fixtures can shape the script for the rest of the season.







QUICK: a  few words on Birmingham before I go out – very much with arm twisted – to drink lots of beer.  Obviously, on paper, Boro should win. Seven wins out of eight in the league. Three wins in a row at home with no goals conceded.  Six wins and a draw in seven in the league at the Riverside in fact. With 11 scored and just two conceded. Birmingham started well but have now suffered three defeats on the bounce. Go figure…

Boro launched a tricky six game sequence that will take us into the New Year with a jinx-busting 2-0 win at Ipswich last week that put them briefly on the top. Boro now face a swarm of Bs as after Birmingham come fourth placed Burnley, leaders Brighton then away to the Blackburn and the home of the car-smashers.

But it is not just testing times for Teesside: all the rest of the top six square up to at least three of the others too. The next month should see the table really take shape and with some of the top teams showing signs of the pressure too. Hull have taken just one point from three games. Burnley have wobbled a bit. Brighton left it late last week.

If Boro can keep their rigid rearguard intact through this run, if they can grind out wins that keep us all complaining about the quality rather than the result, if they can keep just doing enough whatever the aesthetics, then the next month can prove pivotal. Potentially, if Boro beat Birmingham they could go top and hole them under the waterline.  Then Burnley…  a win against them could badly dent them and open a big gap.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Back in Aitor mode:  we must take only one game at a time. It will be very difficult. They are a good team. We must be at our best and play in our way and with our intensity and then for this reason we can win the game.

I’ve had a quid on  2-0 and 3-0 every week so far this season and I’m well ahead. I see no reason to change policy now.  Over to you. Predict the score and how the game will pan out and then we will regroup later and swap notes.





116 thoughts on “Nugent Boils Over In Nithering Nil-Nil

  1. The eleven minutes of highlights paint a picture of a one sided first half and a fairly open second half. Looking at the way the ball was running it seemed a fair effort and as Spartak said maybe a foot through the ball may have worked but they did try.

    That is the danger of potted highlights, you get to see the good stuff, the rest ends up on the virtual cutting room floor.

    Nugent looked to have been daft, in rugby the free kick would have been marched forward 20 yards, ten for each interference and Nugent wouldn’t have got frustrated. But those are the rules for our pampered darlings, we would have been howling for a red if the boot was on the other foot.

  2. Just seen the “highlights” for the first time. How did the Birmingham CH miss that, and Nugent got what he deserved. Also repeating what has been said, he definitely should be fined by AK for that. Just stupid.

  3. I have no intention of feeling sorry for Higgy, and as for being treated badly, er, I don’t think so. He was in a good place. When you get your first start on the ladder which can lead to football management, which in turn can lead to mega bucks, you keep you trap shut, do as you are told and turn yourself into a very large sponge. You watch and you learn, above all, you do not take sides in any differences of opinion, not ever.

    His chances of ever seeing or coaching Real Madrid were, as they say, slightly below his chances of being crowned King Higgy the first. Every thing he had ever learnt watching Boro’s earlier bosses was not going to equip him for a decent job in management. In fact, quite the opposite. So he should now be enjoying the ride, be ready for any job that comes along, and still learning every day. Instead of which he is back to square one having missed a full year of on job training, as we all know, the best training there is.

    1. “Keep your trap shut,do as you are told…watch and learn..above all, you do not take sides in any differences of opinion, not ever.”

      The Nuremberg defence. And guaranteed to make you an absolutely useless member of any organisation, incapable of providing the slightest bit of creative input, as you concentrate on watching your back.

      The only guarantee that we have that we have lived, that we are individuals, is that we have effected some form of change, made a difference. Human beings should have higher aspirations than to emulate a sponge. Whatever your boss says.

      If you namesake were alive today he would be spinning in his grave.

      1. Management ‘modus operandi’ of any long standing institution, Len! Suck up & get promoted. Never mind ability just feel the conformity.

        I’ve had the displeasure of workin in a few of these places and once when I personally witnessed the most sychophantic display of bum kissin I’ve ever seen or heard before, I was almost physically sick. Truly my stomach was retchin & I had to leave.

        It is only when these ‘operators’ find themselves in it up to their necks do they call in a consultant to tidy up the mess and then they take back the controls and push the consultant firmly out the door.

        Checkout the background to the British Civil Service and their impact in the Crimean War. Then there’s more recently the Falklands and many others.

  4. Appreciate this is a bit off topic, but i am convinced that the teams coming up from the Championship are far better equipped for life in the Premiership than they used to be. All of the promoted teams last season are more than holding their own and Leicester with a few adjustments are playing so well. Bournemouth at the weekend were a credit to themselves. The Championship grind and the mentality to find a way I think pays dividends when we reach the promised land. What goes up does not always necessarily have to come down. Anyway UTB.

    1. AE

      Interesting point – of course a lot of teams in the Championship have Premiership experience and quite a few have managers with knowledge of the Prem coupled with a new breed of overseas managers bringing new ideas.

      Of course the Championship is really a war of attrition and grinding the points out and consistency still remains the key.

      Boro are hard to break down and whilst we have mutterings of lack of goal scoring and flair on the team I would much rather win 1-0 than have teams coming to the Riverside who can open us up.

      A few tweaks in the transfer window left hand side needs looking at and perhaps still need a striker, Bamford or if we can work within FFP, Jordan Rhodes who is currently in the middle of a lean spell for scoring goals. Some wriggle room could be made financially using assets of George and Ayala as we have cover at left back and could go in for the return of the Redcar Rock.

      A thought struck me tonight after the Chelski result. If the special one left it could pave a return to Real Madrid who are apparently sniffing round regarding his ability. The only thing to mar this is he would need a good number two and I wonder if AK would go back there or is his mind set as chief coach now?

      Just need to keep things stable and hold our nerve and finish in the top two! Last season at Wembley devastated me and it took me a long time to get over it .

      On a personal note I’m on the mend but told I can’t go to any games whilst it’s cold weather also like you I will watch and listen but not from so afar.


      1. Thanks OFB, You raise a very good point, I don’t think Uncle Jose will last the season and neither will Raffa, If Jose did return to Real then as always he would use a local speaking assistant. Its a very good point.

        I had wondered about the recall of Husband, unless its purely cover for George, during the winter months, unless there is more to it.

        Good news you are on the mend. My seat is 3500 miles away, but between this blog and Gazette day match updates, makes it easier.. UTB.

        1. At least with the Internet our far flung friends worldwide can keep in touch I love this blog it makes you feel in touch with the groundswell of support.


  5. I am in bed with a flu today. I often wonder why you say ‘the weather was Baltic’. Where does that come from and is it only said in Teesside?

    For work I need to travel in the Baltics, too. They are south from where I live but the weather seems a bit more moist and a lot of wind down there. Especially Tallinn is windy – still in the other side of the town (linn locally) from the sea, you can see the trees are bended by the wind.

    AV, can we already start to talk about the Burnley match? Or wait until a new blog?

    I will go for a 2-0 win tonight. I was horribly wrong with my prediction of the Brum match but I read we played well in the first half. Even AK said we should have scored as many as I suggested.

    I hope we get the three points and could start to prepare for the six pointer on Saturday. Up the Boro!

    1. Jarkko

      I’ve gone for a 1 0 but like you my. Predictions have been dreadful.

      Baltic i think came from the sailors in Royal Navy who served in the artic Baltic icy conditions! It’s a general term in the UK so is well known but we use it a lot here in Teeside.

      Interesting piece by AV in gazette today about possible shape of team using Forshaw in centre of a midfield 3 playing a 4 3 3 .

      Get well soon you have Baltic Blackburn to look forward to and it gets really cold there !!


  6. Spartak,

    Yup. Suck up, get promoted.

    And you end up being Phil Neal.

    **AV Writes: Yes boss, you end up being Phil Neal boss.

  7. Bob, I see. The sailors never were in Finland in the middle of winter as the sea was frosen up then. That was before the global warming as that has hit the us more than most – the sea hardly ever froses in front of Helsinki nowadays. But in my childhood in most of winters.

    Thanks for cheerful messages. Not bad really in truth I am sleeping for the late kick-off our time. Up the Boro!

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