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.
This time Boro seem more balanced, more determined, stronger mentally and physically, the squad is deeper and has a wider skill-set, and the entire club are a year more experienced on and off the pitch. The pundits were gushing after Boro put down a marker with the clinical dismantling of previously unbeaten Brighton and for the first time all season the various sceptics in the home ranks were won over and ready to believe.
It is time to press home that advantage and grow that belief in fertile condition. At rain-lashed Rovers the conditions will be awful, they have picked up a bit under Paul Lambert and will be set up to defend deep… we know the drill… but a win there in front of 6,000 travelling Teessiders will underline Boro’s promotion credentials – and set up the bumper crowd home clash with Sheffield Wednesday perfectly. Good displays and good results can widen the gap, ignite the faithful and give us the escape velocity to escape th epack.
Over to you. Don your guessing wellies and predict the score and how the game will unfold and then all back here after the whistle for debriefing and celebrations/recriminations.
COME ON BORO