Robins Red Zone Rocket Wrecks Record Run

WELL that was a kick in the tightly clenched gnashers.

Shards of enamel were flying all over as Boro’s clinical clean sheet machine suffered a knock-out blow at Bristol.

It was a stoppage time stomach churning sickener that suddenly felt like it had doubled the distance home and deepened the mid-winter gloom.


An incredible 1460 Boro fans had made the trip, setting off long before sparrow fart to make the ten hour marathon trek only to leave deflated at the cruel sucker punch.

It was a red zone rocket that blew away Boro’s bid for the rigid rear guard record books apart leaving an historic tenth clean sheet within a whisker.

It was a goal that had “typical Boro” written all over it.

If Boro’s awesome armoured plated points collecting machine was going to come unstuck it was almost inevitable it would be at a basement battling outfit – and one who had won just one in 12 and were reeling from a dug-out axing. But then, the boss had warned a side scrapping for survival was a tough test.

And one that were the only side to beat us at home in the league. These things often have a taunting symmetry.

And perhaps more importantly it was a goal that broke the spell.

For two months Boro had zealously worked double shifts and built an aura of impregnability around the goal that has created a growing bubble of belief around Boro.

They were busily digging tactical trenches around a penalty box that was was one of the most heavily defended strips of land outside the world’s war zones and the fans bought into the impressive endeavour.

And their collective industry from front to back slowly earned respect from even the hard core entertainment evangelists who demand end to end attacking and goal thrills a plenty.

Supporters had learned to if not love then take pride in Boro’s weekly battle to force the opposition to slip into the tactical strait-jackets and slowly tighten it and strangle the game before popping in the inevitable winner.

There have been times when the games were not pretty but there was a deep admiration for the mechanical work-rate of the entire team digging in to keep the opposition at bay.

Even against Bristol as the home side turned the screw in the frantic finale and piled on the pressure with dead-balls into the box it was incredible to watch Boro throw bodies in the line of fire, dive in to prevent shots. 

In the tense closing stages there were more blocks in and around the penalty area than a bumper box of Lego.

But of course, it was always going to happen. It was beyond logic that the run without leaking would go on for ever. Boro had to concede a goal at some point. They had to lose sometime. The incredible two month long may have meant we forgot what the sensation felt like, the sting, but it was inevitable. 

Yes it is a gut-wrenching that it had to end at Bristol of all places, a team in disarray and one we needed to beat to at least partially atone for the only stain on the Riverside record


No doubt there will be immediate instinctive howls of anguish, bitter recriminations and a maybe a bit of scape-goating at both ends of the pitch. That’s natural while the pain is still raw.

And yes, it was deeply disappointing that with Derby losing victory would have opened a nine point gap on third place – with a game in hand!  – and attention would have switched to arguing over the route of the victory parade.

But it is far from the end of the world. It was a slip, a blip and a little stumble but Boro remain remarkably well placed, far better than we would have dared to dream back in August.

Aitor was angry about the manner of the defeat but philosophical about the position Boro are in – six points clear of third place with a game in hand and one more round of games gone. It was another small step towards the ultimate target of promotion.

We need a bit of perspective. Teams lose. Even good teams. It is an occupational hazard. Boro were always going to slip up at some point. But it is how the team bounce back now that matters. Now they have to show they are hungry, determined and mentally strong enough to respond in style again and to regain the initiative in the title chase.

Last season too often Boro got to the top then wobbled. The pressure got to them and they cracked and slipped back. So far this term they have showed no sign of that fragility and in the high-stakes games in recent months they have polished off all the direct challenges – from Ipswich and Derby and Brighton.

Now they have to prove they can respond to a defeat that has been lurking ominously in recent weeks. After the last defeat – the morale-denting mauling at Hull – Boro put together an incredible run of eight wins and a draw to grasp the initiative.

If they can do that that again from this position of incredible strength then Boro will take a massive step towards promotion.

The game was played under the shadow a huge half-finished construction designed with a brighter future in mind.

The Karanka project is in similar position. The framework is in place and going to plan, the shape is clearly visible and you can see exactly what it will look like when it is finished. 


Hostage to fortune: Here’s what we said before the game


AITOR Karanka’s awesome Middlesbrough machine rolls into Ashton Gate tomorrow scattering superlatives and eye-catching statistics in their wake: won eight of nine unbeaten league games; won four on the spin away from home; haven’t conceded a goal since the Repeal of the Corn Laws; five points clear with a game in hand;  meanest defence in all four professional divisions; if they score first they pretty much always win… it is pretty incredible really. It is shaping up into the season I rashly predicted back in May.

Boro go looking for revenge against the only one to beat them at the Riverside in the league this term and find Bristol in a state of chaos. They are in a relegation spot. They have won just one in 10. They can’t sign a player even at gun point from his parent club. The popular manager who got them promoted has just been sacked and the fans are edging towards open revoly. What could possibly go wrong?


                          Albert can barely believe Boro have been beaten by Bristol

For me, nothing. I think it will be routine ruthless crushing of a side in disarray. Its getting predictable but I’m going for the now mandatory 2-0/3-0 win and I might throw an extra daft quid on former Robins man Albert Adomah to harness the Football Inevitability Drive and score (any time) as well.  What say you?

Usual drill: predict the score and how the game will pan out and anything else you want: the crowd, the weather, the man of the match, how the rest will get on, whatever.  And then all back here afterwards to swap notes. Although God knows what time I’ll be back. You can predict that as well if you like.


261 thoughts on “Robins Red Zone Rocket Wrecks Record Run

    1. I’ve had certainties stolen off my toe before- never forgive, never forget!

      Yes, you out there! You know who you are and we know where you live. 😉

      Meanwhile AK says he’s gettin on with plannin Satder’s game. BUT he’s told the management who he wants. Naughty step for them if AK doesn’t get what he wants.

      It’s gettin quite interestin inn’t! Much better than AV’s fantasy island transfer saga’s of old ‘Zeplane iss coming boss! Ze plane iss coming!’ Yeah right AV!

  1. As it’s AV who is reporting that we are looking at Matt Phillips, we can take it seriously (in contrast to some of the rumours in the national press which we’ve poured scorn on).

    As I’ve said several times before I think we do lack good options up front if we get injuries, but Phillips would probably be more than just a squad player, he should be able to improve us and command a starting place.

    Smoggy has a point in his post, I don’t think we can assume that we are good enough to win promotion with what we have, even though the position is strong at the moment. If we can add quality, and don’t need to integrate them too hurriedly (because we are already doing well) it has to improve our chances.

    However, I am getting a bit miffed with AV cradling the tea mug in his videos. Surely it would be far more in character if he was stroking a white cat?

    **AV writes: I quaff a Tony Benn style gallon of tea a day. It would be very difficult to catch me without a cuppa in my hand.

    1. Now you leave AV’s pussy be! Whooohaaahaaa! Guess that one won’t last the curse of the editor’s pen long. What’s the betting AV changes it rapid like to ‘cat’ or ‘feline’!

    2. I wonder how much of it is idle gossip, column filler and lazy journalism (AV excluded from that comment of course) and how much has substance. Clearly the Lindelof one is accurate but Rhodes, McCormack, Phillips, Ramirez, Judge etc. keep resurfacing. Good to hear Abella and Baptiste are back in training although I suspect some time away from first team duties.

    3. I reckon I make around 20 cups of coffee a day and I’m lucky if I drink more than two of them. The rest get tipped out because they have gone cold.

    1. Just hoping its not Yorkshire Tea!

      **AV writes: I think the stuff we get comes from the exotic sun-kissed slopes of Eaglescliffe. So, Teasside then. ; )

  2. Redcar Red

    Stop sulking.

    It could be Tetley, Yorkshire Tea, Betty’s Tea Room Blend – we know Vic goes to York.

    Of course that presumes it is tea in there though he does say it is.

    The next question, if AV is Wallace who is Grommit? Phil must be favourite.

    Time for a new thread

    1. The first noble truth is ‘Life is Suffering!’

      If you can greet it with at least a timid smile or an occasional gwarf, Mark, then surely you’re not totally lost to the never-ending sorrow and misery that threatens to overwhelm us – which can’t be a bad thing, no?

  3. I see Mascherano has been sentenced to 12 months in prison by a court in Barcelona. As my dear departed Granny used to say what goes around comes around, not that I hold a grudge you understand.

    **AV writes: I think he has paid up and is off the hook.

  4. The things we used to watch on Grandstand and World of Sport. Indeed could you do that today? We must have had a lot of patience. Or was it the rain?

    Motor Cross
    Ten pin bowling
    Hours of Cricket ( remembered being off school with a broken leg)
    Ice dancing
    All in Wrestling

    Any others you can think of?

    **AV writes: Cliff diving from Acapulco!

  5. I used to love the Motor Cross and Scrambling, couldn’t stand the wrestling but my Grandma was a big wrestling fan.

  6. I remember Murray Walker commentating on the Motocross saying here is X (cos I cant remember who it was) in his Triumph, he has cut a diagonal set of holes in his windscreen so he can see where he was going. Mili seconds later off the road into straw bales.

    But was it better than David Coleman saying the athlete opened his legs and showed his class?

    or the classic

    Sorry, it is the C game, the one so popular with people of a more balanced nature not in denial over their heritage.

    New blog please.

  7. Happy Birthday to Alen Boksic ?

    Not from me.

    His cynical contempt for all Boro fans at Liverpool when he made not the slightest attempt to play or make any kind of contribution to the team has completely wiped out any good memories he might have left on those occasions when he decided to play.

    He revealed himself to be a spoiled egoistical mercenary without any sense of wider responsibility to any of the fans who attended or to the club that was paying his wages.

    I have never, before or since, witnessed such a barefaced downing of tools by a so-called professional footballer.

    The only appropriate response from paying customers to such contempt is to reciprocate it.

    Much the same goes for Yakuba at Wigan.

    They dishonoured the game that made them wealthy and sullied their own reputations in perpetuity.

  8. Selwynoz

    Alan Ward was bowling to a Kiwi batsman who was smacked amidships. After treatment the game restarted, it was Ward bowling to XXX, one ball left. Cant remember the batsman, it may have been one of the Crowes or GlennTurner.

  9. All classic memories. I seem to recall on the Holding one that Test Match Special broadcast nothing but helpless laughter for a couple of minutes but maybe that’s just my wishful thinking.

  10. Another classic from a seventies test match commentary is: ‘ There’s Tony Greig, in the slips legs apart…….waiting for a tickle’. I’m sure cricket commentators are always sloshed.

    I agree with len, Boksic came for a pension payout and the Boro heirachy foolishly paid him an alleged £3million a year, despite knowing he had a reputation for being a slacker.

    In those days we signed on far too many players that fit len’s description of ‘spoilt egotistical mercenaries’.

    I suspect AK, love him or loathe him will never go within a million miles of such players.

  11. Nigel
    Couldn’t agree more. One of the wonderful aspects of this present team and management is that you believe that they all really care about the club and it’s impact on the town.It’s a crusade and that’s what helps keep us going from a long way away.

  12. Matt Phillips would be an excellent signing if true. He did well in the Premier last season despite QPR being relegated. He’s been linked with Premiership clubs in this window though so I’d be surprised if we had a chance.

    **AV writes: I understand Newcastle have dropped their interest but West Brom may be keen.

    1. My thoughts exactly, BoroPhil.

      I think we all like Adomah’s style of play and appreciate how hard he has worked to transform himself into an AK-friendly wideman but Phillips, for me, is the same player but a level above. Adomah is an excellent League 1 or good Championship player in our system. Phillips could be an excellent Championship player and good Premier League player.

      My only other query would be why we’re in for him though. Between Stuani, Adomah and Nsue we seem to have the right wing position covered. Is it just a case of a good player being available so grab the opportunity? Assuming the rumour is true, of course.

      **AV writes: He is right footed but can and does play his best stuff on the left.

  13. This is NOT a defence of Boksic.

    When Boksic signed I was talking to a Lazio fan at a campsite near Paris and he said great player, WHEN he played. Derby fans have nightmares about him because he scored a few crackers against them. Some reckoned Riggott only signed so he wouldnt have to face him

    Career ran from 1987 t0 2003, 359 games and 116 goals, that is 22 games a season over a career. 40 internationals in 9 years

    He had a three year spell with Lazio earlier in his career and played 67 games, a season at Juve where he played 22 times. He returned to Lazio for three years playing 48 games scoring 14 goals, then three years at Boro playing 68 and scoring 22 times.

    He was no different at Boro than he was throughout his career, he didn’t shortchange us relative to his career, he short changed everyone. Yes he came for a great payday but throughout his career his definition of a shift was different to anyone elses.

    I know facts get in the way of a good story but Boksicknote just never got on the pitch enough throughout his career.

    I hear the talk about Sturridge at Liverpool, some professional players are saying he has to learn to play with pain. You never go out on the pitch without some form of niggle, you are rarely 100%. Not my opinion, just what I have read.

    **AV writes: I think his games played/available, games/goal and skill/motivation rates were similar to MArk Viduka, who as we know didn’t really do winter.

  14. If the club are quietly confident about gaining promotion, this window could be a good opportunity to recruit players who would function well in the Premiership.

    If they wait until the summer when they are a Premiership club the price of doing business will rise due to the telly money. At the moment it is only a maybe. I’m sure suitable clauses can be inserted to players contracts.

  15. Andy R

    Had a look at Phillips on youtube, playing for Blackpool against Fleetwood, played across the pitch but certainly looks to be right footed.

  16. This team has been built on a blue collar ethic, hard work, I hope they don’t upset the applecart, with talented players who take shifts off every now and again.
    Some of the names being touted have me concerned

    **AV writes: Some of the names being touted are complete nonsense.

  17. AV, GHW, Ian, Phil

    Fair enough chaps. I’ve only see him play on the right and once or twice as an emergency striker.

    Must pay more attention!

  18. Boksic and Viduka were both great players when they fancied it, problem is you needed them both in the squad at the same time to ensure one of them was ‘up for it’ on any given day. A £60k a week striker who only fancies it every third game say, is in effect an £180k a week striker. Which is taking us into Rooney territory.

    This week is dragging isn’t it, is that because we lost last Saturday?

  19. I hope there won’t be anyone like that, gt. AV has outlined the criteria for the guys ‘on the list’ before, and it seems the club are very aware these days of only bringing the right sort of character into the dressing room.

  20. It’s probably a sign of desperation that clubs like Burnley allow the Joey Morons of this world to brief against the Boro.

    **AV writes: Burnley turned over £93m last season and are due parachute payments of £64m over the next four years so if anyone knows about the pressure money brings it will be them. And self proclaimed football philosopher-king Joey Barton …. *shakes head*

  21. AV writes ………………………. Joey Barton….*shakes head*

    Is that your head or Barton’s? If it is Bartons don’t forget there is a barely used brain in there. Wasn’t it a wag from the Hill at Sydney cricket crowd who shouted out ‘Tuffers, can we borrow your brain we are building an idiot’

    Frankenstein may want to borrow Barton’s. From Young Frankenstein,

    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Whose brain did you put in him?
    Igor: Err… Abby something…
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby who?
    Igor: Abby… Normal. Yes that’s it, Abby Normal!

    To be fair Barton was credited by Patrick Barclay with one of the best football lines. Asked about whether Gerrard and Lampard could play in the same England team, the answer was yes, give them a ball each.

    Is there a match soon?

  22. That’s a massive subsidy they have – no wonder they would prefer the attention over spending power to focus somewhere else.

    Still, we’d only have to sell about a trillion parmos every matchday to catch up with them…

  23. Dom Shaw’s Boro notebook is a good read focussing on Tomlin and Bamford.

    We all know Bamford is back with Chelsea, it would be awful if his next appearance at the Riverside was for the U21 fixture. Tomlin apparently played for Bournemouth U21’s against Cambridge.

    I am sure that wasn’t in their plans at the start of the season. You cant blame them wanting to play in the top flight, their careers are short. It just hasn’t worked out.

    Possible moves to QPR for Bamford and Leeds for Tomlin. Good luck to both of them

  24. I am a bit early because we are about to be mullered with two feet of snow and driving winds starting in about 55 mins time, which means the electricity will be off with downed power lines, no access to the Boro updates except my short wave radio, so 2-1 Boro tomorrow, 29,344. UTB..

  25. Nigel

    Ramirez, Phillips and McCormack.

    Seems unlikely but who knows, mind you the Ramirez story was from a Uruguayan source, Phillips can leave BUT what price, McCormack unwell.

    Players leaving as part of the deals. Kike to Fulham, reach to QPR?

    Need a new blog and three points tomorrow.

  26. I wonder how all this talk of Boro making a big money signing in January fits in with complying with FFP rules. If we did splash £8m on the now sickly McCormack then it would probably mean he’d get at least a 4 year contract in order to spread the fee to make it cost only 2m this year (or possibly less if the accounting period is halfway through).

    Whether Boro would attempt to sell Kike Garcia to balance the books is debatable as since he cost us £2.7m we may incur a loss so that would be counter-productive in staying within the FFP limits.

    Boro would be better off if they cashed in on a player who cost us nothing – someone like Ben Gibson for example – then they’d probably have enough profit to pay amortized transfer fees for 3 decent buys, so Phillips, McCormack and possibly another player. But Ben is probably being ear-marked for a long-term future at Boro and any incoming players are merely arriving to solidify the promotion push. Perhaps Adomah will be sacrificed if someone like Phillips arrives but the club won’t want to risk upsetting team spirit either.

    Of course Boro may just gamble that any players signed now will all but guarantee promotion and we’ll just take any fine for exceeding FFP on the significantly larger chin that getting to the PL creates.

    My hunch is that the club will go for it knowing they only need to keep their momentum to cruise home to promotion from their current position and into the riches that await.

  27. We have another two week break so bear with me.

    Some will remember the heat wave of the summer of 1976, well I hit the jackpot I had booked a weeks caravan holiday in Cornwall. So we set off, the wife and I, with the two young ones, and we were young ones ourselves both early twenties. From Teeside to the English Riviera, only a few I knew had been there. We stopped on the way to the usual sight places like Looe, Truro, Penzanze, St Ives, Newquay, Lands End… we tried to see as much as we could.

    On the way down I drove during the night, the wife and kids asleep. My old escort didn’t have a radio, so I borrowed a battery operated cassette player and for a while I listened to the albums Wings “Band on the Run “and The Eagles “Hotel California,” absolute bliss,I was in never never land.

    So I was sad to hear the passing of Glen Frye of the Eagles recently. What’s this got to do with this Boro blog. Well don’t you think Jonathan Woodgate looks like a young Glen Frye?

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