Boro Campaign Dented On Super Tuesday

SUPER Tuesday: a potentially decisive day in the campaign.

It was a chance for Boro to swing the stats decisively their way, to build up the “big Mo” and pile the pressure on the other candidates at a pivotal point that could have a massive impact on the campaign.

Boro were cashing in one of their two potentially decisive games in hand and it was a golden opportunity to seize the summit and turn the screw, a chance to grab the title race ruthlessly by the jugular.

The second the match at Blackburn kicked off they went back to the top of the Championship table. Even if they could just hold that they still had another ace up their sleeve to turn the screw on their promotion peers.

Typical Boro!

1Steele

The golden opportunity was squandered in quite painful fashion with a 2-1 defeat that will leave many fans now harbouring dark “here we go again” fears of a familiar fade in the final furlong. Now they will have to go back out on the stump  and do it the hard way.

It was all set up. It was all scripted. The old boy returns to damage former employees… well some of that was true.

It was supposed to be the night when fired up Jordan Rhodes started to repay his £9m transfer fee with a goal romp on his Rovers return. In fact he was denied a goal – or more – and the headlines after a string of excellent chances – by a Boro old boy!

Jason Steele was one of the first out of the door under Aitor Karanka when the new boss swept into Hurworth.  He was sent off in Karanka’s first match, then injured, then cast into internal exiled before being first loaned then flogged off to Blackburn.

He responded by “having a Simon Eastwood” against Boro with four brilliant saves to deny Rhodes on his Rovers return.  He dived in at his feet in the first half as the striker latched onto a poor back pass and tried to round the advancing keeper only for Steele to dive in and touch the ball off his toes.

Then, when Boro were chasing the game after Akpan’s headed opener soon after the interval. Steele  pulled off an impressive double block and then somehow stopped a shot squeezing through his legs late in the game.1pair

And it was two-for-the-price-of- one in the Nemesis stakes as Blackburn’s killer second goal came from Danny Graham, a two time Boro reject. He seized onto a flick on as Simeon Jackson – a one time Southgate transfer target back in the day – beat Ben Gibson to a header and when the ball landed kindly he took a touch and stabbed home.

Graham, who Boro flirted with but opted not to buy after a solid if not spectacular loan spell in Karanka’s first season in which he worked hard but rarely looked prolific, ripped away Boro’s advantage at the top. That’s got to hurt.

It will have to be the hard way now. Again. And we will need to be up for the fight. Boro remain well place. They are still a point off the top and still have one game in hand on Burnley but the summit squeeze is starting to get uncomfortable now and any wriggle room has been eroded. Now there is now room for  error. Boro need to rapidly return to highly organised clinical consistency.

To be fair, no-one could accuse Boro of not setting out to win. Karanka sprung a tactical surprise and started with two – yes TWO – strikers on the pitch with Jordan Rhodes up front and David Nugent just behind and two wingers.  It is exactly what many frustrated fans had been crying out for: firepower on the pitch and a team set out to attack.

A debate raged in the press box (and in cyber-space) as to whether it was a 442 with a slightlyor whether it was 4411 or if it was just the standard 4231 with Nugent playing as the number 10 and more advanced than usual.

No matter, it was two strikers on the pitch. And that is £13m of shooting stars and two players time who are time served in the Championship.

Not that Aitor Karanka will have set out like that because he was bowing to public pressure or was playing to the gallery. No way. Even though he had a little bit of a post-match grumble about the widespread clamour for 442. That may have been a bit of frustrated defensive spin but he certainly didn’t start like that to appease anyone.

Boro have been trying various shapes in training and have started to edge towards a more assertive style in recent games with an enterprising approach against Leeds, Cardiff and Fulham. And the poaching pair had played together at times too.

1Rovers

But changing a shape isn’t a silver bullet. It comes down to players, tempo and attitude – and to the other team. Boro should have enough in their locker to win games no matter how they line-up. Games aren’t played by static shapes. Formations are fluid and dynamic and change as the game unfolds. It is for strong teams to impose themselves.

Whatever the tactical nuances the fans deserve more though. Boro were out-fought at times and Rovers were strong in the tackle and won a lot of individual battles and a lot of second balls. They were organised but no great shapes and both goals came from Boro failing to deal with fairly routine situations. It was a disappointment.

Especially for the magnificent supporters. There was an incredible turn out from the travelling Teesside contingent again: just under 4,000 on a midweek is amazing however you stack it up.

Yes, there were 7,000 sold on Boxing Day before the flood washed out the festive fixture but they all had the option of refunds and the majority declined. The ones that did dip out will have been largely memthe economic DiasBoro who work away but return to Teesside for their Mam’s Christmas dinner, their pressies and their annual festive fix of the Boro.

That game was postponed as much of Blackburn was under water during the storms that lashed Lancashire. And the menacing weather picked up where it had left off in December – if it has ever even stopped.

It was freezing. It always is. It lashed down. It always does. The weather and both teams conspired to cancel out any threat of football breaking out in the first half.

At least it gave us the chance to see if Jordan Rhodes can do it “on a cold wet Tuesday night in Blackburn.” Oh…

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Blog-graphic

 

 

I RETRO-live-blogged the 2004 Carling Cup final yesterday.  Tweets, video, photos, contemporary stories all repurposed and presented in a modern multi-media, interactive rolling news style accessible across a series of platforms. Its the future of journalism.

And to be fair it was fantastic. All the build-up from the night before in the Gatekeeper, the DiasBoro descending on Cardiff from all directions, the excitement of seeing the stadium, the hopes and fears. And then live tweeting the game itself, team news breakouts, half-time updates, on the whistle report, colour bit… all “as live.” I was tingling all over again by the end. Jesus wept, those last ten minutes! Phew. Thanks to everyone who joined in. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did please tell the powers that be.

If you missed it,  if you have an hour to spare and fancy a headlong plunge into pulsating memories of golden days past, the entire day is here on a dedicated live blog. It loads newest on top – which is daft – so you’ll need to start from the bottom. Enjoy.

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205 thoughts on “Boro Campaign Dented On Super Tuesday

  1. Goodness, what a lot of angry people. Well, actually a small handful of angry people (but prolific posters) amongst a relatively reasoned bunch of posters. I see Spartak’s back in force…he’s posted more than Ian! I take it we lost last night.

    Anyway, what I wanted to share was an article I read in an Australian craft brewing rag tonight about beer in sports stadia.

    Apparently there’s a bunch of stadiums that are starting to recognise that poor quality and over-priced food and beer are simply not acceptable, and they are inviting local micro-breweries to supply their outlets. Mostly the examples were from North America, but Burnley and Crystal Palace both got a mention, coincidentally two of my favourite ‘authentic’ football clubs outside of the Boro.

    Sadly, the trend hasn’t reached Australia yet, despite a thriving beer scene. It has reached NZ though so surely can’t be too much longer. I love my sport. I love my beer. Imagine if the two could be joined! Sorry that it was old fashioned print media (yes, it still exists) so I can’t share the full article.

    **AV writes: Brighton do a “guest ale” and scheme where they ask the visiting club what the travelling fans are likely to request so Boro fans get offered things like Black Sheep and parmo buns. Nice touch if a bit of a busman’s holiday.

  2. A few thoughts…

    RE the Reply feature: I agree with some of the posters above, it has unfortunately seemed to lead to a culture of multiple one line posts and in an ever-increasing number of cases tangentially linked discussions and even video links! Whether they serve any purpose to the discussion, I leave up to the dear reader… However, a lot of that being “missing” was what attracted me to this blog in the first case; if you saw 70 comments you could be reasonably assured that 60 of them were thought pieces, with some smaller responses…

    That aside and on to the football.

    RE AK’s carefully considered 442 comment. Accepting that this was a planned and utterly deliberate line, I find myself simultaneously praising and admonishing him. Praising because, fair play to him for saying it – he’s the manager, and none of us behind our keyboards or phones would be able to do his job. Regardless of how many league titles we’ve won on Football Manager (I once managed a Boro quintuple). Fair play for putting us back in our place.

    But, but… his comment works if we had actually played with 2 strikers. We played with 2 strikers, yes, but we didn’t play with 2 STRIKERS. We played one striker and a player usually accustomed to that role playing in a withdrawn playmaker position. So, whilst AK is correct that we did play two strikers (Nugent, Rhodes), technically there was no change in formation, and the majority of the requests have not been to have 2 strikers on the pitch (you could argue that Nugent/Stuani were already playing together frequently), but to have 2 players in a striker role, i.e. 442. AK didn’t give us that, so technically he can’t accuse the fans of being happy!

    Furthermore, he is treading a fine line between what AV claims to be smoke and mirrors deflection, and alienating some of the fans. 4,000 people travelled cross country in filthy weather on a Tuesday to watch that, and they deserved to see a committed performance. Whether we played 2 strikers or 4, the team were simply not set up correctly and not committed enough, and that is their fault and his. He didn’t react quick enough or get their heads straight soon enough. That’s a sad fact.

    I said following the Fulham win that I wouldn’t be wringing my hands if we didn’t win this one. Well, that was on the assumption that we would at least draw! Although, even though we didn’t get any points, I’m still not in hand-wringing territory yet. We’re still well placed, I think the games in hand were actually a burden rather than an asset, and we need to quickly forget about it and move on. Hopefully by blasting aside Wolves, and getting on another good run of 7-8 wins on the bounce, which we all know the team is capable of.

    I will say one thing though, one note of caution. This season is beginning to get a faintly familiar feel to it. The failure to grasp opportunities at the top, the declarations of “we’ve got a game in hand”, morphing to “we’re only one point of top”, morphing to “we only need to beat our clear rivals”, morphing to “Burnley have got a hard game, they’re bound to slip up soon…”.

    Last season we saw the agony dragged out further and further, with an ever decreasing possibility of promotion as Bournemouth and Watford swaggered through the last quarter of the season – boshing us at their grounds in the process. This season we’ve already been bested by Hull, and with Burnley at Turf Moor still to go, I’d like to hope that we can put ourselves in a position of not needing points in that game. Hopefully by smashing Hull at the Riverside, although I seem to remember quite a few draws in recent games between us at home. And, if it requires it, sticking 11 behind the ball and strangling the game at Burnley towards a 0-0, which is far preferable to a shellacking.

    Onwards and ?

  3. GHW:

    Thanks-as ever- for the excellent link.

    Talk about Capitalism disappearing up its own contradictions.

    Our biggest clubs are now entirely controlled by foreign capitalists who have no connection to and little interest in the communities which support them. Their interest is in exploiting for all it is worth the huge revenues which the globalisation of the game is now delivering.

    This is Marx’s concentration and centralisation of capital writ large with the bigger players doing all that they can to ensure the continuation of their revenue base by squeezing out competition.

    They would like to carve up the game into super leagues and competitions in which they would have a permanent place. So they would like a super league with no relegation or promotion, and the use of wild cards in competitions, so that they could still play in them even when they do not officially qualify.

    This is a response to the increased levelling out of the kind we have seen in the Premier League this season where the “top” teams are struggling to retain their pre-eminence in the face of astute recruitment and investment by the likes of LeicesterCity and Spurs, and the relative decline in performance of clubs backed by oligarchs and billionaires.

    It’s a process that will be accelerated by the increased Premier League revenues next season which will level the playing field still further in the competition for the best players.

    Indeed it is the very competitiveness of the Premier League that is driving its revenues, and that makes it such a huge hit across the globe in a way that La Liga, for example, cannot emulate.

    That is why the President of Barcelona FC can say that his biggest rival is not Real Madrid, but the Premier League.

    The bind that the big clubs are facing lies in the contradiction between the desire of capitalist enterprises to eliminate competition and the fact that it is the very competitiveness of the enterprise they are involved in which is driving their income.

    Their desire has a kind of purity. It is for competitions without the competition.

  4. I enjoyed your discussion of the super league Len and I love the Zen like concept of competitions with the competition. That should surely diminish attendances so much that we would finally get to learn what one hand clapping sounds like.

    Karl Marx is just one player in the market for economic theorists. Other theorists are also available.

  5. Many of us have reflected and dissected the performances of late, myself included, whether it be defending, formations, Karanka comments.

    I would like to say I can’t remember the number of genuine scoring opportunity’s have gone begging by us. Rhodes himself must have missed at least ten, Newgent close to the same. Those games would have been walk overs if they had gone in. That is a positive. Let’s hope they start hitting the back of the net. If they do, we’ll dance to promotion.

  6. Previously we bemoaned the lack of chances created, after Blackburn we bemoan the chances squandered. An identifiable small margin of improvement methinks.

    Rather than score a hatful of goals each game I still think Rhodes was bought to convert one of the couple of chances we created each game. By which criteria he is failing, but I’m confident he’ll come good.

    AV has written a typically great piece on the EG site about AK’s post match comments.

    I remain a supporter of AK but Gibbo should have a quiet word in his ear and tell him he may deal with the media in any way he sees fit, with the exception of never saying anything that isn’t glowingly positive about the fans.

    It makes AK look churlish and arrogant, unnecessarily upsets the supporters, undermines the great work the Club does elsewhere with in the community and generally gets my goat.
    This confrontational approach feeds into the wider narrative of contempt for the travelling support which allows Sky to make fixture changes at short notice.

    After ‘likebuttongate’ I’m staying well clear of the Reply function debate.

  7. At the risk of flogging a dead donkey, can we please get back to defending like dogs and leave the front end of the team to score one goal, if they can. The system of playing one striker and changing him at half time seemed to be working at the latest two wins, so why change it? it led to the exclusion of Ramirez (a major player for us, already.)

    Please note, our main challengers are now using the methods that got us to the top of the league, namely, keep it tight, play on the break and above all don’t fall behind. They have realised that the 4-0 win is not the way forward, there simply aren’t enough of them, and the downs are horrendous.

    Just a note on the Blackburn match. We still seem to think that teams are parking the bus for ninety minutes, if only, life would be so easy. No, all these teams have the same routine, it goes like this, they start off with at least ten minutes of frantic attack, anyone with the ball at his feet will shoot, even if he’s never scored in his life.

    That frightens the opposition and gets you to twenty five minutes. Then a frantic defence until forty minutes, followed by some serious attacking until half time. They always start the second half by attacking and shooting like crazy for ten minutes, and end the match in the opponents penalty area. Blackburn goals were scored one minute into the second half (his first since the old king died). Their second goal was late on by a player who had forgotten how to celebrate.

  8. Blackburn 2 Boro 1

    Arsenal 1 Swansea 2

    Liverpool 3 Man City 0

    West Ham 1 Spurs 0

    Which is the shock result ?

    Just saying like

    Come on BORO.

  9. Very interesting watching MOTD last night. They seemed to be indicating that most of the sides in the Prem, including several of the ‘bigger’ and most successful clubs, were using 4-2-3-1. Now, where have I seen that before……….?

    **AV writes: It is pretty much the default across Europe’s top divisions now.

  10. I enjoyed this blog more before the reply button came. Also, I used to read every post but now ignore a certain poster.

    Losing at Blackburn was disappointing but it just sounded like one of those nights. We had several excellent chances. It was a big difference to our defeat against Bristol for example, which was a woeful performance.

    The set up looked unbalanced before kick off. Nugent and Rhodes are too similar and a creative player was missing in central midfield, regardless of the formation. I think what we learnt from this game is that our best 3 in the 4231 is Downing Ramirez Adomah.

    Up front we can play either Nugent or Rhodes. Central defensive midfield is any two from Clayton, Leadbitter and Forshaw. Defence Freind, Ayala, Gibson, Nsue. With De Laet as cover. That squad is defintely good enough to get us enough points for automatic promotion.

    Keep the faith

  11. gt –

    you are right, which is why it was so frustrating. For me the Blackburn away performance was miles better than the home one yet we got more points from the home game. I still don’t think we played that badly on Tuesday. I’ll say again if we had taken any of our chances, we’d have won the game. Even just before they went 2-0 up, I was still thinking “if we equalise here we can win it”. But we didn’t and we didn’t.

    Weather tomorrow looks horrendous by the way which probably doesn’t favour us.

  12. “I don’t know why you want to put me against the crowd” (AK)

    Poor AK just cannot help himself.

    He will have been briefed by his press officer to say that he was not criticising Boro supporters. Even though he was.

    After this “clarification” (apology not deemed necessary) he blames the media for creating a conflict between himself and the crowd.

    The media committed the crime of reporting the words used by AK in two separate press conferences. The words were of his own choosing. The message one that he evidently wished to get out.

    Press Officer leaves with head in hands.

    As the pressures mount in the run-up to the season’s climax this is the time to man up and take responsibility for your own decisions, rather than to cast around for unlikely scapegoats.

    **AV writes: It’s the Gazette what done it.

  13. len,

    I think AK deserves a bit of leeway on this – forget about it and move on. whatever the reasons for saying it, I really couldn’t care less – in fact I found his comments quite funny. Certainly as one of the 4,000 there on Tuesday I didn’t feel offended or criticised.

    **AV writes: I though it was encouraging that he has started to get to grips with Teesside’s unique tone of world-weary point-scoring sarcasm in adversity.

  14. Birmingham 1 Hull 0

    Sack Steve Bruce

    That’s automatic promotion gone

    Be lucky to make the play offs

    Wrong formation

    Players not trying

    Just saying like.

    Come on BORO.

    **AV writes: Eight points from six games (Boro have nine). Yet to listen to some people they are mentally and tactically *far* better than Boro.

  15. Toral tormentos Tigres!

    “Salir de tarjeta libre de la cárcel” as our bench would probably say!

    **AV writes: I prefer to think of it as an “Oportunidad”.

  16. Off topic so apologies in advance but entirely predictable that in this particular week Question Time books a footballer as a panellist, this time it’s Jermaine Jenas who will have to field the mass tutting.

    When is football going to retaliate by sending in Garth Crooks? That ought to put a stop to it.

    **AV writes: I’m surprised they have opted for a return fixture after the dog’s breakfast that was self-appointed football philosopher-king Joey Barton.

    1. Yes but if that comes true it would only be papering over the cracks and prove we should have changed to 442. All that investment in forwards and we would still only be the 7th highest scorers in the Championship.

  17. Just had a look at the Gazette site. No fewer than seven articles which refer to Karanka’s comments after the Blackburn game. I know you are inclined to defend your profession and colleagues AV, but this does seem to be over the top.

    As someone above has said, it’s a complete storm in a tea cup, it’s difficult to see who would really be ‘offended’ by his comments. A clear demonstration of the manufactured outrage that social media has delivered. Move on please.

    **AV writes: The nature of the modern news industry is that we react to what people are talking about. We know how many people are reading the stories. We see how many comments they are getting, how often they are shared on twitter and facebook. I presume it dominated the forums and phone-in after the game too. So I can assure you that yesterday it was “hot.”

    I agree that much of it is driven by social media – again, welcome to modern world of news – and it probably has little long term importance. But it is still very real. And measurable. And ultimately all post-match reaction is “a storm in a teacup.” It is part and parcel of the football juggernaut.

  18. It was just petulance that was dressed up as “mind games”. Another example of the manager’s inexperience. He is still on a learning curve.

  19. Just had a look at Redcar Red’s link…and aligning to the view that we shouldn’t use the reply button. Just trying to imagine the meltdown on here when (if) we draw with Rotherham! Would happily accept the predicted outcome though.

  20. Agree GHW. I don’t believe for a minute it was mind games. Journalistic license extended. Don’t get me wrong, I love AV’s writing but sometimes he falls into the hyperbole trap or simply believes he needs to defend his industry.

    I also think AK was just being a bit petulant, but I don’t think worse (or better) of him as a result. What I don’t agree with is that anyone would be seriously offended by his comments and that people aren’t capable of recognising that he was just a bit miffed…so what, it happens to us all.

    Anyone that has any interaction with social media is subject to this frustration and recognises it’s unfortunately become part of life. He’s an inexperienced manager, it would be unrealistic to expect he gets everything perfect all the time. If he makes a media mistake that provokes ‘outrage’ on social media (and even in print media) I suspect most of us couldn’t give a monkeys. I have seen reference back to Strachan’s ‘drink and drugs’ comment. I have to admit I wasn’t following too closely when Stachan was in charge, but I was surprised by the negative commentary on this particular quote. I would suspect that a fairly large quota of Boro supporters “of a certain vintage”…which I think encompasses this particular blog demographic…would have said much the same thing on multiple occasions in pubs around Teesside and beyond for years.

    It’s manufactured outrage that creates headlines and fills columns, but it’s meaningless in the long run. If he ‘does a Ron Atkinson’ then that’s different, but basically all he’s done is said what most of us would say in the pub after a tough day at the office. If people are offended by this then they need to have a look at the world around them. Time to move on.

    **AV writes: I don’t see how I am “defending my industry.” I explain how stories happen at times to illustrate the process and show how the Gazette work but other than that I don’t really care too much about how other media outlets work.

    1. Nice bit of editing AV, good word, I should have thought of that myself. I’ll accept that you may not be guilty of defending your industry, but I do think your suggestion that AK’s comments were calculated and an example of ‘mind games’ seems a bit far fetched. It seems a lot simpler to me but no real concerns either way.

      **AV writes: In my experience, and I am in the tunnel after every match, Aitor Karanka very rarely does or says anything that isn’t carefully considered and calculated.

      1. Okey-doke, your the man on the spot so I’ll take your word for it. Still don’t think it’s a big issue and it doesn’t change my view of AK at all. Time for bed in Aus, see you all next time.

  21. It comes back to the over importance applied to social media, Twitter Blogs Phone-Ins etc.

    The vast majority of Boro fans don’t concern themselves with much apart from results. I always laugh when I see phrases like “Twitter has gone in to meltdown” Who exactly takes notice? It’s just pub speak converted into 140 characters, the ratio of fans who go to games vs fans who Twit must be thousands to not many.

    It’s always “fans fury”, “outrage”, fuelled by the need to fill column inches. Cliff Mitchell would be saying, have a word with yourselves.

    1. The great Cliff Mitchell. I think he interview me in 1980’s when Boro fans from abroad were rare. Now it a bit more common after the McClaren and Juninho years!

      UTB!

  22. I think we need to be mindful of a commercial aspect in all of this. Which of our “newspapers” (and I use the term loosely as there are some media in print form which makes our very own Spartak seem positively mainstream) seek to sell their product by having dull and uninspiring headlines?

    In order to survive and prosper the Press (especially so in this country) seek to have attention grabbing banners across their front and back pages. Its what journalists get paid for after all and it feeds into the desires, suppressed or otherwise of the masses. Take the one which is literally poison in Liverpool which had an ancient picture of AJ and an inaccurate description of the brand of his swimming attire just this week. There was zero relevance in that picture to the actual news story apart from a sickening rhyming word which wasn’t even accurate but who cared as it festooned their front page and probably increased circulation by 10% that day.

    “Miracle breakthrough cure for cancer” and “Trumps Tiny Trumpet” seem to be popular today but neither are likely to be exactly what they seem. I hope the first one could be true but I would have nightmares if I seen the second one which just typifies the iq of the Presidential election.

    Did AK actually say what was reported, yes he did. was it a slip of the tongue in a regrettable spur of the moment outburst or did he repeat the exact the same thing again to a different group, yes he did. I tend to give AK a bit of a break at times as his command of the English language is good but not great and some of the things he says is probably coming across as more blunt and direct than meant because of the lack of nuances and subtlety.

    Was the big story of the night that we stank Ewood Park out for the first 45 minutes and that as a team we were back to being dysfunctional up front as a result of the manager’s selections which was corrected far too late by the introduction of Ramirez or “442gate”? I think we all know that “442gate” was deliberate and intentional and mini mourinho in its delivery and intention.

    Was I outraged? Not really. Was I irked? Yes because simply selecting two strikers doesn’t and didn’t make it 442 any more than when Stuani plays wide right. It was deflection.

    Journalists have to report news and in order to keep their employers happy it has to provoke and generate purchases in print along with hits on websites and clicks on voting boxes. Did it do that yes, so job done and move onto the next story or if there is mileage in it and you are still getting nibbles then drag it on for a few more days, its business, not personal and pays the mortgage.

    Now when are we going to get the story that Ayala has ruptured his Achilles and will be out for 6 months or is he starting tonight?

  23. **AV writes: In my experience, and I am in the tunnel after every match, Aitor Karanka very rarely does or says anything that isn’t carefully considered and calculated.

    So you are saying he meant it then? Another example of a refusal to admit he got it wrong. He also said he was surprised that Blackburn changed their tactics from the ones used at the Riverside game. Well he had 90 minutes to adjust to them and failed. If he was unable to combat them with the starting lineup he should have used his substitutes much earlier.

    Let’s see what his lineup is tonight. I very much doubt it will feature both Rhodes and Nugent, and Ramirez must be nailed on to start. I also expect to see Nsue reinstated at right back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Downing on the bench either.

    **AV writes: It wasn’t the heat of the moment. He said it pitchside then went upstairs and calmly repeated it to the main press conference.

    1. GHW

      I think tonight is another of those “must win games”. It isn’t the time for playing mind games or naughty stepping. As much as I suspect AK would love to drop a few from Tuesday I think he will go with his biggest and best, not to do so and then lose would make his 442 jibe look even more petty and ridiculous.

      Dimi
      then a back 4 of
      Nsue, Fry (or Kalas) Gibson and de Laet (or Friend)
      Clayts and Forshaw
      Albert, Ramirez and Downing
      Rhodes up front.

      He may bring Stuani back in at the expense of Downing or Albert but I think he will start with something pretty close to the above. If he does and we lose then the frustration will be directed towards individual performances. If he rotates or tinkers then it will be what’s the excuse this time, 4231 or the fans?

  24. I think to say ‘we stank out Ewood park’ in the first half is a bit much. We still had several good chances and Blackburn never looked like scoring.

    I expect Nsue to come in for Friend, Clayton in for Leadbitter and maybe Kalas for Fry.

    up-front possibly Adomah-Ramirez-Stuani in behind Rhodes though it is hard to call. could easily be De Pena-Downing-Adomah in behind Nugent.

    and what has happened to Kike Sola? and will De Sart get involved in the next week?

    1. I totally forgot about Kike Sola – he seems to have disappeared off the face. I suppose there was always the danger that once Rhodes signed that he would be out of the picture.

      His brief cameo suggested he isn’t a number 10 (Ramirez first choice, Downing second) and he won’t be the lead striker (Rhodes first choice, Nugent second), so where does he fit in?

      It will need some cracking injury list before he’s given a run out I would have thought.

  25. I’m confident for tonight provided there are no curve balls in the team selection.

    The twin strikers option, which should never have been tried for a tough away game, when it meant dropping Ramirez and/or Clayton, should be put to bed.

    Nugent and Rhodes never combined effectively, never looked like a natural pairing, and looked less like a work in progress than a contender for the knacker’s yard.

    Naturally, AK said he will probably try it again. Acknowledging mistakes, especially big ones, doesn’t come easily.

    For tonight the team almost picks itself.

    My only deviation from the obvious would be to restore the Nsue- Adomah combination on the right.

    De Laet looks the real deal, both in defence and attack. He is certainly a more reliable defender than Nsue. But Nsue and Adomah have an instinctive understanding, and get such evident enjoyment from playing together that they constitute the kind of effective working unit that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

    Downing owes us one after Tuesday, and I would keep him on the left.

    Clayton, Forshaw and Ramirez should be certainties.

    Albert’s form on the right has been a revelation over the past few games. I hope that AK doesn’t compromise this by switching him to the left in order to accommodate Stuani.

    If common sense rather than tactical genius prevails then I’ll go for a handsome and cockle-warming 3-0, and a few more bob into AV’s account.

    **AV writes: Yes, I could do with that topping up.

  26. **AV writes: It wasn’t the heat of the moment. He said it pitchside then went upstairs and calmly repeated it to the main press conference.”

    Did he say “So there” as well?

    **AV writes: I think there may have been a “for this reason” in there.

  27. The Hull defeat last night felt like a Boro victory, a win tonight is a significant swing and a win with three (ish)goals would be welcome to put us ahead on GD. I am looking forward to the match, bit nervy, we have to win though. UTB

    1. Looks like a one liner without too much thought or substance – does it have an agenda???

      Couldn’t resist!!!

      UTB

      🙂

  28. Wolves haven’t won in eight games? They have to win sometime but I think this will be a draw. Typical Boro 1 – 1 Wolves.

    I hope that isn’t a one-liner or I’ll have to stand in the corner.

    UTB,

    John

  29. Nah, yer alright there John! There’s a few big letters and those little spots at the end of a sentence – reckon you might getaway with it!

    Oh!! Just realised I’ve used the bloody reply button. And there’s no vid link – I’ll have to rectify that. I know how the lads like Norman W !

    UTB

    3-0 but I won’t say who to till yer give me my ball back!

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