The Fogs Of War: Boro Show Bottle And Battle

UNLEASH the fogs of war…

As the mists that shrouded the Riverside Stadium cleared and the debris of a furious battle was cleared away, a drained Boro side could smile and proudly survey the scene of a famous victory.

Passionate Boro showed the bottle and battle, the hunger and the ruthless desire needed to win things. By hook or by crook. By sheer force of will. By somehow getting over the line by sweat-soaked industry and fierce mental strength no matter how bruised and drained the bodies and no matter how long it takes.

They may have left it late to write off Reading in the tightest of 2-1 wins but it was worth the wait. It could prove a watershed. It could turn out to be the moment Boro seize control of the Championship promotion race.


The celebrations on the whistle were incredible. There was an intensity that spoke volumes about exactly how significant the stoppage time sucker punch was. And it was well deserved after a Trojan team effort.

It is nice to have flair and finesse and play with a bit of a swagger – and Boro showed that they could do just that in a cavalier opening spell as they carved Reading open with some delightful football.

But sometimes you need to get down and dirty, you need to throw bodies in the firing line and keep plugging away.

Sometimes you need to show spirit, strength and a cut-throat malice. You need to kill teams off even if it means tooth-and-claw, hand-to-hand combat.

And that’s what Boro did. Having lost the lead, lost the initiative and, it seemed, lost ground in the promotion push, they fought back with a tangible hunger and desire while Reading fought among themselves.

Battling Boro showed nerves of steel and the zealous belief in the cause that wins wars. And wins titles.

And the supporters stayed with them all the way too. The roar in the closing stages was in perfect harmony with the exertions on the pitch. Admittedly that backing was not without flinching and fretting in a frustrating finale as it seemed Boro would squander a golden opportunity to seize the summit and the title initiative.

It wasn’t a display for the faint hearted. Boro nerves were stretched to breaking point. Again. Stomachs were knotted to the point of pain. Again. Bodies and minds were wracked by a combination of fear, adrenaline and nausea. Again. That’s this season all over.

And as the clock ran down, and the pressure rose the was a growing sense of hysteria that mounted and threatened to explode the Riverside.

The soundtrack in the final frantic phase was high pitched yelping and nervous squealing. Then Pinball Wizard Adam Forshaw slammed in the winner after a bout of bagatelle in the box – possibly the most beautiful and dramatically scripted goal since Massimo Maccarone  – and there was a sonic boom as the emotional dam burst and tear-flecked relief flooded freely in a frenzy of stranger hugging EIO-ing.


And then that roar was echoed by the sharp crack of hearts breaking in Burnley and Brighton.

Boro have put down a massive marker now. They have shown can handle the heat in the promotion pressure cooker. After Hull and then this, they have shown they have the steel and the spirit to do this.

And they showed that whatever the others can do – Brighton grabbed a late winner to plunder precious points – they can match it. And raise the stakes.

The scene was set for a dramatic and cinematic night before the game as the fog rolled in, Teesside was wearing its spring finery, a thick murky shroud of mist.

On the approach the stadium there was some confusion as none of the usual landmarks were visible: no Transporter, no Temenos, no ship…. no stadium until it loomed up as you reached the Ayresome Gates.

It wasn’t anywhere near the fog-horn inducing precipitation levels of the imfamous Manchester City League Cup pea-souper in 1991 or Huddersfield two years ago on kick-off but it was enough to give the ground an eerie feel. As if we weren’t all feeling B-movie sinister shivers of dread already.


And as the game wore on ever more wispy strands drifted in from the river and crept over the East Stand roof and by half time it was quite hard to see the far side and the meagre huddled group of 148 travelling fans.

Boro were fine. They had Grant Leadbitter’s laser stare and Adam Clayton’s psychic spatial SatNav to pick their way forward through midfield while Emilio Nuse was lighting up the final third.

Stewart Downing had a bright game too, with some lively movement and deft distribution after slowly feeling his way into a central role.

But the beacon for Boro was the performance on the left of George Friend and Albert Adomah, both battling as if their families were being held hostage.

The pair were studies in perpetual motion and instrumental in almost everything creative that Boro did in a blistering first half and at the heart of the hand-to-hand fighting as the game wore on.

It was the same all over the pitch. And in the stands. Everyone believing and fighting and willing to sacrifice for a common cause. A team and town united.

That’s the magic mix that wins things.



164 thoughts on “The Fogs Of War: Boro Show Bottle And Battle

  1. Mark

    Of those Husband may be a decent option given he has done well at Huddersfield and is a specialist left back. Cover for George.

    Derby fans have cheered up a tad following recent improved results. In our Friday meeting I was asked who we play tomorrow and I said Bolton – the view was worst team they have seen, didn’t cheer me up because Charlton were in disarray.

    I was then asked how many games do we need to win to get promotion, three maybe was suggested.

    I said it could be as many as four because one of those would mean defeat for Brighton or Burnley. So much depends on each round of results, we will know better come teatime tomorrow.

  2. Tricky one with the team selection. I agree that the best solution would be to get the points on the board, but Bolton have been so abject recently that there must be a part of AK thinking about the Burnley game. Besides which, the game against Burnley is a SIX POINTER. The critical thing is that a defeat there directly helps a rival, and therefore we need to keep something in the tank.

    How do we do that best? Well, that’s tough. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Nsue continue as a winger, with Kalas dropping in at right back and Albert taking a rest. I would be tempted to give George a rest and slot De Laet in at left back, and also to rest Clayton and give Forshaw a start. I’d stick with either Downing or Ramirez for the central role and then either De Pena or Downing for the left wing. I’d probably go with Rhodes to start and be replaced by Nugent on 60mins, regardless of the score.

    That’s probably more changes than even AK would risk! At the end of the day though, all of those players would walk into a Bolton starting 11, and we should try to be positive and send a message out to our rivals. That line up could even change depending on what happens tonight. If Brighton lose, AK may be tempted to go with his strongest 11 to really put the pressure on them.

  3. Smoggy

    I must admit I am a believer in getting the game in front of you won, ideally be three up after 60 mins and take players off.

    That is too simplistic an approach because we don’t know who is carrying a knock, a bit under colour or not quite at their best.

    The main thing is to win tomorrows game

  4. If Stuani was playing for West Ham, the other player would have been suspended instead.
    On Bolton NO messing about get at them and if we score early no sitting back, pile it on, don’t allow them to get up any confidence.

  5. Given the tight goal difference between Burnley and ourselves the Bolton game gives us a chance to improve it by a few.

    Who know knows goal difference could determine the title or an automatic place. About time we had a goal spree and give our nails a chance to grow abit!

  6. I would rest Leadbitter and Nugent tomorrow. Take Friend and Clayton off if we have the luxury of a good lead.

  7. It would be a mistake to ‘rest’ any key players tomorrow for five[ish] reasons

    – one, it would undermine the message that Karanka is attempting to tell the team that Bolton will be a tough game, they may not believe him if he gives the impression we can manage to win with a less than full-strength line-up.

    – two, tomorrow is a good opportunity to add three precious points to our tally and take us ever closer to automatic promotion – Boro at their best should beat a poor Bolton 9 times out of 10.

    – three, drawing or even losing to Bolton will halt our momentum and give the players a negative feeling – now is not the time to worry about whether the players are feeling leggy, they will be full of adrenaline after Tuesday.

    – four, Burnley play after us and we don’t want to give then the incentive of knowing a win will take them back to the top – better for them to feel they must win at Brum and put them under pressure ahead of the showdown at their place on Tuesday.

    – five, a Boro loss may possibly lead to Brexit (i.e. Boro Exit) from the ever closer union with the Premier League and ultimately our place in European football (scare story alert!).

  8. Nigel –

    Yes, I agree we have more than eleven players who should be regarded as starters – but if we saw some players who are more ‘squad’ players (e.g. de Pena, de Sart, Kike Sola, Fry) getting a run out then I’d be concerned.

    Also, resting ever-present players like Adomah or Friend may be seen as not regarding Bolton as a serious threat.

    But I would want to see the strongest team possible starting in order to both send the message that this is a very important must-win game for us and try to actually make no mistake about getting another valuable three points to keep the momentum as we may only need six more to get promoted.

  9. I see that the Gazette has now done a major piece basically ripping off the original Ex-mil challenge.

    Just as a brief reflection on here a couple of weeks ago on the best outcome for the Boro of the Brighton-Burnley game got inflated into a Gazette article within a few hours.

    We’re going to have to start using the copyright mark to protect our ideas.

    IPR is big business. Maybe we should cop a bit of the action.

    Setting up the blog as a limited company in the business of manufacturing original ideas?

    A privatised Boro think-tank.?

    With a shop attached?

    We should get it up and running soonest, before the Gazette steps in.

    **AV writes: We do it every year. Please leave through the Gift Shop.

  10. Disturbing ideas being put forward on this blog and I am referring to the grandiose ideas re. the team for Bolton.

    Can we agree that we should go down on our knees and thank the lord for a four point lead over the third team, and as a follow up that we have three winnable fixtures starting with Bolton. Now, it seems to me that we should move heaven and earth to collect three points at Bolton, even if we had people sent off or injured. Every three points is now a hammer blow to our rivals because time is running out, and they are not making time any more. All three teams are staring down the barrel of a gun, blink and you are gone.

    I hope that ak and the team have considered every angle and are prepared to do whatever is needed.

  11. As an aside to football…

    If you think when it comes to enforcing the paying of UK taxes for big corporations like Google the law is an ass – and feel powerless with the invasion of privacy that Big Brother Google brings – then you may find this Gazette story quite amusing:

    And if you want to get to the bottom of the story…

    OK, it’s not exactly Bernie in Binns shop window but I think a mini-protest has been made.

  12. Plato

    There is little point having a fully fit squad with no injuries if they are wearing speedos on the beach but no place in the premiership.

    Three points tomorrow and forget Burnley for now.

  13. Well you know what they say Ian – if you can’t take the heat… 🙂

    I think Brighton 5 Fulham 0 will ensure that the team selection against Bolton won’t be taken lightly – plus evidence of the boost an injury time goal can give?

    BTW possible promotion on Tuesday is now officially off the agenda

  14. We need to take each game as they come and in total isolation. Distraction brings its own punishment. 100% effort must be applied to winning the next game, nothing else is relevant or matters. Each game that passes with 3 points brings us a step nearer as the games run down. Complacency will punish us if we start to believe our own hype or worse still start to indulge in arrogant dismissal of opponents based on mere league placings.

    Preston and Reading brought us maximum points but anyone who was there can testify that both games were less than comfortable or that we were in control and comfortably cruising. Ideas that AK’s rotation is a master stroke of genius because of the points haul in those games are misplaced. We got the points but we had to fight and scrap for them and we had players played out of their best positions and needed Subs to rescue or turn the games in our favour.

    Maybe the Subs were an act of Management genius or maybe they were as a result of poor decision making in the first place. It doesn’t really matter now, there are not enough matches left to get into point scoring. The only points that matter at this moment in time are the ones recorded on the league table regardless of how we get them.

    If we approach Bolton tomorrow as anything other than a clinical ruthless dissection then we will come unstuck sooner rather than later. Bolton will not lie down for us, some of their players may be of the view that a decent performance now may catch Karanka’s eye and rescue them from impending League 1 oblivion. Indeed their live Sky Broadcasted efforts may catch the eye of several Championship Managers looking to boost their squads in the summer.

    Our record against the poor, weak and struggling would bring a tear to Mother Teresa’s eye and indeed Bob Geldof may even feel feel inclined to return his honorary Knighthood in deference to our charitable status. Hopefully nobody has stormed off or thrown toys out of prams this week and everyone is wearing their own jersey and sweatshirt tomorrow on the bench. Bolton is a “Typical Boro” Banana skin in waiting. AK may tinker, rotate or switch flanks tomorrow and indeed we may even get another 90+ minute winner and all will be well but I’d much rather see the best 11 go out in the best cold blooded tradition and seize the moment from the off.

  15. Hmmm! Brighton thrashing Fulham 5-0, when Boro could not win against Rotherham and Charlton does not make me feel very confident about tomorrow, especially since by then, Bolton may well get the benefit of a “New Manager” bounce.

    Peter Reid has been on the scene there for a week or two I believe and if my memory serves me correctly, he was manager of Sunderland a few years ago now, when they beat Boro
    Oh well, fingers crossed.

    **AV writes: New manager bounce? They got battered 6-0 at Bristol in their first game after Jimmy Phillips took over and have since lost four, conceded 14 and not scored from open play.

  16. AV,
    Being a lot further away from the scene than what you are and not being in possession of as many facts as you might be, I was basing my comments on a report I read on the BBC website re Bolton’s chairman announcing on April 12th that he was hoping to soon appoint a new manager. My thoughts were – what if he appoints someone on Saturday morning?

    I suppose we can only hope that Bolton continue with the same run of form that you mentioned above.

    **AV writes: My understanding is that there is a disagreement behind the scenes as to what kind of manager they want and when to appoint one.

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