Palace Penalty Shouts Can’t Mask Alarm Bells

AS THE  referee skulked off the Riverside pitch amid a sonic boom of high-pitch whistling and booing it was hard to hear the alarm bells. But they were there.

Boro officials and fans – and Aitor Karanka – will come away from the reality check of a 2-1 defeat to a well drilled but unremarkable Palace pointing an accusing finger at the officials after two deafening but unrewarded shouts for what looked like obvious handballs. And to be fair, ‘you’ve seen them given.’

And had George Friend – who looked to be ring-rusty after his spell out injured – been a single stride faster at the death there could have been a third spot-kick shout with no grey areas as he was skittled over millimetres outside the box

Supporters may go away simmering at the standard of refereeing and the two missed moments that could have swung the game. Welcome to the Premier League.

1stewie

In a barn-storming finish Boro piled on the pressure and carved out some excellent chances with fired-up Gaston Ramirez adding zip and guile and Marten de Roon putting steel into midfield to help swing the balance of the game.

And new boy Adama Traore showed a glimpse of electric pace in his cameo and after some early stumbles as he over elaborated he put two cracking balls across the face of goal in a spirited fight-back that had the Riverside atmosphere crackling and almost, almost, forced a leveller in what was an entertaining game.

So there were positives in the way Boro recovered from a torrid opening and gradually clawed back into the game to apply some sustained pressure and had they taken their chances they may have got something. Even Alan Pardew admitted that. 

But beneath the surface of smarting at perceived injustice and ‘what ifs’, there was an issue that will sting just as much: Boro not only lost (for the first time in 14 league games since the Lost Weekend at Charlton back in March) but they conceded two goals at home for the first time in two years.  And it could have been more.

It was first double dent at the Riverside record since a Land of the Giants Sheffield Wednesday long-balled them into submission in a 3-2 win in August 2014.

And worst, it was self-inflicted. Both goals that struck to the heart of a long and proud defensive record were leaked in alarmingly shocking fashion.

The bottom line is that Boro were the architects of their own downfall.

They looked creaky and disorganised, and that is arguably the first choice back four – and three of them from the regimental rigid rearguard that was so stingy last season. I’m not sure I like this new unimproved Boro.

Both goals were textbook examples of how not to defend.  The first – which came in a spell where the movement and pace of the Palace front line and flankers was tearing holes in and around the Boro box – was a two-fold malfunction.

First Friend, reeling from being turned in and out by jet-heeled Zaha, and Stewart Downing stood off and failed to close down and cut out what was a routine cross to the far post.  Then at the delivery point, Ayala, usually an astute reader of the game, focused on the flight of the ball and seemed totally unaware or the deadly arrival of Benteke who was offered an unchallenged close range header.

For the second goal Clayton, so often a ultra-reliable midfield metronome who blocks and destroys and intercepts, stood rooted as a ball was slotted forward towards the Boro box where Friend – so physically strong at times last term – was casually brushed aside by powerful Zaha who had burst down his blind side.

1george

It was a game that Friend will want to forget. The fans’ favourite has had a tough start to the season and was given a similar torrid time in the opening spell at Sunderland by Adnan Januzaj before gradually getting a grip. And it won’t get any easier. There is plenty of pace on the flanks in the top flight and he will need to adjust quickly.   But all the back-line will know they weren’t good enough individually or collectively on the day.

And not just the defence. The holding two in the engine room were misfiring too with Clayton missing a beat most of the game. It is a long time since he was substituted for anything other than an injury.  The impact de Roon had on the shape of the game underlined how Boro had struggled in that area.

And up front Boro will need to take the chances when they come.  There may not be many in some close cut games.  Alvaro Negredo was through on goal in the first half and made it easy for the keeper while all the energy and pressure in the second rarely forced a save.

1daniThe goal came from a face-saving Dani Ayala header thumped home from a corner after an incredible leap which partly redeemed him for being beat in the air for the Palace opener but with all the possession and attacking late on Boro failed to unduly hurt them.

Boro will need to hear those alarm bells and act quickly.

The Premier League has been a big step up and Boro are facing sides that are fitter and faster and better organised as a default. All newly promoted face the same physical and mental challenge as they try to bridge that gap – and let us not forget Aitor Karanka’s side have started well, banked some precious points and showed in their first three games they can adapt and match the opposition.  There has been much to enjoy and take heart from.

But after a fairly gentle start against sides in the bottom half, the fixtures will start to get tougher now, the games more testing, the errors more likely to be punished.

Boro will need to sharpen up – and fast.

*************************************************************************************

Stewart Downing was my man of the match. Here’s my ever popular hostage to fortune “what bloody game were you watch”  match ratings.

 

 

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226 thoughts on “Palace Penalty Shouts Can’t Mask Alarm Bells

  1. I think from the little we have seen of de Roon, he has to play. I don’t really mind who is alongside him, I still think Clayton is the better player but Forshaw is the man in form. It would be nice for Forshaw to play v Everton, but like RR, I don’t think AK does sentimental.

    Traore might get the nod over Stuani. If Everton are going to take the game to us, he could be lethal on the break.

  2. Apologies for gatecrashing with a totally unrelated issue to footie. Well almost unrelated.

    ‘Lt Col Mercer spoke of the army’s lack of organisation: “There was no planning by higher headquarters, no planning or direction was received from the headquarters in Qatar or from Permanent Joint Headquarters in Britain.’ This was Basra in 2007.

    What’s yer point, Spartak?

    Well, sports fans, the fundamental inability to organise and plan, seen by my very own on the ground eyes, led me to the conclusion that if I remained in the service of the Queen for country then I would die, my name would be cut into some monument somewhere for passersby to see but not notice amongst hundreds of others and except for small close family I might as well never existed. A poppy wreath would be laid and many would say how brave we were but still the next day life would go on – however, my life wouldn’t. So, I left.

    I left behind the bullies, the ignorant and the superior officer’s arrogance and stupidity. I left behind the culture of alcoholism that prevaded and also condemned those who preferred not to drink. I left behind the brutality that sees guardsmen who stand and watch as the 15 year old boy who they forced into a canal by gunpoint and then stood and watched as he died. He drowned. He was fifteen. The officers did nothing to control the troops, they turned a blind eye and no one was held accountable.

    But there’s more, sports fans, so much more I can tell you, but I’ll keep it short. Some of you will remember that I had an opportunity to join our very own local police force and turned away. Indeed, given my experience and knowledge in Her Majesty’s forces I have to say that I baulked at the prospect of wearing a uniform again, entering a culture of alcohol, sexism and stupidity.

    Now as Northerners and footie fans we see how disreputable the hierarchy of police forces can be. Maggie leaned on the establishment police leaders and they readily followed her call at Orgreave and the police hierarchy immediately covered up their stupidity at Hillsborough. Deaths of ordinary people footie fans like you and me were made worse by national media smears. Illegal arrests were covered up and police records falsified. It’s hard not to agree with President Obama when he described the intervention in Libya in 2011 as a ‘shyt show’ and Cameron as a ‘light weight.

    In conclusion, I am dismayed at the total dishonesty and incompetence of those who would have themselves as our leaders. The only competence they have is in lies and bullying. God forbid you stand up to them, for they are many and they have no hesitation in destroying your life and that of your family. Perhaps next time we have a chance to vote we might decide to think more than about our own small self interest and consider the character of the people we vote for.

    That’s it – enough said!

    UTB

    1. And that is operating in the uniformed services, or living, in THIS country. If things are that bad (and I take the point about the 15 year-old who drowned) what must it be like in the uniformed services in other countries – Russia, Belorussia, N Korea, or living in places like Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, Bolivia……..?

      Bullying, corruption, drugs, insecurity: maybe it is too depressing to say that it might be part of the human condition?

  3. Pseudo-academic clap-trap RR . You can’t treat a football team like workers in a paperclip factory. And don’t portray yourself being the one delivering the quality training because you are not. The manager does that. And you don’t like the way he does it. You are a fan. You are on the outside. You are’t talking to them one to one to improve them for positive reasons. You spend your life telling other people outside their working environment that they are doing it all wrong and say you are doing it for noble reasosns.
    “Total Quality Initatives” (in my experience usually preparing the ground for cost-cutting or job losses) mean support and training for individuals. They don’t mean customers being encouraged to berate the staff for their own good. For years on end. And then claiming credit when success happens despite you predicting it won’t because they are not good enough or working the way you think they should.

    Bottom line is that as fans we can have NO influence whatsoever on the team or tactics or how the manager thinks and thinking you do is deluding yourself. As fans we are powerless. All we can do is watch. And for me you may as well let them get on with and try and enjoy it. Better than torturing yourslef and boring others telling the manager what he should do.

    1. Ste Mac

      reads like you prefer to surpress others opinions and analysis totally. Or particular opinions that you disagree with. This seems to be contrary to others saying ALL posts/opinions are welcome here – even your own.

      I don’t agree with much that many may suggest. I may also say so stridently ie. ‘nonsense!’ but I would never suggest they should have an opinion because otherwise it would destroy debate and that is what I believe this blog is for.

      Therefore, I would urge you to reconsider your directives before posting them.

      Regards
      Spartakboro

      1. Spartak. I don’t want to supress opinion. I don’t mind opinion. We all have one. I just think it is daft when people dress their opinion up as some kind of science or special insight and knowledge above other fans (it us usually tactical mumbo-jumbo) and who latch on to one particular point or player or what they think is a problems then bang on about for the rest of that manager’s reign and try to persuade everyone else they are right. Even when we have won games. That;’s when it starts to feel like a campaign. That’s when it starts to feel like they are happy when we lose so they can really get stuck in. And make out they are doing it for the good of teh club. They’re not. They are just venting and dressing it up but spend so much time looking for things to ‘improve’ that they never enjoy it..

        Personally I can see very little to be critical off right now. We have won over half teh games in the last three years, hardly ever lost at home, have improved steadily from bottom third to play-off final to promotion, we’ve became fantastic in defence and played some briiliant football at times. I’ve really enjoyed the last few years. That is enough evidence for me that Aitor is doing his own Quality Inititative and doesn’t need any advice from outside. Moan when we have struggled all season, when the club stops going forward, For now, just enjoy it.

        1. There’s nowt much to argue with in your last paragraph, Ste Mac.

          I have noticed that a few times of late, in the match against Sunderland, that the Boro lads were playing some slick football in front of the opposition 18 yard box. It came to nowt but the attempt at a quality based attack against a rooted defence was there to see. It is without doubt that to foster such an approach with a team that has recently been promo’d will take time but with players like Stewie (much maligned – not by me) and Negredo there is hope of stepping up to a higher level.

          AK is no mug. He knows what he needs and SG is in it for the long run. The only bug bear is the opposition. We need points on the board & thats the fear factor. Time will tell if the manager and the team can deliver.
          Exciting isn’t it!!!!!!

          UTB

    2. Further, as fans I do believe we have influence, although not as much as I’d like. I do not believe we are deluded and I for one welcome RR’s posts even if I don’t agree with all that he states – they don’t bore me 🙂

      1. Sorry Ste Mac, I have to agree with Spartak.

        I don’t read (and never have read) RR as trying to influence what happens inside the club, but as a valuable commentary and opinion-piece on what is happening.

        We all do that, whether we write it here or just think it. It is natural to apply your own skills and experiences to whatever you see before you and to postulate what might be an outcome.

        Whenever criticised I have always noted that RR comes back and points out that things he writes are his opinions and not in any way meant to be seen as non-supportive of AK or the team.

        Like so many have said before, all opinion is welcome here and we should all keep ourselves open to others’ ideas as we just might (once in a while 😉 ) learn something new.

        RR’s ideas around continual/continuous quality improvement are and can be applied in many walks of life, even in a sports team. However, there a a myriad ways to affect and achieve improvements and for sure, that is up to the management regime in force at any point in time. I sincerely hope (and am quite sure really) that AK has his own agenda and his own methods and of course won’t be influenced by the ideas floated in this blog. That doesn’t stop it being quite legitimate to share your own thoughts on what is happening and for us to enjoy hearing someone else’s ideas and even to find them interesting sometimes!

    3. Ste Mac

      Do you really think fans are powerless? If so then you need to think back when fans of several clubs over many years have hounded managers out of jobs, indeed even Directors and Club Owners.

      On the “Pseudo-academic clap-trap” I did say that there are those on here who possibly wouldn’t understand it but if you personally believe that TQI leads to cost cutting or job losses then I guess you have been on the receiving end of a particularly negative experience and blame it on TQI. That is your opinion to which you are entitled to, mine differs somewhat. Just for clarity, Continuous improvement and TQI are not the same thing, TQI may form a small part of CI.

      “And don’t portray yourself being the one delivering the quality training because you are not”.

      In no way have portrayed myself as being “the one delivering the quality training”, I’m not even sure what that statement means, I don’t work for MFC in any capacity so I couldn’t possibly deliver any training.

      Believe me I don’t torture myself, I watch, I enjoy parts, I get annoyed at some parts, I even get elated at some parts and frustrated at others. Isn’t that what watching Football and being a fan is all about. The alternative would be to watch the “C” word or work in a bank perhaps?

      People have opinions on many aspects of life, some people have a lot of opinions on a lot of topics, some don’t have many and some sadly are not allowed opinions. I’m fortunate to live in the North East not North Korea.

  4. My Palace supporting colleague was astonished and grateful for our generosity. He graciously suggested a draw would have been fair and he would have grabbed at the draw had it been offered prior to kick off. I hope the unforced errors in our game are quickly addressed by AK.

    With my eyes firmly on achieving 40 points at the end of play on 8th April, we’re now three points shy of where I was hoping we’d be. Initially I was hoping for a single point from the next two games, now we need to start scraping back those missing three points, we need a win or at least two draws. (Two wins would be better.)

  5. Well, it’s Friday afternoon before matchday and it must be time for the round of predictions to start coming in….

    Here’s my starter for 10.

    Team:
    Valdes /
    Barragan; Ayala; Gibson; Friend /
    Forshaw; DeRoon /
    Traore; Downing /
    Ramirez /
    Negrado

    1-0 up after an entertaining first half (Traore from the by-line across for Negrado from close range). Backs to the wall during a second half onslaught with a heart-breaking equaliser for the Toffees as Valdes fails to deal with a late desperate high ball into the area and the ball gets bundled over by any one of a half a dozen blues in the box.
    1-1 final score. Belief restored!

    1. Powmill

      I’d go with that team apart from I think AK will have Nsue in ahead of Traore.

      On the result I suspect we may get an AK masterclass in keeping it tight with lessons learned or get absolutely mullered! I’m hoping for a tight disciplined performance and who knows what a set piece might bring.

      What I don’t want to see is a vacant opening 30 minutes or a 5 minute readjustment spell at the start of the second half. It will be interesting to see what happens at their corners and set pieces and how Valdes responds. In the unlikely event that he has grown 6 inches and put on a few extra pounds then I’m hoping that there will be some overt defensive gamesmanship bearing in mind new directives in the box with referees.

      AK has made much of the intensity aspect today so hopefully we shouldn’t see the lapses in concentration and application that cost us last week. 1-1 or 5-1, hope its the former.

  6. Nsue will be a shoe in, for this game I would play him ahead of Stuani and Traore because Everton are dangerous down that flank.

    His speed and ability to shuttle up and down the line will be imperative.

    Whether Valdes can grow six inches is another matter, I certainly cant see him wiping out any Everton players at set pieces.

    The key is to start on the front foot, Everton may be too confident, I am hoping (not expecting) for points from unexpected sources.

    My instinct tells me brave defeat and lots of complements.

  7. Elsewhere, I notice Mr Barton is his normal self. Wherever there is an empty room he can manage an argument. Apparently it was that irked Mr Barton.

  8. I’m in the opposite corner to SteMac on Redcar Red.

    He’s a fantastic blogger.

    His detailed match reports, for example, are second to none. He has been selfless over the past few seasons in filing them soon after the game, and I for one appreciate his generosity, discipline and hard work in giving so much time and energy for the benefit of those who may not have been to the game.

    And if I have been to the match then RR’s judgments are invariably close to my own. So he is someone whose judgments I have learned to trust.

    Judging by the plaudits he routinely garners after most games, it is evident that he is providing a service, a perceptive fan’s view, which is appreciated around the world by the diasBoro.

    As to his other posts, whether you agree with them or not, they are invariably well informed, and sometimes intensively researched. He also appears to have a great deal of professional expertise in the areas of marketing, and production management. His analysis of the Boro’s new shirts contained chapter and verse on how the club had had the wool pulled over its eyes by the manufacturers. It contained some of the best informed material on the subject that I had seen anywhere.

    His analyses of Boro performances and management decisions are always moderate in tone, and completely lacking in the kind of vituperation that marks Ste’s contribution

    As to paying customers having no influence, that contradicts one of the basic tenets of marketing anything. Nobody produces anything any more in the hope that it might sell. They begin by assuring themselves that a market exists for what they wish to produce. Football clubs are no different to any other business in needing to monitor their audiences closely, and we can all name those clubs which are in crisis because they have failed to do precisely that. This blog, along with a number of others, should be a regular port of call for the Boro hierarchy, and AV has told us that for Steve Gibson it already is. Indeed a number of contributors to this blog were invited to meet the Chairman a couple of seasons ago.

    I may be remiss, but I have little recollection of Ste’s other contributions to the blog, other than his complaints about it. The challenge to him is to produce match reports, creative contributions or anything else that might be of interest to a wider audience. And in a tone that is constructive. He will then have earned the right to have his views treated seriously. Until then…

      1. He can do better than David ‘I was once PM you know’ Cameron!

        Corbyn4PM – there haven’t you missed that. I just knew you had! 🙂

        UTB

        1. I don’t go to the movies and when someone on the radio said they were reviewing a Blair Witch remake I shuddered at the thought we may have The Blair Pair re entering politics. You know who I mean, the ones along with local grandees in the labour party who never redeveloped Middlehaven, the ones who make Cameron and co look paupers.

          Corbyn4publicschoolpm never had a proper job.

  9. I see where Ste Mac is coming from. Opinion is fine and what we want to read, dressing it up as something else is an entirely different issue. There is no suggestion of wanting to suppress opinion by being critical.

    Last season Redcar Red tried to cast me as a fantasist against his ‘realist’ which was out of order in my opinion and suggested other opinions weren’t regarded as valid. Making out one is an expert when clearly not is a dangerous game.

    AK is an expert, we are all fans with opinions, surely no poster on here really believes they can offer AK useful advice?

    1. Nigel

      Serious question what does “dressing it up as something else is an entirely different issue” mean? Opinions are what they are, we all have them and we won’t necessarily always agree with them but “dressing it up” genuinely has me stumped.

      On the “realist” debate, at the time there were those whose were and generally still are very protective of all things Boro and those who say what they see, warts and all. From time to time there is banter on here about whingers, foamies, rose tints, realists etc. etc. I haven’t personally made up all those titles and the many others used on here nor do I have exclusivity on them but I don’t go out of my way to criticise and attack another blogger (not saying that you do by the way) but do get a fair bit of stick dished out in my direction when I criticise something that I don’t like which is fine if its reasoned.

      My biggest beef is those who “snipe” don’t usually (in fact rarely) put a well structured alternative argument to add to the debate other than short emotional rants. Its fine I’m a big boy and I don’t lose sleep over it and I’m sure AK, Mogga, Strachan, Southgate and Schteeve etc. don’t lose much sleep either.

      Just to be clear, if you feel that I have singled you out last season for abuse as oppose to sparring with fellow bloggers over differing views and opinions then I apologise unreservedly.

  10. One night anymore. A morning flight to Manchester, then train to Liverpool. And two Everton tickets in my pocket.

    Life is good. I just enjoy the ride. It has never been so good for a Boro fan. We have this blog, Gazette news on the web, twitter, Boro+ and live commentaries, I have access to every Boro League mstches on TV, etc.

    It has never been so good. And still remembering Hartlepool some 30 years ago. I am just enjoying the ride this season.

    Up the Boro!

  11. **AV writes: Blimey. Fireworks. What’s been going on here? It’s all gone Joey Barton in the changies with recriminations and frank exchanges after Boro lost a game.

    It is good to see that it hurts and that people want to learn the lessons and improve but Boro will lose a lot of games this season and we will need to stay united. Here’s a bit I did this week. I think we could lose 18 games this season. We need to stay strong, calm and level-headed.

    http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/middlesbrough-fans-used-victory-must-11881259

    1. AV

      2014-15
      Leicester City – Manager Nigel Pearson
      Overall Home Away
      Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
      38 11 8 19 46 55 −9 41

      2015-16
      Leicester City – Manager Claudio Ranieri
      Overall Home Away
      Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
      38 23 12 3 68 36 +32 81

      An extra 40 points from one season to the next. What was the significant change?

      Just askin like 🙂

      UTB

  12. It’s match day again and I am up early. No sign of the Aussies today and the ball tantilisingly close to the edge of an open box.

    On the RR debate the match reports are first class and gives a fans point of view which is not available out here so during our dark years I was extremely grateful.

    So his opinions are always welcome – part of that which makes the blog top of the league.

    . . . . .slide rule pass into the box….

  13. The new strip with the gut stripe is growing on me, possibly as my own gut is ever expanding in sympathy. When I am out on the town I usually wear my grey polo shirt with the Rory logo and Boro Premier league stitched n which I got at the Boro shop. It s surprising even in these far flung places how many Boro lads spot it and make comment.

    My lad [ “Rob Jungle” to his admirers] always wears his yellow Boro strip on stage which is his second favourite – Ravanelli being his first choice only as a child size extra small he would have difficulty wearing it these days.

    Now we are in PL it is Bein every week so tonight it is at my place.- guests are welcome.

    . . . . ball loose in the six yard box.

  14. . . and for the penultimate flick…. what on earth is happening in UK?

    Following the UK press it seems a Big Drift is in process, no direction no motivation in fact no real clue as to where this Island Race is heading.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Brexit never happened . . . . .

    …..passes it to anyone who may be up with the birds for a shoe in….

  15. GHW

    I hope you oiled the hinges on the shed door when you sneaked out to post at ridiculous am, I would hate to have Mrs GHW on your case.

    I thought your advice to AK was thoughtful and well meant.

    🙂

  16. Ian

    Short quiz for you this morning.

    Please name the ‘proper jobs’ that the following politicians held prior to their political careers. Ok, here we go! First up

    a) the present PM of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Theresa May. Next

    b) the previous PM of Great Britian and Northern Ireland, David Cameron. Next

    c) the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gideon Oliver Osborne. Next

    d) the MP for Bolsover Dennis Skinner.

    Now on the basis of having a ‘proper’ job who comes first and thereby has the bragging rights to become a leader of their party and PM of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Happy Days

  17. Spartak

    They are all the same, political troughers making a good living out of the public purse. Corbyn talks a good line but is still a trougher.

    1. I didn’t mention Corbyn!!!

      Come on now, play the game.

      My personal choice would be Dennis as he don’t dip his nose in the trough like the Tories who are incapable as a group of doing owt else.

      FYI – I actually agree with you (shock, horror, Ian falls off chair to the ground with a bump). I believe the mother of all Parliaments needs an enima, big time but turkeys don’t vote for xmas.

      Corbyn4PM – he’s never in a hurry to go to war and risk the lives of the many but not his own.

      Btw. The present MP for Redcar when asked why she voted to send the RAF to bomb parts of Syria said she’s asked one of her colleagues, Dan Jarvis, what he recommended and thus voted accordingly.

      ONE colleague, ONE and then you vote to send men to war – beggars belief! The country is run by fools.

      1. Sadly run by fools and also populated by many fools too! Education should mean more than passing exams, but sadly that blinkered ‘copy the Asians’ number oriented approach created…….fools who can add up.

  18. Predictions time. Gulp.

    Everton away is by far our toughest fixture so far. They have so much attacking talent, including at fullback, whilst Koeman seems to have almost instantly addressed his predecessor’s Achilles heel of dodgy defending. And they are in excellent form. Realistically, this one has home win written all over it I’m afraid.

    Thankfully, this is a football match and therefore you can never rule out the unexpected.

    I’m predicting Everton 2-0 Boro but hoping for a smash and grab Everton 0-1 Boro.

    Despite my prediction, I’m looking forward to this one.

  19. My heart is hoping for a hard fought nil nil. My head is praying we avoid a tonking. I’ve no idea what the team may be. Negredo up front. Probably.

  20. I’m with you CH, the phoney war is over, now after reality check city last week we meet the big boys and I fear it will not go well. I’m expecting the usual team and think it will be 3-0 Everton today, sadly. Foamy hands away for the moment!

  21. Everton could well be one of the main “outsider” challengers this season.

    Agree with the general sentiment that we will get a few tonkings, and spring a few surprises this season. This may be one such occasion. But which?

    Head says 4-0, but hoping for a snorefest 0-0.

  22. I’ll look forward to today’s team selection with interest (and hope) rather than expectation.

    AK has always cast himself as the ruler of a great meritocracy where it doesn’t matter what your reputation or past acheivements are, it’s how you’ve performed in the last game and in training.

    If this is true, surely it would be De Roon and Forshaw who get the nod. Clayton has been impeccable for us, but we looked better on Saturday with the De Roon – Forshaw axis. No room for sentiment in thia game. De Roon and Forshaw also offer the better balance between destroy and create in the midfield in my view. Sadly, this meritoric approach rarely seems to be put into practise

    On the right side, I suspect that although his ability as a creative RW’er is questionable, Nsue will get the nod. I’m happy with that, it’s just a shame we don’t have an option who could do both functions in that role. I swear we had someone in the squad up until recently who fit that bill. Who could that be….? (to quote another poster, just sayin like!)

    1. Surreptitious nods – I’ll take that!

      I reckon, as is par for the AK course, that there’ll be a surprise of sorts in the Boro line up – then again the surprise maybe that there is no surprise change.

      Appy Plays

      UTB

  23. I would be grateful for points from unexpected sources, a draw would be most welcome.

    The best you would expect is a brave defeat but strange things happen.

  24. A massive test of what we can do and how we can cope. Its also a massive opportunity, if we grab a point here, mentally it will do wonders and could set us up.

    1-1. They score first,, Traore’s pace when he comes on for N’sue in the 70th minute will set up the leveler.

  25. Remember the last two seasons when teams used to come to the Riverside and park the bus. That’s what it will be like today but the other way round. Remember how frustrating that used to be? That’s what wil happen today. 1-0 to the Boro thanks to a late Ramirez strike.

  26. SteveH
    That would be heaven. I fear the worst but hope that we can fluke a point or three somehow. De Roon to get a red after roughing up a few toffees?

  27. Today I thought that Fischer began to show why he is rated – some great close control & touches off to teammates. Enjoyed Downing, and would have given the final replacement place to Traore.
    Many teams will go to Goodison this season and do much worse.

    I am convinced that there are at LEAST three teams in this division who will do worse than Boro this season.
    Having said that, some more points would be very welcome ASAP.

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