Boro 2 – 1 Reading

Middlesbrough Reading
Traoré 44′
Martin 78′
On target
On target

Sub par Boro rescued by Adama

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s victory against Reading at the Riverside…

With one side six points off the Play-offs and the other six points from a relegation place the stakes were higher than most neutrals might think scrolling down todays fixtures. The dichotomy for Boro fans coming into this one was where we an improving club under TP gathering a head of steam or a club sliding further away from any play off ambitions as our three remaining “Strikers” continued to misfire?

In the away dug out, Jaap Stam was literally hamstrung. Efforts to get the Royals back to winning ways were seriously restricted as Swift, Richards, Harriot, Barrow and McShane, were all either out or extremely doubtful with “Hammies”or niggles. January loanee Tommy Elphick has had to return to his parent club Villa for a knee operation whilst Jordan Obita was also likely to be a non-starter due to a knee problem of his own as was Joseph Mendes. Under fire and under pressure Stam could have been forgiven for pleading mitigating circumstances for Readings current plight but football is a fickle game and only results keep Managers in their posts these days and the Berkshire natives were very restless this week.

Tony Pulis had been hinting at a few knocks and late checks with his own squad but as we get to understand the new manager it’s appears that TP likes to keep his opposite numbers routinely guessing. He never reveals his hand during pre-game pressers much preferring to down play his sides chances, something which is by now probably a set default from propping up the Premiership with perennial escape acts. His current Boro challenge however is somewhat different in that he needs to get up first before his defensive escapology strengths come to the fore. After another goalless outing last week questions were starting to be mooted on Teesside rather than being openly asked if TP can be as effective in sorting out his attack as he seems to have been at the back.

With fresh faces to choose from, home advantage and Reading in somewhat of a tailspin a convincing no nonsense victory was not only expected from Boro this afternoon but anything less than all three points would like as not be viewed with considerable disdain on the Tees. For the Royals their long suffering season of abject dismay and probable hangover after last season’s penalty play-off defeat has to end sometime, and upon taking my seat in the blustery and chilly North Stand there was that “Typical Boro” niggle at play, hopefully the endurance of the Royals “13th Man” fans would be tested for just that little bit longer come five o’clock.

The good news for Reading fans was that Jaap Stam had been able to muster eleven fit and hardy souls to take the pitch but excluding Chris Martin (the Derby striker rather than the Coldplay one) who took a place on the bench while Pulis decided to bring back Howson in place of Clayton in an otherwise unchanged line up from last weekend.

Boro started the game in the ascendancy totally dominating proceedings to the point where those of us in the North Stand considered a crowdfunding page to try and get some recompense for the fact that the entertainment was confined to the Reading half of the pitch for opening 6 or 7 minutes. Reading did muster a corner in that time which saw van den Berg literally grab Randolph in a bear hug which went unnoticed by the officials but thankfully it came to nothing as Boro cleared their lines and resumed their occupation of the Reading half.

The remainder of the first half didn’t deviate too much from that in so far as Boro were in complete control and that this Reading side was so devoid of belief and confidence it was almost embarrassing. I was sat watching proceedings and felt sorry for those who had made the long trip up from Berkshire to witness their side put in such a hapless, hopeless and gutless performance. Everything they touched turned to that dog stuff that responsible owners deposit in little black plastic bags. This had all the makings of a cricket score as Boro pushed and probed, and pushed and probed some more knocking the ball around with aplomb and yawwwwwn more probing and after around 20 maybe 25 minutes it began to dawn on the home support that this had all the makings of total domination, chances not taken and falling to a late sucker punch.

This Reading side was the worst I have seen at the Riverside and after Birmingham and then Sunderland in the cup that takes some doing believe me. Whilst we were resolute at the back we were positively clueless going forward. Movement means that players have to run, anticipate, create openings, channels, spaces whatever but we simply passed it around like the Chuckle Brothers, playing 44 minutes of “to you, to me” football. The ills and shortcomings of our attacking prowess were as far removed from being solved or improved as ever. Just as the crowd were disappearing for their half time Bovril’s and relief breaks Adama picked up the ball and skinned Bacuna not for the first time as he had tormented and “Traoritised” the Reading back line all afternoon to cut in to the box and release a left footed thunderbolt giving Mannone no chance to deservedly give Boro the lead just seconds before the half time whistle.

The second half commenced and with Boro now a goal to the good Reading had to come out and gone were their time wasting efforts of the first half. Picking up where he left off Adama happened upon a ball after a weak defensive header and set off again running into the box and despatching another rocket past the despairing Mannone to make it 2-0 and the commencement of what we thought would be a landslide victory. In response and probably too little too late, Stam brought on Martin and Clement for the unassuming Bodvarrson and miniscule Kelly who had earlier wasted Reading’s only half chance of the game in the first half.

Boro were in the ascendency despite our front line not functioning. Gestede won headers but there was no follow up from anyone, Paddy was tackling and harrying but being penalised for his apparent aggressiveness and had a few chances but his best opportunity was fired right across the goal. Balls were being played to Adama’s feet rather than into space for him and Paddy to chase and run onto. Despite being 2-0 up it was very frustrating as a spectacle to watch.

We were then witness to possibly the most bizarre and ineffective substitution and tactical switch to grace the Riverside by a Boro manager in 22 years. Reading had gone to three at the back and pushing to get themselves back into a game that by now looked far beyond them. You could see that in all the pressure and exertion they were now applying a few swift balls out to Paddy or Adama and they would be finished off. Instead TP decided to remove Paddy which OK fair enough he had missed a few opportunities but was getting back tackling and defending and still posed a threat going forwards. Not his best game but no more uninspiring than any other in a Red shirt Adama apart. On came Clayton, a defensive midfielder to replace one of our few remaining attacking outlets. Adama was switched to the left, yep that’s right Adama on the left, and guess what, he disappeared yet again from the game and Bacuna was the most relieved man in the Stadium as he was now free to push forwards in support of the Reading attack.

Boro now looked totally destabilised, unhinged and unbalanced. I’m not sure where Clayts was supposed to play or who was replacing the Bamford role presumably Downing but suffice to say TP handed Reading the initiative and we were then penned in for long periods with no outlet and no response.

From being a side than in reality should have by now been four or five goals to the good we became a nervous, desperate and disparate outfit now clinging to the two goals that were incredibly now looking the slenderest of margins. That it descended into this was shameful and unacceptable; a team that was light years ahead of the opposition and cruising with the cigars out despite having no effective attack had just shot themselves in the foot by a tactical self-imposed management disaster. Tinkering at an incompetent level is all I can describe it as; there was now no shape, no structure and no organisation, just pure panic. Had GM still been in charge there would have been choruses of “you don’t know what you’re doing”, it was incredible to witness.

Bizarrely with ten minutes to go TP decided to take our only remaining striker Rudy off who had been heading balls all day to little avail to replace him with barren Britt. The forgotten man then took up the lonely isolated position to try and provide some respite from the Royal rampage that was threatening to nick a point after Reading sub Martin had pulled one back a minute earlier via a shot through a Boro back nine. I’m not sure what on earth is going on at Rockliffe but Britt looked more unfit and slower and off the pace than ever.

Against the run of play, Adama (of course) charged forward from the left flank where he was still stationed and was clipped to win a penalty. If ever Boro needed respite and a break it was right here and now to finally put this game to bed and with it all three points. As the North stand chanted Adama’s name in the hope that he would be allowed to go for his hat trick Britt and Grant had a “discussion” which ended with Britt taking responsibility and with it the need to get a much needed confidence boosting goal for himself. Fair enough, and as we all waited with baited breath the crowd gave a chorus of “do do do Britt Assombalonga” to boost his spirits in the run up.

A split second later and Britt had managed to silence the entire Riverside. Instead of just taking the Penalty he decided on one of those momentary stops (or hesitation more like) and blasted the ball about as high as Johnny Wilkinson in his prime could muster. It was so bad it was either a blatant and deliberate salute to the Manger who has seemingly discarded him or a Player whose confidence is shattered entirely. I’m not sure hoping that it is the latter is entirely the better of the two options. As brilliant as TP has been for the likes of Adama and Ryan Shotton he has had the exact opposite effect elsewhere.

This was a game that should have been killed and over after twenty minutes but reality is that three moments of brilliance from Adama covered up glaring inadequacies and the obvious fact that tactically we are no closer to sorting out our attack. It was all made so much worse by a substitution and Adama switching flanks that nearly cost us the game. A surreal feeling coming away from the Stadium relieved that we had struggled to win but somehow scrapped over the line against the worst side to date to visit the Riverside and thereby making the win feel like a defeat. MOM was by a country mile Adama Traore but TP and his backroom staff need to up the ante because quite frankly that was very poor fayre very nearly made so much worse by a second half tactical cock up.

Will Boro’s promotion aspirations
go walkabout after visit of the Royals

Werdermouth previews the visit of Reading to the Riverside…

Footballing puritan and the much lauded protector of many a club’s Premier League status, Tony Pulis, will be looking to outflank the limited forces of the Royals as he goes into battle with his new model Boro army of no-frills no-nonsense charges this weekend. Whilst the Boro faithful have got used to joyless trips to the Riverside in recent times, the new regime’s introduction of a ban on goal celebrations has perhaps been a step too far in the eyes of many a fun-loving season ticket holder. Looking back at the reformist days when those caught playing football on a Sunday faced being whipped, some impatient Teesside hardliners may soon start advocating a similar punishment for players witnessed not playing football to the required standard on a Saturday afternoon. All Somewhat draconian perhaps, but still our best hope for a goal this weekend may be to place the opposition keeper in the stocks for wearing an overly brightly coloured jersey – though we’d still be reliant on the Boro strikers being able to make the ball hit the target.

However, before dismissing the unfair caricature being formed of Anthony Richard Cromwell Pulis, those wishing to draw similarities between the football and military tactics of both men may be interested to read: “Cromwell had no formal training in military tactics, and followed the common practice of ranging his cavalry in three ranks and pressing forward, relying on impact rather than firepower.” – though to be fair to the Boro commander, the lack of firepower is not entirely of his own making. Whether all the players see themselves as Roundheads fighting for the Boro cause is not certain, but following recent randomly headed balls, doubts have already been cast on the spherical credentials of the cranium for at least one striker in big Rudy.

Nevertheless, some on Teesside will be looking forward to the visit of the Royals as it offers an opportunity to ignore the class divide – albeit between the class we expected for the money paid and the reality of what we actually got. Many will be enthusiastically cheering our majestic midfield as they stroll backwards and forwards on their impromptu walkabout across the pitch before stopping to ask the usual question of the strikers “and what do you do?” – to which the answer is invariably “I’m currently unemployed” or possibly “I’ll let you know when I find out”.

What has emerged in the court of Tony Pulis is a feeling that we are now in the reign of a manager who knows what he wants to do but doesn’t necessarily know how to get there with quite a few of the players at his disposal – plus it’s not even certain that many of players see themselves fitting into his plans once the discontented winter has given way to an unsprung blooming of progress and the summer has come and gone. Although, the team defensively is playing with a renewed belief that the opposition won’t score unless they do something special, this is also the exact same problem facing Boro going forward. We need to do something special to score at the moment, whether it be George’s biennial screamer or Adama’s first goal for his club, these are not the norm but are proving to be the exception under the measured new ruler.

The last time Boro played Reading, Garry Monk was under pressure after his team had gone five games without a win and picked up just a single point from their previous three home games. The game at the Madejski Stadium proved to be the start of a minor revival as Boro won three in a row (the only time this season) as they followed it up with wins against Hull and Sunderland. However the performances against Reading and particularly the Mackems were not great and the improvement in results was not sustained as Boro lost 4 of their following 6, which ultimately lead to the dismissal of Monk after the next game against Sheffield Wednesday shortly before Christmas. Little has changed from Jaap Stam’s point of view since then, he’s still failing to capture the form that saw his team get to the play-off final last season and is increasingly under pressure from the Reading supporters, who appear to be running out of patience after just one victory in their last six games. Though whether the Dutchman will find recent comments from his centre-back Liam Moore helpful is unclear, after he declared “You can’t let it carry on for another three to four games and then look at the table” – but hopefully they won’t get a lift on Teesside.

Middlesbrough Reading
Tony Pulis Jaap Stam
P30 – W13 – D5 – L11 – F38 – A28 P30 – W8 – D8 – L14 – F33 – A39
Points per game
Projected points
Points per game
Projected points
Last 6 Games
Norwich (A)
Sheff Wed (H)
Fulham (H)
Preston (A)
Aston Villa (H)
F-T (H-T)
0:1 (0:1) L
0:0 (0:0) D
3:0 (2:0) W
0:1 (0:0) L
3:2 (1:2) W
0:1 (0:0) L
Last 6 Games
Millwall (H)
Burton (A)
Brentford (H)
Hull (A)
Birmingham (H)
Barnsley (A)
F-T (H-T)
0:2 (0:0) L
3:1 (0:0) W
0:1 (0:0) L
0:0 (0:0) D
0:2 (0:1) L
1:1 (0:0) D

With the visit of the Owls in the last home game seeing a less than barn-storming stalemate at the Riverside, the trip to Norfolk likewise proved not to be a breath of fresh air either. Although Boro dug deep after being reduced to ten men just before the half-hour mark, they buried themselves in the art of defending as they became entrenched in their own half as if hanging on to a one-goal deficit wasn’t going to prove to be anything other than pointless. While scoring goals has become more than a minor problem under Pulis, there was little indication from the Canaries that they’d been left short of breath by any whiff of excitement detected by Boro’s virtually non-existent attack – in fact even the sight of some of the weary travelling faithful slipping into unconsciousness failed to provide any warning signs to the players that they needed to quickly get out of their own half before time ran out on any hopes of rescuing the game.

It’s clear to many of those looking in that there are no outward signs under Pulis that his team have a clear vision of what is needed to change them into an effective attacking force. It appears Boro are still wondering which combination of forwards to trial next in the hope that we will get more than errors. Interestingly, we discovered this week that Newcastle striker Mitrovic was snatched or even snapchatted from under Boro’s deadline-day noses by Fulham manager and fellow serbian Slavisa Jokanovic – for those, like apparently Tony Pulis, who have no idea about Snapchat, it’s a mobile service that allows users to send multimedia messages that can be set to discreetly self destruct in 1-10 seconds – I must say it sounds ideal for tapping up players in a Mission Impossible style scenario where a manager could test the water with any player he fancies – “Good morning Mr Mitrovic. Your mission Aleksandar, should you choose to accept it, is to put the round thing in the bloody opposition net… As always, should you or any of your teammates be caught posting this on Twitter, the secretary of the club will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct in five seconds” – no doubt before Woody pipes up a few minutes later “I think you forgot to say who you were Boss”. I expect it will take some practice for the older managers to get the hang of this social media malarkey as a means of recruitment.

One striker Boro do have the services of on Saturday is Rudy Gestede after the club were surprisingly successful in getting his Carrow Road red card rescinded. Many had anticipated or even hoped his ban would be extended for making a frivolous appeal – but who’s laughing now? In truth probably nobody as the hopes of our season appear to have been pinned on having the big but limited Benin striker available for the coming weeks. If anything it’s probably a testament to the summer recruitment that Boro seem to be left with Gestede being the only striker fit for purpose – Fletcher never looked the part with Braithwaite no longer wanting to be part, Assombalonga can’t seem to play as the Pulis target man and doesn’t know where his next goal is coming from, while Bamford’s form appears to be dipping back to that which saw him fail to make an impact after he left Boro the first time. It’s hard to see where the goals will come from if Tony Pulis continues to play a system that none of our forwards look like they are flourishing under. It’s been said that Pulis makes players feel ten feet tall – though it seemingly helps if you first start with giants.

Still it’s possible the new rusty recruits may soon be fast-tracked onto the pitch to help the Boro cause – Mo Besic almost got onto the pitch against Norwich but perhaps even Pulis suddenly thought better of throwing on a predominantly defensive midfielder as a means to chase the game. He may be ultimately more dynamic than either Clayton or Leadbitter but Besic is perhaps not the answer to what the team are currently lacking. Jack Harrison is not short of admirers in the football world and he’s being tipped for the top by many – the problem is he’s not played since early November and has no experience of the hectic nature of the Championship, where he may struggle if not match-fit to make the kind of impact many are anticipating. Good players should shine eventually but at this moment in time I see him as a hopeful punt and we saw how another promising prospect in Baker just didn’t find his feet before disappearing from the picture altogether.

Whether the the arrival of a new pair of eyes on the coaching side will be able to add a fresh perspective on the stale attack is possibly asking a lot of Curtis Fleming. The former Boro right-back may have been a firm fans favourite but he is perhaps not the box-office appointment to give the team star quality. The heat is definitely on, but while some may like it hot, many at the Riverside have still not warmed to the new management. However, the more observant Boro followers will have perhaps noticed that the new Pulis Fleming axis has a somewhat Hollywood feel with it’s less formal Tony Curtis moniker – the question is which of the star’s former movies will best represent this new partnership? Will it be the ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ as the club gain promotion or are we looking at ‘The Great Impostor’ as Boro slide down the table? The key may depend on whether they find the answer to the ’40 [million] Pounds of Trouble’ that was inherited in the summer – though as it stands, Boro are now ‘The Outsider’ in ‘The Great Race’ for the play-offs and we need to start winning soon to pull off a promotion ‘Houdini’ act this season. Anyway, let’s hope ‘The Defiant Ones’ manage to escape the shackles and unchain the attacking potential of the team and get the opposition on the run instead!

So will the hungry Boro faithful see an end to the goal famine under Tony Pulis that has left them feeling starved of entertainment as they celebrate a footballing feast? Or will Reading turn the Riverside into a library as they hush the crowd as they suffer in silence? As usual your predictions on score, scorers and team selection – plus will any of the Boro players be a little too exuberant in pressing the flesh as the referee rolls out the red cards for the visit of the Royals?

211 thoughts on “Boro 2 – 1 Reading

  1. Good work Werder. Again.

    Now, I’ll write more on football later, but for the moment, I’d like to veer off-topic…

    The ending of Derry Girls’ first season last night was as poignant as it gets.

    Contrasting the joy to be found from unity against the persistent cruelty of youthful peers with the pain and fear at the sight of troubles that looked like they would never end was an absolute masterstroke on Lisa McGee’s part.

    If any of you saw it, you’ll know what I mean.

    I have to add, using The Cranberries’ Dreams to soundtrack the end was extremely fitting. And doubly hard-hitting now that Dolores O’Riordan has actually left us.

    1. Agreed, Simon. A moving and evocative ending to a fine series. It made a blistering start, plateaued a little in the middle episodes, but ended in fitting style. Its delineation of so many memorable characters in such a restricted 22 minute slot was a major achievement.

  2. I missed a longish post with my wife’s iPad. Jumped to a new page to see how to spell a name of new arrivals …

    So in short. Twe12thman gave me and my wife a lift down to Reading one Tuesday night some years ago. Boro lost but John of the Twe12thman gave us the Reading poster there was for the Boro fans at the ground. My wife kept that poster on the wall of her study for a year. A tough but nice trip!

    So we have a soft spot the the opposition team. But I still hope we can beat them – any result with 3 points would do. I will go for a Britt brace and a goal from Rudy in a 3-1 win.

    If I remember correctly, Rudy scored many goals at Blackburn one season. He played together with Rhodes and both scored over 20 goals the same season.

    I would try something a bit oldfashioned now. I would play two wingers and two strikers in the team. So two targets for Traore to aim to from the wing.

    I would go for the following:
    Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend
    Traore, Besic, Howson, Downing
    Rudy & Britt

    I know Downing is not quick. But he can center nicely. And we could have Harrison or Johnson as a back-up. I would put Howson in front of Besic. Or then Downing in there and Harrison on the wing.

    I know 4-4-2 is not fashionable nowadays but perhaps worth a try. Up the Boro!

    1. You are right Jarkko 442 isn’t fashionable but if you have to plough a field and given the choice between a Ferrari sports car and a Massey Ferguson tractor as much as your heart may desire the Ferrari you know you will have to accept the tractor will get the job done better.

      Right now I suspect that TP wishes he had a very tall brute of a Striker who is deadly accurate in the air, scores goals for fun and can give Viduka lessons in holding the ball up. What he wants and what he has got however are two different things. Entering a Massey Ferguson into the Le Mans 24 hour is destined to fail and likewise ploughing a field with a Ferrari is going to end in very expensive tears.

      Rudy at 29 years old has only had one decent season in his career and that was part of a duo, the rest of his career is littered with single figure goal returns. Britt has an impressive goal scoring pedigree but isn’t a tall Striker capable of ruffling CB’s. Paddy is skilful, lacking confidence and luck but something does lie within. Whichever way you look at it TP has to make the best out of what he has because he certainly hasn’t got what he wants that much we do know. He either tries to win races with a Massey Ferguson and ploughs field with Ferraris or the penny drops (perhaps courtesy of Curtis) that until the Summer comes along he has to make the best out of what he has got available and utilise their strengths. Who knows he may even come to like it!

      1. Reading between the lines of furrows on my brow, there was an interesting article comparing Harry Kane with Paddy Bamford the other day.

        Both had similar careers until Kane was put into the first team and Paddy went on his disastrous loan moves.

        I’ll try and find it and post the link


      2. Agreed, RR. All I want to add is that Rudi and Traore has a good rapport and they play nicely together. I just want to have Britt in the team, too.

        About tractors (I know Ipswich fans are better on these) I am a Massey Ferguson man. I have a model in my study as both of my uncles had one. My model is MF 135 which look exactly like the ones they had.

        David Brown is more Aston, me thinks. Up the Boro!

  3. Werder
    Yet another masterpiece. I think I’ll just put “ditto” in future because, as I said last week, I’ve run out of superlatives to describe your work.
    Not expecting a classic tomorrow but would like to see a home win or, at least, a Boro goal or two.

  4. Valid point, Len. Lisa’s scripts for the first two episodes were arguably snappier and more taut than the rest. Yet the show continued to surprise, amaze and amuse. I can’t think of one concept that didn’t work in some way or another, be it the dog, the statue and the priest, the Ukrainian girl (though Diona, who played her, was born and bred in Derry!) or the journey down south featuring Terry Keeley in the back of the car. The highlight of that fifth episode was probably giving Tommy Tiernan (a great stand-up comic who also played a suicidal priest in Father Ted) a chance to flex his comedic muscles fully.

  5. Entertaining as ever Werder thanks very much.

    Hopefully Curtis can be the Persuader and maybe advise TP that playing a certain style needs the right type of player and I’m not sure we have those at the club. Still think Pulis will get it right but unfortunately getting it right this season hasn’t materialized as yet.

    Bob belated thanks for another great piece with John Hendrie.

    1. Thanks I am in my stride now with these In2Views (hopefully!)

      It’s interesting talking to the interviewees and extracting the information. Some are quite forthcoming but others are shyly reticent and have to be coaxed to get any information out of them.

      Thankfully John Hendrie was one of the more extrovert characters and hopefully his character shone through in his In2Views.


  6. OFB,

    Balls in the sky now. Footballs of course. Using the same logic as you one day they will draw 0 – 0 I’m going for a home win. Boro 2 – 0 Reading, now there’s optimism for you.

    If we lose 0 – 1 yet again I don’t think we’ll win a home match ever again. I hope Mr Pulis hammers in to them the danger of conceding in the minutes just before half-time and full-time. Concentration men, concentration.

    The only other tactic he needs to drum into them is where the opposition’s goal is and the need to bombard it.



    1. There are so many teams that are reduced to playing scramble football that any team which does not recognise and deal with it will suffer.
      THe four painful results which we have suffered in this present run will continue i am afraid until that day comes.
      There is no mystery about their methods, they are simple(but of course, too much for us).
      the method is to start with a containing action, minimum expenditure of energy, block every shot, play in your own area.
      Ten minutes to half time start attacking, and keep it up until the whistle.
      Start the second half with a small period of attacking, then go into full containment mode until fifteen minutes are left, then on with three sub’s, up the field and do not leave the opposition half until the whistle, meanwhile go through the usual routines, dive early and dive often, try to get your foot somewhere near a defender, and above all try to flick the ball off a defender for a corner, four consecutive corners invariably equals a goal. You know it makes sense.

  7. Just wondering if it is real history you are referencing Werder, or a Hollywood version of it! Nicely crafted and imaginative warm up article again, well done.

    So long as we don’t get Roundheads forced into square holes and the team don’t get too Cavalier with their formation we should avoid a Civil War on the terraces. And to all who think the Boro will fail again on Saturday, may the Naseby out-shouted by the ayes and may the team at last show its true Marston’s Pedigree and deliver a decisive victory over the Royalists on their awayday from Reading Gaol.

    Definitely not a day for Tony+Curtis when “You Can’t Win ’em All”; when the boys should stand proud like “Spartacus”; when once again the rebellious red army will enjoy “The Sweet Smell of Success”; when just like “Houdini” our impossible escape from the clutches of the Championship into the “Forbidden” delights of the Premiership will begin once more.

    3-0 to the revolutionaries in red.

  8. Another great read Werder, especially as I really like history.

    I always sided with the Royalists unfortunately, so hope that does not impact on tomorrows match. The weather forecast is not looking too good according to the internet…with heavy rain forecast.

    Hope to be able to catch the iFollow link, as I have being having problems streaming it on my desktop, but not on my i-pad. Not sure of the reason only to say, could it be my antivirus as I do not have one on my Apple Tablet. Paused the antivirus but still no joy. I can and have paid using my desktop hence being able to pick up on the tablet.

    Sorry for the above drivel, just hoping for a decent game and a necessary win. Nothing else will do if we are to prolong the season. Harrison to start, probably with Gestede up top. And no excuses Tony.

    1. Pedro

      Have you paid for the iFOLLOW stream and if so please can you send me the link?

      I have been onto the Reading website for the last few days but unable to find the match day pass button.

      Contacted IFOLLOW who said if it was not there at the moment I would be able to purchase a match day pass one hour before kick off – all seems rather strange to me.

      Onto tomorrow’s game, another great article thank you Werder.

      I am going for a home win tomorrow on the basis that by the law of averages TP has to win a home league game sooner or later, we are playing a team below us in the league so normally win and Assombalonga usually scores against the lower sides in the division.

      This is, of course, assuming that “typical Boro” do not turn up!

      Boro 1-0 Reading

      Crowd 22,222

      CoB 😎

      1. KP……Looked at the website yesterday on my browser (edge and google) and I also could not fin the link to subscribe. Downloaded the Reading App as the stream will only work on my apple I-pad through the app. This is my back up if I cannot get the stream on my desk top.

  9. KP…….not being able to log in to the Reading website and pay as yet. Also downloaded the Reading app on my I-pad as a backup (will only stream through the app and not a browser).
    Hope all will be OK tomorrow…..a stream and a win

  10. I’ve seen that Gestede’s red card being rescinded is a possible sign that a turning point in Boro’s fortunes this season has been reached. Let’s hope it’s not a turning circle of a North Sea Oil Tanker!
    2.0 To Boro 23,234 attendance

  11. I’ve checked out various clubs who are part of iFollow and none of them are currently showing the usual link to purchase a Match Pass so I presume it’s not a Reading specific problem but a wider iFollow issue. Hopefully it will sorted out overnight!

    1. Thanks for that confirmation Werder. You and I were both thinking alike.

      When I received the resonse from iFOLLOW that the match pass should be available via the match centre but if it wasn’t then I would be able to purchase a pass tomorrow, I went onto a number of club sites and found exactly the same situation as Reading.

      The cynic in me says there is a general problem or alternatively they are trying to push supporters to the season ticket option and to only offer the match pass at the last minute.

      As you say, hopefully it will be all resolved tomorrow.

      Radio Tees is my back up plan but I have got used to being able to watch the Boro every week and now feel deprived if I am unable to do so. How sad am I?

      1. SOme friends bought a half season ticket at Xmas and haven’t seen the Boro win at home yet!

        So if you don’t see it tomorrow it could be your lucky day !

      2. It is a little irritating if we have to wait until the last minute as you then don’t have time to contact anyone if anything goes wrong in the process – maybe you are right that it’s by design to encourage users to sign up for a longer deal.

  12. If TP makes a Ferrari such as Bamford plough a lone furrow on the left then it’s no wonder he resembles a Ben Nuffield.

    I apologise for stating the obvious, but as OFB’s linked article argues, Bamford must be played at 9 or 10 to exploit his ability. But who could we play left midfield? Well, ooh, I don’t know, maybe Downing could do a job there. I wonder if Stuey wants to. Has he agitated for a central role, perhaps?

    Bamford could partner either Gestede or Assombalonga.

    Or TP could go mad and play Bamford at 9 and Downing at 10. They would certainly be clever enough to cause problems, but who to play left mid?

    Anyway, an optimistic Roundheads 2 Royals 0.

  13. Another classic Weder, I was laughing out load and of course no point trying to explain to Mrs BBD why!

    I think all the usual puns have been used up from others so I will refrain from trying to come up with any.

    For me, TP will ultimately come good although he needs to get the team playing to his way. That is clearly proving harder than he probably thought at the outset.

    Tomorrow needs to be another win to keep the playoffs in sight (albeit a long shot) and I hope that we avoid a Royal Flush and keep a clean sheet with hopefully Boro coming up trumps with a win by more than a solitaire goal! TP may need to shuffle his pack and play his cards right to achieve a winning hand but I am sure it can be done!

    So, Boro 1 Royals 0, 15 shots on goal, one on target, Rudy to score in the 89th minute with 24321 hardy supporters braving the elements although many will have left by the time we score the winner.


  14. All of a sudden I’m unable to watch videos on MFC website. I’m asked for details of my email address and password – no problem, but then am told to ‘click here to activate my account from the email sent to me’. How am I to do that when I’m abroad for another 6 weeks with no access to my inbox? MFC already had my details and I was able to watch videos up until last week. Not now though.
    Bureaucracy gone mad? You know, I don’t think I can be bothered.

  15. Werder

    Apologies, I wrongly assumed that if Ken can get onto the MFC website then he should be able to access his emails. My bad – I think that’s what the youngsters say!

    1. Actually 9 times out of 10 you’d be right that there is probably a way he could access his email if he has internet or failing that Ken could for example get himself an outlook email address instead to send a mail to Bob – or even re-register with a different email address.

  16. I’ve just heard that former Irish international Liam Miller has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at age 36.

    More than ten years ago I was there to see him deny Boro victory in the Tees-Wear Derby right at the death. The pain I felt then is completely irrelevant – what I feel now is utterly devastating.

    My thoughts are with his family and friends.

  17. As a postscript…

    Roy Keane worked with Liam Miller. Both played for United simultaneously and the former managed the latter at Sunderland.

    All this brings to mind what cruelly cut short Gary Ablett’s life. Keane and Ablett worked together on the coaching staff at Ipswich. Briefly. I pass you over now to Keane for one of the saddest passages I remember reading in a football book.

    “Gary hadn’t felt well when we were (on pre-season tour) in Holland. I remember myself and the other staff getting into him.

    ‘“Are you homesick for Liverpool, Gary? Are you missing all the burnt-out cars and shell suits?’ It was all friendly banter.

    “And Gary was, ‘Oh, I don’t feel too well.’

    “He didn’t come into work a few days. He got ill very, very quickly. He was staying in a hotel not far from where I lived, and we got the club doctor in to see him. Within a day or two, he was in the cancer ward in the hospital in Cambridge. He had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. He was fighting for his life. He never worked again.

    “Because he’d come in pre-season and there were still people on holiday, Gary’s contract hadn’t been finalised and signed, and although we’d agreed the package, the club wasn’t legally bound to do anything.

    “I rang the LMA – the League Managers’ Association – and said, ‘You’ll have to come and help one of my staff.’

    “But Gary wasn’t a member. But, still, they were brilliant. They made sure he got all his entitlements and the club had to honour the deal. I had a meeting with the staff, to explain how ill Gary was. I was very emotional. I remember thinking, ‘I’m not really ready for this.’

    “But who is?

    “I don’t think I handled it very well, but I’m not sure that an older man would necessarily have handled it better.

    “Gary was in the process of writing a book – it’s very good – and he told me he was convinced that the pressures of football had taken their toll on him. He’d had a hard time at Stockport – financial problems, transfer embargoes. The stresses and strains had damaged him.

    “I’d drive down to Cambridge after training to see Gary. Eventually, he was moved up to Christie’s Hospital, in Manchester, so he could be nearer his family in Liverpool. I’d take my staff up to see him or I’d see him at his house.

    “He’d been planning to start giving talks on his career and the pressures of the game. That was going to be his project, because getting back on the training pitch was going to be very difficult. But he never got the opportunity.

    “He died sixteen months after he’d been diagnosed. I was on holiday in Mauritius when I heard the news. I’d gone from Ipswich by then.

    “It was shocking.”

    1. Si

      Liam Miller and Gary Ablett’s lot in life puts things into perspective.Whilst we become passionately embroiled for two or three days after just 90 minutes of life there are others far less fortunate. Thoughts are with Liam’s family and friends and of course Gary’s and everyone else affected by this horrible disease.

    1. Thanks Braveheart, I’m also enjoying the German sun this morning, though it’s -8 degree outside so I should at least find a free sun-lounger! I think this is a must-win game for Boro as I noticed the two teams 6 points above us (Bristol, Fulham) are likely to win as they are playing Sunderland and Bolton.

  18. Looking ahead to the game today, it seems Tony Pulis has identified the problem as he said “The biggest issue with us has been scoring goals… and the one major issue with the team at the moment is nothing other than the fact that we’ve not been taking chances. They’ve not been difficult chances at times either.”

    Though this is not a Tony Pulis problem if you look at the goal stats for this season of our forwards and midfield:

    Bamford....... 1
    Gestede....... 1
    Adama......... 1
    Downing....... 1
    Howson........ 2
    Leadbitter.... 2 (pens)

    If you also add the fact that Britt has only scored one goal in his last 12 games then Pulis is also right when he says “I don’t think it’s a blip because it’s been going on for a while. We need a break as much as anything, we just need something to go for us” – though I’d disagree with the last point as I think Boro need more than a break to see the team go on a sustained goal-scoring run.

    The worry is that there isn’t a solution with the current group of players but surely it must be time to try a different approach, whether that be two up top or 4-3-3 as waiting for the system to produce goals will only see the season become a dead rubber long before it ends.

    1. Something that I observe and get really frustrated with is during the warm ups we take pot shots at goal and circa 95% at least are on target and like as not end up in the net. Fast forward twenty minutes or so with the game started and I see those self same players in identical areas of the pitch blast the ball into the upper tiers of the North or South Stands. I fully appreciate that warm up shots are different to being under pressure and perhaps even off balance but for them to be continually blasted high and wide is incredible as surely by the law of averages some should be on target and with some intent behind them?

      Our Midfielders especially almost seem to have perfected this as an art form.

      1. RR
        Yep. It frustrates me too. Defenders are pilloried for mistakes. To me, not getting shots on target, when in a good position, is also criminal but it is just shrugged off as acceptable.

  19. Werdermouth
    Thanks for all your suggestions regarding problems with MFC videos. I’ll give it a try when there is less traffic on my current WiFi connection.

    Clear blue skies practically every day in the Algarve, but unusually low temperatures – 3 to 5 degrees during the night, and only 12 degrees maximum by 1pm this month. Global warming? Well, I’m told they had temperatures of 46 degrees in July.

    1. Ken, if you have a smart mobile phone with a data contract you could use that to access your emails, browser etc.

      I have a Spanish phone that I use when in the UK. There are no roaming charges now so my bills are only about one euro more per UK month.

  20. With all Reading’s injury problems this is the perfect game for TP to break his Championship Riverside duck. My heart says we should win this comfortably but my head says where are the goals going to come from? Reading will like as not keep things tight and try and frustrate relying on Barrow and Aluko to open us up and Martin to nick one. We can rely on non scoring square pegged Paddy, Assombalongone and maybe one bouncing off Rudy’s head, doesn’t entirely convince unless TP’s engrained tactics are tweaked to suit.

    In theory 3-0 to Boro but on recent form its more likely to be 0-0 or 1-1 and restless natives on both sides plus an amusing read on Monday of “questions that we would have asked had we been there but were not allowed to be so we made them up along with the answers to suit ourselves and spite them regardless, so see if we care.”

    This has to be the day that we see something in response to the sterility of our striking performances surely!

  21. RR – I wish it could be a 3 0 victory although I share your frustration with the warms up etc. It never ceases to amaze me that the players are professionals who train and practice in their chosen job but come match day, cannot do the basics that they are paid to do.

    Surely the Gary Player ( or Arnold Palmer] quote of “ the more I practice the luckier I get” should be working by now with them!?

    I am sticking to my last minute winner with a Gestede header adlthough I just hope that it is at the right end! Unlike that fantastic own goal in the clip that Ian found.

    1. It’s probably a bit like golf as on the few occasions I’ve tried to hit a golf ball I tended to try and hit it as hard as possible and usually ended up leaning back and topping it 30 yards along the ground. I discovered it’s much easier when you try to hit the ball around 80% strength – maybe that’s what happens with players during a game with the adrenaline pumping – they put too much into the shot and lose direction and control.

  22. Werder’s pieces are a good read because when you re read them you find another nugget hidden away.

    Now for some thing completetley different, the BBC website had an article about business gobbledegook. My favourite was one from administration at Warwick University along the lines of ‘to maximise the cost effective throughput of learning receptor units’.

    Can anyone think of a term for a Boro striker. Net preservation officers?

    1. Ian,

      Conversation with a Boro ‘Net Conservator and restorer’.

      Please don’t touch the nets in any way. We have to preserve them just like Stonehenge not erode or damage them. We are merely the custodians of the nets and you can’t trust goalkeepers to look after them properly.



  23. Still waiting for the iFollow Match Pass button to appear on the Reading site with now less than three hours to kick-off – I mailed Reading yesterday and got a reply this morning saying iFollow subscriptions were nothing to do with them and I should contact EFL instead – which I did but as yet no reply.

    I did reply to Reading asking if they thought a service they were offering on their website to watch their club is perhaps something actually to do with them and maybe they should also contact EFL to ask what the problem is on their customers behalf. Some suggest the link for a Match Pass might shortly appear before kick-off – which will no doubt probably cause the system to crash as everyone makes a late dash to sign up!

  24. Werder

    Thanks for doing that. I have been visiting the website this morning regularly but still finding the same problem.

    When you log in there is a bubble on the bottom right of the screen which enables you to have a live chat with EFL which I did yesterday and was advised that the link would appear an hour before kick off!

    I like you are concerned about the system crashing, as this appears to be across all the Championship clubs whose matches are eligible for streaming.

    Fingers and everything else crossed that cometh the hour all is ok.

  25. Werder i do not agree with TP’s opinion that we have created sufficient “easy” chances. Apart from one or two set piece opportuinities which fell to the defenders, the forwards have been living off scraps.

    His system with the players we have is not working. Not enough balls into the box infront of the player. Hardly any that I can recall played through for the forward to run on to. (Adama for Gestede was an exception).

    OK the forwards may not be playing with confidence, but the majority of the problem is of TP’smaking IMO.
    Play Bamford at 9 with Harrison behind him. SD and Adama wide. Howson also to add to the forwrd play.

    Off now to check iFollow!!

  26. Werder, you are amazing. Yet another brilliant piece. We are truly spoilt.

    As for today’s game, do I feel a keen sense of anticipation? No. Do I feel any emerging tingles of excitement? No. Am I looking forward to being entertained? No.
    Do I think my team will win? No. Do I think there is anything substantial to look forward to with Boro this season? No. Will I continue to support the Boro as ever? Of course. But what a disappointing place to be after a season which could have delivered so much. How could the club make such a mess of it?

    As for the score I predict a very dull 0-0.

    1. Thanks Boroexile, I share your lack of anticipation of an exciting game but you know one day it will happen. As for the team, just one change as Howson returns in place of Clayton, which is no surprise – apparently the new boys on the bench so one of them may get a debut.

      I’ll go 2-0 to Boro on the basis Reading are not very good and have only won one of their last eleven games. Leadbitter and Adama to score.

    1. Boroexile,

      I miss Spartak, he’d get out of order occasionally but he’s a Diasboro character, a sort of Billy Bremner stir it up personality. I wish he’s start posting again.

      I’m now retiring to a cool dark place until the game is over, my nerves a frayed already.



    1. Thanks Werder.

      Your post beat me to it. Not straight forward, I had to contact EFL to find out I needed to click the “listen live now” link! Let’s hope the stream works ok and that we get the right result.

      1. It’s beyond me that they make something so simple so unnecessarily complicated – it’s almost like we’re in some secret society with hidden clues and word-of-mouth info being passed on to get to the party. Let’s hope the game is worth it!

  27. Thank you for that. I have being chasing around for the last 15 minutes to no avail.
    I also would not of thought about clicking on the listen now link, thinking that you will only get the commentary. Paid my money now and hopefully the watch live link will appear soon.
    I may then have to swop to my I-pad if the stream does not appear on the desktop. What a carry on to watch the Boro…..hope it is worth it Werder!!!!

  28. Take back what I said about 95% of the warm up shots on target!!!!

    Fans in the North Stand have just spent ten minutes ducking for cover despite the safety netting in place with one seat back smashed and one little lad taking a ball full in the face sending him and his glasses flying.

    Hope its a reverse trend and we now see shots on target during the actual game itself.

  29. Maddo says Reading are poor, nothing to beat, waiting for the fatal blow. There again, have we laid a finger on them?

    Those watching can up date me on the accuracy of those comments.

    1. It was a pretty low-key first half no real clear cut chances and only really Adama causing any problems but the crosses weren’t finding anyone and other than long throws nothing much else to trouble Reading. We needed the goal and Adama deserved it for effort. But generally lacking much intensity and passes were made to stationary players or passed sideways or backwards around the centre circle.

  30. Agree with Werder, like watching paint dry, generally poor passes from the midfield. One shot from SD and a good chance over the top from their 38. Nothing then Adams scores and HT.

    Then he scores again.

  31. Well Boro did their best to make hard work out of that game – After Adama’s well taken second goal and then Leadbitter hitting the post from a free kick I thought we’d romp to victory before remembering this is Boro – off came Bamford on came another defensive midfielder, Boro sat back had a scare then conceded a sloppy goal. Fear not Adama won a penalty and as I waited for the reliable Leadbitter to make the game safe, up popped Assombalonga to take the spot kick, ran up shimmied and struck the conversion, which would have made Ken proud if he was playing for Cas – unfortunately this was association football and not rugby with the ball still rising when it hit the small boy with glasses in row Z – I don’t think I’ve laughed so loud watching football in a long time. Thankfully we held on and a much needed three points but it should have been far easier. MOM was no contest with Adama and nobody else in sight of even being considered – though Britt gets most valuable player – albeit with a rapidly declining price-tag.

  32. I normally put a couple of bucks on Ayala as first scorer but his odds have declined of late.
    Looked at the odds for first scorer, Adoma was not so good so I looked at an Adama double, good odds but nah……. Never gonna happen. Kept my $5 in my pocket.
    Typical Boro!!!!
    Just happy they won.

  33. It could easily have been 4-1 to Boro but it would still have been an uninspiring performance. Reading were poor.

    Thank goodness for Adama who was the best player on the pitch by miles and deserved his goals. My dog would have done better with the penalty than Assombalonga whose effort beggared belief for a £9m striker.

    Still a win is a win and very welcome. It would just be nice to see some evidence of real progress in the way we play and our intensity.

  34. As always Boro show that they have perfected ‘doing it the hard way’. We could have scored four but didn’t. Hit the post and missed a penalty. Then we sweat and panic after Reading score and they had chances, or chance, earlier on. That kind of torment must take real skill. Having said that we won.

    Full marks to Sunderland for that fightback from 3 – 0 down, Bristol City must be coveting Boro’s tactics.

    Celebratory beers called for nevertheless. Well done Boro and I’m looking forward to RR’s match report.



  35. So Assombalonga has gone from a lazy striker who “just scores goals” to a lazy striker who doesn’t score goals. In his defense as I like to think I’m a balanced type of bloke, chips on both shoulders, he’s not had much game time under TP. But to have the chance to break his non scoring run with a free strike from 12 yards and then to cock it up in monumental style shows how far away from starting again with TP in charge.

    I thought the first substitution was a bit of a strange one and I’m afraid it did sound like typical Boro at the end. The plus point was at least we won.

    Onwards and hopefully upwards.

  36. Boroexile

    Just to cheer you up I believe Brit cost £15 million.


    I watched the Brizzle Sunderland game out here while listening to Tees. In the first half Sunderland were lucky to have nil but credit to them for a great come back. Must’ve been one hell of a half time team talk by Chris Coleman.

    1. FAA, thanks for putting me straight on the Assombalonga fee. I seem to have a mental block that prevents me from contemplating that anyone who produces something like the penalty today can have cost £15m. £9m would have been extortion!!

      1. Boroinexile
        Nine million is horrible to contemplate for so much dross. We will not forget the display of stupidity by this man, it was not his penalty to take, the person who should have taken it was Traore , a hat trick would have paid real dividends for this club, in belief in himself.
        From now on he should play front and centre on the twin centre backs, play the ball up to him on the ground, short of, him so that he has to come for it, dragging both the defenders with him. I reckon he would get a hatful of goals. And plenty of penalties.

  37. No problem with the stream from the Reading web page.

    Traore was excellent – should have scored a hat trick from the penalty spot.

    Why we parked the but in the second half and stopped playing. If we decide just to defend, why the other bank of four/five must be at the line of our own penalty box. Why so deep?

    We chased them out of the match in the first half. Reading couldn’t start an attack but then we gave the incetive to them. Why did we bring Bamford off and replayced him with Clayton? And the next change was oven more bizzarre.

    But the low point of the game was the penalty. Like shooting in to the own leg while kicking the ball at the spot! Comic.

    Well, we should have won by 3 or 4 to one but did not. Hope we will start to play better soon.

    Up the Boro!

  38. Excellent RR as ever.

    Not much to add to what you say in your report but it is worrying when the thought crosses your mind that the substitutions made by Pulis make those made by Monk look OK. The ones Pulis made today were bizarre and could easily have cost us the game. Managers aren’t supposed to do that are they?

  39. Absolutely spot on RR.
    I have said previously that I was not convinced Mr Pulis was the right choice and he has still lots to do to convince me that I was wrong.

    1. I’ve seen nothing yet to say or see that Pulis is not the right choice as our manager.

      He inspires confidence by his team talks and press conferences and the general concensus of the crowd is that he is doing a good job.

      He’s only been here for a few weeks so I think we should cut him some slack before making any defining statement

      Let’s see where we are at the end of the season


  40. RR

    as usual on the nail exactly how I saw it as well.

    To be fair to TP the Boro sat
    Back after going 2 up and he was going to bring on Harrison for Bamford jist before Reading scored.

    A quick change of plans and Clayton came on who’s purpose was to be a midfield destroyer. The melee he was involved with should have seen at least one red card given to a Reading player as Clayton was manhandled by 3 or 4 players at various times after his initial clash.

    I think TP was trying to give Assambalonga a run out when we were comfortable but the player does not look comfortable or far worse doesn’t look interested.

    I’m sure words will be said but he does not look like a £15m player and we can’t blame our current manager for that!

    Defensively we looked solid midfield was ok and it was nice to see Traore run over to TP after he had scored the first goal to celebrate with him

    Bamford had a fairly busy first half and looked like he was settling into his role on the left.

    Unfortunately he missed a great chance to wrap things up

    Thanks for your report RR well done again at least our team at Diasboro keeps performing !


  41. Not impressed with Pulis’s Boro at all today. Reading turned up to try and escape with a draw. Boro played right into their hands by effectively playing like a Sunday League side.

    We lacked any imagination in the final third and instead relied on a series of long punts up. to Gestede or into the channel for Traore. Throw went long up the line towards Gestede until enough territory was gained to hurl the ball into the box. It was tepid & looked like a 0-0 all day long.

    Then came Adama’s moment of magic. Let’s pray he stays fit because we are a very ordinary side with out him at the minute. We shouldn’t be. But with Pulis playing Sunday League plus it’s hard for anyone to shine. I’m not surprised our strikers are short of confidence. They have long balls pumped up to them and are expected to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

    Pulis’s substitution was also terrible today. Moving Adama to the left reduced his effectiveness and following this Reading came back into the game.

    A welcome 3 points but to say I’m not convinced by Pulis would be putting it mildly.

  42. I think long term Pulis will succeed. He has seemingly restored belief and confidence to Friend, Shotton, Ayala (and Ben by default), Howson and Traore. Too many pluses for it to have been a coincidence. Worryingly however he seems to be having the opposite effect on some others. Maybe its just a bedding in process and it will click but it doesn’t appear to be working with our attacking options. The style doesn’t suit or fit the skill sets and if long throw ins and set pieces up to the big lads is the only option then we are not utilising or making the best out of what we have and missing several tricks.

    If we take Traore out of this current side we offer zilch, nada, nowt in terms of a threat. Its still early days but offensively its not working, there isn’t a discernible plan or a set of tactics to turn midfield passing into attack other than feed Adama or win a throw in. That game should have seen us comfortably home and dry with the deck chairs and cigars out in the last 30 minutes instead of running the clock down at corner flags.

    The Clayton/Bamford substitution had those around me asking “what on earth” (not the actual language but conveys the general impression) disrupting and unbalancing the side along with Adama on the left (which we have done to death on here previously) nearly costing us the game. The ridiculous pushing and shoving spat didn’t do either side any favours but I felt the Ref was a bit weak and too remote from what was going on which didn’t help matters. The thinking aspect for me in this was that its Clayts again picking up yet another yellow for a pointless nothing ball in the middle of the park. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,………..” came to mind from earlier this week on here!

    Considering the opposition it was a very poor unconvincing performance under the circumstances. What we have gained with Adama we seem to have now lost with Britt. Putting the farcical penalty aside our best asset is seemingly being devalued at one heck of a rate, meanwhile his biggest attribute is what we are in desperate need of. I’m struggling to figure that one out and I’m concerned that it perhaps has the earliest signs of the AA/AK division.

    There are undoubted and undisputed positives to take since TP arrived, I extolled his virtues and why we should pursue him (way before even SG I think). I accept that this is the early stages of a work in progress but I also think that we could and should have done better, much better. Yesterday wasn’t good enough, especially the substitution and the neutralising of Traore, something Jaap Stam couldn’t do all afternoon.

    1. RR
      It’s frightening to think that it was a carbon copy of the last four matches.
      This is serious, because we appear to think we are on the right lines, even worse we seem to think that Traore is just a little crazy dribbler who, at the moment is getting lucky.
      I live in dread of hearing that they have sold him for a few million.
      It is clear that, given the ball in the clear, somewhere near the box, he is in the process of becoming one of the most prized players in the English leagues.
      If he can become greedy for goals he can reach the very top of the game.

  43. Thanks RR for your honest and hard hitting report which makes great reading. Good job you don’t work for the Gazette otherwise I think you would be banned by the club! Keep up the fantastic ‘ I tell how it is reporting ‘

  44. RR, very much like I saw the match on iFollow. Great report as always.

    I like to see more game time for Britt. He was looking like a more-than-20-goals-a-season striker. We cannot have him sittenhän on the bench. No, he is too good player to sit in there. During the Monk time he would have scored a hat trick versus a side like Reading.

    I would still play Rudy and Britt together in the team. And try Besic rather than Clayton or Leadbitter in the middle. I cannot see we could play the former pair together.

    I like Britt and we should utilize him as well as we can. Up the Boro!

  45. I watched the game and didnt realise Reading had scored. So it was a shock this morning to read 2-1 instead of 2-0. Had I known I would have been a bit more telepathic with the Penalty and willed the ball into the net instead of just having another glass of wine.

    RR has done another good write up – obviously missed the true calling and probably looking forward to a full time appointment once retirement comes to fruitition. Although retirement in his sort of profession rarely comes to fruition so long as the grey matter still works.

    So my take on the game is very similar – was their goal any good or was it a defensive howler?

    Good to see Billy Wizz score 2 goals although all three goals this season look spokkily similar to me which suggestws he is a one trick pony and will soon be rumbled [although putting him on the left where he hasnt a clue will delay that eventuality] His second goal was at the perfect angle for the camera and looked a peach of a shot.

    So a norrow scrape to keep our hopes up long enough for the mandatory cruel dashing nearer the end of the season.


    1. Anyone can rumble Traore, the trouble is catching him, even then you can kick him only once, but there’s eighty minutes to go, and you have been booked, and he is just getting warmed up, worse yet, the young tinker is now becoming a goal hound, and when he gets into your penalty area with the ball life becomes extremely difficult because he can beat you and get a shot away. Unless, of course you really must take a lump out of him, then that becomes a penalty, because this young man does not know the meaning of diving. Happy days.

  46. I’m sure Mr Pulis has a plan and must be working to find, or convince, which players fit into his formula.

    Having seen that penalty I don’t know whether it came from a ‘Carry on’ or ‘Hammer film’, let’s just say it was a laughable horror. What happened to our regular penalty taker? If the intention was a goal to bolster Britt’s confidence it didn’t work. The last of the confidence must have evaporated as the ball disappeared.

    For Simon I think we are the ‘club at Pu Corner’ and that will be the corner that we haven’t turned yet, we’re just having a peep round at the moment.

    To paraphrase a great statesman Boro are ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. That’ll be typical Boro then.



  47. Many thanks to Redcar Red for another excellent match report that put its finger on what almost became a turning point in the game – i.e. the substitution of Bamford for Clayton and the subsequent shuffling of Adama onto the left. OK some managers we used to know always decided a two goal lead was signal to shut up shop and see the game out – but this version of Boro are prone to sitting far deeper when in defensive mode as we saw last week against Norwich.

    As Redcar Red said, their Adama-lookalike, who appear to share the same hairdresser, Bacuna was glad to see Traore move to the left and he then became an attacking threat too. At no point in the game had I imagined Boro would be hanging on against Reading as they had shown nothing up until Boro’s substitution.

    Full marks though to Pulis for instigating a massive improvement in Adama’s game with his man-management skills – but unfortunately for the team as a whole, he has gone from an amazingly quick talented player with with limited end product to possibly our only forward with an end product – plus following yesterday’s brace he now joins Ayala as our joint second-best goal scorer with a massive three goals, which if you consider Boro have played 31 games it is a ridiculous stat.

    Assombalonga’s confidence looks shot and Bamford also looks like he’s finding it hard to impose himself on games, which leaves Gestede as the only other striker and it’s hard to see him suddenly knocking them in – it basically means Adama has become our only threat and the opposition will also know that too – Pulis must start working with the other strikers and try to push their buttons too as Adama won’t always be in the zone like yesterday.

  48. Those who listen rather than watch must leave detailed views to others but we can comment. Great feedback from RR as usual and contributions from others that watched. Adama got a separate slot on channel 5’s coverage!

    It is fair to give views from what you hear or impressions. When I heard Clayton was comi9ng on for Bamford I was waiting to hear what the other change was, a double substitution. It doesn’t matter the order the changes are made – Clayton for Bamford and Harrison for Grant means It is two on two off.

    I scratched my head when it was just Clayts for Paddy, it turned to shaking and scratching at the same time when Adama went to the left.

    That isn’t quite right because if you are shaking your head and hold your fingers in place you can accomplish both at the same time, very efficient with even less movement than our strikers.

    That sums up my view of TP, It is Mavis Wilton time.

    Winning at home was important, probably more important than the actual performance. You would hope to see more convincing performances in the coming weeks.

    I was a good Saturday results wise making ground on those around the sixth place mark. We are in the play off mix but need to up our game.

  49. Even we haven’t seen any improvement in results and points during the time Pulis have been at Boro, I hope that Bob and RR are right again and we have the right manager now.

    I fulyl support Tony Pulis as I do with every manager and player we have. And I have to say I do not miss Monk. I do miss Karanka, Mogga (!) and Southgate. Perhaps Monk was not as straight with his interviews as Pulis is. He was not trustworthy.

    Anyway, we must try to get promoted this season to get hold of Traore for another season. He needs to be playing in the Premier League in a year’s or two years’ time. But preferably with Boro. I am pretty sure he likes to play under Pulis and for Boro fans as long as the club progress with him.

    As I look on the league table I think we have a good chance to finish in the top six. And if we have momentum we might do well in the play-offs, too.

    The Championship top in May could look like this in my opinion:
    Aston Villa
    Bristol City
    Sheff Utd

    Wolves will finish in the top two as far as I can see. They have played like we all expected Boro to do before the season started.

    In the next group I have listed the teams I think will finish in the top six by May. Note that I put Boro in there as we should only improve now.

    The last pack is the teams that will be fighting for the last play-off place in May. Mind, it won’t be easy for Boro to avoid being in this group but we should do better than those teams in this group.

    Well, there is still a lot to play for. We need to start playing constantly well for 90 minutes. The same as it was with Munk and we still have the same issue for Pulis to solve.

    But it is essential we believe we can do it to the play-offs this season and keep Traore for at least another season. I love watching him. He could become a player like Juninho one day.

    Let’s make him love to play for Boro and Pulis. Up the Boro!

  50. Thanks again to RR for a great report, highlighting the highs (not many) and the lows (plenty). It mirrored very much my view of the match on what eventually, after all the pre-match iFollow shenanigans, turned out to be a good stream.

    A poor match, Traore apart, which still posed more questions than answers. Reading were a very poor team and I agree with RR that this was as dire as the Birmingham game I attended in November; the difference was that against Birmingham the result never looked in doubt whereas against Reading we tried once more to shoot ourselves in the foot by some inept substitutions/tactics coupled with a penalty miss that beggared belief. For the majority of the game yesterday the Reading keeper had few saves if any to make and with only three shots on target (two goals) I think says it all.

    The three points has left us in touch with the play-off spots and reduced the deficit to four points but effectively we are still two wins behind with the games running down.

    A part of me says that all that is happening is that the agony is being prolonged as this team has still not shown they are capable of putting together a comprehensive and convincing performance.

    Next week we meet our arch nemesis, Neil Warnock, who seems to have got Cardiff back on track so cannot see us getting anything there.

    On the TP front, I believe that he needs more time but am beginning to wonder if we have an AK replacement, he can sort out the defence and make us hard to beat but has, so far, not shown any indication that the lack of creativity from the midfield has been addressed. As for our top goal score, it’s all been said already.

    It is what it is and for Boro supporters it always seems to be the same – hard work!

    1. Talking with supporters yesterday and we all agreed was what we need is an attacking coach as all our current coaches all four of them are defenders.

      Talking to Higgy after the game I remembered that when he came back to us as first team coach under AK our strikers started scoring goals and I don’t think that was a coincidence.

      I asked him if he would like to come back to to Boro.


      “Like a shot, I would still be there now if it hadn’t been for Aitor. Mind, Im made up that Curtis has joined as first team coach. Really pleased for him. I spoke to him this week and he’s really buzzing!”


      Do you think we should all start clamouring for Higgy to come back?


  51. KP in Spain

    Creativity is not just a TP issue, it has occupied us for several windows, the most painful in January 2017.

    The loss of Gaston probably sealed out fate last season. Baker came in the summer and disappeared, Harrison has come in and we haven’t seen him yet. Besic may add some guile to our holding midfielders.

    With what we have I would like to see more support for whoever is the main striker.
    Ideally, I would like to see Bamford in the middle in the much abused no 10 role – the old fashioned striker in the hole.

    Overall we need to see more output from our four attackers.

    1. I agree Ian, but when you see a game, any game they are all the same.

      Poor passing, sideways and backwards. Poor set pieces, corners that are continually floated in from SD. corners that do not beat the first man from Grant. Balls hoofed up to Gestede to knock down, which when he occasionally does win one, does not go to a red shirt as they are absent.

      besic and Harrison where on the bench yesterday… of them should have been brought on at 2-0.

    2. Ian

      I agree and that was the point I was trying to make in that creativity has been a problem since AK arrived and then on through SA and GM and now TP has to address if the team is to progress.

  52. Redcar Reds match report was as others have said honest and to the point warts and all. Like Werder he has a skill that just appears to flow easily, although I am sure it is not that easy, but may be something you are born with.

    OFB, I have nothing against TP as obviously I do not know him. I would say that the guy has been around a lot of years and proved himself at a high level. He has come in and improved certain areas of the squad/team of which we are all aware.

    However when Mr Gibson sacked Garry and brought in TP I am sure part of the discussions were, do you think we can get into the play off spots, to which TP has said yes that is his aim and SG will I am sure have said, if you want money to improve the squad just ask.

    So what has happened since that fateful day? TP has improved the defence and the players in it. Randolf has been consistent all season, Shotton especially in my eyes a different player and Dani and Ben back to good levels. Even George is looking better if not to his previous level. This may never come at his age now.

    The defence now know their job and that is to defend nothing else apart from set pieces. The midfield as we all know is not good enough and that is no disrespect to Grant or Clayton, Howson is playing better but not looking the player at Norwich yet.

    OK the forwards probably are not TP´s type, but as an experienced Manager/Coach should be getting more out of them within a system that suits their talents. And that is my gripe at this time. TP to me is still too defence minded, too AK. That was proven yesterday when he brought on Clayton to preserve the two goal lead. I know OFB said he was going to bring on Harrison before Reading scored, however Bob, Bamford was replaced on 66 minutes, Martin scored on 78.

    Once that happened we went straight into defence mode, with Clayton running around at times like a headless chicken. Adama on the left compounded that, although his penalty award should have put the game to bed. Grant should have pulled rank and taken it. He has proved to be consistent in taking them, not Britt trying to be clever with his, well I am not sure what he was trying to do.

    I honestly believe that there are not many on here apart from Jarrko and may be one or two others that believe we can still make the plays offs. As Bob said lets wait and see where we are at the end of the season
    One thing that is certain though, playing like we have been since TP arrived will not get us into the top six.

    1. One thing that TP has done with his latest after match pressers is to play down the possibility of Boro reaching the play offs and dismisses the idea of promotion.

      I wouldn’t mind betting that SG has dangled a few million quid in bonus payments however if he achieves it !


  53. I think the problem is with the players not being good enough not Pulis himself. He must be wondering where on Earth the 40m was spent in the summer.

    Don’t think Britts problem is confidence,more like he’s sulking because he isn’t starting and he did himself no favours in his twenty minute cameo yesterday,slow,lethargic and don’t even mention the penalty!

    All three strikers have their faults,Bamford looks lost at the moment,George was making the runs he should have been doing,he looked lethargic too and gave away too many stupid fouls! Keep your hands off the player!
    Gestede won the ball all afternoon but there was no movement or anticipation from the other players.
    The only option left with these three is to have Britt playing off Gestede,Britts no target man!

    Or maybe now Traore knows where the net is how about him playing behind Gestede? I thought we should have left him up yesterday in the last 15 mins when all we were doing was hoofing the ball upfield and Britt didn’t have the legs nor inclination to chase.
    Traore running through the middle into the box is bound to bring a few penalties!
    Maybe when this Harrison lad is up to speed it’s an option?

  54. Mathematically, the top six will beckon for a while yet but, realistically, those places will go to teams showing consistent wining form, which we are not (unless a sudden upturn kicks in at Cardiff).
    I’m still undecided about Pulis but reducing match attendances tell you what the uncommitted fans think of what’s been served up since he arrived.
    As always, I hope for the best but expect the worst.

  55. While AK shouldn’t be torn to shreds, simultaneously Higgy shouldn’t be put on too high a pedestal. Had Carlito Higneto been dismissed there wouldn’t be the same furore.

    Of course I value Higgy highly. I always will. It was just unfortunate for Aitor that the coach he dismissed has a history of being hard done by at a club he’s done nothing but try to be loyal to. Recollections of losing his place to first Juninho, then Gascoigne before being sent up north to Aberdeen are still fresh.

  56. In other words, it would seem Higgy ultimately has no place at a club aiming to be “big” with “stars” or a “superstar manager”.

    It’s rather sad. But is that just how it is?

  57. The real problem with this team is indiscipline, the penalty business was simply unforgivable, it was an upbeat moment for the team and the club ruined by an egotistical idiot, all players should be warned before going onto the pitch that the ball goes to the captain and he gives it to the taker.
    We needed that penalty, it was not just a bit of fun, it mattered.
    I was sorry to see people on this blog still treating Traore as a dribbling fool.
    He is worth the money alone for his skills.
    Many people thought that he would get goals if given the ball near the box( and penalties) yesterday could and should have been a hat trick.
    And he is just starting, wait until he realises that he is far more capable of scoring the chances he is giving others, and watch him go.
    We should never sell him before we have tried him in the strikers role, (he might just be the next big thing)

  58. What is the point in supporting Boro if we don’t dream for a play-off spot. I haven’t been convinced by Pulis yet but with a team we have we should “easily” be capable of reaching the top six. Just a good run needed and one quater of matches still to play for.

    Won’t be easy, but I rather have this team than the one we had in 1985/86 season. I just keep on supporting. And wishing we can do it by May. Let’s enjoy – we have much larger squad than most for the marathon.

    Up the Boro!

    1. Us long standing Boro supporters are used to the dreaming and the hope, its always been the same, hence typical Boro!

      My late father and Uncle instilled into me that it is better to travel in hope rather than expectation and there is always next season to look forward to.

      The realist in me says that a top 6 finish is looking 50 50 at best, the dreamer says we will be promoted! Although I still feel that life in the Premier League is not all that it is cracked up to be unless your owners have loads of money.

      Still, despite as a misinformed 8 year old, when I flirted with Man U (after they won the European Cup in 1968) I would always prefer to be a Boro supporter come what may!

  59. Another brilliant summary from Redcar Red – we should be singing ‘he’s one of our own, you know’. His new verb ‘Traoritised’ should be included in the Oxford Dictionary – to traoritise (meaning to terrorise), love it!

    Every team usually has a designated penalty taker, and am surprised that TP had not sorted that out beforehand. We all know that Leadbitter is that player, and that as captain also he should have called rank. I must disagree with those that wanted Traore to be given the chance of a hat trick; we can’t afford sentimentality when only leading by one goal or even two unless it is in injury time.

    What we learned from the match. An outside chance in reaching the playoffs, and a 20-1 chance of promotion if we do?


    It is getting close to the Exmil Challenge time for 2018. My intention, with great help from Werdermouth, is to start the challenge AFTER the Sunderland game. As usual the challenge will be in 3 parts consisting of 4 matches each. Therefore over the next 3 games people should study each teams form as at the moment I think 9 teams could make the playoffs but as we all know things could change dramatically in the next couple of weeks.

    Werdermouth, are you able to re publish the rules and scoring system from last season please.

    Come on BORO.

    1. Sorry Exmil but if you would have run the idea past me first I would have told you that I just don’t have the time to get involved in a Challenge this year as at least 95% of the work involves me having to put in many hours I just don’t have available any more.

      OK, it may have looked simpler than it was but there is quite a lot involved beneath the surface for each part:

      – I have to set up spreadsheets for the teams involved in each part with their data and fixtures
      – Program an output system to produce an interactive form on a third-party site
      – Set up another third-party site to collect the submitted entries into a database
      – Import the predictions into another spreadsheet
      – Output the predictions of entrants into table on a web page
      – Calculate the scores for each part and add them to previous rounds
      – Output the scores into a table on another web page
      – Support technical issues and deal with entrants who can’t use the interactive form

      Sorry but last year was a one-off for me in terms of getting involved in running and producing a prediction challenge.

  61. Werder is not the messiah, just a very busy blogmeister.

    We just don’t know how much work is involved in all your efforts to keep the blog going so even though we say we don’t take it for granted by default we do..

  62. I think the broblem is not Britt. He is the best striker we have had since Viduka etc.

    We should built the team around him as we paid some 15 million for him. The club made the desision not only Monk. So again not the fault of the lad.

    As I said earlier, we should play with two strikers – I would like to see Britt (or Bamford, too) link up with big Rudy. So rather make a tweak to the system than waiting for summer to buy “Pulis type” players.

    Anyway, I don’t think we really know if he is planning to play long ball as all outside the club will tell us.

    But I think Tony will change the things quite slowly as he is still learning more about the players he has at his use. I hope the results will follow the soon after.

    Up the Boro!

    1. Sorry Jarkko can’t agree about Assombalonga. In my opinion he’s not even the best striker in Boro’s current squad. Overall Bamford is better than him, certainly going on his past scoring record. Britt misses far too many chances for me, but I would put Stuani the best striker since Viduka; shame he was never played in his rightful position.

  63. Thanks as always TP RR for the report, we are well and truly spoilt with the effort that you, Weder, Simon and others put into this blog. Your attention to detail is fantastic and you missed your true calling.

    I do feel for you and the others who attend on a regular basis who watch the performances that masquerade as a football match.

    At least there was victory this time and Traore contributing. I guess it is better to win ugly than lose playing free flowing pretty football although if we had failed to flush out the Royals, then it would have been season over for sure.

    Still amazed that we are only 4 points adrift but the Championship is a funny old league.

    Can TP turn it round, with a bit more positive coaching and encouragement then yes, I think he can. Not sure what that involves though apart from the obvious one of keeping the same team maybe.

    Work needs to be done on the midfield to get in to support Gestede and follow up on the knock downs of that is the way he wants to play.

    I just hope that the hope doesn’t kill us come April!

  64. Boro Beckys Dad

    My Rams supporting colleague always says, this is the Championship. Unless youyare out of contention you are in in contention, by the same token you can slither down the snake as easily as you can climb the ladder.

    That is why I haven’t written off the play off hopes. Automatic looks a bit beyond us.

  65. Aargh. Long post just eaten by the system.

    I have just returned from a wedding and have had chance to watch the highlights, backed up by Redcar Red’s excellent report. It sounds as if we were never bad enough to lose but not really that good. I suppose we should be glad for the win and move on. Traore certainly seems to be turning into the gift that’s keeps on giving and his presence seems to be unnerving the opposition. It was interesting to note that defenders are sitting off him a bit because they are frightened of his pace to the line and this in turn gives him the chance to take the inside break and shoot. Result – two goals.

    Regarding the penalty, I think that everything happened as it should have up to the final shot. Leadbitter had missed a recent penalty and he knew that Assombalonga was desperately in need of a goal which could spark the run of success that all strikers seem to have from time to time. Had Britt buried it we would all have been delighted. The fact that it was more danger to passing planes was not part of the script. However, like Jarkko, I still feel that a functioning BA could be what we need to get us into the playoffs and stay there. It will be a test of TP’s man-management skills.

    Anyway, looking ahead, the Cardiff game is very important. We are at the stage of the season when we need to take every opportunity to peg back our direct rivals and a draw or ideally a win is vital. Oddly enough, I am quite optimistic and a little more nervous of the Hull game. They couldn’t keep on playing that badly and might have turned a corner.

    Anyway, optimism is more fun than pessimism and so I still be,Le I’ve that we can do it. Maybe change places with West Brom. Would that be Karma?


    1. Assambalonga was really stroppy and had hold of the ball determined to take the penalty. To prevent a scene Leadbitter patted him on the shoulder and said good luck. When he missed he had to be on his guard as Leads was going to chin him later in the dressing room!

  66. Well its Monday morning and I hope TP, Curtis and Dave Kemp are working on how to get our attack functioning as a unit. Traore is what he is and will blow hot and cold in games but since TP arrived there have been far more hot moments making those dawdling lapses in concentration now much easier to accept. Gestede is Gestede, he is a big unit who bustles and barges CB’s and offers a threat in the air but then what? There is no back up or secondary phase of play to Gestede out jumping defenders rendering that “benefit” almost an irrelevance (which isn’t Gestede’s fault).

    Bamford I think is slowly getting his mojo back. Clearly his last few seasons have taken a toll on him fitness wise and confidence wise not to mention a lack of match sharpness. I think he can get back to how he was before but, and its a huge massive “But”, not playing out on the left (ditto Traore). When Bamford went off our game dipped and along with it handed the initiative to Reading. Its not the first time its happened but to me its now looking like more than just a coincidence. Whilst Paddy isn’t receiving MOM nominations when he is taken off we do seem to be missing something so perhaps his efforts are being under appreciated to a degree. Whatever TP decides to do playing him wide left is not seeing the best of him and there is a danger that it is actually doing harm to his confidence.

    Britt is Boro’s best Striker and his goals scored column proves that. By now we have all sussed that he will miss open sitters and probably far more than he should but if he didn’t miss them he would probably have over twenty goals by now which would be a remarkable achievement regardless of how frustrating he can be. So how do we solve a problem like Assombalonga? Well playing for a start might help because despite my never playing the game at a senior level and not in possession of any coaching badges I can confidently predict that he won’t score any goals sat on the bench. That aside there are issues with Britt and in order to move forwards he himself has to accept and acknowledge them.

    Claims of him being lazy or not committed enough are possibly because he doesn’t appear to bust a gut. In the dying stages there was a ball being played across the Reading box, Britt was nearest but looked like it was too much effort to chase and close down. Out of nowhere and from the right hand side of the pitch Adama comes tearing across and ends up jostling with a panicking defender at the left hand side touchline, Britt still hadn’t raised so much as an eyebrow. Things like that leave him open to criticism (his glaring misses even more so). I am sure TP has identified the exact same limitations but both the coaching staff and the player himself have to strive to work on and improve those shortcomings. It is clearly working with Adama so no reason why Britt shouldn’t be subject to the same in-game scrutiny and attention to detail.

    Maybe Britt feels that at £15M he should be guaranteed a start but he should also reflect on where he wants his career to go. There is a reason why people are now touting Adama to be a Premiership player next season and like as not in the Champions League. Now all that talk is way to premature but there is a reason (like Rhodes before him) that nobody is talking about one of the Championship’s hottest goal scoring properties in the same vein. Is Britt just happy to be a journeyman Championship Striker forever being coveted and doing the rounds in the second tier?

    Maybe Harrison will be the missing link and add more balance to the side but my understanding is that he is more of a right sided player than a left sided one, if so its a head scratcher. Getting back to Bamford, Britt and Gestede there should be more than enough there at this level to fashion something effective out of them but this is the Championship and Championship players are at this level for a reason (albeit a respectably high level in footballing terms). They are not world class, multi disciplined and multi talented players, they are pretty good at what they do but fall short of the Premiership’s finest in thinking, skills, pace, ability and reading of the game.

    They may not be what TP wants in terms of build and skill sets but despite his preferred playing methodology the more he gets out of them the better the returns will be for Boro in the short tern plus the more valued and coveted they will be in the summer. Getting the most out of them now is a no brainer plus giving him more spending power and a greater opportunity if he should so deem it necessary to move them on in the Summer for something more in his liking.

  67. RR, a great post.

    Championship is a good league – there are more spectators than in the Spanish or Italian top division (Primera League and Serie A) this season and all team want to get promoted to the EPL. So the teams in Championship are able to pay more to the players than most leagues can. So higher level every year. I think only the Premier League and German Bundesliga can match Championship for spectators (and for money, too). And Barcelona and Real Madrid.

    Anyway, I wrote earlier than the team should be built around Britt Assombalonga. Let’s see what Tony Pulis will do in there. Work in progress.

    Let’s hope we click this month and continue to push for play offs. Up the Boro!

  68. The left side of the attacking three is a major problem for us. I’m sure that TP doesn’t believe Bamford to be the answer, more that he’s his best option at the moment. The only natural options are Johnson and Downing. Clearly TP doesn’t believe Johnson is worthy of a go and he must believe that Downing is more useful to the team centrally. SD’s best football this season has been from the right, in my view, but Traore has sealed that spot now.

    The question now is, even if SD is diminished by moving him to the left, would that be better for the team? In my opinion, Downing on the left and Bamford behind the striker feels more balanced, even if we get a little less from Downing. We may not get less from SD at all.

    Alternatives other than Johnson would be Lewis Baker (remember him?), Harrison (though like RR, I also understand him to be a left-footed right winger) or a change in formation. The curve-ball is restoring Downing to what now appears to be his favoured right side and try Traore through the middle.

    Perhaps the bigger surprise is that with no-one shining on the left, Marcus Tavernier was allowed to leave on loan. He appears to have been the best performer of the options tried so far on that side.

  69. Andy, I suggested SD on the left only last week. So agree with you.

    BTW, we all blamed TP for bringing in a defender after being 2-0 up. But look what happened at Bristol City after they were 3-0 up versus Sunderland. Fletcher played 90 min but did not score.

    I copied this from the Gazette:

    Bristol City threw away a three-goal lead at home to Sunderland on Saturday. Another setback, which manager Lee Johnson held his hands up for after the game.

    “It’s probably poor decision-making by me. I have to hold my hands up and say, tactically, I got it wrong in the second half,” Johnson told the BBC.

    “I should have settled for 3-0. I probably got excited, and felt they were there for the taking.

    “We had chances but we crumbled. I should have given the lads a bit more help and put another midfielder on at 3-1, and changed it up a bit.

    “So, my fault, and apologies. To lose those two points is very, very frustrating.”

    – Unquote –

    So all managers make mistakes. It is easy to blame when things go wrong. I did blame TP after the Clayton substitution. Perhaps we won because of it. Perhaps he saw something I did not.

    Football is a game of different opinions and also a bit of luck.

    Up the Boro!

  70. Bamford on the left is not ideal but at least he is left footed.

    The clips of Harrison looks to me as if he is in the Hazard mould, obviously not the quality but in the fact he likes to cut in from the left on to his right foot.

    The three behind the striker should be interchanging positions all the time but the pitch map should show each of them as in their start position.

    That still doesn’t tell us how to get more from our strikers. I don’t think playing Traore up there will work, he is best right side of the three.

    1. I think Harrison is left-footed, Ian but has played mostly on the right.

      I agree re Traore. While he is still learning his game, I would keep him on the right at all times and keep the game as simple as possible for him.

      On the strikers, I do think we have two in Assombalonga and Bamford who can finish. Unfortunately, one if well short of confidence and doesn’t seem to be responding to the “challenges” TP has been putting his way, the other is plugging a gap on the left.

      Maybe Assombalonga would respond better to the carrot than the stick. One for the management team there.

      With the greatest respect for a player who does try for us, I’m not sure anybody really considers Gestede (up front on his own) to be the answer.

      1. Gestede is huge !

        Talked to him on Saturday after the game and didn’t realise what a giant he is.

        Interesting to note he posted video on Twitter this morning training alone at Redcar

  71. TP has been watching premiership football for quite a number of years now and must be appalled at the lack of real quality in this division, yes it’s competitive at its own level, but very benign as far as top teams play.

    When he talks about speed, he is not on about Adama speed, he’s on about thought, and most important the first five yard speed that gets you away from your opponent.

    Ramirez didn’t have sprinter speed, but his first move away was fast, getting him open, this is what we are missing. Come the summer I expect to see a clear out, and a different kind of player coming in. This Harrison looks like he can get away from his opponent, so we will see.


    1. An unpredictable change of pace or footing. Bamford had the former, Tomlin the latter. This made them focal points in an attacking quartet otherwise best known for its “dependability”.

      It may seem churlish to criticise the dependability that took us near the top of the league for two successive seasons, but dependable is not what the paying customer wants to see all the time.

      “With due respect to the Greek champions, few schoolchildren outside Athens were running around playgrounds at break-time yesterday, shouting: “I want to be a man-marker like Georgios Seitaridis.” They want to emulate Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Henry or Raul, and such precious talents need protecting.”

      — Henry Winter, July 2004

  72. I want to get another TP in for you all very, very soon – a Talking Point, that is. But I have a theatre review to finish off first.

    It’s called The Man Who Fell To Pieces – and it is amazing. It is about a man suffering from depression who literally falls to pieces – his limbs, hands, face etc are all in pieces in a box, and his mother seems to think that he can be put all back together again with sticky tape, staples, glue etc. Gives her an excuse to repeatedly invite the handyman around the house, to fix both her son (lol!) and the things she keeps breaking. Meanwhile, the man’s ex-partner, Caroline, is carrying his “pieces” in a suitcase and living their happy memories over and over to haunting, fantastic music…

    Sounds ridiculous and incomprehensible, I know, but once you see it, it clicks beautifully. The genius of it is that John (the man)’s mother Alice and Caroline were so focused on their own internal struggles that they never took time to properly understand John’s complexities.

    Hmm, maybe I could write a psychological play about Aitor, The Man (ager) Who Fell To Pieces…

      1. See also, Mourinho circa 2015.

        Some Jared Browne classics on AK’s mentor from the time:

        “Mourinho is in reputation-protection mode. Passing all the blame onto his players.”

        “A manager used to living on the edge of the relegation zone would not be behaving as gracelessly as Mourinho has done. He is in foreign land.”

        “Everyone has a default reaction to adversity. It seems Mourinho’s is to point the finger.”

        Deja vu?

  73. Thanks for another quality match report RR, warts and all.

    The inability to score really is becoming a millstone around all our strikers necks, and unfortunately the rest of the team overall haven’t as yet chipped in with anywhere near enough to help offset their problems in front of goal.

    Another week on the training ground may help sort this problem out. Here’s hoping.

  74. Anyone else read the Keiran Dyer episode of his life in football?
    I don’t think you.can even be shocked at some of the goings on,but you have to wonder what is management doing,turning a blind eye.
    Is it a culture thing,and maybe ,it’s time we picked players with stable backgrounds and understand what they are there to do,weed out the gangrine no matter how great they think they are.

    1. I’d heard he was sent out to look for the ball from Britt’s penalty which explains why Paddy was allegedly spotted in Barnard Castle at around the same time!

  75. A few things.

    My son has been infected by the Borovirus but he hasn’t been sucked in to DiasBoro as yet. As a parent I have to make careful decisions on the health of my family so as long as he supports that is fine by me.

    He provided a good insight because he supports but isn’t as anal as us lot. His view was a win was a good result, get in to the play offs on a winning run and we stand a good chance.

    Agree or disagree but it is an interested party looking in.

    The next thing of interest to me is watching Sturridge trudging off at Chelsea with yet another injury. We all joke about modern players being sebsitive souls but my mind goes back to my earlier days. On a Saturday I played rugby for my school team, came back at lunchtime before going to Awesome Park. walk their and back.

    At 5.45pm my brother would limp round the corner and mum would say ‘his team lost’. He would sit down looking like a cocker spaniel who had lost his bone, pull his trouser up and show that three hairs were out of place with a feint bruise.

    Meanwhile the odd pale patch broke up the bruising after a match as a hooker.

    I am not calling footballers cissies, if they admit it that is fine. Some players seem more prone to knocks that others, some seem to have a low pain threshold. It affects all sports. I am noisy when I suffer an injury, it is a release.

    Finally, TV assistance for referees. The Television official for the England v Wales match got some stick for not awarding a try to Wales on the grounding of the bal. My joy at the unfair treatment of Wales has been dissipated becaue subsequent analysis has shown it wasn’t a trty because it was a Welsh knock on.

    The question that raises is how far back do you go? In this case the knock on was missed so the right decision was made for 6he wrong reason.

    The other area is the question the official poses. Is there any reason I cant award a try is a different one to try or no try.

    Just sone thoughts.

  76. Ian
    I’m completely against VAR or video technology in fast moving sports like football. It’s ok for cricket or tennis, but in my opinion it is ruining Rugby League with matches sometimes taking over two hours including the halftime interval. Sky Sports have this season brought forward televised matches from 8pm starts to 7.45pm because they were overrunning the cut off scheduled finish of 10pm. What is more some of these buffoons still can’t get the correct decisions after spending over 5 minutes watching a set of play from several different angles.
    Be prepared for football matches taking well over two hours if more decisions are to be subjected to VAR.

    1. Ken
      I believe England were knocked out of the world cup (in Paris?) by a last minute video review (it lasted half an hour) we had gone over in the last minute, after half an hour the video judge ( an Australian) finally disallowed it after twenty blown up inspections of the video with no definitive result. Hmm.

  77. Had to laugh at Borovirus… another new word for the auto dictionary.

    My three sons have all been infected but sadly seem to have a much stronger resilience to the disappointment. maybe it has something to do with skeptikalmama?

    1. Allan in Bahrain
      I suppose that’s why I probably enjoyed Boro more in the 40’s and early 50’s because being so young it didn’t matter so much to me if we lost. It was the excitement of seeing British stars who I had heard of, but never seen in action. I got the same thrill of going to the cinema and used to cut out photographs of footballers and film stars that appeared in the Gazette, and paste them into separate albums.

      As far as football or any sports are concerned, children have seen their stars previously on television, whilst I hadn’t had that luxury. Also, although some footballers didn’t have the skills and didn’t have the tactical training that today’s players have, that produced more mistakes but also more goals and excitement.

      It’s when one gets older that one starts to worry about winning and losing, fighting against relegation or hoping that one’s team will gain promotion, that then these things come into play. Give your sons a few years, then they’ll probably become Boro fans rather than just football fans. That’s what happened to me.

  78. We have difficulties to even get to the 200 mark when Boro win. Nothing beats a good crack after a beating it seems.

    I know there are people lurking for the ton but are afraid to “talk”. Come on, lads and lasses! And remember the one touch rule.

    Up the Boro!

  79. FOUL Ref FOUL !

    Two days ago I give warning that this years Exmil Challenge will start after the Sunderland match and today the Gazette runs a predictor competition for all the matches until the end of the season.

    OK it is a lot more sophisticated than my “steam driven” one but really can they not find their own ideas without having to copy off this site.

    Come on BORO.

  80. Exmil……easy journalism. Some use the word plagiarism.

    I have just done the gazette predictor….Boro eighth, AV second. Bristol City missing out.

  81. So TP has identified that our main issue is taking chances. The equation is simple; Goals = Chance conversion rate x Chances. Better strikers would improve one side of the equation, but for now we’re stuck with the ones we’ve got. In theory creating more chances would lead to more goals so put more creators on pitch. However, of the more creative types, Pulis is not considering Baker or Johnson and he’s moved out Christie, Fabio, Braithwaite and Forshaw. He prefers the more defensive minded Besic, Clayton, Fry and Cranie in the matchday squad. Our outfield bench usually contains 4 defensive players out of 6.
    Villa are currently on an impressive winning streak and they regularly play 4 creators (Snodgrass, Adomah, Hourihane, Grealish) with only 1 holding. Yet against Norwich, with a Striker off, we moved Adama upfront who isn’t a Striker, instead of Bamford, who is. Then after we went one behind and needed a goal we took off Bamford (Striker by trade) and replaced him with Howson, a midfielder, rather than with Britt, our top scoring Striker.
    None of this is a shock, many Stoke & West Brom fans warned us of the defensive nature of TP’s football. It’s what did for him in the end. So, no surprise then that until the summer revolution he’s reverting to type. Therein lies another problem, there are many players currently in the squad that know they will be moved on in the summer no matter what. They know they’re not his type, so their motivation to bust a gut has diminished.

  82. Just a question for the blog.
    Have we got Traore on an extension to his contract, and a big increase in wages, and a giant release clause.
    If we have not, then start the firing right now, because it is a dereliction of duty on a grand scale. We should say nothing but carry a big stick( with plenty of noughts on it)

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