|Pos. 22nd (44 pts)||SATURDAY 11 JULY 2020||Pos. 13th (53 pts)|
SHOTS (on target)
|Wells (6, 79)
Robins Rock Boro
The Managerless Robins arrived on Teesside to face a Boro side with a rare degree of confidence and belief after their spirited showing at Millwall in midweek. With the air of doom and despondency at Rockliffe at least temporarily lifted there was fresh hope once again that Boro could get themselves another positive result.
Despite the difference in league placings, Bristol had only won one game in their last ten Championship outings and that was against Hull last time out. It was form like that that saw them second bottom of the ten-game form table and Lee Johnson relieved of his traditional duty of bringing Bristol down with the Christmas Decs.
Dean Holden will be looking to improve on his 100% win record as he looks to pick a side that will unsettle Warnock and plunge Boro back into trouble. The two standouts for the Robins in that Hull victory were Diedhiou and ex-Boro loanee Kalas. That’s one at the sharp end for Boro’s backline to worry about and one at the blunt end for what presumably will be a Britt and Fletch pairing.
Boro’s main injury concern was a broken nose to Djed Spence. The lad understandably did lose his sparkle in the second half of the Millwall game after being assaulted but a few words from Warnock and the aid of a mask meant that he may be ready to go again.
The day broke with the sad news of the passing of Big Jack Charlton, in my living memory our greatest Manager. His role with the club created a fresh new identity along with success in comparison to the complacent mediocre staleness that had preceded his tenure. A minute’s applause preceded today’s Kick-Off. It was a great shame that the home support were unable to show their appreciation due to the Covid restrictions.
Boro team news was what most of us had hoped for, indeed even expected, it was same again from the side that took all three points at the Den in midweek. The bench had Pears, Tav, Roberts, Dijksteel, Nmecha, Clayts, Wing, Coulson, and Morrison back involved with Moukoudi dropping out. The Robins were also unchanged from their team that beat Hull but for some reason only named eight Substitutes.
Boro kicked off with a long ball out to Fletcher in the anticipated 352 line up. Bristol started the livelier and took the game to Boro applying early pressure. Smith took out Britt but the Ref let it go as it broke to Saville but then Saville was brought down 30 yards out and Boro had their first free-kick of the afternoon. McNair stepped up and hit it hard but well wide of the Robins goal with four on the clock.
Frustratingly a curling left footed shot from Wells went past Stojanovic in the sixth minute as Boro were caught sleeping at the back to put the black shirted visitors one up. Two minutes later and the Robins had a corner as Boro needed to clear their heads quickly. Patterson sent it in low only for the ball to end up back in their own half before sending it forward again patiently and Stojanovic had to tip an effort round for a corner as the Boro defence just backed off.
Another short Bristol corner was cleared by Boro out to Spence but the ball forward to Britt went out for a throw. Ten minutes had elapsed and the only thing of note from a Boro perspective was Djed Spence discarding his face mask. Saville blocked a Smith drive as Boro still struggled desperately to get a hold of the game. With the game approaching the quarter-hour mark Howson stole the ball in midfield and looked to set Britt free from 25 yards out but Britt’s choice of footwear let him down.
Bristol were calm in possession, stroking the ball around confidently with Boro sitting deep seemingly happy to concede possession or more likely couldn’t get anywhere near to their opponents.
A long Shotton throw found Johnson who jostled and lost out with Diedhiou, Saville rescued it, set Johnson back up but his cross was chested out by Baker at the post. The Corner curled in and had Bentley scrambling and out it went for another corner. McNair put the ball in towards Shotton who controlled it at a difficult height in the box, poking it forwards to Saville to cross where it met Fry on the penalty spot but he skewed his shot wildly. Twenty-two minutes had now elapsed as the Ref called the first drinks break.
On the restart, Britt won possession on the halfway line and set up Johnson, attacking down the wing, his cross was put out for a corner which in turn was put out again by Wells for another corner which this time went out for a Boro throw near the corner flag. Shotton launched it to Saville central in the box whose header hit the crossbar before being hoofed clear and going out for another Boro corner which was eventually blown for an infringement on Bentley. Boro were starting to get back into the game now with Britt operating well with his fellow forwards including a few flicks and back heels.
On 28 minutes the linesman went down with a suspected tweaked ankle with a manhole cover looking to be the villain of the piece. Upon the restart, Boro earned another corner via a Shotton throw-in but it came to nothing as Boro’s corner count continued increasing but with nothing to show for it. Stojanovic had to be alert after an unlucky rebounded Shotton clearance near the halfway line off Saville allowed Bristol through one on one but Dejan stood strong and saved us from chasing a two-goal deficit.
A McNair corner on 33 minutes was looped over the goal area curling out harmlessly for a goal kick as another opportunity was wasted. On 35 minutes Paterson took a Robins free-kick that was drifted high into the Boro box but headed out harmlessly by Wells. A minute later and Jack Hunt went down mysteriously holding his head on the halfway line and after the free-kick was taken it came straight back to him where he managed to take another painful knock courtesy of Ryan Shotton’s studs.
Another Shotton throw on 40 minutes was clered out then launched back in by Shotton which was cleared for a corner. McNair took it but it was far too easy for Bentley with it the perfect height and trajectory for him to collect, he fed it out quickly allowing a Bristol counter-attack down our right to Paterson who rounded Spence and fired in a left-footed cross come shot inside a despairing Stojanovic who should have done better. 2-0 down and only two minutes of the first half remaining. Spence had looked off the pace in this game with his face injury seemingly affecting his confidence and willingness to get stuck in and defend or to press on and get forward attracting tackles.
Boro were carved open again and this time Stojanovic had to recover after misjudging the flight of the initial cross, redeeming himself to get down low putting the ball out for a corner. Goalscorer Paterson sent it in with Britt meeting it and heading it back out for another Robins corner. This one startingly fizzed right across the Boro goalmouth just inviting someone to sneeze on it but somehow evading all and going out for another corner from the opposite side. This corner left the Boro box before being played back into Wells who blasted it over for the whistle to end the first half.
A lot for Warnock to consider, clearly it wasn’t working and our right side offered no threat with Da Silva running the show for the Robins and only Johnson providing some sort of wide attacking outlet for Boro. Britt was battling but we needed additional spark and threat from somewhere. We needed to get some possession and play the ball around instead of panicking and looking nervy and unconvincing in possession. We had struggled to cope with the overwhelming pace and slickness of the Bristol passing all half. An interesting half time stat showed that Boro had won only 20% of their tackles versus 67% for Bristol.
Ref Darren England started the second half with Lewis Wing replacing Saville. I think I’d have looked to remove Spence, go to a back four and add Roberts to create something further forward. Our lack of possession in the first half meant a lot of chasing and running on our part which as the game went on could be telling on fitness. Benkovic “met” the back of Fletcher’s head with an arm as they contested a throw in resulting in both players needing some attention with two minutes of the half gone. Spence attempted a dribble in the Bristol half but looked unconvincing to me and was dispossessed as soon as a clattering challenge came in.
Five minutes of the half now gone and it was all a bit messy which suited Bristol but gave scant reason for optimism from a Boro perspective. Hunt got in behind Johnson who took him down earning a yellow card after reacting too slow to the danger. Paterson’s free-kick went to the far post and fortunately despite a flurry of black shirts somehow it evaded all of the attackers to give Boro a get out of jail card.
Wells was next to get behind the Boro defence only this time Shotton managed to put the ball out for a corner. Paterson sent it in to be met by Fry to clear but it came back via Wiemann and after a series of slick passing moves with Boro looking at sixes and sevens it eventually ended with a free-kick awarded to Boro for a foul on Johnson. Fletcher flicked on the free-kick with Kalas clearing and the ball ending up out of play for a Bristol goal kick. An hour gone and Boro just looked hopelessly out of this game, not showing any sign at all of getting back into it.
A weak Wing low drive was deflected into the arms of Bentley in what I think was Boro’s first real attempt either on or off target. Warnock needed to make some changes and quickly because it wasn’t working and all far too easy for Bristol. Wells pulled a ball back beating Shotton to Hunt who leaning backwards put his shot wide as only one side looked like scoring.
A misplaced Fletcher ball arrived at Spence feeding McNair who put it into the danger zone finding Fletcher who was adjudged to have fouled Kalas. Boro subs were being readied with Fletcher going off for Tav, Shotton surprisingly then went off for Roberts with Spence staying on and 25 minutes remaining. Presumably, we were going to go with a 433 to try and add more impetus further upfield. Personally, I’d have left Shotton on as RB and took Spence off but maybe Warnock isn’t aware of Shotton’s versatility.
A second-half drinks break saw Dijksteel warming up as the game looked to be slipping away from Boro, not that in all honesty we ever looked to be in it after going one behind. The absence of Shotton was amplified when Spence took on throw-in duties but it did at least allow Roberts to finally touch the ball after several minutes of more scrappy play with Bristol confident of holding what they had. Tav had an effort blocked for a throw-in which came back in seeing Howson and Wells collide painfully with Jonny looking in some discomfort.
Roberts worked an effort but he overplayed it and put in a very poor shot masquerading as a cross. Roberts once again was in the action when he closed down on Bentley and with Red shirts screaming around him Bentley smothered the chance. Poor decision making but at least there was a spark of sorts about Boro. Coulson then came on for McNair as Boro would now try to add some late impetus.
Johnson floated a cross to the far post but Bentley came out and with a series of theatrics and time-wasting eventually released it back into play. The ball went straight up the opposite end and Nakhi Wells left our stodgy backline dead to poke it past Stojanovic. A very poor goal to concede with a performance that while not as bad as Swansea or QPR had looked very leggy, spiritless, and lacking belief. A wayward Tavernier effort just summed up Boro’s afternoon as we just now looked like eleven individuals with little understanding and just at that Britt latched onto a good ball and found the far corner of Bentley’s goal, 3-1. Clayton then came on for the hobbling Howson with Wells going off for Bristol and Odowda coming on and Watkins entering for Deudhiou.
At least Britts goal pegged one back for the GD column. Dean Holden then made a few more subs with Paterson going off for Nagy. O’Dowda continued to cause trouble down our right as Boro were looking for the final whistle to end what was a very poor afternoon’s display.
Clearly, the Bristol side that has struggled in 2020 is now a different proposition under temporary Manager Dean Holden. Six minutes of added time came up on the board. Boro forlornly tried to get another goal as Roberts ran the ball out after trying to beat three defenders. Clearly trying to get a tune out of this squad is proving very difficult for Warnock as consistency just seems to be beyond them.
The clock seemed to take an eternity for those six added minutes to drip dry. There were pockets of more scrappy unconvincing messy passages of play with Tav buzzing around to little avail and Roberts running but usually into blind alleys. Clayton allowed Wiemann in at the last second but fortunately for Boro the score remained at 3-1 as the final whistle sounded.
We kept the same side that had done so well at Millwall but they were unrecognisable which either indicates what a shower they really are or just how inconsistent they are. The MOM and best of a very poor lot was Britt who was probably a 5/10, that just sums up just how poor the rest were. I’m surprised that Warnock kept Spence on as he looked off the pace from the start. To me switching Shotton to RB would have made more sense and putting Roberts ahead of him would have added something while keeping it tight behind him plus retaining the throw in expertise. I guess the hope was that Spence and Roberts together could add some much needed zest. In truth Bristol were by far the better side and so we look nervously at other results around us which seemed to have not done too much damage. Three games to go before this interminable anguish is over!