|Pos. 19th (50 pts)||SATURDAY 18 JULY 2020||Pos. 6th (70 pts)|
S/O Howson (89)
SHOTS (on target)
Murphy (47, 81)
There were Bluebirds over the Riverside this afternoon ass they made their way up North to Teesside for a reunion with their former boss. NW must have been having mixed feelings, a part of him still with the squad he assembled clinging onto a Play-Off spot and Boro precariously clinging to Championship life after that dramatic midweek win at Reading.
Albert Adomah had been selected for virtually every eligible game until the end of June when Forest recalled the ex-Boro wide man presumably to hole their Play-Off competitors below the waterline. Other ex-Boro boys Bennett, Flint, and Tomlin could all be available to strike with the customary old boy curse although alleged fitness doubts about the physical shape of Tomlin had been a cause for concern since the restart of the season.
Previous results from Friday night and earlier this afternoon didn’t go well for Boro but Charlton’s late equaliser against Wigan meant that in theory if Wigan’s points deduction goes ahead then in principle, Boro were safe. Better safe than sorry however and a point this afternoon would bring a lot more peace of mind. Boro were unchanged from their Reading victory while Bennett and Tomlin started for Cardiff with Flint on the bench.
Almost immediately after the Kick-off, Lee Tomlin was pulled back by Saville with just two minutes gone and in doing so preventing Tomlin from setting Bacuna away and earning a very early yellow card for Boro. Friend headed the resulting Free Kick away ending up dazed for his troubles after colliding with a blue shirt. Bacuna set Tomlin up a minute later and he hit a right-footed shot blocked by Howson spinning out for a corner. Ralls sent the corner in and Sean Morrison headed home, leaping unchallenged in the middle of the box to put the visitors one up with less than four full minutes elapsed. Boro’s lack of CB’s was sorely exposed but once again the finger of suspicion was pointed at Johnson’s defensive capabilities or rather culpability in this case.
Spence beat Bennett in Boro’s first serious attack with the ball going out for a throw which Dijksteel took, Fletcher backheeled to Spence who darted towards the Cardiff box in and was brought down by Bennet in what looked to be a strong shout for a Penalty but Ref Jeremy Simpson wasn’t having any of it. Boro came back via a Roberts corner which was headed away and as Howson skied his shot a foul was given for a presumed infringement in the build-up.
Aynsley Pears had to be alert to push away a Ralls effort on ten minutes from twenty yards out. Boro did look to have cleared their heads while Cardiff looked to be settling down after a hectic opening spell. After a short break for Hoilett to receive some attention, Fletcher and Howson linked up well for Howson to get an effort in and as it was cleared Boro pressurised again, Managing to get the ball fired in from Johnson but Spence was caught by surprise and it went out for a throw to the Bluebirds. On 16 minutes the hobbling Hoilett had to depart the pitch for Josh Murphy to take his place. Warnock meanwhile was using the break to issue some instructions to Spence in particular.
Upon the restart, Glatzel broke through our two CB’s, avoiding Fry and going down via a tug of the shirt from Friend to earn the visitors a free-kick. Friend unconvincingly protested his yellow card claiming a dive from the man-mountain. The assembled Boro wall blocked the Tomlin Free-kick and it was headed out for a corner by Tav which Ralls then floated straight out for a goal kick.
Twenty-two minutes now elapsed as Boro earned a series of throw-ins in the Cardiff half but close attention and resolute physical defending from Cardiff literally held Boro at arm’s length which was in stark contrast to our powder puff backline. A drink’s break followed on 24 minutes. Once underway again Dijksteel powered past blue shirted defenders to put a cross in but there was only Fletcher in the Cardiff box as it went over his head and no one else coming in deeper to take advantage of it.
A Bennett cross to Glatzel created consternation in the Boro box eventually headed clear but recycled across the opposite side of the pitch from whence it came with Mendez-Laing cutting in, hitting a shot deflected out by the alertness of Saville for a corner on 31 minutes. Three minutes later Ralls sliced the Boro defence open with Bacuna sliding in at the back post but fortunately for Boro there was just too much on it.
A foul conceded by Friend on 38 minutes allowed a free-kick delivered by Ralls to the back post. It was collected by Pears who unleashed Saville quickly but it went out for a throw-in near the Cardiff box, that was about as threatening as it came for Boro at this stage. Five minutes now remained of the half, Roberts was upended allowing a free kick to Boro sent in by Howson but it was perfect for Smithies to collect with aplomb in his goalmouth.
At the other end, Pears had to punch clear allowing Roberts to break but he lost it and it and the ball came straight back at us. Once more Boro recovered, sending Spence free but another chance to unpick the Bluebirds defence was messed up by a weak poorly timed pass to Tav. Four minutes added time came up as the game now seemed to take a bit of a breather. Tav was upended but the Ref seemed reluctant to give Boro the benefit of any doubt. A Tomlin run ending in a cross was met by Pears from which Boro broke with Spence coming in from the left getting a shot away for Smithies to make a good top corner save.
Tav won the ball from Nelson, and as the ball broke in the Cardiff box it came to nothing. A glancing header from Spence meeting a Johnson cross seconds before the half time whistle offered a little hope but it was over the bar. So there it was 0-1 at half time, Boro had done OK in parts but not great. They were equal to their play-off opponents in large spells but that Sean Morrison goal was the difference between the sides. The manner of it will have no doubt been a focal point of Warnock’s half time talk.
No changes from either side at half time as Cardiff kicked off. Just like the first half opening seconds another disastrous piece of defending incredibly from a Boro free kick in the opposition half saw Tomlin gifted a defence-splitting pass on the halfway line setting up an unmarked Murphy to run thirty-five yards to slot past a helpless Pears into the far corner. That was atrocious defending at any level of football made worse by it coming immediately after kick-off again, twice in the same match.
A breakneck run out of defence from Tav found Saville on the edge of the Cardiff 18-yard box sent over to Fletcher and a one-two with Roberts being blocked for a corner. The corner came in and was met by Friend who was barged into and bundled over with absolutely nothing from the Referee yet again awarding a goal kick. Its times like this is when you need vocal players voicing grievances and disgust in the sternest of Anglo Saxon imagery to let the Officials know they screwed up, adding pressure to their next contentious decision.
Tav (who else?) once again set up a Boro attack, putting a ball into Fletcher, working it to Dijksteel and going out for a corner. The corner was cleared out by Smithies requiring Howson at the second attempt to rescue us. Boro Subs were now warming up with changes imminent, Coulson came on for Dijksteel who had had a decent game but was awol for the second goal by being in an attacking position. Britt was on for Roberts (who had dicky danced again but with no real end product) and McNair for Saville. Boro immediately won a corner courtesy off a deflection and after a bit of panic in the Cardiff box, Morrison was strong and earning a throw-in for his side off McNair to end the Boro threat as we approached the 60-minute mark.
A few frustrating Refereeing decisions then interrupted several passages of play as the Official with the whistle showed no further evidence of being impartial in his decision making. On 65 minutes a brilliant effort from Tavernier on the right-hand side required Smithies to tip it onto the bar and over. The corner eventually went out for a goal kick as Spence slipped after beating his man. Nmecha then came on for Fletcher and the Man City loanee had an immediate shot pushed round by Smithies to concede a corner which was in turn headed out by Mendez-Laing. As it came back in it was headed away, Coulson then put a cross in cleared out to McNair and then as the ball was crossed in again from the opposite side a far box header was met by Coulson but it was too low and not powerful enough to trouble Smithies.
During the next drinks break, Cardiff made two subs with Pack and Ward coming on and Glatzel and Tomlin going off, straight away the Bluebirds attacked down the flank with Murphy beating Spence but it was cut out. As we regrouped and attacked Britt went down on the edge of the Bluebirds box seemingly fouled but predictably the Referee seemed to see nothing malevolent in the aggressive attention of the Cardiff defenders.
Seventy-five minutes now gone and Howson brought down the lively Hoilett replacement Murphy to pick up a yellow card. Bennet sent the free kick in, met by Morrison but just wide of the Boro upright going out for a goal kick. Murphy left Spence stranded to put a cross in ending up with a corner for another of his efforts. Britt went down yet again Jordan Hugill style after a shove in the back on 77 minutes but to no surprise, his despairing pleas went ignored.
Mendez-Laing burst down our left flank brushing Fry aside with pace and power finding Josh Murphy in the box who was too strong for Spence and a spreadeagled Pears to make it three for the visitors on 80 minutes. Once again too easy. A “professional” foul on Nmecha as he broke free saw Morrison booked and centrally, twenty-five yards out Britt hit a peach over the wall into the top corner of the net in what was probably Britts best goal ever seen in a red shirt and maybe even enough to attract some interest in the summer.
Five minutes of normal time remained and despite the beauty of Britt’s execution, it was too little too late for Boro. Johnson was involved in a little physicality with two minutes remaining chancing his luck with the same referee who had sent him off at the Riverside earlier in the season against Hull. As frustration levels grew for Boro Howson then picked up a second yellow for a high challenge on Vaulks on 89 minutes. Murphy’s resultant effort thankfully didn’t add to the embarrassment. Bacuna then went into the Referee’s book for a cynical foul on Coulson which arguably could have been a straight red.
Cardiff’s Bamba then came on for Ralls and Sanderson for Mendez-Laing as Boro deliberated over who would take the Bacuna conceded free-kick. Johnson won the debate and sent in a cross headed back across goal by Britt but it was unceremoniously hoofed clear. Nmecha then hit the post in the 94th minute after being set free by Coulson but he was deemed to be offside. That was the last of the action from a Boro perspective.
Overall it was a bizarre game where Boro matched their opponents but defensively we were beyond appalling. We gave away three soft goals by leaving players totally unmarked on two occasions and allowing a cross to get in for the third by not being strong enough both for the cross and in being strong against the attacker in the box. Tavernier was by some distance the MOM for Boro but it was meaningless when we can’t defend at a very basic level. That elusive nerve settling point is still
required and with results not going our way elsewhere we could end up with another heartbreak at Hillsborough. As things currently stand we are now looking increasingly reliant on Wigan being deducted points to survive. It’s gone down to the last day as we all feared, Typical Boro!