Sheff Wed 1 – 2 Boro

Pos. 16th (56 pts) WEDNESDAY 22 JULY 2020 Pos. 17th (53 pts)
Sheff Wed 1-2 Boro
Murphy (10) 63%
SHOTS (on target)

McNair (22)
Assombalonga (90+3)

Warnock’s Wednesday Winners!

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s final-day survival victory …

This was it, the last game of the season, and the last time Boro could do something about their Championship status. That it had come to this was painful enough after enduring the worst season for decades and in living memory for many of the younger fans. Wizard Warnock would have to delve deep into his magic kit to hopefully pull out something special to prevent Boro’s fate clinging onto a points deduction to Wigan to save their sorry souls.

Being an ex-Blade Warnock would have normally had to endure added zest but in an empty stadium, that crowd stimulator would be missing. Likewise, Monk, that perceived money waster demonised by many on Teesside would get a free ride tonight with an empty Hillsborough generating zero atmosphere. It was just simply two teams on a flat level green surface. A win for Boro meant that we would survive while a win for the Owls could mean that even with a points deduction they would also survive should the EFL ever made a decision. All the virtual Boro army were bothered about was a draw at worst and hopefully a victory however scrappy.

On availability the Owls pair Lee and Palmer were both back in contention whilst the nuisance that is Kosovan man-mountain Atdhe Nuhiu would also likely be involved for Wednesday for the very last time with his contract coming ending. For Boro, the ongoing trickle of contract departees had continued with Morrison going over the weekend and then Clayts but with Howson recklessly earning a red card, there was some speculation that Clayts may have been sent an SOS.

The official team news saw McNair drafted in for the suspended Howson, Britt for Roberts, and Stojanovic returned between the sticks in place of the benched Pears. Speaking of the bench there were only six players named by Warnock and no sign of Clayton. Along with Pears that sparse Boro bench consisted of the teenager Wood, Coulson, Wing, Roberts, and Nmecha. Monk made six changes from their last outing against Fulham bringing in Palmer, Lee, Murphy, Nuhiu, Wickham, with Shaw making his first start.

We kicked off with what looked like a front two and possibly a back three in a very inauspicious start to the game. Harris won a corner in the 3rd minute off Spence covering for Dijksteel. Murphy took it short and Bannan whipped it in but Stojanovic collected. McNair launched a Boro free-kick but it had too much on it and the ball annoyingly flew well over. On 6 minutes a quick throw-in and clever interplay between Fletcher and McNair saw Paddy hit the upright from 20 yards out. Literally, just a few millimeters inside the post and it would have deflected in.

Just as news filtered through that Derby had taken the lead against Birmingham Jacob Murphy hit a long-range shot just outside the box which took a wicked deflection off Saville and evaded a diving Stojanovic for Wednesday to take the lead. Those few seconds of hope extinguished almost as quickly as news of that Derby goal had come in on ten minutes. Then Marvin Johnson conceded another of those careless free-kicks 20 yards out that saw Bannon hit it off the Boro wall for a corner that Stojanovic thankfully won with ease.

On the quarter-hour mark, Tav put in a cross from the left that was deflected to Wildsmith who spilled it out to Fletcher who in turn spun around but hooked it straight back at the Keeper with Britt frustrated, centrally in the box and unmarked. Leeds meanwhile were beating Charlton and Blackburn beating Luton. A Wednesday threat with Kadeem Harris who skipped around Fry and took a pot shot from the edge of the box. Stojanovic was equal to it and smothered the threat. Hull were now losing to Cardiff as results elsewhere seemed to be going our way.

A bizarre, even wayward, curled Bannon backpass was read and intercepted by an alert Fletcher, taking advantage, driving forward, setting up Tavto his left who squared it back across the Owls box to McNair advancing on the opposite side and side-footing it with precision to make it 1-1 and a drinks break immediately followed as if to celebrate!

On 26 minutes Stojanovic was brave going down at the feet of Murphy and then as the ball spilled out back into play repositioned himself to collect an 18-yard drive straight back at him. Elsewhere Luton had equalised but Leeds had added a second against Charlton. Boro now enjoyed a bit of pressure with a series of throw-ins around the Wednesday corner flag on 29 minutes but just couldn’t unlock a very tight and composed Owls defence.

Another short corner routine by Bannon on 33 minutes was cut out by Friend getting in front of Whickham. Bannon sent the repeat corner back in which was put out this time by Fletcher for a third which in turn went out after Saville stood strong up against a despairing Tom Lees for a Boro goal kick. On 35 minutes news arrived that Luton had gone in front against Blackburn after a second own goal wasn’t great as they had now drawn level on points with Boro but Cardiff had just gone two up against a doomed Hull side.

Meanwhile, Boro and Wednesday had descended into a scrappy spell with neither side settling or getting a grip of the game. A Spence challenge saw the ball burst which was a shame as Djed was looking to take a quick throw-in to Tav but he had to wait for a replacement ball. A Friend free-kick on 40 minutes was launched into the Owls box but headed straight back out as neither side could force a way through.

Whickham had a chance cleared by Friend and as it came back in Boro cleared the danger again but Wednesday came back once more requiring a sharp Stojanovic dive to tip it round the post from Bannon 35 yards out for a corner. Bannon took it, sending it into the box where it was deflected and harmlessly headed over for a goal kick. Two minutes added time then came up and as things stood Boro were still safe. Wednesday had enjoyed the better of the last five minutes of the half but largely because Boro were trying too hard to play football and having over fanciful play broken up. It hadn’t been a classic and there was plenty to whine about but the results as it stood were fine from a Boro perspective and tonight was always all about the end result and not the performance.

No changes at half time and Wednesday got the second half underway but the first opportunity was a low ball from McNair to Britt who got his boot to it and as it came across to Fletcher Iorfa just got a foot to it. The resultant Boro corner was cleared by Shaw and then Harris upfield where George tidied things up playing it back to Stojanovic.

A free-kick to Boro after Britt was tripped by Bannon outside the box was hit over by Britt himself as he tried to repeat his late effort from Saturday. A poor inswinging McNair corner a few minutes later was cleared by Whickham at the near post. Boro were enjoying a little period of pressure.

Luongo then came on for the youngster Shaw on 52 minutes. Simultaneously Fulham had equalised against Wigan. Leeds meanwhile had put three past Charlton, surely Charlton couldn’t score four goals, could they? Those results were easing nerves ever so slightly.

A strong header by Fry cleared danger on 54 minutes as Wednesday were looking the more composed and it was Fry again to the rescue mere seconds later heading it spectacularly past his own upright. Elsewhere Birmingham had equalised against Derby and anxiously Boro now looked to be struggling to get back into this game. Saville got a great block in with Boro now forced to drop deep under serious Owls pressure. A shot fired across the Boro box was a warning that we needed to turn this game around and get down the other end sharpish with 60 minutes now gone. With other scores coming in there were now four clubs including Boro on 51 points!

Johnson picked up a war wound colliding into Whickham but shook it off after a minute gingerly getting up to his feet, hope was that maybe it was just a bit of time management to take the sting out of the game. Mixed news came in as Luton were now 3-1 up against Blackburn but Leeds had put four past Charlton meaning that Boro had to be staying up bar a late Charlton rally of Biblical proportions.

Saville then hit a long-range effort swerving wide in a rare Boro foray. Friend cleared a Whickham free-kick assisted by Johnson in hoofing it clear which led to a Boro free-kick upfield after Britt received a quick knock-on pass from a throw-in down the flank. Johnson delivered the kick but it didn’t beat the first man in what was a really poor disheartening effort. The second drinks break on 69 minutes then allowed Boro a breather where I’m sure that Leeds scoreline would be communicated to the players to ease the pressure and maybe allow them to play with more freedom.

As the sides resumed Boro saw their nemesis Adthe Nuhui depart for former Boro Striker Dean’s son Josh Windass enter the fray. McNair was then cleaned out by Luongo but Boro were adjudged to have taken advantage of the play-on rule and so the restart was via a drop ball in what had been a refreshingly lenient Refereeing performance by the Aussie Ref Gillette.

The hot and cold Johnson nicked the ball and delivered it into Britt whose effort went just wide for a goal kick. At the other end, Fry then had to react quickly to clear the danger and as Dijksteel was barged by Whickham it was Fry again who had to be alert. Bannon fired in the resultant corner, cleared out, Spence set off but Murphy broke up play and spread it out to Bannon and as the ball came into the box Stojaoivic was battered in mid-air by Windass for a Boro free-kick. Tav had run his heart out and then came off for Lewis Wing He had spent a lot of the game shadowing Bannon and presumably, Wing would now take on that minder role. Lee then came off for the Owls for ex-Boro player Adam Reach on 80 minutes.

Wednesday won a free-kick midway into the Boro half delivered in by Bannon and headed out for a corner by Dijksteel. Murphy then took the corner aimed at Iorfa and Whickham but once cleared out it came back in via Harris skinning Johnson on the byline to pick out Murphy who deflected his shot wide across the goalmouth, phew!

As the pressure from the Owls grew another corner was fired in by new taker Murphy but Lees headed it over and out under pressure from Saville. The lack of a contract didn’t seem to prevent George Friend from expressing his annoyance at Gillette at what he saw as an infringement on Saville by Lees plus it delayed another few seconds. Five minutes now remaining!

Wing cheekily tried to find Britt but Wildsmith was equal to it and read the intention. An interception saw Boro get a half chance and broke but Johnson blew his lines by hitting it across the goalmouth and well wide. Incredibly seconds later Johnson more than made amends. He ran onto a beautifully launched ball from Fry out of defence down the left-wing and chipped the ball across to Britt who brought it down as it skipped off the surface, swivelled, turned, and hit a scuffed shot which spun up and over Wildsmith somehow managing to curl back on itself in a mid-air slow-motion display to squirm its way forwards and into the Wednesday net to ensure safety, 1-2 to Boro with just one minute of normal time remaining. At the death, Harris broke for Wednesday but Dijksteel was ready for him and cleared the danger, and two one to Boro it remained.

That’s it now all over and no need to worry about Wigan and any deductions. MOM in what may be his last game was George Friend who marshalled the defence and was on top of everything he had to deal with and led by example throughout.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Shef Wed 1 – 2 Boro thread at the discussion forum page

Boro 1 – 3 Cardiff

Pos. 19th (50 pts) SATURDAY 18 JULY 2020 Pos. 6th (70 pts)
Boro 1-3 Cardiff
Assombalonga (85)
S/O Howson (89)
SHOTS (on target)
Morrison (4)
Murphy (47, 81)

Riverside Blues

Redcar Red reports on the usual Riverside defeat…

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!

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Boro 1 – 3 Cardiff City thread at the discussion forum page

Reading 1 – 2 Boro

Pos. 14th (56 pts) TUESDAY 14 JULY 2020 Pos. 17th (50 pts)
Reading 1-2 Boro
Moore (33) 57%
SHOTS (on target)

Fletcher (45)
Roberts (82)

Royal Relief

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s vital win at Reading …

The heart-warming news for Boro fans was that since the Covid break, Reading had yet to win at the Madejski Stadium drawing twice against Stoke City and Huddersfield then losing to Brentford. Further to that Reading had only won 1 of their last 12 home games so what could possibly go wrong for us then?

Mark Bowen’s Reading side are relatively safe in the middling part of the table, too good to go down but nowhere near good enough for the Play-Offs. With only three games left to finish the season Boro perhaps had hopes that motivation levels may not be very high with their hosts in Berkshire this evening. Under Warnock, away performances from Boro had been more productive than their home ones so maybe that was an omen we could cling to as we desperately needed the three points to ease worries of the drop.

For the Royals, it looked like Andy Yiadom, Pele, and Lucas Joao would all miss out through injury. Mark Bowen was also sweating on whether Charlie Adam and Ayub Masika would be fit tonight after both had missed Saturday’s game. Boro’s main concern was Djed Spence who started Saturday with an ill-fitting face mask but was largely anonymous by his own standards after he disposed of it just ten minutes into the game.

The Boro team was an interesting one with four changes. Out went Britt, Shotton, Stojanovic, and McNair and in came Dijksteel presumably as one of the three CB’s, Tav along with Roberts and Pears in for Stojanovic. Shotton apparently was injured and we found out just before the match that he will play no further part in the season while Morrison apparently wasn’t feeling too well and didn’t make the trip. Have to admit that a little thought did go through my head that Warnock now wanted fighters who were going to leave their last breath and stretched sinew out on the pitch.

The line up at Kick-off looked like a back four rather than a 3 or 5 for Boro with Roberts upfront with Fletcher. George Friend was quickly into action as he was bundled into the hoardings for a first minute Reading corner. A second one quickly followed Fletcher’s headed clearance and as the danger built Liam Moore scuffed his shot to Boro’s relief.

A long Pears clearance saw the ball bounce in the Reading box but nobody in a red shirt could get control of it. A slick passing movement between Roberts and Johnson saw a cross cleared by the Royals defence with 5 minutes now gone and both sides probing. Howson got a foot in to block off Swift conceding a corner which came to Puscas but Spence and Saville got a block in. As Boro cleared their lines Puscas responded by giving away a silly free-kick on 9 minutes but Boro were happy to accept it.

Meite was giving Friend a good work out and certainly not afraid to use his upper body strength in keeping George on his toes. The opening 15 minutes hadn’t been really testing for Boro despite Reading having a few corners but we definitely needed to start building some momentum soon otherwise we could have found ourselves on the back foot for the rest of the game.

Swift was in the wars again after a few seemingly innocuous challenges left him with what looked like a twisted ankle but he was able to resume. Puscas then earned the first yellow card of the game for a headless scything foul on Howson which gave some early indication of how volatile he was and that maybe Boro could take advantage of it.

On 21 minutes Boro earned their first corner after Spence sent in a low cross which was put out by Morrison. The corner came out to Spence on the edge of the box but he slipped after mistiming his shot but Ref Andy Woolmer adjudged him to have been fouled. Looked soft to me but happy to get the rub of the green that Warnock keeps mentioning. Tav took the free-kick but it sailed well over Rafael’s crossbar allowing the first drinks break of the evening on 23 minutes.

A Fletcher effort gave hope for Boro’s virtual Travelling Army as Boro came out from the drinks break looking the better side and enjoying a spell of possession. Saville received a blow to his face and was left stunned afterwards looking like he needed some smelling salts to clear his head. On 32 minutes from the corner restart with Saville still dazed and off the pitch, Moore bundled the ball into the net to put the home side ahead in yet another poor example of Boro defending. Oh dear this wasn’t the game we had played out in our hearts!

Spence played in Roberts almost immediately after the restart but he hit his side-footed shot too casually not troubling Rafael at all. A few minutes later Spence was involved again this time with a header but he fluffed his lines across an open goal after glorious Tav ball. Maybe his broken nose was playing on his mind when he went to head but that was a gift to get Boro back into this game.

Johnson whipped in a great cross which caused Morrison to get down and head it out for a Boro corner on 40 minutes. From the corner, Reading broke with Moore with only Dijksteel alert to the danger. Olise then claimed for a Penalty as the ball, came down the Boro end and again Dijksteel was called to action with Pears in assistance. Seconds later Swift hit a long-range power drive off the upright as the game was end to end but Boro looking open at the back as 42 minutes passed by.

At the perfect time, a Roberts cross was met by Fletcher who flicked it off his head deflecting it past Rafael to pull the scores level just before the interval. Meantime we were hearing that Wigan had put seven goals past Hull and that match hadn’t reached half time yet. What a welcome bit of news that would be for the Boro dressing room. Just before the end of the half Roberts set up Spence but his shot was blocked as Boro now looked to be regaining their confidence after that Fletcher equaliser. Just in case we thought it was over Johnson had to head clear a Royals cross as the half time whistle sounded which importantly kept the scores level.

No changes for either side at half time. Meite was immediately barging through George Friend again who was forced to foul him by dragging him down near the corner flag. The free-kick came in and looked to deflect off Spence but Andy Woolmer awarded a goal kick to Boro which we were happy to take much to the annoyance of several blue and white hooped shirts. Meite then barged through Johnson by literally pushing him over conceding a Boro a free-kick. Boro’s first corner of the half saw Dijksteel getting up for Boro but the flag went up for an offside.

Fletcher went down in the box with the close attention of Blackett and Rafael trying to get to and cross a ball from Tavernier but Woolmer was having none of it. Tav earned himself a talking to after a “trip” in the middle of the park. It was Reading up next, putting a cross into Meite who was continually influencing things as he powered to meet another cross running in on Fry but his effort was off target. That was a warning for Boro as this huge frame of a Striker was determined to make his mark. 55 minutes in and a scrappy bit of loose play from Saville allowed Reading another opportunity; Pears was quick to scream words of advice to his defenders and midfielders to wake up to the dangers of being too relaxed.

Reading worryingly now seemingly had a grip of the game, starting to pass the ball around making Boro work for it but so long as it stayed away from Pears then we were happy enough. Boro we hoped were deliberately sitting deep hoping to spring Tav or Roberts. Rinomohta picked up a yellow card on 58 minutes for a pullback on Tavernier whose influence was growing. On 60 minutes Johnson put a teasing cross into the Reading 6-yard box that was deflected up for Rafael to collect.

Meite let a wayward rocket fly from outside the box on 62 minutes as Pears scrambled to get down, that man was still lurking and looking dangerous. Boro then worked the ball down the middle of the pitch with some good inter-passing eventually out to Johnson putting another cross in but it went out for a goal kick. Fatigue looked to be setting in but more so with Boro.

Fletcher got a powerful shot off palmed away by Rafael after being played in by Tav on 65 minutes. Incredibly Tav had been in the LB spot tracking back, he hooked the ball away from his opponent, broke down the left touchline beating two Royals defenders before putting the telling ball in towards Fletcher. He must be first on Warnock’s teamsheet after this.

A drinks break was a welcome relief for Boro just after a Reading corner had gone out for a goal kick. Muscles were being rubbed on some tired legs and aching limbs as we neared 70 minutes. Reading then brought Olise off for Masika to freshen their attack. A break after a 50/50 between Moore and Saville allowed Britt to com on for Fletcher, entering the pitch with what looked like very verbal and direct instruction from Warnock ringing in his ears.

Britt had a half-chance on 75 minutes trying to turn his man but wasn’t strong enough. Tav picked out a great ball to the right-wing finding Roberts who cut inside through the Royals defence and then hit it straight at Rafael. He did all the hard work and then choked at the vital moment. Britt could have gone down in the box but stayed on his feet, hit a cross that was cleared but only so far and next up was George Friend who typically blasted it wide after he stole it from Tav heading in the opposite direction.

Boro were building up a head of steam and on 81 minutes Roberts made amends by cracking it into the bottom corner to put Boro 2-1 up. A great run by Spence and Tavernier on the edge of the 18-yard box found Johnson who crossed, it was left by Saville on the penalty spot for Roberts behind to slot home.

Reading made a couple of Substitutions in response. For Boro, Dijksteel who had had a very solid and credible game then came off for McNair. The lad was understandably cream-crackered after his injury lay off with Boro now switching to three CB’s.

Morrison nearly went close for Reading but Friend kept his nerve, kept jostling at close range and when the effort came it was weak and easily smothered by Pears. Coulson was next to come on at the 88-minute mark for goal scorer Roberts who took his time departing the pitch. Five very long agonising minutes of additional time came up on the 4th Officials board.

George headed a low ball back to Pears to ease danger and eat up some vital seconds. Fry and Friend won a heading duel on the halfway line then McNair had to be cold and calm to clear with 2 minutes now gone of that interminable added time. Tav tried to break out after reading the ball and intercepting but he just couldn’t quite keep it in play. Tense times, nails bitten, buttocks clenched. Reading then came close with Masika but it went well over allowing Pears to take his time to collect the ball for a leisurely goal kick and all three points were Boro’s!

MOM was Tavernier but there were gritty performances from all of them. The defence, scrapped and battled, Dijksteel as mentioned had done very well, Friend and Fry were strong, Johnson worked his socks off, Spence was markedly better than against QPR and getting back to himself, Saville was almost Grant like in getting stuck in with Howson alongside his usual self, Fletcher ran and Roberts teased but Tav was instrumental throughout the entire game and made the difference when and where it counted.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Reading 1 – 2 Boro thread at the discussion forum page

Boro 1 – 3 Bristol City

Pos. 22nd (44 pts) SATURDAY 11 JULY 2020 Pos. 13th (53 pts)
Boro 1-3 Bristol
Assombalonga (82) 46%
SHOTS (on target)
Wells (6, 79)
Paterson (42)

Robins Rock Boro

Redcar Red reports on another Riverside defeat…

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!

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Boro 1 – 3 Bristol City thread at the discussion forum page

Millwall 0 – 2 Boro

Pos. 10th (59 pts) WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 2020 Pos. 18th (47 pts)
Millwall 0-2 Boro
SHOTS (on target)

Assombalonga (68)
Fletcher (87 pen)

Boro Roar in the Den

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s victory over the Lions …

After two consecutive defeats, Boro headed South to the Lion’s Den this afternoon for what many predicted would be another mauling. Millwall were still eyeing a Play-Off spot whereas Boro seemingly looked to be eyeing the beaches of the Med rather than surviving. With Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Aiden O’Brien sidelined Gary Rowett was hoping to have attacker Mason Bennett available again after a back problem. Neil Warnock had a different type of attacker problem in that he can’t find any who know what a shot looks like let alone a goal.

The Den would be more reserved than usual due to the virus precautions which could be an advantage for Boro as any excitement could be detrimental to their welfare or at least so their last few outings would have indicated. Passion and motivation have seemingly departed a band of dysfunctional and disinterested individuals masquerading as Middlesbrough Football Club. Both of these sides needed three points from this encounter but for totally different reasons.

Team news once again saw three changes for Boro with Spence, Shotton and McNair all replacing Moukoudi, Roberts, and Morrison with what looked like three at the back, wing-backs and two upfront with Britt and Fletcher leading the line. Morrison didn’t make Warnock’s bench unlike Robert’s and Moukoudi. Millwall were unchanged from their last outing against Charlton so no Mason Bennet.

Boro kicked off in a strangely quiet Den and early on Howson played in Britt only for Cooper to quickly close him down. The first corner came in the 3rd minute for the Home side from a McNair block but was cleared by Fletcher. Boro’s first serious threat came via a long ball over the defence to Britt in the box but Bialkowski came out sharpish to snuff out the risk. Eleven minutes in and Johnson then fired in a great ball across the Millwall six-yard box but again Britt just couldn’t stretch enough to meet it. The first real Millwall threat came two minutes later via a corner but despite the physical threat of Millwall, we held firm with the back three looking like an organised unit.

A long floated ball in on 14 minutes from Millwall was cleared by Shotton then recycled patiently by Millwall before sending in a cross in which Stojanovic rose to confidently collect. A Boro free kick 40 yards out was delivered in by Johnson but Fletcher’s header looped up and out for a goal kick. A great ball in from the right by McNair fizzed into the 6-yard box to Britt but this time he was beaten to it by a defender. A Shotton long throw on 19 minutes earned a Boro corner but it was headed out with almost too much ease by Cooper from the Millwall penalty spot.

A Boro claim for a penalty saw Spence go over with Murray Wallace seemingly trying to poke the ball away but taking his legs away but the Ref waived claims away. So far Boro were certainly holding their own and looked equal to their higher placed opponents as a drinks break was called to end the first phase. Play resumed on 26 minutes with a free-kick to Boro, a minute later and McNair launched another free-kick into the Lions box but as a row of red and blue shirts were jostling, pushing and shoving it was cleared by those in blue.

On 30 minutes Boro launched a flurry of balls into the Millwall box all cleared but Spence collected the ball inside the right side of the box firing in a cross in but yet again nobody could get a toe to it. Getting closer but still not close enough. On 33 minutes Britt was bundled over, the free-kick was taken by McNair who fired it goalwards requiring Bialkowski to react instinctively to save.

As Boro pressure mounted a corner was cleared and then sent back in but Bialkowksi once more collected without any pressure. As the first half wore on Boro looked to be the more comfortable of the two sides with Millwall mainly threatening on the break. A good cross field ball out wide from Dael Fry to Johnson was sent in by Marvin with power but it was bravely blocked. A foray down the left-hand side by Millwall then ended with the ball being teased around the Boro “D” before a low shot required Stojanovic to get down to save. A long clearance from Stojanovic saw Fletcher chase it into the Millwall box with a Millwall defender and Bilkowki clattering into each other just before half time leaving both feeling the after-effects.

A Millwall free-kick was fed out to wide left but as Murray Wallace cut in to the Boro box he delivered a clear forearm smash to Djed Spence but not seen by either the Referee or his assistant. Had he seen it it was a clear straight Red. When the half time whistle went both Spence and Warnock headed to the Officials to protest with disbelief. Despite having less possession Boro looked the better side and Spence clearly had the Millwall defence nervous with his pace and skill.

That first half was unrecognisable let alone much improved from the Hull and QPR displays and whilst a draw would be a decent result a win definitely looked on the cards for Boro. Defensively we had looked solid so far with Shotton catching the eye. Warnock will have been the happier of the two Managers but aggrieved that Spence was denied a penalty after that Wallace challenge and again further annoyed that Wallace didn’t receive a straight Red for the off the ball incident.

Boro came out for the second half and huddled near the corner flag where interestingly it seemed that Saville was leading the mentoring and then going on to have a “quiet word” with Murray Wallace. Millwall started the second half with no changes to either side. A long clearance from George Friend out of defence saw Flecther sprint down the wing and in turn feed Johnson who cut it back to McNair who hit it hard but just over the crossbar from the edge of the box. An impressive and positive start from Boro in stark contrast to recent games.

On 48 minutes Spence was blocked off by Wallace and Millwall broke needing Saville to head clear in his own box but with Spence now sporting a huge white band-aid across his nose after the first-half incident you could sense this game was becoming a little more feisty! A minute later and the lively Britt had a one on one with Bialkowski but just lost out. On 50 minutes another Boro free-kick was sent in deep by Johnson and headed back by Fry across to Saville in the centre of the Millwall box but missed his shot entirely, however, Boro once again were getting close.

A Pearce shove in Britt’s back allowed a repeat free kick in the 53rd minute which was sent into the danger zone but as this time McNair knocked it on Friend was adjudged to have been offside. A nervy clearance from Howson at the other end saved Fletcher’s blushes as he failed o track back, letting his man run into the danger zone to concede a corner but Fry had marshalled Cooper and his weak header went out for a Boro goal kick. Boro were now closing down quickly and a few “win back” challenges saw two blue shirts laid out on the turf on the 59th minute!

Rowett then had seen enough and made three changes on 62 minutes, Molumby off for Williams, Mahoney coming on for Pearce and Bradshaw on for Thompson with the Lions now clearly going for it and throwing a bit of caution with it. Mahoney instantly put a cross in and a close-range header required Stojanovic to be at full stretch to pull off an incredible world-class save.

Three minutes later and Mahoney this time struck a low shot from the edge of the box but Stojanovic again got down this time to save with his feet as Millwall for the first time in the game looked seriously threatening since moving from a back three to 442. Just as we were looking under the cosh a ball broke down the right, strong, Fletcher pushed off his marker, striding forward, teasing the Keeper out and then slid the ball across to Britt to slot home leaving Bialkowksi no chance and Britt put Boro into a well deserved lead.

Saville was yellow-carded for an awkward rather than cynical mistimed swing which seemed harsh considering the Millwall antics but the danger was that it allowed Millwall to launch the ball into the Boro box but fortunately once again Stojanovic was strong and dominated his box. Then in the middle of the park, Woods seemingly hit McNair off the ball as Millwall were clearly losing composure but incredibly not for the first time the officials saw nothing. A timely drinks break followed immediately on 72 minutes the Referee’s reaction to the increasing atmospheric pressure.

Millwall were now pushing and forcing Boro deep as Jed Wallace lashed a shot which just went wide of the upright with Stojanovic at full stretch. 76 minutes and Britt ambled off for Tav to come on and add some fresh pace up front and a clearance outlet as Boro set out to hold onto what they had. A Stojanovic clearance found Spence who took out three defenders before being upended again, finding McNair out wide whose cross fizzed across the 6-yard box with Tavernier closing in but just couldn’t get his head to it. Tavernier then conceded an unnecessary freekick on the right touchline for his altercation on Romeo. It was hit in towards Bradshaw but under pressure from Boro defenders, he headed well wide on 79 minutes.

Mahoney found Jed Wallace but Shotton yet again read the situation and cut out the danger with a brilliant sliding interception. 81 minutes and Boro brought on Clayts for McNair and the returning Dijksteel for the battered Spence. A baptism of fire for Dijksteel if ever there was one and simultaneously Millwall brought on two subs of their own, Murray Wallace and Romeo both off with Mitchell and Ferguson coming on to try and rescue something.

A nervy short back header from Johnson saw Shotton shielding Stojanovic to collect low with the attentions of substitute Bradshaw bearing down. Clayts was nearly slam-dunked running the game down near the corner flag yet the Ref incredibly awarded a throw to Millwall. Seconds later justice was done when Fletcher was sent through with Cooper left for dead, despairingly barging into the back of Fletch for a stonewall sending off and Penalty. The Referee once again showed a strange display of selective myopia deciding it was a legitimate challenge and only giving Cooper a Yellow. More importantly, Fletcher calmly stepped up and hit a peach of a Penalty to make it two-nil with a beautiful right-footed penalty on 87 minutes. How Cooper stayed on was incredible but justice was now done.

Stojanovic had to act as a sweeper and come out of his box on 89 minutes to head clear for a throw-in. Five minutes added time came up as Shotton took a throw-in in his on half up to Fletcher who allegedly fouled his marker. Tav then earned a defensive free-kick inviting a challenge as he dribbled the ball out going down to waste a few seconds while Stojanovic walked over to take it.

Some backs to the wall defending helped by an energetic Clayton saw Tav then run the ball up to the corner flag but as Millwall recovered and broke away Shotton came across to block the final ball as had done all afternoon to put it out for a late corner. The corner kick came in with Stojanovic getting something on it but fumbling and out it went for a second corner which this time he punched clear and then collected the return distanced volley with ease.

A Friend throw-in by the dugouts was knocked out near the corner flag by Fletcher to further eat up dying seconds for the final whistle to sound. This was a Jekyll and Hyde performance compared to the last two games. This was a fighting, spirited, battling and hungry showing. There wasn’t a single poor performance. Every player played their part and every player in red gave their all. Shotton was the standout player and MOM but Spence was good in the first half until he was punched, Fry and Friend were solid. Stojanovic dealt with everything and pulled off two game winning saves. Fletcher and Assombalonga actually looked like Strikers and ran the opposition defence. The midfield scrapped and battled, Saville, McNair and Howson were up for it. Even Clayton coming on near the end made his mark by chasing, closing down and fighting for the cause.

The negative was that the standard of Officiating was appalling and has to be one of the worst seen for a long time and there have been some really poor ones. The off the ball behaviour from Millwall was a disgrace and hopefully, retrospective action will be taken when video evidence is reviewed along with the Ref and his assistants being sent down to the Conference.

A great win and an even better three points!

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Millwall 0 – 2 Boro thread at the discussion forum page

Boro 0 – 1 QPR

Pos. 22nd (44 pts) SUNDAY 5 JULY 2020 Pos. 13th (53 pts)
Boro 0-1 QPR
SHOTS (on target)
Hugill (32)

Gutless in the Battle

Redcar Red reports on another Boro defeat…

At a warm and windswept Riverside Boro were starting this game in the stark reality of being in the bottom three. In an effort to deflect attention from that humbling defeat at Hull or perhaps from the realisation of what he has taken on Warnock had declared that it’s the toughest gig he’s ever had. Even the most loyal of Boro fan couldn’t disagree that this squad is indeed a disjointed misdirected mess of some years in the making.

QPR hadn’t managed a win since the restart of the season but as Hull found out Typical Boro can be extremely flattering not to mention generous. The hope before kick-off was that Warnock had identified the limitations and even lack of determination amongst his squad and could maybe motivate what he had left to work with to try and get a result.

The major injury worry for Boro was with Djed Spence who limped off that sorry display at Hull on Thursday night. Warnock’s pre-game presser had indicated that it wasn’t too serious and that Djed might be available but how much of it was true or just mind games we would find out shortly. Provided that Hull lose away to West Brom in the game kicking off an hour later today a draw would take Boro out of the bottom three on Goal Difference. A win, however, would take them up to the dizzy heights of 18th, one point above Stoke, Charlton, and Huddersfield and two below Birmingham in 17th. It didn’t take a genius to work out that Boro really did need to win this one and nothing less would do.

The Team news saw three changes for Boro with Morrison coming in for McNair, Moukoudi in for Spence, and Fletcher starting upfront with Britt with Coulson benched. Anfernee Dijksteel was a surprise inclusion on the bench with no sign of Spence. Warburton switched his Keeper in the only change from their last game with Lumley coming in for Kelly. Boro boy Jordan Hugill was also starting so the omens were gathering. Speculation pre kick off looked like Warnock was going to go with a back three and Howson and Johnson as Wing Backs but as things panned out that would have been too sensible.

Bizarrely at the Kick-Off Boro looked like they were playing four at the back with Moukoudi just in front as defensive midfield cover. Considering that the Manager just days earlier had declared that the squad had too many Midfielders and not enough Centre Backs, picking a young Centre Back with little Championship experience to play a defensive midfield role certainly raised a few quizzical eyebrows.

Rangers kicked off and enjoyed the opening spell with Moukoudi seemingly glued to Eze. Stojanovic was first in action collecting a speculative effort with ease. Roberts worked a corner that went to Howson and then Friend who was penalised before Moukoudi sent it skywards, hopefully, it wasn’t to be a sign of what was to come. Eze had Boro looking nervous early on as he turned Fry and had Stojanovic looking lost but we got away with that early warning.

Five minutes in and Johnson won Boro’s second corner from the left but it was wasted and allowed QPR to break and Osayi-Samuels came close as Boro seemed intent on wasting crosses into the box for the second game running. Roberts won a Boro free-kick from Amos which he sent in far too high towards the back post continuing the theme of overhitting, oh boy this was already a tough watch.

Duncan brought down Britt who claimed a free-kick but Moukoudi had won back possession and sent Britt free to try and test Lumley in the Rangers goal. A cross had Stojanvic scrambling to deal with a cross come shot in the thirteenth minute which was put in by Eze and cleared for another corner. The ball came in and Stojanovic let the ball go out for a goal kick. At the other end, a Johnson free-kick was hurriedly cleared by Hugill to concede a corner to Boro which went straight back out for another Boro corner on fifteen minutes. A short one saw Johnson back heel it to Morrison and after a Saville attempt was closed down the ball came across via Fry to Fletcher but it was hit too hard.

The sun started to break through the grey Teesside skies on twenty minutes to try and brighten what until now had been less than impressive from Boro. Fletcher, Johnson, and Morrison combined but recycled it back to Moukoudi, and then eventually Britt unleashed a shot that was never going to trouble Lumley. That seems to be the trademark of this Warnock side. Seconds later Roberts found Fletcher in the 18-yard box but Lumley made the save to put it out for a corner. Fry met the corner at the back post but the whistle went for a supposed infringement on a relieved looking Lumley. A drinks break then brought a temporary halt to proceedings. Boro had huffed and puffed but just didn’t look convincing.

The game restarted and a Roberts free-kick resulted in Johnson putting the ball into the Hoops box and Fletcher heading wide from a distance. A break from Rangers saw Hugill going close but a combination of Friend putting pressure on him and Stojanovic standing tall worked and the best chance of the game went out for a corner to the visitors. The Corner was wasted with Ref Scott Duncan blowing for a foul but seconds later Hugill made amends as he looped a Manning ball over Stojanovic to put Rangers one up in the inevitable Typical Boro moment. He immediately collapsed to the floor presumably by overstretching his hamstring and took no further part. Ilias Chair then came on to offer a totally different attacking threat having a much lower centre of gravity and a much trickier player.

A Cameron conceded corner to Boro was easily dealt with by Lumley as Boro looked to clear their heads. Johnson conceded a free-kick just outside the box and saw a yellow card in another of those dangerous areas that he seems to be prone to giving away. Manning’s shot went around the wall and Stojanovic was alert to push away. Boro had looked less than convincing in attack and the Moukoudi role was looking confusing as Rangers were keeping it simple by drawing Boro forward and then hitting it over the top on the break. Tactically so far the first half was far from convincing.

An Eze corner just before the half time whistle was cleared by Fletcher. A left-foot shot by Roberts was deflected and the follow up was cleared with Rangers breaking and Stojanovic had to be quick to prevent a Rangers second. A lack of communication between Saville and Britt just highlighted the understanding gap between the Boro players. A Johnson free-kick was headed down by Cameron, Fry earned a throw-in which as “creatively” directed from the touchline was thrown towards Roberts who promptly lost it. It was hard viewing and head shaking in the extreme.

The first half finished with Manning trying a cheeky shot from distance as QPR looked composed and relaxed whereas Boro just looked lost. We looked like a side of individuals with a plan that consisted of giving it to Roberts and blindly hope that something will happen. Morrison typically showed nothing of all that supposed talent, Johnson had looked vulnerable in defence, Fletcher was working hard, Britt was his usual languid self and the Moukoudi role was a luxury we couldn’t afford which in effect meant we were playing with ten men. Very disappointing from Warnock and simply nowhere near good enough in the first half. Major changes and a tactical rethink was required at half time. That was an uninspiring, flat performance from Boro and a lot of it stemmed from the tactical set up which hadn’t worked at all.

The teams came out for the second half with no changes which from a Boro perspective was nothing short of shocking considering the rate that we were running out of games. An overhit Howson cross to Fletcher three minutes in summed up just how toothless and pointless this Boro side looked. A Morrison shot was closed down quickly by Luke Amos and as the Hoops broke Saville just took his opponent out to earn a yellow. I have no idea what Warnock said to his troops at half time but it looked like he handed out a slice of cake with a nice cup of tea instead of a rollicking.

The opening ten minutes were measured from Rangers with Boro trying to drive forward but it all looked very predictable and ominously fruitless. Apart from Roberts, it was abundantly clear that there was no other attacking tactic. We were seemingly restricted to get the ball to the mercurial Man City loanee who would skip and dance but with nothing whatsoever to show from it which has become a recurring theme.

A quick free-kick saw the ball go across the box and Britt looked odds on to score but it went out for a corner which was headed clear by Barbet as once again a Boro set-piece came to nothing. A Roberts cross to nobody caught Fletcher and Assombalonga in no man’s land. A minute later Roberts took the game to Rangers all on his own but was closed down. Meanwhile, there was some much needed activity from the Boro bench with training tops coming off as the dire insipid showing continued. Only thirty minutes remained and the Hoops were strolling through this game with little threat or concern.

For a Club that was desperately fighting for its very survival, this performance looked alarmingly lacklustre. A Saville cross saw Fletcher challenging Lumley and as the ball fell to Morrison he blasted it wide. Wing for Saville, McMnair for Morrison and the non-scoring Nmecha for Fletcher all came on with twenty five minutes to go. Clearly, Warnock still couldn’t see the futility of the Moukoudi role and that of his two Strikers he clearly is going on past reputations rather than what is staring him in the face.

Roberts put a cross into McNair but his effort went over the bar as the Ref decided it was time for another drinks break. Things were looking so desolate that maybe a few Sherries in the Boro drinks bottles could manage to get a response from the confused, distracted rabble that had a single solitary “Roberts” plan. Eze was removed during the break which was the only positive in the second half for Boro with twenty minutes remaining.

A Roberts break eventually found Assombalonga whose shot was some late hope for beleaguered Boro fans. Since Fletcher went off Assombalonga looked a little more active but Nmecha was absent since his arrival as our tactics continued to confuse and confound in equal measure. Moukoudi conceded a dangerous free-kick needlessly bringing down Todd Kane. Manning stood over the ball while the Boro wall standing firm and the ball coming off them and recycled by Rangers up to the other end of the pitch in the arms of the largely untroubled Lumley.

Belatedly Tavernier and Coulson were readied to try and save Boro blushes. An Osayi-Samuel shot was blocked by Fry for a corner which was taken short by Chair and eventually when it was delivered into the Boro box it evaded Moukoudi going out for another corner. Chair once again took the corner, this time straight in, eventually going out for a goal kick. Roberts then departed along with Johnson as the two Subs came on sharply.

Assombalonga and Tavernier linked with Tav then finding Wing who in turn found Howson and set up Nmecha who of course fired over. A Boro corner by Tav came in dangerously to the near post and was cleared for a corner. The second one came back in a little deeper but it came off McNair for a Hoops goal kick. Five minutes remained of normal time with Boro desperate to rescue a point but there was little sign of anything from Boro. They looked unbalanced, constrained by tactics that defied logic especially as we had been chasing the game for most of the match. It was almost Strachanesque in its despondency to witness.

89 minutes now gone and McNair hit a deep ball to Assombalonga who went down under the attention of Kaykay in the Rangers box but he received a yellow card for his troubles. Five minutes added time came up as Rangers earned a corner which they wasted going out harmlessly for a Boro goal kick. The ball went up the Rangers end of the pitch but with very little thought or idea as to how Boro would work it and consequently it went out of play with a whimper. It looked like the psyche of the Boro players had defeat written all over them. A late Coulson free-kick with a minute of added time remaining was collected with ease by Lumley as it was planted at the perfect angle for the Keeper. A few frantic moments of far too little far too late ensued from a desperate and derelict looking Boro in the dying seconds.

That performance had so many failings its difficult to list. From the original selection and formation through to the in-game management and the lack of Substitutions and when they did come it was too late and added nothing to the team when as much as anything it was the basic formation that had failed. As bad as the Players were the blame for that lies solely with the Manager. As difficult as this gig might be for him picking the wrong players in the wrong positions and lining them up wrong, subbing errors and then expecting a positive result was baffling to put it politely. In fairness, it takes a while to get used to a new squad but it’s apparent that Warnock hasn’t a clue about the individuals and their strengths and weaknesses. Trying to play a system that doesn’t fit the limited resources that you have to work with is a very questionable management technique and not one likely to get results quickly.

There are players whose contracts have expired, players who are on loan and will be off in a few weeks. Expecting a fighting, battling mentality just isn’t going to happen. There are too many players being selected who have zero buy-in to the club let alone its predicament. Expecting them to collectively gel into a unit to get the results needed isn’t going to happen. One or two like Roberts, for example, is showing professional pride but there was very little of that on display over these last two games, naming a MOM would be an insult

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Boro 0 – 1 QPR at the discussion forum page

Hull 2 – 1 Boro

Pos. 19th (45 pts) THURSDAY 2 JULY 2020 Pos. 21st (44 pts)
Hull 2-1 Boro
Kane (8)
Wilks (90+1)
SHOTS (on target)

Assombalonga (4 Pen)

Hopeless in Hull

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s late defeat against the Tigers …

Boro made the relatively short trip south to Humberside for their second away game in 6 days. Hull have struggled with a porous defence, only Luton had conceded more, seemingly unable to keep clean sheets while Boro, as pointed out by Warnock in his press conference, have goal-shy Strikers with Boro consequently the lowest goal scorers in the division. Under Warnock however, those Boro scoring issues seemed to be getting addressed or at least in part with set plays now looking as though they had been rehearsed and two goals scored on their last outing away to fellow strugglers Stoke. Hull meanwhile had thrown away a two-goal lead away to a sorry looking Birmingham side on Saturday. A draw would not be disastrous for either side just yet with six more games to go but a defeat would be crushing in the survival stakes.

Of late the fate of these two clubs have had some striking parallels, both were chasing the Play-Offs this time last year and our brief Premiership visit prior to that saw both clubs scrapping to avoid relegation (both unsuccessfully) and here we are again with both sides scrapping for their Championship lives indicating just how far both Clubs have fallen.

Both clubs had a full complement to select from with only long term injured Dijksteel unavailable for Boro. The Tigers had just completed the permanent signing of loanee Mallik Wilks from Barnsley for one of those curious “undisclosed fees” earlier in the day securing the wide man’s services for the next two years. Team news saw McCann announce an unchanged side from their Birmingham game and Warnock made one surprise change with Coulson coming in for Fletcher.

Referee Geoff Eltringham’s whistle got proceedings underway. The opening minute was a fairly innocuous start with neither side really probing or testing. A Djed Spence throw in 20 yards out was hurriedly cleared in a tight corner and picked up by Paddy McNair who ghosted across the edge of the Hull 18 yard box and played a sweet ball out to Johnson who was thundering in and unleashed a great drive at Long’s goal and as he spilled the shot Roberts closing in had his leg hooked from under him for a 3rd-minute Penalty. Anxious moments across Teesside as Britt stepped up and dummied his run-up and sent it safely into the back of the net to put Boro one up. A great start and as good as we could have hoped for.

Wilks earned a free-kick after going down from a Johnson challenge outside the Boro 18 yard box on 7 minutes. Herbie Kane dispatched the curling kick, sent it over the wall and left Stojanovic with no chance as it curled just inside the upright to pull the sides level. A minute later Roberts was upended and Howson played a short free-kick that didn’t come off going out for a Boro throw-in. On ten minutes Roberts put a cross across the box to Johnson whose cross came back out to Roberts who won a corner. The corner came in and a series of unconvincing attacking and defending ensued which eventually ended with Boro being offside.

Neither side was getting a stranglehold on the game and then a lobbed Hull free-kick straight down the middle saw a De Wijs header nearly catch Stojanovic at his near post. Roberts was testing Elder down the right and won throw off him and then a corner which was wasted by being taken short by Roberts to Spence who then overhit it letting Hull off the hook. Roberts was starting to be the main attacking outlet for Boro and cutting across the edge of the box he lost the attentions of three defenders but hit his shot well over. A minute later Spence drove down the right flank and his cut back to Coulson was offside as it came off McNair. That was Coulson’s first real involvement in the game.

A water break on twenty-three minutes interrupted proceedings with Coaches able to get a few messages to their charges. Three minutes later Hull goal scorer Kane hobbled off for ex-Mackem Honeyman to enter the fray. On thirty minutes a dangerous long throw into the Boro six-yard box was blown for a free-kick to Boro as De Wijs bundled Britt over defending. All Boro’s enterprise was down the right-hand side with the left flank redundant. A fierce 40-yard drive on 32 minutes was cleared by Boro only for Johnson to give away another free-kick that caused consternation as it was headed downwards by Fry then hooked clear by Howson only for a free-kick to be awarded to Boro. A break down the left saw Coulson feed it back from the by-line to Saville who pinged it into fellow Northern Irishman McNair whose header was straight at Long but two Amber shirts clashed heads in the melee with Elder requiring lengthy treatment in the aftermath.

Close up TV footage seem to reveal a disagreement between Elder and the Physio’s advice seemingly deciding that he was suffering from concussion. Stewart then came on for Hull’s second substitution in the first half with the clock showing 40 minutes but with some lengthy delays. Da Silva went to Left Back to face Roberts and Spence who had teased Elder non-stop previously. On 44 minutes Da Silva left a cynical foot in on Roberts leaving him writhing in agony as seven minutes added time came up on the fourth official’s board.

Britt was adjudged to have fouled Burke as he was beaten to a header having gone into the big defenders back. Coulson was bundled over by Wilks seconds after he had barged into Johnson earning the games first yellow. The free-kick delivery wasn’t great as Friend couldn’t get underneath it in the Hull box. Wilks was again involved in a tussle just outside the Boro box with Johnson and kicked the ball away when the whistle went against him. No doubt Warnock will have detected that he perhaps was one to target in the second half.

A brilliant run by Spence leaving a trail of Hull defenders in his wake wasn’t rewarded with a Boro goal that his run deserved as his cross was cut out. That brought the half to an end in what was a somewhat unspectacular game after those two early goals. Scrappy and messy with neither side really looking to get a grip of the game. It was very stop-start with lots of niggling fouls preventing the game from flowing. Boro with Spence and Roberts showed the most flair and arguably perhaps were the more deserving but no doubt Warnock will have been firing a few rockets up backsides in the dressing room.

Hull brought on Lewis-Potter for Stewart in the second half, Boro remained unchanged. A far post free-kick from Hull was hoofed clear and from that Coulson broke to feed Johnson whose cross was deflected into Long’s arms. A dangerous Wilks cross had Boro hearts in mouths and as it was cleared it came straight back down the opposite flank with the youngster Lewis=Potter putting his shot well over. Meanwhile, Spence looked in discomfort but was able to resume the game now four minutes into the second half. A long-range Batty free-kick saw more scrappy headers and flicks from the Boro defence. Paddy McNair drifted into the Hull box but had the ball nicked off his toes earning a corner. On 51 minutes Spence succumbed with Lewis Wing coming on, the corner won by McNair was wasted as it was cleared and Robert’s follow up cross was overhit.

Howson went to Right Back for Boro with Wing going into midfield. Pennington flew into Coulson’s back giving away a free-kick which Johnson lofted straight into Long’s hands. The game was probably even more scrappy than the first half with quality ominous by its absence on the part of both sides. Coulson and Johnson linked up well but Long got down to the cross in what was the best passage of play in the second half on 57 minutes. A great cross from Howson was met at the near post by Coulson but he glanced it well over on 58 minutes. As 60 minutes ticked over Warnock looked as though he was about to make a change.

A great dribble by Howson cutting in between two defenders pulled it back for Saville whose 18-yard shot was deflected out for a corner that was pulled back for an infringement allowing Tavernier to come on for Roberts. A 63rd-minute free-kick from Boro highlighted the lack of skill n display as it was hit out to the opposite right flank and then hit into no man’s land in the Hull box as ideas and creativity were in very short supply.

A drink break in the 67th minute was about as exciting as the action had been in the second half which had so far sapped the very soul out of the most ardent Boro or Hull fan. Johnson was fouled ten yards into the Hull half on 70 minutes and the floated ball in was strangely deemed offside but it was more a let-off for Boro than Hull as the knocked-on header was beyond any rampaging red shirt. A ball worked in from the wing by Assombalonga saw Tavernier try his luck with a curling shot from twenty yards out that just went wide in the 74th minute.

Tavernier had the ball in the net on the 76th minute but it was ruled out for an apparent foul on Da Silva. It looked like Da silva had lost his footing and fell in front of Tav but regardless the game remained 1-1. On 78 minutes Britt went off for Fletcher to come on as Boro had been awarded a free-kick which Saville blasted a shot goalward deflected by Magennis.

Hull made a double change on 80 minutes with Batty going off for Toral and Magennis off for Eaves. An immediate break from Toral found Lewis-Potter but Howson stood strong to see out the danger. A dribble from Coulson into the Hull box found him taking one touch too many allowing Long to come out and collect with four minutes of the ninety remaining. A one-two in the “D” between Wing and Tav ended with Tav fouling two defenders as the frustration continued.

A miss-hit cross-field pass from Friend summed the game up with a minute of normal time remaining. Four added minutes were shown and a lobbed cross was nodded down by De Wijs to Wilks to toe-poke the winner in the 92nd minute. A last-minute piece of typically overplaying in the Hull box from Boro ended with no shot from anyone and a yellow card for Coulson.

The strange tactical tweak of removing Fletcher for Coulson didn’t work and there was little on display from either side to suggest they deserve staying up in what was a truly awful game with little or no quality on display apart from that Kane free-kick. As much as that performance away at Stoke gave hope this was as bad as anything under Woodgate. We looked clueless for large parts apart from individual cameos from Robert’s and Spence. Tav came on and ran at the Hull defence and was maybe robbed of a legitimate goal but his habit of pushing opponents over doesn’t help his cause

I can’t award a MOM as there were too many poor performances in a game that was crying out for someone to get a grip and impose themselves. Perhaps it just highlights Warnock’s conclusion that there are no leaders in this squad but regardless the ineptness from Boro tonight has now left them just one point above the relegation places. Hull have now leapt a point above Boro with their first win since New Year’s Day.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Hull 2 – 1 Boro thread at the discussion forum page

Stoke 0 – 2 Boro

Pos. 20th (43 pts) SATURDAY 27 JUNE 2020 Pos. 19th (44 pts)
Stoke 0-2 Boro
S/O Powell (89) 69%
SHOTS (on target)
Fletcher (29)
Tavernier (62)

Warlock Warnock Slays Stoke

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s win under new management…

Warnock’s Warriors made their bow down in the Potteries this afternoon at the bet365 Stadium. Hope on Teesside was lower than a snake’s belly at the final whistle of the Swansea debacle which just about summed up everything that went wrong with the previous incumbent. Bizarre team selection, no pace, no coherent formation, eleven players who just looked confused, and after 30 minutes shell shocked. Today couldn’t get any worse even though it was Warnock’s first game in a very short week taking training at Rockliffe. There won’t have been much time to get to know his charges nor them him. Having said that there was still far more optimism on Teesside than there perhaps should be based purely upon that we now had a bloke in the dugout who knew what he was doing.

Actual intrigue and even excitement awaited the team announcement which would give Boro fans an insight into what formation and what type of football we would be playing as we entered these crucial final eight games. Moukoudi was deemed fit again although there were some veiled hints from Warnock at a few niggles elsewhere in the Boro squad.

Stoke had Michael O’Neil in the dugout after his quarantine period for testing positive for the virus, we could but hope that maybe his absence may have affected Stoke’s preparedness for this afternoon’s encounter. Despite being only two points ahead of Boro, before kick-off Stoke had lost just one of their last nine home Championship matches, with six wins amongst them. With Shawcross struggling for fitness after limping off with a groin injury against Reading last weekend we would meet up with Danny Batth once again. Allen, Cousins, and Verlinden would all be crocked with Shawcross, onlookers in the stands.

Warnock made six changes with Spence, Roberts, Assombalonga, Fletcher, Saville, and Johnson all coming into the side. The omission of Gestede had signaled the end of his very expensive and disappointing Boro career. Luton beating Swansea and Charlton beating QPR upped the ante for both these sides to the extent that even a draw would be seen as a bad result. That side saw Gestede, Nmecha, Shotton, Clayton, Wing, and Coulson all dropped after last week’s poor showing. That Gestede hadn’t agreed to extend his contract then it questions Woodgate’s decision to play him last week when his head wasn’t in the Club.

It looked like we would be setting up with a back four with Howson in Midfield. Friend and Fry in the middle with Spence and Johnson on the right and left of them proving defensive cover but also some energy and a pacy threat where we failed miserably last week. Having Assombalonga leading the line with Roberts and Fletcher assisting will certainly provide far more threat than the blunt and mono paced showing last Saturday.

Boro took the pitch in their inky black, dark navy away kit with the stadium flags blowing in the blustery bet365 stadium which is nothing unusual for the Potteries except that the wind was warm instead of biting cold. Meanwhile back on Teesside storm clouds were gathering and thunder was on the horizon, as we hoped it was going to be a positive omen for Boro as they kicked off.

An early throw was passed harmlessly up the pitch into the hands of Stojanovic. A pass back to the big keeper a minute later perhaps showed a Boro happy to be patient. A Boro free-kick from just over the halfway line was floated harmlessly out as the linesman flagged for an offside in any case. Fletcher seemed to be playing centrally with Britt and Roberts either side of him showing a willingness to chase and close down.

A cut back from Powell to Sorenson saw a 20-yard effort test Stojanovic but it went well wide on six minutes. A dreadful Paddy McNair free kick on seven minutes was wasted looping it straight out. A good piece of play by Britt forced a corner out of Batth on eight minutes. Delivered deep to the far side Powell was forced to concede a follow-up corner which Boro worked well, switching sides but an overly enthusiastic dribble saw Roberts lose possession and Stoke break and Boro were fortunate not to be undone as Campbell drove his side forward. Clucas then went down for Stoke and needed some treatment and immediately after Britt was robbed 8 yards by Batth out on thirteen minutes. Stoke struggled to clear their lines and a deft backheel flick from Fletcher ended up safely in Butand’s arms.

A Boro free-kick om 15 minutes near the corner flag sent in by Roberts flicked off Fletcher at the near post to over the crossbar for a Stoke goal kick. So far apart from that Stoke breakaway attack, Boro looked comfortable. Spence beat three players and was taken out by Sorenson 25 yards out. Britt took the kick but it was just over the crossbar centrally so even if it had been on target Butland wouldn’t have been troubled. McLean came close whipping in a low cross to see Stojanovic dive to save the effort in the game so far. Stojanovic punched the resulting corner clear for it to come back in and deflected out for a corner which was headed over by Friend for another Stoke corner. It was delivered to the far corner of the 6-yard box but Chester headed it 10 yards wide and in doing so permitted the Ref to blow for a drinks break.

Twenty-five minutes gone with the scores were still level as play resumed. Stoke were enjoying a bit of possession earning since the restart earning another corner but again it was Chester who headed it wide. McNair was bundled over on the touchline on 29 minutes and the resultant inswinging free kick from Roberts pinpointed to Ashley Fletcher who headed it into the far corner to put Boro one up as the clock ticked over the 30-minute mark. A brilliant set-piece from Boro, a brilliant set-piece from Boro, so good I thought I’d type it twice!

A Boro free kick for a foul on Saville near the opposite corner from the goal creating free-kick was delivered to the far side of the 6-yard box for Thompson to head out for a corner. Cleared but nicked back and swept back into the box for Fletcher to head down to Fry but Butland was alert as the flag went up for an offside. Boro looking good and in the ascendancy, growing in confidence. On thirty-five minutes a low cross from Spence cut across the Stoke defence but the two Navy shirts just couldn’t connect, could have and should have been two.

Howson conceded a free kick for a challenge on Powell but it was headed clear by a packed Boro backline which when put back in was cleared for a Stoke corner which was headed out for a throw-in by Friend. On forty minutes Sorenson came off for Ince to come on as O’Neil seemingly felt his side was losing the battle. A strong and brave header from Fry cut out the danger on 43 minutes with Fletcher trying to receive it on the halfway line but was bundled over with Stoke conceding a throw. From the throw, Boro broke and a cross was deflected out for a corner which ended with Fletcher heading it back across from the corner of the upright for Butland to be impeded according to the Ref as the home side again looked nervy. Stoke broke from the clearance and Stojanovic came out 1950’s style to risk his neck as he clattered Powell in the process to catch (and keep) the ball. After treatment, both seemed OK to carry on.

A long hoofed Boro clearance saw Batth under pressure from Britt as the ex-Boro loanee put the ball out for a Boro throw five yards from the corner flag. A delayed throw was cleared but Boro cleaned up on the halfway line with the half now 4 minutes into added time. A clever clearance from Spence down the flank saw Fletcher cut the ball across to Saville Britt who was bundled over by Chester and Butland for what looked like a penalty but it was waved away as the whistle went for the end of the half.

It wasn’t a game for the purists but Boro looked confident and looked like they had a game plan. They were far quicker to chase and close down and far hungrier and direct than for a very long time. No weak areas, with Spence, Roberts and Fletcher causing problems down the right side with Stojanovic looking big, brave, athletic and very strong. Saville was active and Britt probably covered more yards than he has all season. Warnock will have been pleased with what he witnessed as the players walked off as the heavens opened. A huge difference from Woodgate or Pulis come to that! To see Boro with set-pieces that actually had a tactic and one that the players knew where to stand and where to go was refreshing.

No half time changes from either Manager as Campbell kicked off for Stoke and immediately went up and cut through the sleepy Boro defence with Ince dummying leaving M’Clean at the back post to strike it low but Stojanovic was equal to it and he had to be alert seconds later to punch clear the second phase. Phew! That was a real wake up call. It took Boro two or three minutes to take the sting out of the fired-up home side.

The opening five minutes were all Stoke as a cross came into the Boro far post with Spence losing Mclean who headed the ball against the post with Stojanovic once again diving to clean up the dangerous ball. Stojanovic came out to clear the ball out to the touchline instead of upfield but the throw was adjudged to have been a foul throw with 8 minutes of the half gone. A long throw from Spence down the line saw Roberts chase and earning a throw-in but as the ball was crossed in it nearly went out vis the halfway line.

This was now a test for Boro with Stoke by far the more dominant in the opening ten minutes of the half. A well-worked series of passes from Boro saw Spence jink into the Potters box but his cross was across the back of Fletcher and Britt and the best Boro opportunity for the half went begging. A blocked cross on 57 minutes led to a Stoke corner and a double substitution with Martins Indi and Thompson coming off and Cousins coming on with Vokes.

The corner ended with a free-kick for Boro after a clumsy challenge on Fry’s ankle. On 60 minutes Roberts went off for Boro with Tav coming on to replace him. Incredibly an innocuous ball from the halfway line out to Tav saw him check his run, leave two Stoke defenders for dead and twenty-five yards out unleashed a shot into Butland’s far corner leaving him rooted, 2-0!

That goal was against the run of play and how refreshing it was to see Boro do it for a change. Another change for Boro with Wing coming on for McNair and hopefully an opportunity for him and Tav to link up like we know they can. Powell came close for Stoke only for Fry to block and then a Britt foul allowed a drinks break. Twenty minutes remaining and Stoke had to come out and go for it. Boro presumably would keep things tight and look to hit the Potters on the break.

A clever short Boro corner between Tav and Spence was delivered in by Tav for another corner headed out from the 6-yard box by Chester for a third quick Boro corner that went out for a throw with 15 minutes remaining. Boro had Stoke under pressure on 77 minutes as Britt chased down a long Saville ball causing chaos in the Stoke box. Lewis Wing found himself in the Ref’s book for a foul on Clucas. The free-kick was cleared by Wing with Britt chasing the ball down to the Stoke box keeping pressure on them.

Shotton came on for Saville to play in front of the CB’s as Warnock shored up his defence. Five minutes remained as confident Boro were holding on and Stoke looked to be fading. A long ball from

Shotton out to Britt on the right-wing saw him hold the ball up inviting attention from two Stoke defenders and a foul from Powell allowed Boro to take the sting out with a free-kick out wide played low into Britt who recycled possession but the opportunity came to nothing. Powell lost his head in two quick fire challenges and earned a red for his frustration. Losing Powell in the run in will prove costly for the Potters.

Fry cleared a late added time Vokes effort off the line after Johnson slipped in the box. Ince had a late effort but it was a half-chance and as the corner came in it was Ince again who sliced his shot wide. The final moments were a bit scrappy with Boro sitting back absorbing pressure, clearing balls upfield with Britt running his socks off chasing everything. The final whistle went and Warnock had started his Boro career with a vital away win. The performance from Boro was unrecognisable. Usually this season I have struggled to pick a MOM but today I had the same problem but for a different reason, there were no poor performances anywhere.

Fletcher played well and nicked his goal, Roberts was a menace but then Tav comes on and killed the game. Britt looked nothing like the ambling smiling lethargic lump. He was alert, hungry, and worked his socks off. Saville battled and scrapped, chasing and closing down. Fry, Friend, and Howson were solid with Fry imposing centrally. Stojanovic looked a formidable Keeper, good dealing with high balls and big and brave. Spence done very well and bar one minor blip provided a threat with his pace. There was one man responsible for all this organisation and that was Neil Warnock do for the first time I think the MOM award goes to a Manager.

With results elsewhere going the wrong way, these three points were massive. It dented Stoke and must have demoralised Charlton, Wigan, and Luton after their wins. Now comes along a trip to Hull on Thursday who threw away a two-goal lead at St. Andrews. Seven cup finals to go and the optimism on Teesside was shining through the Thunder clouds!

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Stoke 0 – 2 Boro thread at the discussion forum page

Boro 0 – 3 Swansea

Pos. 21st (41 pts) SATURDAY 20 JUNE 2020 Pos. 7th (56 pts)
Boro 0-3 Swansea
SHOTS (on target)
Brewster (18, 21)
A Ayew (34 pen)

Plucked Boro left spitting feathers

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s return to action…

The eagerly awaited team selection didn’t exactly go down well on social media and seemed to be reliant on experience rather than creativity. Friend, Clayton, Howson, Shotton and Gestede all started with no sign of Moukoudi at all. Stojanovic won the honour over Pears to take his place between the sticks to make the most bizarre of home debuts. On a positive Roberts, Tav, Fletcher, Spence, Morrison and Assombalonga were all on the bench should some flair be required.

The Refs whistle pierced the midday sunshine with Swansea getting proceedings underway after a BLM and NHS tribute from those on the pitch. On four minutes Friend put a near-post ball for Nmecha to compete with Gestede in the first bit of action. A Minute later McNair found Nmecah and put a fizzing miss-hit cross showing Boro’s early intent. Swansea then saw an opportunity after Friend slip but the big boro keeper remained large in front of Kalulu.

Fifteen minutes in and Boro had looked comfortable but there again Swansea also looked composed and growing into the game. Kalulu beat Fry to clatter into Stojanovic who made a good catch from a Bidwell cross. A minute later and Brewster couldn’t meet an Ayew cross as Boro now looked to be struggling a little in the heat with the Swans growing in confidence. The inevitable happened seconds later as Ayew again linked up with Liverpool loanee Brewster as the attacked down the left-wing and Brewster struck to put the visitors one up via a simple side foot. The second came via a hooked volley from Brewster as the Boro defence looked as though they had just left the Riverside Arms ten minutes before Kick Off after an all-night session. Two-nil to the Swans and not even halfway through the first half.

Boro looked unfit and cream crackered and Boro looked unfit and desolate. Woodgate needed to get his charges fired up. Nmecha responded by putting in a coss that earned a corner that ended with a free-kick to Boro for a challenge on Clayton at the opposite side of the pitch. Referee Harrington then called a drinks break which was a good opportunity for Boro to regroup and clear heads. The free-kick was delivered low but apart from a weak penalty claim, it came to nothing.

Apart from the opening ten minutes Boro were looking very poor defensively and seemed to be taking social distancing to an extreme level. Then Gallagher went down in the Boro box as Ref Tony Harrington blew for a foul by Friend for a penalty. Simultaneously Lewis Wing needed treatment as Andre Ayew stroked the ball past Stojanovic to make it three-nil. Truth be told it was looking like it was going to end in double figures. As if that wasn’t bad enough goal difference could be critical but as important as that was Brewster again nearly added a fourth with less than 60 seconds from the penalty. As bad and as confused as Boro have looked this season it looked very much like the pre-match social media disdain was being proved correct and the Boro bench were thankful that there were no fans present to vent their frustration. This is one game were Home fans and a toxic atmosphere cannot be blamed for a woeful performance.

Friend did get a header in at the other end just before half time but although his heart was on his sleeve his timing and energy levels had looked decidedly rusty in the first half as had the rest of the Boro backline. Nmecha was possibly the best of a very bad Boro lot as the dying minutes slowly ticked down to provide a brief fifteen-minute respite from this humiliation. Boro did at least show a little effort in the closing minutes with Gestede missing a chance and Nmecha blasting the follow up well wide. A corner delivered in from McNair was headed wide by Gestede as Boro were trying but didn’t look convincing at all.

A collision between Kalulu and Coulson saw both players laid out with both masked physios on the pitch. Replays indicated that Kalulu had been a little high with his challenge and a yellow card as a minimum was the least to be expected and was duly dispensed by the Ref once he was back on his feet. The free-kick came in by Clayton but cleared by the Swans for Boro to come back with Galagher blocking the cross and then a strange Nmecha challenge on Bidwell, when the ball was going out for a Boro corner, saw him booked and lose the corner to boot. I take back what I said earlier about Nmecha the best of a bad lot! The whistle ended to a chorus of social media booing and jeering. That was possibly the worst Boro performance in 45 minutes that I can recall for a very long time. Our defence was atrocious and whilst some may point to us losing Ayala we also didn’t have Moukoudi in the squad and the Swans were also without Rodon. Playing 5 out of contract footballers was now looking to be questionable along with the selection and tactics generally.

Several changes heralded the start of the second half for Boro with Roberts and Spence on and Clayton and Shotton off. For some reason, Friend remained but being honest there was nobody in a red shirt who could have complained about being hooked. The hope was that we would see a little more creativity and skill from Boro although considering what the two new subs had to work with the opening five minutes didn’t fail to underwhelm. A good ball in from Coulson found Gestede but his glancing header went past the post. Kalulu then went off for Swansea with Garrick coming on.

Spence went on a run but forgot the ball with Bidwell cleaning up as Boro’s woes continued. Coulson then went off with Marvin Johnson coming on at the 55 minute mark. Boro then had a purple patch with a little more desire as the changes started to add some much-needed impetus. A Boro corner came in from McNair but as ever with Boro set pieces it was just an out swinging lump into the box. No set play, no tactics just basic schoolboy stuff. It did eventually ended with Wing blasting it wide as Boro had yet to register an attempt on target. Restructured Boro looked like Howson was now CB alongside Fry with Spence on the right. Jonny Howson must have wondered what on earth is going on.

Swansea looked to be happy with their three-goal lead and containment seemingly their second-half game plan. Woodman in the Swans goal must have been wondering when he would be called upon to do something. On 65 minutes Johnson found Spence whose effort came off a white shirt but again the set-piece was embarrassingly bereft of planning. Social media had fans complaining that their stream was freezing as others responded with it hasn’t frozen that’s just Boro’s movements at real-time. Another drinks break saw a few more subs come on, Assombalonga for Gestede and Fletcher for Nmecha. So three-nil down and we now put our top scorers on along with our most creative players, just a shame we needed to be three goals down and less than twenty minutes remaining to “rescue” something. All the scathing pre kick-off team selection criticism seemed to be coming home to roost.

A run from Fletcher linking with Assombalonga showed promise but Bidwell went down quicker than Boro’s league placing to win a cheap free-kick. Brewster made way for Routledge and Fulton for Byers for the visitors as they looked to see the game out. A shocker of a tackle from Patrick Roberts on Ashley Grimes saw a yellow card as frustration mounted while the minutes ticked down. A mix up with McNair needed Stojanovic to be alert to keep the deficit to just the three goals. This was painful to watch, there was simply nothing that offered any hope or reason to believe that this mess was going to get better any time soon.

Connor Gallagher skinned McNair who conceded a free kick from 25 yards out, the kick came off the wall with Byers eventually hitting it wide. Ten minutes now left, Ayew then went off with Celina coming on and Dhanda coming on for Gallagher. Boro immediately had a half-chance but in truth, it

looked half-hearted lacking any real belief. With five minutes remaining Roberts went down looking for a penalty but won a corner for his efforts. The Corner, of course, didn’t see anything special and after a series of poor clearances, Boro eventually reworked it with Spence running out of space and ideas with it.

Celina had an effort cut out by Friend when the Swansea sub tried to be subtle instead of just blasting it but we had to thankful for small mercies. A minute remained of normal time and somehow the deficit was still those three goals but Celina then found Byers who hit the post with Stojanovic stranded and the follow up went wide as Boro looked all at seas at the back, not for the first time in this game.

Friend did manage a late long-range effort and eventually, the game ended 0-3 in a deserted Riverside which was as soulless and lifeless as the performance from Boro itself. One damning albeit tongue in cheek suggestion online was that we should bring Strachan in for the remaining eight games. As bad as that sounds, I’d prefer it to what is about to unfold. Seventeen shots from Boro with one on target speaks volumes. MOM was young Djed Spence with Marvin close behind, both at least tried and put some effort in.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Boro v Swansea: Reaction at the discussion forum page

Covid 19 – Football nil

Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that – unfortunately, it seems the Corona virus has failed to concur with that famous Bill Shankly quote. The increasing realisation that the global pandemic caused by Covid-19 is going to lead to increasingly more stringent measures, which will make any notion of normal life all but impossible. That in essence almost certainly means football will not be resuming in April given that some models indicate that peak cases of those getting the virus in the UK may not even be reached until June.

No definitive decisions have been made as yet but the word from football executives running the various leagues is that we are likely going to see the football season brought to a premature end. The mechanics of carrying on and playing games behind closed doors it seems has become impractical as the risk to players and staff being infected and then entire clubs being held in quarantine for 14 days makes planning near impossible – especially as clubs could face more than one spell in quarantine if a single player or member of staff tests positive. Another point also made to the footballing authorities by clubs is that players who face 14 days in quarantine would then require a further 14 days to get match fit – meaning players would face an enforced break of 28 days. OK, some teams may be lucky and avoid such scenarios but if the objective is to try and complete the season for all teams, then it wouldn’t take many outbreaks for any league to be unable to reach a conclusion. Indeed, that conclusion would almost certainly need to happen before the end of June as the contracts of many players from each club also end. Incidentally, what about the 72-year old manager of Crystal Palace, Roy Hodgson? Will he now have to self isolate and give up taking control of team affairs!

The question is therefore not about when the decision is made but how? Some clubs favour the season being declared null and void – especially those facing relegation! Still, it’s hard to see how teams could be penalised with relegation as it would essentially be in breach of the rules and regulations of the competition if it was sanctioned with a quarter of the season left unplayed. The threat of legal action would be real from clubs who could easily argue that they hadn’t ‘finished the season’ in a relegation place. Therefore one of the solutions being muted is not to penalise those clubs in a relegation place but to just reward clubs currently occupying the automatic promotion places. That would see Leeds and West Brom being promoted to form a 22-club Premier League and them being replaced in the Championship by the top two in League One (currently Coventry and Rotherham). Although, even that may eventually prove to be difficult to get agreement on.

However, it’s by no means certain that even next season will be safe from Corona virus disruption as many scientists predict even if cases fall away by late summer, it will likely return again in the winter. The hope is that governments will be better prepared to control a second outbreak but the prospects of when a vaccine will be available are not clear – it normally would take 18 months but even if that’s fast-tracked it would be pushing it to be ready before winter. In any case, the resumption of football or indeed any sport is not the pressing priority of any nation just now. The issue is about reducing the risk that health services become unable to cope and avoiding reaching the death toll of the worse case scenarios – not to mention the risk to the livelihoods of large numbers of those employed in businesses and industries.

So football is not a matter of life and death, it’s just a sport that many either enjoy or suffer as part of their weekly fix. As we embark on what will be a somewhat surreal year ahead, nothing is certain. Many are now being told they may need to spend the next four months in self isolation or risk succumbing to the virus with no cure. The best analogy is probably that the world is essentially at war, but with a disease. Governments and nations everywhere are preparing to do whatever it takes to keep casualties to a minimum.

Therefore, at this moment it’s hard to see when arguing over football tactics, team selections or transfers will once more become a meaningful topic of discussion. So like many aspects of life, football has suffered a heavy defeat from Covid 19 but will no doubt resume at some point in the future. In the meantime feel free to discuss any matters of concern with the Diasboro community or simply pop in to let us know you’re staying safe and healthy!