Charlton 0 – 1 Boro

Pos. 22rd (39 pts) SATURDAY 7 MARCH 2020 Pos. 19th (41 pts)
Charlton 0-1 Boro
SHOTS (on target)
McNair (17)

Valiant Victors at the Valley

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s first victory since New Year’s Day…

This afternoon we had yet another of those “must win” games with the added zest of it being a “six pointer” as annoying as that nomenclature can be. Boro are running out of games and a draw wouldn’t be of much use to either side in their fight to escape the drop. Losing this one was simply unthinkable if we were to mount any sort of comeback challenge in picking ourselves up off the Championship canvas.

Having overcome local travel complications the travelling army would have to be up for this and in doing so it meant that those with the Roary heraldry on their chest would have to be busting guts to a man to avoid a repeat of the dog’s abuse that was meted out at Barnsley. Charlton like Boro have had periods of injury woes this season and today they had a couple of defenders likely to miss in Lockyer and Sarr, with Boro missing Ayala and Fry that maybe evened up the defensive frailties.

Charlton were just one point above Boro having lost four of their last six games but as Boro haven’t won since New Years Day (I’m getting really tired of typing that) neither side were exactly brimming with confidence. From a Boro perspective there was always the “we have to win sometime surely” to keep spirits positive and beliefs mediocre if not confidently high. Britt breaker Darren Pratley was likely to return after a bad back problem. He was teetering on one yellow card away from a two game ban for his disciplinary misdemeanours, something that cynically or strategically may have been included in Woodgate’s team talk.

There was a surprise start for Million Euro Keeper Dejan Stojanovic who was selected in favour of Pears presumably as a reaction to not getting down quickly enough for the first Forest goal and being lightweight in his tussle with Grabban for the Forest second and dropped to the bench.

Gestede retained his starting berth with Fletcher and Assombalonga on the bench where Djed Spence remained once again. Saville, Morrison and Nmecha occupied the other sub seats with plenty of Striker options once again should we feel the need to have all four on at once. Pratley as expected was back in for the Addicks with Ben Purrington and Jonny Williams also returning whilst Doughty and ex Makem Aiden McGeady dropped to the bench.

Boro emerged to a half empty Valley in their fetching white away kit. Ref Steve Martin got things underway with Boro kicking off. An early through ball played down the middle to Gestede showed early intent with Charlton replying likewise with a launched clearance upfield to Taylor. Tav earned a free kick just over the half way line which was taken quickly down the line and fizzed in by Tav himself. A minute later another great cross in from McNair in to Coulson was put out for a corner. The corner kick was sent in to the far post, cleared and a short pass from Tavernier passing back set Charlton up for their first attack of the game. Nerves were clearly in evidence with Charlton then giving away a ridiculous corner on five minutes from forty yards out.

A clearance from Stojanovic went two thirds the length of the pitch on 8 minutes which saw Gestede upended but it was interesting to see that the big keeper certainly has one hell of a kick in him. A collision between Taylor and Shotton twenty-five yards out saw Shotton booked for manhandling his opponent on eleven minutes to prevent him breaking through. The free kick was defended well with a double attempt at a clearance eventually ending up at the opposite end in the arms of Charlton Keeper Dillon Phillips.

A long clearance from Phillips saw Shotton block Charlton’s first real threat, going out for a corner that went out to the opposite corner flag and then delivered back in but caught with ease by Stojanovic. Boro’s superiority and pressure paid dividends in the 17th minute as advancing white shirts cut the Addicks open, Gestede squared the ball into Paddy McNair who hit a sweet first time shot past Philips. 1-0 to Boro and hopes were high that today would end that nightmare run.

In reply Pratley played in a great ball out to the lively Green who cut it back across the Boro box evading everyone but Tav had chased back bursting a lung and managed to get a destabilising leg in on Purrington to snuff out the danger on 21 minutes.

Boro were looking a far better side than their opponents as Tav then came close to adding to the lead on 27 minutes but sliced his shot wide. There was always the niggling fear that despite being in control for large spells we were not making that advantage count as the 30 minute mark passed. Oshilaja in a fit of pique barged into Hayden Coulson sending him flying into the advertising boards.

Gestede narrowly missed a chance on 35 minutes after Wing had poked it to McNair who crossed it firmly but with too much pace on it. Green then broke for Charlton with Taylor in support but Moukoudi was strong, fended off any danger and cleared it. Boro then thronged forward as the game was now swinging end to end with Boro looking by far the more likely to add another. A cross from Coulson was headed wide by Howson after a good move down our left flank as those missed chances kept piling up.

Charlton’s defence was looking vulnerable but they were enjoying some freedom down their right wing with Green up against Johnson which was a cause of constant concern. Wing played Tavernier through but once again he miscued his shot and at 38 minutes it remained 1-0. Let’s hope our poor finishing wasn’t to be our undoing. Stojanovic had to be alert to get behind a shot from Green on 39 minutes in his first real test. A foul on Tav on 41 minutes on the half way line saw a free kick played down the right flank to earn two successive throw ins which saw McNair drive forward, but intercepted, Charlton cleared with Boro having stranded Howson upfield but Shotton covered to put the ball out. Two minutes remained of the half and despite our domination it was uncomfortable to watch with just that single goal advantage.

Howson was caught by Purrington as he slid in carelessly to upend the Boro captain earning a yellow for his troubles. A break from the resulting free kick saw a mass of white shirts close down on Charlton’s 18-yard box but Wing just couldn’t dig the ball out from under his feet. The home side then threw some late pressure at Boro but Moukoudi and Shotton stood strong and the whistle went to end the half to a chorus of boos from the home fans.

It was a great half time score from a Boro perspective with our right side in particular Tavernier, McNair and Howson creating the most. Johnson and Coulson were relatively quiet compared with their Forest performance but we needed that second goal to ensure that we came away with all three points. We hadn’t tested Phillips in reality and somehow, we needed to up the ante in the second half because the goal aside we hadn’t seriously worked the Charlton keeper in the first half.

Charlton no doubt fired up after a Bowyer blast got the second half underway. A penetrative drive by Coulson two minutes in earned a corner from his shot. Phillips punched the corner clear and as it came back in there were irate Penalty claims as Gestede was blatantly pushed over. Incredibly neither of the two officials at that end of the pitch saw anything, seemingly missing it as the ball eventually ended up in the guttering of the stand.

Stojanovic stepped out of his box to play sweeper in what was a quiet but fairly accomplished performance so far albeit he had very little to deal with in the 50 minutes now gone. Wing played in Tavernier and a corner resulted as Boro continued where they had left off in the first half. As the corner came in near post Howson hit his shot under pressure into the side netting. Hearts in the mouth time once more then as Lyle Taylor chased a long ball and decided to dive rather than try to finish the move. It at least provoked the home fans into creating an atmosphere as they collectively “questioned” Steve Martin’s interpretation of Lyle Taylors acting skills. A diving header was cleared by Tavernier and from it Boro broke as the game morphed into a lively and feisty few minutes.

Charlton were now fired up after that faux penalty claim and Stojanovic was again called into action as Pratley had a shot with Taylor was dragging back McNair off the ball. The game was now finally looking like a fight for survival. With pressure building Moukoudi had to head the danger clear to concede a throw in that was launched into the Boro box as Charlton entered a purple patch.

McNair had a driving run with Coulson for support winning a corner. Paddy played it short to Clayton but it rebounded off Adam Matthews for a Boro throw in. Johnson then played a great ball into the 6-yard box but despite the invitation there were no takers from Boro. Oshilaja gave away possession and from it Tav saw the goal open up but he walloped it way off target agaaaaain and over the crossbar on 61 minutes. Back came Charlton as Moukoudi once more had to be strong, conceding a corner from which Boro broke, Matthews took out McNair earning a yellow card for his “professional” foul.

A Howson run found Lewis Wing but again as the shot came in towards Phillips’ goal it went well wide. Doughty then came on in place of Williams as Bowyer looked to get his side back into the game. Lewis Wing once again came close but scuffed it and Phillips collected with ease on 66 minutes. Charlton were now pushing forward trying to avoid yet another defeat leaving gaps at the back but Boro were failing to capitalise on it and half-time substitute Bonne tested Stojanovic. The warning signs were building that we desperately needed to convert one of these wasted opportunities and soon.

Clayton went down clearly angry at something and a minute later Lyle Taylor went down for the Addicks allowing some refreshments to be taken on board. A shot from Coulson after a Gestede knock down took the corner flag out as incredibly we wasted another chance. Wing then played a fantastic ball in to Tavernier but his shot was deflected out for a corner. Gestede went down from said corner but once more nothing was given and as Charlton played the ball out they gave away possession to Boro once more underlining the poor quality on display.

A double break from Taylor and Pratley looked to provide them with an equaliser but Stojanovic dealt with the threat as both sides finishing was clearly worse than terrible which was one of the primary reasons they now found themselves in the drop zone. Taylor then chopped down Howson with the Travelling Army screaming “off, off, off”. Despite his earlier yellow Steve Martin ignored what looked like a definite second yellow card offence. McNair then made way for fellow Northern Irishman Saville with ten minutes remaining. A strange sub as McNair was having one of his better games so presumably it was to shut up shop. Inviting pressure in the last ten minutes with Boro’s record for conceding this season seemed a brave decision. Tomer Hemed then came on for Purrington as Bowyer switched to a front three, going for the equaliser with seven minutes left.

A break with Wing and Gestede saw Wings shot saved and Gestede closing in but agonisingly Charlton held on with five minutes remaining. A cross from Doughty came off Saville for a corner with Stojanovic crowded, boxed in, the corner was over hit with thankfully nobody lurking at the back post. Spence then came on for Tavernier with four minutes of normal time remaining. Matthews nearly found the effervescent Green but he wasn’t alert to the chance and the danger passed as the seconds ticked away. Charlton were now throwing everyone forward with Spence clearing then Wing, then Johnson as pressure mounted. A throw in had hearts stopping as the ball bounced in the box but Stojanovic was first to react, catching then dropping down, eating up seconds.

Five minutes came up from the fourth officials board. Boro were now camped deep and Charlton determined to find that equaliser. A Taylor header was dealt with by Howson but as quick as it was cleared it came straight back with Bonne bundling Howson over in the process. A late throw in to Charlton from a Saville header saw a packed Boro box and as the cross came in Bonne’s near post header just sailed over, phew!

Another throw in the dying seconds saw Keeper Dillon Phillips run up into the Boro 18-yard box with the ball hitting off Clayts and then Coulson charging out, attempting to close down thirty yards outside his own box in an effort to clear. The Addicks kept on pummelling to the bitter end but this time we held out, the whistle went and Boro had finally won!

MOM was Jonny Howson who had fought, scrapped and battled and also showed moments of quality. McNair was back to that midfield player that was winning the MOM awards at the end of last year and Gestede once again put in a sterling shift. The entire team and bench celebrated on the pitch with the away following in the Jimmy Seed stand. Three points gratefully received but it should have been a lot more comfortable. Boro haven’t done anything the easy way this season despite enjoying 55% of the possession this afternoon. Results elsewhere went in Boro’s favour for the first time in a long time and consequently Boro climbed up to 19th, two points outside of the relegation zone. It was by no means a convincing win or a great performance but with nine games remaining its results and points that matter most rather than the nature of them.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 30-31 discussion page

Boro 2 – 2 Forest

Pos. 22st (38 pts) MONDAY 2 MARCH 2020 Pos. 4th (60 pts)
Boro 2-2 Nottm Forest
Gestede (40)
Wing (44)
SHOTS (on target)
Yates (29)
Grabban (86)

Smash and Grabbaned

Redcar Red reports on the continued search for victory at the Riverside…

Well here we are again with another “must win” game in a rapidly diminishing list of “must win” games. Following on from a perhaps not so deeply revealing “interview” in today’s Gazette Sabri Lamouchi was bringing his Forest up to the Tees in a “Redwoods” versus “Deadwoods” clash.

Fighting for automatic promotion Forest arrived fresh from their victory over Cardiff whilst Boro were perhaps not so fresh after their illustrious last victory on New Year’s Day and a subsequent series of draws and defeats, which has now dropped them into the drop zone. Only a victory for Boro tonight would be good enough to pull themselves back out of the mire. Forest had a few injury concerns with Tiago Silva being the highest profile one whilst Lewis Grabban has been struggling with a knee-come-hamstring injury but because he keeps scoring goals his manager perseveres with his half-fit Striker. In stark contrast Boro Strikers seem to be struggling with a goals problem but Woodgate still perseveres with them. Forest fans didn’t seem overly bothered about missing Thiago deriding him as “overrated”, if so, I shudder to think how they would classify our midfield collection.

There were the usual sick notes in from Rockliffe with the worry that as well as Friend, Fletcher may also be missing due to a hamstring issue. As Boro’s most “prolific” Striker that should have come as a huge blow yet I doubt many Boro fans were overly concerned as we had Rudy Gestede just waiting in the wings assuming that he didn’t make eye or verbal contact with any fans on his way to the Stadium.

The live TV coverage didn’t help a sparsely populated Riverside which has been slowly emptying in tandem with our slide into the abyss of League One. Those assembled home masses in the concourses seemed to be a mix of fully paid up members of the forever Boro rose tinted brigade and a throng in preparedness for mental awareness week from the 18th to 24th of May which could be timely considering the likely outcome of Boro’s Championship finale.

Formation and tactics aside the Rockliffe Bingo numbers this week saw three changes from the team that lost to Leeds. Johnson, McNair and Gestede came in to replace Friend, Fletcher and Saville. Semedo filled Silva’s boots as Forest made just one change from Cardiff. O’Neil and Nmecha were on the bench for Boro with Britt absent due to a penalty virus presumably.

Darren England was the man in the middle for tonight with Forest kicking off and winning a corner in the first minute. Taken short it was over worked and over complicated right going back to their Keeper Samba. An early good low cross into the Boro box caused a few raised heartbeats but it was eventually collected by Pears. Figueiredo then closed down Gestede quickly at the other end as Boro launched their first foray. A good run from McNair saw him play it out wide to allow a cross in from Coulson in the 4th minute saw Gestede poke a toe out to deflect it wide for a goal kick.

Samba’s long clearance from the goal kick reach Ameobi whose cross was blocked by Moukoudi for a corner. The initial corner was punched out by Pears only for Cash to send it back in but Grabban couldn’t get his feet organised in time and Figueiredo sliced his effort well wide with ten minutes approaching. A long ball out from defence by Clayton nearly set Coulson up to sneak in on the edge of the Forest 18-yard box but Samba was alert and came off his line quickly to collect. So far the visitors seemed happy to sit and try and pick Boro off while Boro themselves were playing it safe utilising Coulson as the main or indeed only outlet. A teasing cross in to Pears’ goalmouth in the 13th minute was cleared after some very nervy defending but from it Boro broke with Coulson and Johnson in support getting a cross in which eluded Gestede but came off Ribeiro’s arm for a weak penalty claim as the game showed signs of springing to life.

A cross from the right from Tav was headed back in towards Wing on 18 minutes who was pushed over in his specialist area for a Boro free kick. Just outside the “D”, Lewis hit it off the wall and from the next pick up Johnson won a corner. Taken short, it was easily read, blocked and very fortunate not to have found ourselves defending a breakaway attack. Shotton meanwhile done well to fend off two blue shirted attackers, perhaps not convincingly but it worked in the end. As we broke out, we ended the move with a shot on target from Lewis Wing albeit a daisy cutter but it was a definite shot which Samba had to kneel down to save. Boro were now enjoying having a bit of space to pass the ball around, seemingly growing in confidence with the game now 25 minutes in. Granted the passes didn’t always find a Red shirt but in truth Forest weren’t getting a handle on the game either in what was an industrial Championship display.

Coulson was our only outlet with Johnson supporting him on the left flank. Tav out on the right was almost anonymous, just underlying that he isn’t a winger. A Boro free kick in the 26th minute was floated in perfectly for Samba to pluck the ball out of the air with ease, yet another Boro set piece wasted. A seemingly harmless throw in on 27 minutes saw Semedo hold at bay two Boro defenders finding Ameobi who played a simple ball to Yates on the edge of the box who hit a daisy cutter of his own past the despairing Pears. His second goal all season with his only other being against us.

Three minutes later Coulson cutting inside was set up by Gestede and got his shot off that went just past Samba’s upright. On the opposite touchline Tav was played in by Howson and his cross was deflected out for a corner. Tav took the corner but hit it at waist height and cleared out but it came back in and as Samba was upended by his own defender Wing’s shot was headed out for a corner by Figueiredo. This corner on 35 minutes had a slightly better trajectory but it was aimed at nobody in Red by McNair and thus wasted. Two minutes later Coulson again tried a shot from the edge of the box which skewed wide. There was now plenty of effort from Boro but very poor in quality with only Coulson looking likely to create anything of note. The lack of Spence’s pace and skill on the right was screamingly obvious as we were totally lopsided offensively.

A McNair free kick on 40 minutes was adjudged to have been taken too quickly by Ref England as it was played out wide. Rumbled the follow up was changed from a wide play out to the wing to a lofted ball to the far post where Moukoudi rose to head it across the six-yard box where Gestede rose to head home from a yard out, 1-1 and only four minutes to half time remained. Under pressure, a brilliant catch from Pears bravely coming out to collect a long forward Forest punt was immediately thrown out to Coulson having switched over to the right wing, he charged forward cutting into the Forest half and released Wing who picked his spot past Samba who got a glove to it but the ball spun away and agonisingly in slow motion crawled over the line to put Boro 2-1 up!

A fee kick to Forest in the last seconds of added time was launched in towards Pears’ goal who again punched clear despite being bundled into the net by goalscorer Yates. Perhaps he had been watching those Stojanovic YouTube videos. The Refs whistle sounded seconds later to rousing cheers which certainly didn’t seem likely just five minutes previously.

The half time team talk would have been a more positive one but despite the rarity of two goals at home and consequently winning at the interval we had been totally reliant on Hayden Coulson. Wing was battling and scrapping, McNair had a few driving runs but it was Coulson who was the creator for anything of merit. He and Johnson were linking up well but Howson and Tav on the right side just weren’t firing and it was ironic that it was Coulson unusually wide on the right that created the second goal.

Boro got the second half underway with Tav quick to chase and close down Cash but Forest broke and immediately won a corner. Played in low, causing anxiety which was cleared down the left wing where a Johnson cross arrived perfectly for an unmarked Gestede who bizarrely headed it back into the 18 yard box instead of goalward bound and in doing so conceding possession. Forest then broke, winning themselves a corner which ended with Watson blasting it over in what had been a frantic few seconds.

A McNair free kick was headed clear for a throw in on 50 minutes which was recycled then crossed in by Johnson which caught Samba out as it seemingly dipped just below his crossbar but it caught Gestede out as well as the second half now saw more thrills and spills in four minutes than the last four Boro games. Clayton had been the architect for a few probing balls that unlocked the Forest defence on a few occasions. Instrumental in spraying the ball wide and pinging it about with growing confidence. On 55 minutes Lamouchi had seen enough and brought Diakhaby on for the lacklustre Semedo.

The game settled down a little in terms of being a bit manic after the substitution with Forest now more composed and starting to gain a foothold but Boro were tenacious in their tackling defending deep. A free kick on 59 minutes seemed to stick in the Boro box but was eventually worked out in a move that resembled an upright scrum with the ball emerging from the feet of the packed masses to be hoofed to safety on the right by Howson. A long range shot from Lolley who had moved into the middle after the Substitution was well over but Forest had visibly now upped their intensity.

A Howson surging run from defence carried the ball well over the half way line, finding Tav wide right who switched it in towards Coulson who left it for Johnson who played it back in but the move was cleared but it showed endeavour and quickness of thought from Boro something that had been missing since Preston. A minute later a cross to Gestede found him up-ended seemingly hauled down with appeals for a penalty going unheeded by Darren England and his Assistant. On 68 minutes a lost cause Forest long ball was revived courtesy of Ameobi’s long legs to send it into the Boro danger zone, headed clear by Shotton but then drove back in by Lolley only to go flying wide. Pressure from the away team was now noticeably growing. Ameobi was then hooked for Carvalho on 69 minutes and Forest now had twenty minutes to get something while Boro had twenty minutes to just hold on and hopefully nick a third against the run of play.

The “nicked” goal nearly happened when Pears cleared down the pitch for a Gestede flick on for Wing to chase which nearly caught the Forest defence cold but it ended up with a corner. McNair took the corner but he completely cleared the box to nobody from which Forest attacked and after Ribeiro wide left found Diakhaby only a comedic bagatelled clearance between Shotton and Johnson saw it out for the first of two quick corners both of which were eventually headed clear of danger. Boro were now under the cosh with no outlet. A minute later on 74 minutes Diakhaby ran straight at Shotton who earned a Yellow for presumably standing still. The free kick from twenty yards out was delivered to the far post and went out for a corner to be awarded to the visitors. Shotton cleared the danger but it came straight back and a cross into Grabban saw Pears get down low to put him off in what was the best chance of the second half. Lamouchi then brought on Bostock for Yates on 77 minutes to up the ante.

Another free kick for Forest on 78 minutes saw Bostock’s first involvement which was headed clear and then brought out by Tav to try and hold up play momentarily easing the wave of Forest attacks. 80 minutes now gone and another Forest corner came into the Boro box by Carvalho for Moukoudi to head clear, back in it came and as the ball went out for a throw in Lewis Wing made way for George Saville as Woodgate presumably looked to add some more solidity alongside Clayts with McNair now pushed up. It nearly paid immediate dividends with Tav having Samba struggling to hang onto his low shot and then Saville’s shot was blocked and Johnson was fouled for a free kick 40 yards out which again was woeful in its execution not for the first time season and easily cleared.

The substitution seemed to add temporary momentum and eased the pressure on Boro’s defence as we ventured over the half way line daring to encroach into enemy territory. Five minutes remained and the sub Carvalho won yet another corner which was delivered to the edge of the box in a training ground text book play, hit with power driven into the six yard box and as Pears came out Grabban looking suspiciously offside deliberately backed into him ignoring the ball and managed to toe poke the spinning ball past Pears and McNair to make it 2-2 just as Boro looked to be getting back into it.

Tavernier then came off for Spence with two minutes of normal time remaining. Howson ran forward and as the move broke down Forest went wide and progressed down our right-hand side but the cross was cut out by Shotton along with the rebound shot coming back in towards Shotton who instinctively deflected it wide. Four minutes added time came up and it was now akin to the Alamo with Boro repelling waves of attacks, finding it impossible to break free. The whistle finally went and it ended 2-2 which would possibly have been perceived as a decent score line a few weeks back but it was two crucial points dropped and Boro remain in the bottom three thanks to once again shipping a goal in the last twenty minutes.

It was a much better performance in parts of the game but our lack of a threat other than  through MOM Coulson faded as his energy levels sapped and Spence coming on with virtually only seconds remaining was too little, too late. By then we were run ragged and just holding on. The equaliser looked extremely contentious in that Grabban seemed to be playing Pears rather than the ball with his arm raised at throat level. In truth it was coming and to a neutral it was probably the least Forest deserved for their total dominance in the second half but those wasted set pieces came back to haunt Boro along with their failure all season to shut up shop in the last quarter of a game. There was fight and desire in patches but as effective as Coulson and Johnson were down our left there was nothing to balance that on our right. The arrival of Spence came far too late and by then the game was almost over and we were hanging on. Charlton up next on Saturday at the Valley in the next in the Boro series of “must win” games!

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 30-31 discussion page

Boro 0 – 1 Leeds

Pos. 21st (37 pts) WEDNESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2020 Pos. 2nd (65 pts)
Boro 0-1 Leeds
SHOTS (on target)
Klich (45+1)

Friend without benefits!

Redcar Red reports on another defeat at the Riverside…

Automatic promotion chasers and nearest geographical rivals in the Championship versus a team and club which is looking rudderless, crashing down to League One live on national TV, what could possibly go wrong?

Woodgate took his place in the home dug out knowing that this was not going to be an easy evening’s work on the pitch or off it. Bielsa on the other hand came out relaxed, confident complete with his accessory blue bucket. One Manager looking upwards whist the other looking behind his back let alone down the table. Bielsa did have a few injury concerns coming into tonight’s game, Keeper Kiko Casilla had a hand injury meaning that it was likely that Illan Meslier could be in line for a start in goal for the whites. Key man Kalvin Phillips had to go off on Saturday with a calf injury and although rated 50/50 it wasn’t believed that he would be fit.

Leeds were looking for their first away victory of 2020 but Boro’s problems went well beyond the aspiration of a simple win or even a draw tonight. Woodgate needed to find a formation and set up to save what was left of a somewhat flickering career as Boro Manager. Three changes this time saw Johnson, Assombalonga and Morrison drop to the bench with Coulson, Clayton and Tavernier returning. Spence was back on the bench with the ominous absence of not so super sub Gestede. Prior to kick off it looked like the back four ball had come out of the tactics Bingo bag with Coulson and Tav providing the width in a 4231 and Clayts part of the duo in the middle along with Saville.

Gavin Ward’s whistle got this evenings event underway at a chilly floodlit Riverside with Leeds adorned in a gay yet macabre dark grey and pink outfit. The kick off saw Leeds pass it around and back to Casilla who was deemed fit to start in goal despite his hand injury. With no shots on target from Boro in their last two games at all it was probably considered that he may not have any need for the use of a hand tonight.

In our first foray Coulson skinned Ayling in the second minute and put in a great cross that had Casilla and his defence worried but there were no Red shirts quick enough to react and read Coulson’s intentions. In fairness many of them may have been very confused as to why he was attempting to set up a scoring opportunity and struggled to process or even recognise the move. In reply a good cross from the right wing to the far post was headed clear by Howson in the fourth minute as the opening exchanges were measured but not exactly inspiring on the part of both sides.

A perceived rash challenge from Shotton approaching eight minutes gave away a free kick near the half way line but Leeds obliged by recycling it. As they continued their laissez-faire approach Coulson nearly nicked in on a risky back pass. A challenge from Klich on Saville in the ninth minute ended with a free kick to Boro and a bizarre yellow to Saville presumably for expressing an uncharitable remark. The Boro free kick from the half way line was wasted with a poor delivery, no surprise there then.

A run by Saville down the left wing ended with a throw in delivered to the edge of the box which went over to Tav on the right wing but after a series of over played interpassing the move eventually broke down but it did show an improved degree of confidence that had been lacking of late. On thirteen minutes Ayling put in a great cross to Bamford who looking suspiciously offside had lost Shotton but his header was straight at Pears as Boro hearts were momentarily in mouths anticipating the curse of the return of the old boy.

Clayton responded with an old boy effort of his own just a minute later when he blasted a volley over from 30 yards. On 15 minutes Hernandez looked like he had been hit with a Tyson Fury uppercut judging by the way he went down pleading for a defibrillator when Coulson sneezed near him. The Ref fortunately was having none of it but if he had booked Saville presumably for a comment then surely the theatrics of Hernandez was just as worthy of a yellow card.

On 18 minutes Coulson pounced on a punch out from Pears but as he darted clear Ayling brought him down to earn a free kick near the half way line. The free kick of course came to nothing and Leeds launched a counter attack which was repelled but a poor pass to Tav saw Leeds come back at us and you could sense the pressure starting to build with Boro looking very sloppy in possession. A low cross from Harrison wide left in to Bamford saw him deflect the ball just wide of the upright as the visitors were getting closer. Another inspiring bit of play by Coulson saw him get a cross across the Leeds box, Fletcher chased it and cut it back to Wing whose shot went wide. Leeds then attacked and Boro had Shotton to thank for some resolute defending. Twenty-five minutes now elapsed and Boro were holding out but posed a threat in getting forward as Friend had a run into the Leeds box but two defenders saw it eventually go out for a goal kick.

Fletcher went off the pitch to retie his boot laces, why I have no idea but when he was ready to come back on the Ref seemed reluctant to let him re enter the field of play. Boro were probing and enjoying a good spell of possession at this stage which ended with Tav taking a twenty-yard shot well wide which typified the events so far from the Home side. Leeds then burst forward on 30 minutes with Harrison who crossed to Dallas who cutting open the Boro defence unleashed a shot that Pears done very well to push out but Costa followed up, again Pears blocked as the flag went up for offside. That was two good chances that Leeds had had on target to Boro’s none on target. As good as Boro had battled tellingly they had tested Casilla yet.

A penalty appeal from Costa after a Coulson challenge was dismissed but a few seconds later the ball was rolling across Pears’ six-yard box with no Grey shirts to tap in as warning signs were growing. Boro were living dangerously or battling with spirit depending on your half full or half empty gauge. A minute later and Bamford again had a shot on target testing Pears at his near post. As Tav switched flanks Costa brought him down and with four minutes remaining the free kick was delivered by Tav himself and won by Fletcher but under pressure his shot went wide.

A foul by Friend on Costa near the corner flag saw a free kick launched in by Harrison but it was punched clear by Pears in fine form and as the ball this time came back down the opposite flank Howson gave away an identical free kick on the opposite corner flag. Fortunately, it was poorly hit allowing Boro to break but their man advantage was lost, delayed by a poor pass but as Tavernier slalomed his way into the box, he went down but the Ref ignored the half-hearted pleas.

On forty-five minutes Friend in a brain freeze moment just over the half way line passed the ball straight into the path of the advancing Klich who in turn played in Bamford to Hernandez and on the edge of the box, hit a curling effort off the post but rebounding out for Klich to pick up and with a Harrison one-two, let fly and with Moukoudi trying to block simultaneously MMP was eccentrically announcing “one extra minute added time” fired it past Pears and off the far post to put Leeds one up. It was very sloppy and careless from Friend but the quality of the two attacks had been chalk and cheese and as the whistle sounded for half time boos perhaps a little unfairly based just om the previous 45 minutes could be heard very clearly.

I don’t think there was much more to offer from Boro, it was better than of late but totally lacking offensively and so the sides came out unchanged. Boro got the second half underway and nearly found themselves in trouble quickly with Shotton having to be quick to clear his lines. A weak cross from the left wing by Coulson was sent in but Casilla collected it like it was a practice match and then clearing it Leeds broke and with some slick quick interplay Dallas unleashed a twenty-yard effort needing Pears to get down again quick. A clear contrast in attacking ability illustrated in twenty seconds.

Coulson created another move down the left which ended with a nervy Leeds back-pass to Casilla which at least was on target. Saville then had a thirty yard effort tipped over by Casilla for a near post corner on 50 minutes The corner was initially cleared by Bamford and as it came back it was headed across the box by Howson but Tavernier’s effort was skewed way over.

A Hernandez shot as he failed to be closed down had Pears this time tipping it over. As the second of two successive corners were played in Harrison cut into the box and looked like he was tripped by Clayts but again the Ref waved play on. The movement between the two sides was very marked with Leeds breaking with speed, intuitively finding team mates while Boro slowed the ball down and looked for a Red shirt by which time any modicum of momentum was gone. A corner on the fifty-seventh minute was defended but then allowed in error to go out for a second corner instead of Saville clearing the danger. Tav picked up on a loose ball and looked to be scythed down in the fifty eighth minute after some poor Leeds defending but again the Ref Gavin Ward was consistent in waving play on. A brilliant driving run from his own half by Moukoudi was played out to Tav but his cross into the box was terrible again conceding possession cheaply.

With the hour mark gone Johnson came on for Friend and within seconds Coulson had played in Tav whose shot curled in but just off the crossbar as Boro came the closest to scoring in what seemed like a lifetime. A let off via an incredible tap-in for Bamford somehow spun up and into the grateful arms of Pears. On 66 minutes Nmecha was then brought on for Saville which seemed strange as we needed some energy, vibrancy, pace and drive and yet Spence was left on the bench as we now went 442.

Nmecha won a corner on sixty-eight minutes when a run and cross was cut out. The corner was met by Shotton but deflected out for a second corner to Boro which was delivered back in to exactly the same spot in what must have been the only corner routine practised, no surprise then that Leeds read it and cleared. A break by Boro on seventy minutes played in Fletcher who chased and won a throw that was quickly taken and from that another partial chance was wasted as the ball was simply lofted into the arms of Casilla. Fletcher had obviously pulled or twisted something in winning the throw and was replaced by Britt with nineteen minutes remaining. Simultaneously Hernandez also went off with Shackleton coming on for Leeds.

Bielsa found himself the centre of attention after the Ref was alerted to some sort of altercation or more likely an opinion but on what seemed strange as nothing of note had occurred on the pitch. Shackleton fouled Johnson and as the ball was played out to Coulson he was surrounded by two Grey shirts and nibbling away at Coulson, Ayling managed to win the heart of Gavin Ward for presumably going down more creatively than Coulson just had.

Casilla punched clear from a Coulson cross and was required to be back in action a minute later to save a second time from Hayden on seventy-seven minutes. A run centrally by Wing ran into trouble, instead of releasing the ball to Assombalonga he tried taking it on his own, consequently Leeds broke and Harrison got a shot away going just wide once again highlighting the slow laboured Boro build up and the incisive style of Leeds. Moukoudi was then yellow carded as Ayling danced past three Red shirts on eighty one minutes and of course went down having clearly being shot by a South Stand sniper when the contact was minimal but it ate up some of those precious minutes.

As the eighty fifth minute ticked over Boro were now looking jaded and Leeds in game management mode and then as Coulson tried to beat both Shackleton and Ayling just outside the box they brought him down in Lewis Wing territory twenty yards out. The free kick came through as a decoy Boro wall ducked and as cries for hand ball went up Tav reacted quickest and his shot was deflected into the path of the diving Casilla. Clayts was then booked for going through ex-team mate Harrison allowing the away side another opportunity to slow things down as MMP announced “5 minutes added time”. At least this time he waited until the ball wasn’t right in front of Pears with Boro trying to clear.

Johnson was forced back into his own corner flag area surrounded by Grey shirts and incredibly nobody in Red made an opening for him. A minute later Bamford kindly fired a shot towards the away fans rather than towards Aynsley Pears with just two of those added minutes remaining. The away fans chorused a series of “ole’s” as their players now wasted time in the Boro half. The final whistle went as Boro had just launched a free kick aimlessly from Pears as we threw men forward in desperation to meet a non-existent ball that was once again another wasted free kick. In mitigation it was Pears’ only poor piece of play all night as he had otherwise had an excellent game. MOM for Boro was a joint one between Coulson and Shotton who to me had given their all. We were outclassed in long periods but at least we scrapped and battled but the question has to be where had that spirit been against Wigan, Luton and Barnsley?

“You’re going down” chorused and echoed from the away fans as the Riverside quickly emptied with disheartening results filtering in from elsewhere leaving Boro teetering on a three goal better goal difference above Wigan who were winning but still playing. Things were to get worse however with Wigan adding a late third to make that GD only two goals now. Barnsley beneath them were now only three points from us with Luton last four points behind.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 28-29 discussion page

Barnsley 1 – 0 Boro

Pos. 23rd (31 pts) SATURDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2020 Pos. 20th (37 pts)
Barnsley 1-0 Boro
Chaplin (73) 57% 18(4) 6 8 POSSESSION SHOTS (on target) CORNERS FOULS 43% 5(0) 2 7

Beleaguered Boro Barnstormed

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s timid defeat at Oakwell…

Boro fans could be forgiven as they headed down to Oakwell this afternoon feeling a little battle weary rather than enthusiastic about the forthcoming clash with Gerhard Struber’s Barnsley. The Tykes had walloped high flying Fulham last weekend while Boro fell to fellow strugglers Luton at the Riverside. One team had their tales up this week while the others spent a week licking their self-inflicted wounds.

Survival was a mere six points away for the South Yorkshire side after looking like being cut adrift just a few weeks ago. They are now seeing signs of hope despite having had no clean sheets in their last 16 Championship home games. I wondered if Boro would oblige the Tykes by ending that dreadful stat?

It seems a very long time since Boro were ten points clear from the trap door, now just six points from Championship safety and in urgent need of a victory. A small crumb of comfort to Boro was that Barnsley had only won one of their last five Championship home games. Boro however were in no place to be disparaging to today’s opponents as we have failed to win any of our last seven Championship matches, since that New Year’s Day win at Preston.

Woodgate still had Dijksteel, Ayala and Roberts all out but he did have four strikers to pick from which may have been of even greater concern than those injuries. Thankfully the team news revealed that four up top wasn’t to be the tactic being employed today (or at least not at the start) with four changes made from that Luton no show. Shotton made his return with Moukoudi and Friend at the back. Howson and Johnson were being given the wing-back roles with youngsters Coulson benched and Spence dropped entirely. Nmecha lost out for Assombalonga and Morrison came in instead of McNair who was disappointing by his own standards last week.

That selection spoke of relying on experience in a defiant perhaps even desperate last stand more so with Clayts returning to the bench. The zestful exuberance of Spence and Coulson seemingly deemed a defensive liability after last week and paying the price. The selection, shuffling and set up (a back four or three?) at least provided for some heated discussions among the three thousand nine hundred or so travelling hardy souls at a cold, wet and windy Oakwell.

Geoff Eltringham was the man in the middle for the encounter as Boro won the toss and elected to change ends attacking the travelling Boro army. Barnsley kicked off with what can only be described as an up and under showing some early no-nonsense intent. Britt chased a hoofed clearance from Howson winning a corner in the 2nd minute from which we lost and then regained possession with Britt then backheeling to Wing inside the Barnsley box but his shot was blocked. A minute later Saville played a teasing ball upfield for Fletcher who broke through and was taken out by Tykes Keeper Collins just outside the 18-yard box. As the travelling army were screaming for a straight red the linesman deemed Fletcher had been offside.

Another long Howson ball had Britt chasing it and Collins slid out low to collect then fumbled it having to scramble to recollect the ball showing some early nerves. In the 5th minute Mowatt launched a left footed lob come cross that Pears had to tip over. The resulting corner was cleared with the ball coming back in for Pears to gently collect and as Boro then broke upfield a through ball to Britt was once again deemed offside as both sides now looked balanced in their efforts to go for it.

On 8 minutes Johnson collected a throw in, cut to the by-line, crossed across the Barnsley goalmouth coming out the opposite side where Howson collected it and fizzed it back in in as Boro were in the ascendancy. Two quick Barnsley corners were dealt with as the Tykes seemed to be settling their opening anxiety. A well worked ball was worked to Mowatt who took a shot from outside the box tipped past the post for a corner. Taken quickly it found Boro sleeping with a shot fired just wide of Pear’s upright.

Cauley Woodrow had a deflected shot on 16 minutes as the Tykes now started to exert some pressure. A long Barnsley clearance saw Shotton misjudge the bounce requiring Moukoudi to slide in and clear the danger. Barnsley now had a head of steam and pushing Boro deeper. Fletcher had the ball out on the right and was forced back, as the ball was recycled to Pears the entire left side of the pitch was empty with Friend screaming for it but Pears launched it straight back into the crowded area from whence it came. It was very poor decision making from the young Keeper and perhaps symptomatic of all that ails Boro at the moment.

With the wind picking up and the rain coming down there were a couple of overhit passes from both sides in the centre of the pitch. Moukoudi managed a Barragan impression although in fairness when the ball slipped from his attempted throw the ball was at least wet as it slipped through his fingers for a foul throw on the half way line.

On 27 minutes Howson took the ball down the right wing, cut it back to Lewis Wing but his shot lacked both power and accuracy. Howson again scrapped to retrieve the ball, playing it back to Moukoudi on the right pushing up but his looping cross was lacking pace and dropped down easily for Collins to collect. A speculative effort from Ludwig outside the Boro box was cleared and as Friend was closed down the flag went up for an offside easing the growing pressure. On 32 minutes it was Ludwig again this time finding himself on the right of the box getting off a shot but Pears got down smartly and smothered it.

A poor Johnson clearance allowed Barnsley to attack with Morrison getting back and poking the ball away but Sollbauer collected it wide and brought it back down the right, firing in a delicious cross which was just missed by Oduor with Howson challenging, going out for a goal kick. At this stage it was all Barnsley pressure but you had the feint hope that a quickly cleared ball up the pitch just might allow Fletcher or Assombalonga to turn the Tykes defence. Certainly, any threat offensively wasn’t going to come through playing the ball out from midfield. Boro’s first corner came courtesy of a poor clearance on 38 minutes punched out by Collins going out on the far side. It permitted Shotton to launch one of his long throws into the box. The ball was cleared out of the Tykes box but delivered back in by Friend to Wing whose shot was charged down and as Boro once again played the deflected clearance back in yet another offside flag went up.

A charging Saville bulldozed his way through the Barnsley defence for Britt to win a fortuitous free kick but Saville’s delivery was woeful as once again our set piece delivery was hit low and harmless. With less than a minute remaining a low cross found Chaplin whose scuffed shot required Pears to get down quickly and save in what was the best opportunity of the game. A gust assisted clearance nearly caught Collins as it swirled and held up as he came out to collect it in what was the nearest effort Boro had on target.

Whilst it was an improved opening effort from Boro after Luton, we lacked composure and quality at the attacking end with a disturbing no effort on target to Barnsley’s three. Playing far too deep Morrison hadn’t lived up to his hype and billing and alongside Wing and Saville they seemed to be detached from their defence and even more so from the two isolated Strikers.

Wing kicked off the second half for Boro but Barnsley quickly got back into their stride enjoying most of the early possession in the opening period with the travelling army somewhat introspective. Five minutes in and the game was now very scrappy with Boro struggling to build any form of attack. On 51 minutes Morrison announced his creative arrival with a run that was terminated just outside the Barnsley box about 30 yards out centrally. Wing’s free kick went straight through the wall going just wide for a corner which was once again woeful in its execution. Barnsley broke from that corner and then were equally poor losing possession as Boro came back then Barnsley took their turn to break upfield towards the away end and the poor finishing and decision making was thankfully not limited to Boro. Both teams looked poor.

A ridiculous throw-in decision by Geoff Eltringham against Boro had Britt risking a yellow card. As the ball was back in play from the disputed throw Barnsley attacked and a series of desperate defending efforts from Boro ended with a Barnsley corner. It was delivered to the far post with Woodrow heading it harmlessly onto the roof of Pears’ net. A Boro attack then ended with a disappointing looped Howson cross, Barnsley then came close with a long-range Woodrow curler as the game now illustrated perfectly just why both these clubs are looking down the table rather than up. Desperation was visibly creeping in with both sides as the game now had thirty minutes remaining.

News that results elsewhere were not in Boro’s favour with Wigan and Stoke winning started to filter through the away end and any remaining nails were being well and truly chewed and bitten. On 65 minutes Fletcher was adjudged to have fouled Halme when he went into the back of him in the box as he desperately tried to get an opportunity. A long, lofted ball up to Woodrow from the Barnsley defence had Pears stretching as he was almost embarrassed by the wind getting underneath the ball. At this stage something needed to happen from the benches because the game was dying a slow death from a Boro outlook.

Shotton looked to have lunged into a challenge on the half way line but Ref Eltrigham found in favour of him much to the chagrin of Struber and the home fans. Twenty minutes now remained as Woodrow hit a daisy cutter requiring Pears to be alert again as the Tykes chalked up another effort on target. On 71 minutes Britt’s number came up as Gestede entered the fray prompting some interesting Anglo Saxon utterances in the away end. It then took just one minute for the livewire Chaplin to have two quickfire efforts on the edge of the Boro six yard box with the second one hitting the roof of Pears’ net to put Barnsley one up. “Uwe Fuchs ache” was the collective response from the travelling army.

On 76 minutes Odour sent in a low fierce cross that had it been met it would have been game over with Boro now all at sixes and sevens. Boro’s stat of conceding a third of their goals in the last twenty minutes was a box ticked yet again. Woodrow was then booked for a lunging tackle on Morrison just as he made way for Coulson to come on and add the spark that had been missing from Boro all afternoon. McNair was then also readied as Woodgate was once again tactically forced into throwing big lads up the pitch at Barnsley. Saville left the pitch with Paddy having a little over ten minutes to work miracles.

Johnson had moved over to the right with Coulson on the left in what may have been a 433 or a 442, nobody quite knew but the hope was that the players in white shirts might know who was supposed to be doing what and where. Chaplin then came off to a solid applause from the home fans as Struber brought on Thomas. In stark contrast to Gestede’s arrival Thomas chased down Pears and nearly nicked another Tykes goal as the young keeper dwelt on the ball too long. Boro frankly looked devoid of ideas, utterly clueless with Barnsley comfortable in hanging onto what they had. A encouraging run by Friend picking up his own throw in cutting into the Barnsley box was millimetres from Howson’s toe as he just couldn’t deflect it into Collin’s net. 85 minutes now gone and I can’t recall Gestede touching the ball since his arrival on the pitch nor can I recall any phase of play which utilised his ahem skill-set. There were a few interesting opinions on Woodgate’s tactical substitutions at this juncture and not for the first time this season.

A foul on Fletcher was seemingly ignored and then the lineman’s flag was belatedly raised providing a glimmer of false hope only to be dashed as he deemed the Boro Striker to be, yes you have guessed it, offside yet again. Struber then took off Bahre who was yellow-carded for his rather slow stroll off the pitch for Ritzmaier. A minute of normal time now remained and a desperate hoofed ball went aimlessly out for a Barnsley goal kick with the fourth Officials board up indicating four minutes.

Despite the late stage of the game Barnsley kept chasing and pushing. Coulson won a late free kick after being brought down near the touchline allowing McNair to send it into the packed Barnsley box and as several bodies flew in en masse in to meet it the ball diverted over Collins crossbar for the decision to be a goal kick. How anyone could spot who had touched it last was a mystery to me so I suspect the Ref played it safe. As empty crisp packets blew with gusto across the Oakwell pitch Geoff Eltringham blew his whistle to end another Boro misery. That’s three games in succession against teams in the drop zone, nine were points up for grabs and we managed a solitary one against ten-man Wigan.

The first half had opened with some energy and intent from Boro in the opening quarter hour but as the game wore on Boro simply wore out and Barnsley grew stronger. Our second half performance was very poor and the inept substitutions left heads being scratched in the away end. The folly and frailty of turning to Gestede has cost several managers at this football club and yet once again another in his death throes gambles with the non-scoring Striker. His absolute lack of influence on the game defies explanation, whether that was his fault for a lack of application or ability or the manager’s fault for failing to provide service (any service) is beyond anyone’s guess.

Tactically that was a very poor set up with a back five that will be out of contract come the summer or loan expired. Barnsley deserved their win but it was made far worse by a lack of ability or nous to alter tactics or influence things from Woodgate. Putting Gestede on yet again Pulis style was an insult to the travelling army. Barnsley showed fight, heart and spirit which grew as the game went on whereas Boro looked more disorganised and chaotic as the game expired. The second half performance was as bad as the Luton game last week. Thirty-four games now and the Manager hasn’t a clue what his best eleven is or even what tactics to employ. To make matters worse there were some unpleasant exchanges at the end of the game near the tunnel.

The most damning negative stat of many was a failure to register a single shot on target against the two worst sides in the League. How MFC will spin this out in support of Woodgate will be of great amusement over the coming days with credibility levels now reading empty. Perhaps they will find Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf to come out of retirement and convince us all that we are wrong and need to get behind the golden thread fairy-tale. It will be interesting to see if SG takes his seat for the Leeds game midweek or will he be ominous by his absence?

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 28-29 discussion page

Boro 0 – 1 Luton


Pos. 18th (37 pts) SATURDAY 15 FEBRUARY 2020 Pos. 23rd (30 pts)
Boro 0-1 Luton
SHOTS (on target)
Tunnicliffe (17)

Hatters Tees Party

Redcar Red reports on a disappointing defeat at the Riverside…

The last time we played Luton at home was our final game at Ayresome Park back in April 1995 where we won 2-1 in front of a crowd just under 24,000. The visitors will have well and truly had to hang onto their hats during their visit North to the Riverside with storm Dennis menacing the UK. This afternoon’s game was a must win for both sides as we approach the final quarter of the season with games and therefore opportunities to collect points now running out. Ten points behind Boro after their galvanising win over Wednesday on Wednesday evening, Luton would come into this game in a rare optimistic mood having only won five games all season yet still scoring four more goals than their Liverpool-lite opponents this afternoon.

The opening evening reverse fixture was almost prophetic in that it foretold what the season ahead had in store for Boro, all except the goals scored that is. Letting soft goals in and often late ones at that, missing sitters and penalties and never truly taking a game by the scruff of the neck. Those three Boro goals on that opening evening are almost ten per cent of our tally all season despite having almost £30m worth of striking “talent” in the squad.

Yesterday’s team news was that Boro still had Dijksteel and Ayala some weeks away while Luton would be without Galloway and O’Kane. Dael Fry was declared “fully fit” and Shotton and Friend were now back in contention. Fast forward just over 24 hrs to 2.00pm today and Fry was no longer fit with Friend starting in his place and Spence returning as we looked to revert to three CB’s and two Wing Backs. Saville and McNair would be doing the dirty work centrally breaking up and starting attacks allowing Nmecha, Wing and Fletcher the freedom to put the ball in the net. Adam Clayton was missing entirely from the bench whilst Assombalonga and Gestede were both deemed worthy of a seat. Luton Manager Graham Jones had brought in former Boro man Martin Cranie to make a return to the Riverside sitting in front of the Luton backline.

With Luton’s appalling travel sickness this season the Boro faithful were optimistic of seeing their first Riverside victory since Boxing day and even more hopeful of adding to those sparse sixteen Boro goals seen at home all season. Australian Referee Jarred Gillett’s whistle signalled white shirted Luton to kick off towards the North Stand. On the minute mark Howson looked to be confused by the ball as he needed to adjust quickly on the “D” with the ball seemingly held up by a gust. Probing, Boro had a Djed Spence cross cut out for a throw in the third minute. McNair collected the ball and went towards the by-line but instead of cutting back to advancing red shirts he played it square and straight at Luton Keeper Sluga. A Luton break ended with a woeful ball overhit going out near the edge of Pear’s eighteen-yard box as quality thus far was in short supply. Another attempt down the Luton right wing from the lively Lua Lua was gently crossed into Pears’ welcoming open arms.

On six minutes a Boro cross was routinely headed clear with neither side imposing themselves. A Luton Corner on eight minutes was sent in by Berry, as it was headed clear by Howson the Ref saw a generous infringement giving Boro a free kick. Twelve minutes in and so far neither Keeper had been tested although Moukoudi had us momentarily nervous when he was fouled trying to play the ball out from the back.

Advancing down the left wing, Coulson went down as he tried to round Pearson in a hopeful claim for a free kick which was waved away by the Ref. A brief display of head tennis saw Luton win then build up an attack but again the end ball was aimlessly hit to nobody on the far side of the Boro box. On fifteen minutes Wing speculatively tried his luck from twenty-five yards but it went well over. Another bout of head tennis ended this time with Lua Lua finding Potts whose well weighted cross evaded attackers and defenders alike allowing Ryan Tunnicliffe to react quicker than Coulson and stroke the ball home on seventeen minutes. So far Boro had started as they had in too many games this season, slow, lacklustre and unconvincing and they paid the price for it yet again

Boro restarted and pushed up the pitch replying with two quick crosses. The first easily cleared as Nmecha swung at it and the second from the opposite flank from Spence was low and ended in the arms of Sluga without menace. Twenty minutes gone and the home fans were comforting themselves with the knowledge that we were now becoming adept at coming from behind. Our attacking intent seemed to consist of unconvincing crosses from wide into the box with little to no precision. A lack of joined up thinking was being portrayed before us.

Lewis Wing had some sort of issue with his boots in what was probably the most noteworthy event from Boro in the opening twenty-five minutes. A jittery clearance in a packed Boro box didn’t look at all convincing as Luton tried to quickly double their lead via a Potts delivered free kick finding Pearson out on the far left of the box seemingly targeting Coulson. It was Coulson however a minute later who ghosted in between two Luton defenders to win our first corner but as is standard for our set pieces Sluga tipped it over his crossbar for a second Boro corner. Delivered this time from the opposite side it was deftly floated in to nobody on the far side of the box and going out for a Luton throw.

A fizzing cross from Pearson was stepped over by Lua Lua and Pears’ had to get down sharpish to smother the ball. So far only one side looked to be seriously making a competition of the game and it wasn’t the home side. Sluggish and almost comatose best described Boro so far, we have notoriously started slowly previously but this was something else entirely. Moukoudi summed up the home fans frustration with a wayward ball out to Coulson to his left with a somewhat lackadaisical clearance come pass conceding a cheap throw in to Luton. That phase of play ended with a cleverly rehearsed corner taken out of the box to Tunnicliffe who smashed in a thirty-yard shot. Another Luton corner quickly followed with Boro struggling to clear their lines. Based on this performance Luton looked to be anything but relegation fodder. Where they really that good or were we really that bad?

On thirty-three minutes another Luton corner this time wasted much to Boro’s relief and the fans were starting to murmur and shake heads. On thirty-five Friend won a corner whilst overlapping, which went out via Pearson for a second Boro corner but again nothing of note as Luton headed clear far too easily. A Cranie challenge on Saville earned him a yellow as he slid in to try and win a mis-controlled ball from himself. The resulting Boro free kick was telegraphed and when it was played short to Wing he was closed down immediately. Clearly Luton had watched the Wigan highlights and as a consequence of their anticipation we lost possession and conceded a free kick on the edge of the Luton box.

Fletcher won the ball deep in his own half, charged forward, played it wide to Friend but rusty George misplaced his pass and back Luton came to increase their corner count. It was delivered in to the far side of the Boro box but had too much on it thankfully for us. On forty minutes Friend got down the line and put in a cross that was just too high and always going out but in another sign of how dysfunctional Boro had been all of this half. A minute later Fletcher ran through the Luton box lifting hopes but Sluga collected the ineffective cross come shot. Approaching forty three minutes now and Berry collected a yellow for complaining to the Ref for an earlier Moukoudi challenge which had left Lua Lua rolling around needing the magic sponge, something that he seemed quite keen to do all game.

A minute of the half remained and McNair smashed in a cross which was greeted with moans and groans as it went nowhere where it was intended to go and with some gusto to boot. Two minutes added time came up on the fourth officials board. A last minute scrapped and hard-fought Spence cross cut right through the Luton box but there was no Red Shirts coming in to meet it. The whistle sounded to a chorus of boos which in fairness was probably not as loud as that inept showing deserved. The team that had lost eleven straight away games went down the tunnel a goal up against what had been a terrible Boro showing which had lacked identity, cohesion, energy and bereft of understanding.

Nmecha and Fletcher had looked totally disconnected from their team mates. Coulson was being targeted defensively but he was at least also a threat and getting down the wing creating. Spence was taking the game to Luton down the right when he could but our midfielders where nowhere to be seen and our two Strikers had struggled to outsmart the Luton defence mainly as a result of our build up being so slow and limited. That was as dire a Riverside performance as had been witnessed for some time and other incoming half time results were not helping the mood. Luton to their credit were by far the better side so far and Woodgate needed to seriously up the workrate and tempo from his charges in the second half.

Surprisingly no changes in a brave decision by the Manager as Boro got the half underway. Pears didn’t enjoy the best of starts as he sliced a routine clearance. Coulson then gave away a free kick with Friend looking nervously on having just prior got away with a challenge on the same player in the box as he had commenced his fall. That Luton free kick was cleverly played to the “D” where an advancing midfielder despatched it to see it blocked by a crowd of red shirts and looking suspiciously like it came off a red sleeve. A minute later Lua Lua twisted and turned Coulson on the edge of the box feeding the ball backwards to the edge of the Boro box for Tunnicliffe to fortuitously blast it well over.

Lua Lua then claimed he had been clattered by Saville and then Moukoudi, his envious artistry being one of the few bits of entertainment all afternoon. A Luton corner on fifty-five minutes saw Berry fire it in low this time, cleared, but and again it was fired back into the Boro box from the edge of the 18 yard box. Ten minutes of the second half had expired and Boro actually looked worse than they had in the first half.

The fourth anniversary of Ali Brownlee’s passing at least gave the home fans something to applaud in the 57th minute with a rendition of “one Ali Brownlee”. On the 59th minute Assombalonga was brought on for Saville as not for the first time this week we went top heavy with strikers when the supply route was the problem. Coulson in understandable frustration rugby tackled Lua Lua to concede yet another free kick to the visitors near the touch line. The ball came in low and straight to a red shirt but it took several poor clearances in a bit of keystone cops defending before Pears collected it and threw it out to relieve the pressure, setting up an attack in the process. That rare Boro foray ended with the ball going across from left to right finding Spence who earned a throw in. He immediately then earned a corner which was delivered into the middle of the Luton box where Potts headed clear as George Friend coming in from behind flattened him bringing the game to a halt.

Potts needed some lengthy treatment and as the game restarted Boro earned a few corners in quick succession but as usual badly rehearsed and delivered to no avail. Spence was then brought off for Gestede as Woodgate incredibly piled on another Striker in total abandonment of any remnant of high pressing, fast tempo football. Twenty-two minutes remained as Coulson delivered in a corner which was headed clear by the decidedly concussed looking Potts. A few minutes later he eventually had to retire with Bree coming on in his place with Luton now taking the pace out of the game. Well I use the term “pace” lightly and not to be taken too seriously as there was very little of it on display from a very laboured looking Boro all afternoon.

Nmecha and Fetcher were now out wide with Gestede and Britt central. Nmecha won a corner which came in, was cleared and then fed back in by Coulson which Britt attacked and missed and put Gestede off following in, too many cooks and all that. Cranie then decided to kill a few seconds as he sat on the turf presumably feeling the aches after a rare start and in doing so delaying the restart.

Lua Lua cut the ball back from the by-line in a failed Hatters attack and as Boro broke out Nmecha cut inside and had an effort that was somewhat less than the optimistic sum of its build up. Graham Jones then brought Cranie off with a quarter of an hour remaining. Sluga took his time in delaying taking a free kick for an offside much to the home fans frustrations. Mpanzu was then yellow carded for delaying a throw in claiming he wasn’t the teams throw in expert as he passed it to a colleague. A cross from Fletcher was aimed at the far side for Britt but his effort in getting off the ground seemed on a par with the earlier grounded EasyJet flights today.

A great Howson ball on seventy-nine minutes was just tantalisingly waiting for someone to get on the end of it but despite having no less than four strikers on the pitch nobody in Red was chasing play far enough up, anticipating to attack it. A very delayed Luton free kick on 82 minutes cleared the Boro wall but also Pears’s crossbar. Lua Lua then went off for Izzy Brown with seven minutes left of normal time. Berry then took Friend out in a rash challenge and was fortunate to avoid a card but Boro’s delivery from the free kick was merely lamped down the pitch and in doing so we conceded possession and Luton set off again down our right flank.

A Moukoudi challenge on Berry allowed another few seconds of set piece delay for the visitors from which Brown crossed and a cut back from Mpanzu hitting unwittingly off Coulson’s arm with the away fans screaming for a penalty. Mpanzu then had acres of space and time just outside the Boro 18 yard box to hit over unchallenged with two minutes left. A late Boro cross to Fletcher had height but looped too far over and behind for him to be able get anything on it.

Six minutes of added time came up on the fourth officials board but Boro looked no more like scoring had sixty years been held up. Luton were at ease containing Boro, believing they had enough in their solitary goal to hang on for all three points and in fairness it certainly looked like they were safe as we rarely threatened with anything remotely close to troubling Sluga. Into added time Luton were pushing Boro into their own corner areas with throw ins and keeping possession, eating away precious seconds. On 93 minutes we even had two balls on the pitch as Boro tried far too late to get some urgency and momentum.

Sluga came out at the feet of Fletcher to collect and slide down taking his time to regain his upright posture. Coulson was forced to concede a corner from Mpanzu. Luton took it short and Brown earned another time absorbing corner off the shins of Coulson this time. Another short one saw Brown nutmeg Friend but Coulson behind cleared for a throw in which was worked back towards the corner flag where Brown held it up again. Taking “ownership” Wing unceremoniously and frustratingly upended Brown starting a tussle rolling around on the floor which suited Luton in killing even more of those remaining seconds. The whistle went shortly after to boos ringing around the Riverside apart from the away corner who were quite rightly and deservedly euphoric.

That wasn’t a performance from Boro it was very poor in every respect, disheartening to experience and we got exactly what we deserved from our one shot on target. Tony Pulis was derided for his dull, boring anti-football and before him Karanka received plenty of negative feedback but that game just about trumped anything as dire as those two conjured up.

On a positive we didn’t concede a late goal but Gestede coming on to rescue us just had heads shaking. “Clueless” was often thrown at Pulis but today took that to a whole new level. Even the ball boys who have always been ominous by their sheer collective absence in an ability to retrieve balls seemed to have been underwhelmed by the same inspirational tactics as the players.

This afternoon had a distinct whiff of the late Strachan era around the Riverside. Looks of despondency and indifference from many sufferers were difficult to disguise. MOM were the fans in the South Stand who provided a great show of support for Grant Leadbitter.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 28-29 discussion page

Wigan 2 – 2 Boro

Wigan 2-2 Boro
Morsy (29)
Moukoudi (76 og)s/o Dunkley (62)
SHOTS (on target)
Wing (64, 68)

Wingless in Wigan

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s lacklustre draw against the Lactics…

Boro travelled across the wild, windy and wintry Pennines to the home of the famous Pier tonight in an effort to push Wigan nearer to League One football next season whilst taking a step in preserving our own Championship status. No new injury concerns for Woodgate but still too soon for Shotton or Friend to return to first team action. Both of these sides had lost at the weekend, Boro away to high flying Bretford and Wigan in a local derby against another Play Off chaser Preston who incidentally were the last side that Boro beat way back on January 1st. Ominously the Latics had secured back-to-back wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United in their previous two league matches before Preston so tonight was going to be hard fought.

Boro team news indicated that Woodgate was going with a back four again with Spence still benched but Morrison coming in for Johnson and Britt starting in place of Tavernier. Moukoudi had understandably kept his place in the line-up after his performance on Saturday.

Wigan kicked off on an absolutely freezing night with the wind cutting the fans in two and the corner flags struggling to remain upright. Moukoudi was in the action early on clearing his lines from Moore in the opening minute. A long distance shot from Williams warmed Pears’ hands from distance winning a corner as Wigan clearly felt they could get something from this fixture. Lewis Wing cleared the corner but it came back into the box with Dunkley perhaps fortuitously adjudged to have fouled a despairing Pears as he came out for the cross. Boro had once again started slowly with little endeavour in the opening stages. A nervy mistake from Moukoudi had to be rescued by Fry on eight minutes as the home side settled first.

A corner to Boro just before the tenth minute after a few Morrison step overs was delivered in by McNair but it led to little of note and Kipre hoofed the danger clear for Wigan taking no chances in the wind which was clearly having an influence out on the pitch. A short free kick for Boro was delivered into the Wigan box by Coulson after receiving it from McNair but the Left Back followed that up by conceding a free kick to Wigan almost immediately.

Howson needed to be sharp to clear in the Boro six-yard box as suspect Coulson defending allowed a half chance for the home side. There was a frustrating sense of déjà vu as Wigan seemed to be having joy down the flanks just as Brentford had done on Saturday. A break from Howson however did see Boro take “the lead” via Fletcher but as it hit the underside of the net via the cross bar it was adjudged to have been offside. It looked very tight and Boro’s in-form marksman could consider himself unlucky.

The opening quarter of an hour had passed with Wigan looking the more likely to score but that Fletcher offside chance would hopefully create some doubt in the Wigan backline and boost the otherwise sterile Boro mentality. Howson again put a great ball in this time aimed for Assombalonga but his shot was blocked and Coulson’s snap follow up was blocked just as quickly. Just over twenty fine minutes played now and the resultant wind assisted corner from McNair swooped tantalisingly under the bar but some sort of infringement was seen by the Officials and Marshall in the Wigan goal was spared any blushes.

A cross from Wing on twenty-five minutes failed to beat the first Wigan defender going out for a corner to Boro which of course was delivered badly and the action immediately swung down the opposite end towards Aynsley Pears. Half an hour gone and it was certainly no classic, it looked exactly what it was, a game from the bottom half of the Championship. A poor Wigan clearance from Byrne was picked up by Wing but his ball was very wayward and Wigan once again attacked down the left wing. Moore played a ball into the Boro danger area to Jacobs who found Morsy on the edge of the Boro box who stroked a daisy cutter ball across a helpless Pears to put Wigan ahead on twenty-nine minutes.

Wigan streamed forward again after the restart as they now clearly had some belief as Boro on the other hand looked weak in midfield and indecisive at the back trying to clear their heads. A series of Boro throw ins on thirty-five minutes came to nothing as poor touches perhaps mischievously intercepted by the wind summed up the travelling army’s frustrations. Boro’s passing had lacked serious conviction and apart from the Fletcher offside attempt we hadn’t really tested Marshall in the Wigan goal. Having all the possession and passing it around without threatening or looking dangerous was playing into Paul Cooks game plan. Looking for positives I suppose the dipping corner that was blown for a foul could maybe have masqueraded as an effort on target. A wild cross from the by-line from Lewis Wing summed up the evening as his ball likely finished up with snow on it.

The Wigan youngsters William and Geldhart were impressively running around covering every blade of grass with Kiefer Moore putting himself about causing us problems. A bit of slick inter-passing on the edge of the Latics box from Boro saw a weak penalty claim that went out for a throw in and as the ball came back in Coulson hit another double effort responding to the first block with an effort which flew over the Wigan crossbar. Coulson worked a great ball in to Britt but he somehow stumbled over it. Boro then came back via a series of one twos and a shot that didn’t make the net bulge but it was at least a marked improvement.

A last-minute first half cross by Morrison saw Assombalonga totally misjudge the flight and the less said about it the better. The whistle went to end proceedings in what was another disjointed performance from Boro. We had plenty of the ball but done nothing of note with it and certainly not where it counted. Passing the ball about prettily is one thing but being totally ineffective with it was never going to seriously threaten Wigan. Howson and Coulson were providing width of sorts but any of our final balls into the box looked more speculative rather than intentional against an up until now resolute Latics defence

Once again for some reason there were a few Boro players who cruised through the first half looking anonymous. A massive shake up was required for the second half. Before tonight’s kick off we were seven points clear of Wigan in the relegation spots, a draw would maintain that, a win would make that a very healthy ten-point gap but a defeat as it stood meant a narrow and a very edgy four-point separation.

As the teams took to the pitch for the second half surely, we would now see a fired up Boro looking to get back into this. Britt so far wasn’t linking with Fletcher, Morrison was busy but it didn’t look like his team mates knew what to do with him and we lacked the balance and pace that Spence provides down the right but of course that would mean a back three or five and unlikely to happen. Our recent ability to fight back would need to be to the fore for the next forty-five minutes if we were to get something out of this game.

There were no changes for either side as Boro kicked off with temperatures dropping quickly. Coulson was “done” again defensively and as the ball came into the Boro box there were appeals for a hand ball against Saville from around the sparsely populated DW Stadium. If Boro had a rollicking or a change of intent at half time it certainly wasn’t evident based on those first five minutes. The most excitement in fact was a conversation between the Ref Oliver Langstone and Wigan Manager Paul Cook.

A Naismith cross that fizzed across the Boro goalmouth thankfully evaded everyone in Blue and thankfully those in Red shirts as well after Saturday’s unlucky Moukoudi deflection. Britt found Wing who tried to find Fletcher and Kipre then barged in unceremoniously on Wing ending rolling around on the freezing turf. The free kick was delivered in by Wing himself but Moukoudi couldn’t get anything on it as Boro still seemed unconvincingly laboured.

Kipre was involved again straining to cut out a Coulson cross and as the corner came in Ravel Morrison got something on it in what looked like a rare rehearsed set piece from Boro with everyone decoy running into the box but the outcome was a goal kick. Moukoudi brought Moore down as he ran through with our hearts in mouths as Ref Langstone reached for a Yellow in what might have been a Red depending on his interpretation of Fry’s potential speed of intervention in sweeping up. Naismith blasted the ball past the wall and the net rippled but fortunately it was the outside of Pears’ side netting. Nmecha then came on for the misfiring Britt which was an improvement in theory but still didn’t address the lack of pace when attacking and the ability to get the ball wide, stretch the defence and get crosses in.

Dunkley then earned a second Yellow for a challenge on Wing on sixty-three minutes. Another card was then immediately issued to Paul Cook on the touchline who had obviously disagreed with Ref Langstone’s opinions and earned himself a Yellow. Wing took the free kick, blasted a trademark Exocet and as it deflected off the wall Marshall was left helpless seeing the ball spin past him and the scores now level at 1-1. Balogun then came on for Wigan at the back as Geldhart was sacrificed by Cook. Ten men, the scores now level and Boro had a golden opportunity presented to them.

The atmosphere warmed up the evening with the home fans orchestrated by Cook’s antics convinced they had been robbed and cheated. Boro meanwhile settled back into their slippers and a sloppy back pass to Pears had clenched buttocks in the away end. Then as fate would decree Lewis Wing found space from twenty yards out, pulled the trigger and the ball dipped skidding viciously past the embarrassed Marshall. Naismith then entered Langstone’s book for rushing the restart and arguing with the Official with Red shirts still in the Wigan half. Morrison then made way for Tavernier, lingering his departure having put in an interesting shift giving some potential chinks of bright light deep within.

Saville then upped the growing card count with a challenge allowing Pilkington to emulate Wing except it was first half Lewis Wing and the ball sailed well wide and into the bleak nothingness of the night sky. Saville was then on the receiving end of a kick from Morsy earning a Boro free kick and a chance to delay things slightly with a quarter of an hour remaining. Just as Boro looked like returning to Teesside with all three points a cross from our left fizzed across the Boro goal mouth to see Moukoudi diving to connect and send it past Pears to make it 2-2. He met it brilliantly but unfortunately at the wrong end, that’s two games and two O.G.s for the loanee.

That unaddressed weakness on the flank was exploited again, even with ten men for the second game in succession. A Wigan corner saw Naismith unleash a shot on eighty minutes requiring Pears to get down to smother the threat. Tavernier then stepped up to earn a Yellow as he complained about a decision that went against him. That equaliser clearly had the effect of a huge discharge of hope on Boro. Looking dispirited enough Jamal Lowe was brought on by Cook for Pilkington in an effort to further stretch that suspect Boro back four.

Wing then played in Saville and tried to connect as it came back in going out for a Corner which was booted clear unceremoniously by the Wigan defence. Another Boro corner was taken short but overhit giving Nmecha no chance to meet it as hopes of a third faded. Jacobs then went off for

Wigan, bringing Massey on as Cook now sensing blood wasn’t remotely concerned about going down to ten men. Immediately Massey collected a weak Tavernier ball, passing Howson who took him down to earn another Yellow card. Up came the big lads from the back as Naismith sent it into the Boro box but Saville cleared and Naismith fortunately couldn’t capitalise on his follow up.

Saville found Wing in space who tried to get his hat trick but his eye was well off target and it went out. Spence now came on for a hobbling Fry with just a minute of the ninety remaining. Five minutes came up on the fourth Officials board to accommodate those cards, substitutions and some time wasting. Next it was the Wigan sub Massey entering Langstone’s book as the card count continued growing.

Nmecha was gifted a late opportunity but he failed to connect and back came Wigan earning a throw in in the Boro half. The throw-in bounced off Fletcher resulting in a late, late corner. Naismith over-delivered it but Nmecha sent it out for another corner on the opposite side where this time Fletcher headed it clear but back came Wigan and somewhere in the chaos a Yellow Flag went up to prevent an ominous late Wigan winner. The final whistle went to a chorus of boos and jeers directed at the Ref who the home fans clearly felt had been less than even handed with his card distribution.

So 2-2 it ended and the seven-point gap maintained between the two but it was another less than convincing Boro performance. Another dire first half and an improved but still not great second half and against ten men for a large part of the game. It was noticeable that despite having a man disadvantage Wigan still remained a threat and Boro never looked like taking advantage of their extra man. There were no real stand out performers from a poor Boro but the MOM can’t go to anyone other than Lewis Wing for his second half goals.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 26-27 discussion page

Boro 1 – 1 Blackburn

Pos. 18th (36 pts) SATURDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2020 Pos. 10th (44 pts)
Boro 1-1 Blackburn
Coulson (75) 58%
SHOTS (on target)
Travis (57)

Clash of the in-laws

Redcar Red reports on yet another draw at the Riverside…

Boro fans could be forgiven for being confused this afternoon as to which team to cheer on. There seemed to be almost as many Boro lads on the Blackburn team coach as on the Boro bus. The connections were almost endless, Mogga, Venus, Downing, Smallwood, Leutwiler, Chapman and Graham not to mention Gestede with Boro. Granted it was unlikely that either Chapman or Smallwood would be involved but before today’s encounter Rovers had a few impressive results of late beating QPR 2-1 and before that walloping fellow Play Off contenders and another ex Boro Manager Sheffield Wednesday 5-0.

Sitting just four points off the Play Offs the visitors certainly looked the more likely to come away with something from this afternoon and no doubt after a “Typical Boro” Downing inspired display. Emotions aside the bigger picture showed that Blackburn were sitting second in the form table for away games with Boro second on home form so this afternoon would probably be a tight affair.

Mogga had a few injury problems to contend with however as top scorer Bradley Dack, Corry Evans and Joe Rothwell would all be absent. For Boro it had been reported earlier in the week that Shotton and Friend were both back in training but not yet match fit. There was some positive speculation but no confirmation that Dael Fry’s hamstring perhaps wasn’t as bad as first feared and may make the game and that even Britt could be back. Patrick Roberts would definitely miss this one as the newly arrived loanee would now be out for the next two months with a hamstring problem. Hopefully Hayden Coulson will have shaken off the virus that saw him miss the Birmingham drama.

Come two o’clock and the team news was that there was only one Boro change with Tav in for the unfortunate Roberts. Coulson made the bench but not the starting eleven as Marvin Johnson retained his place. Britt made the bench along with Gestede and O’Neil making it look a little attack heavy with three strikers sat there whilst Fletcher and Nmecha both started. Mogga gave 20 year old Joe Rankin-Costello his first league start for Rovers.

The early minutes were fairly uneventful with both side weighing up their opponents until Downing brought down Nmecha to concede a free kick to Boro just outside the Rovers box. Ideal Lewis Wing territory, his shot was low down, hard but wide. A few minutes later Boro won a second free kick which came to nothing in an enterprising start for the home side.

Blackburn started to clear their heads and Howson had to be sharp in cutting out a ball from Gallagher with the visitors now entering a phase of domination. Boro broke away from that attack, Tavernier playing in Fletcher who left Lenihan in his wake but he had his shot saved from a tight angle by Walton. Saville had a follow up shot blocked and then it was Johnson whose effort had Walton athletically tipping it wide. Boro’s resultant first corner of the game was taken short but it was floated in and easily collected by Walton.

It was Pears’ turn next to collect from a Gallagher cross after Nyambe fed him with Holtby in close attendance. A minute later Armstrong went close and had a quickfire second effort and as the pressure grew Holtby was next to test Pears from the edge of the box. On twenty-two minutes Blackburn won their first corner but it was as hopeless as Boro’s previously, training ground routines being in short supply. The game was then held up as Pears and youngster Rankin-Costello clashed with the Blackburn player in some discomfort. Fortunately, the magic sponge wiped away the blood, one new shirt and bandaged head saw the lad stagger to his feet to bravely continue.

With the game approaching thirty minutes Nmecha was next to go down in pain after being on the receiving end of some feisty challenges. With Britt warming up the fear of losing yet another loanee was cleared when he gave the signal to the physio he could carry on. Travis then had to be quick to get back for Rovers and block a Nmecha shot on the edge of the box as Boro had broke forward with pace.

Howson once again cleared at the near post as a Travis’ effort was scrambled clear. Lewis Holtby then went down needing some attention and tried to carry on but had to succumb to his fate two minutes later for Elliot Bennett to replace him with seven minutes of the first half remaining.

Johnson won a corner off Nyambe but this time the Boro short corner came to McNair whose shot come cross came off the woodwork livening up proceedings after the injury scares had seemingly dampened the early promise of the game. Adarabioyo was caught in two minds and Fletcher was alert and nearly nicked in had it not been for a poor first touch. Travis then dragged back Saville with some gusto and was fortunate to only receive a talking to by Ref Donaghy like Downing had in the opening minutes.

Six minutes then came up from the fourth officials board but at this stage the game was in a bit of a languid state. Boro seemed to be laboured in their build up play with Blackburn equally uninspiring. The half ended 0-0 with neither team looking inspirational and from a Boro perspective it was frustratingly crying out for the injured Patrick Roberts to unlock things with some magic. A game that had started with promise slowly fizzled out after the opening twenty-five minutes.

No changes at half time for either side with Rovers having already being forced into one change with Elliott on for Holtby. Saville tried to get an early Boro attack going but it spluttered out and Blackburn were then equally wasteful with Fry cleaning up for Boro as the second half continued in the same manner as the first half had drained away. A clever bit of play from Fletcher presented Nmecha with a half chance, Tavernier then continued the Boro momentum as he twisted and turned in testing Walton. This was much better from Boro but still the scores remained nil apiece.

Johnson fired in a ball across Walton’s box but it evaded everyone going out for a Rovers throw in on the opposite side. As Bell lost possession Boro had Howson firing in a shot that went close but not close enough as frustration levels grew. Nmecha then hit a shot a minute later after Wing had found Saville but his shot was sliced wide. Blackburn then probed Boro’s defence with Downing and Armstrong and then Lewis Travis broke from the middle and finished a one two with Armstrong side footing it past Pears totally against the run of play. Boro had their chances but their finishing was woefully inept and now paid the price, one nil to Blackburn on fifty-seven minutes.

With annoyance to the fore Spence clattered into Bell and like the two Blackburn players earlier was fortunate to escape with just a firm lecture. Djed then fired in a cross to win a Boro corner with Tav departing the field for Assombalonga to return after his lay off. The corner was headed clear and Boro recycled the ball but the pace of it when finally played up had too much on it for Britt.

The sparse away following had suddenly found their voices as Boro started to show a lot more impetus trying to get back into the game with just over twenty-five minutes remaining. Wing went down in the Blackburn box but the Ref blew for a free kick to Lenihan. Mogga made a switch with Danny Graham coming on for the battered and bandaged Rankin-Costello. Johnson had to be strong to fend off Gallagher as Boro had again slumped back into neutral and in need of a spark from somewhere.

A long-range wayward Wing strike going wide brought an opportunity for Coulson to come on and Saville depart with twenty minutes remaining. Boro now switched to four at the back with Coulson operating more as an orthodox winger and McNair pushed into the middle. Coulson won a corner off Nyambe which McNair sent in from the left but it was low and easily headed clear in another example of a wasteful Boro set piece.

The breakthrough came when Nmecha found Lewis Wing and after a return ball from Britt his strike saw Walton parry it into the path of the advancing Coulson who drew Boro level at the far post, 1-1. As the cheers were still ringing around the Riverside, Rovers immediately went close to taking the lead immediately with Gallagher’s shot across Pears’ goal flying wide of the far post as the game suddenly erupted with a veritable frenzy of attacks. The game now looked like a real contest with both sides chasing a winner.

A cross from Coulson saw Fletcher come close for Boro and as the ball was delivered back in again from Nmecha Britt fired his shot over. Downing then went off to a round of applause from all four sides of the ground with Bradley Johnson coming on in his place. The frantic pace continued and a Rovers cross was defended by McNair requiring Johnson to hold off his namesake for the ball to go out for Boro and the opportunity for Gestede to come on for Nmecha with just under eight minutes remaining.

Travis then wiped out Coulson who had turned the game and earned a yellow card. The Free Kick came into the Blackburn box from Wing with Gestede going close but Rovers cleared. Coulson went down again with this time Lenihan taking a yellow for his troubles as Hayden tortured the Rovers defence since arriving. As the free Kick came in Gestede met it and his header was brilliantly saved by Walton for a corner. In it came in but cleared only as far as Wing who fired it back in to be met by Gestede who with the best chance of the game missed a sitter at the back post heading it wide.

Danny Graham then broke away and had Boro hearts in mouths as seconds literally remained of the ninety. Three minutes added time came up as Rovers had a free kick but they played it short and Howson cleared the impending danger. Britt then charged up the other end and as he played in McNair a toe from a despairing Travis stole Paddy’s big moment. A mistake by Spence almost allowed Armstrong to break in the dying seconds but the whistle sounded as the game ended all square.

Boro had their chances to win this with the best one falling to Gestede who done what has typified his time at Boro missing another sitter. That said as a side we haven’t been scoring enough goals all season and this was yet another game were the opportunities came but the finishing wasn’t clinical. The stats beforehand screamed a draw so we perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised or disappointed at today’s outcome as Boro now look destined to be halfway from somewhere and half way to nowhere which I guess is better than League One. For his brief cameo MOM was Coulson as he totally changed the game and was a real threat plus scoring the equaliser.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 26-27 discussion page

Fulham 1 – 0 Boro

Fulham 2-1 Boro
Knockaert (6) 61%
SHOTS (on target)

Fed up in Fulham

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s defeat at Craven Cottage…

The matches seem to be coming thick and fast at the minute as Boro stayed down in London and headed across the City to Craven Cottage this evening in the Championship under the Sky cameras. It looked like everyone came through the midweek cup replay against Spurs uninjured so no fresh concerns for Woodgate in terms of available personnel apart from Randolph departing which while disappointing wasn’t a huge shock. Fulham on the other hand would be missing their talismanic Striker and of course ex-Boro target Aleksandar Mitrovic.

It could be argued that Boro without Assombalonga added up to pretty much the same thing or at least that what we were hoping Scott Parker would be seeking solace in. Reality was that whilst Fulham had an unhealthy overdependence on Mitrovic the same certainly couldn’t be said about Boro and Britt or even Boro and goals in this season’s Championship so far.

Arguably an entire first choice Boro defensive unit was missing with Shotton, Ayala, Friend and Dijksteel all injured. Parker had a few other concerns himself with midfielder Harrison Reed out with a calf problem and Mitrovic’s possible replacement Aboubakar Kamara struggling with an ankle injury. Boro hadn’t come out victorious against Fulham since February 2016 although Fulham hadn’t actually beaten Boro at the Cottage since April 2015.

There were six changes in the Boro line up from the midweek Cup game with the most notable absentees being Wing and Fletcher. Mejias, Johnson, Liddle and Nmecha all dropped out with Gestede, Saville, Coulson, Roberts, Pears and Tavernier all starting. Reid was starting as the main Striker for Fulham with Cavaleiro and Knockaert providing the threat down the flanks.

Ref David Webb blew for Fulham to kick off and almost immediately putting the ball out of play. Fulham were spraying the ball around with confidence and aplomb but were forced back into their own half before regrouping and getting back up the pitch. Despite all the flair and endeavour when the final ball came it ended up being comfortably collected at waist height by Pears. Fulham swiftly came back again, this time with Knockaert being closed down by Coulson before shooting well over.

A Tav cross in the fourth minute was headed by Hector clear and over Gestede but Spence arrived deep on the far side but hit his shot well wide of Rodak’s goal. On seven minutes a devilishly simple low cross from Bryan on the left was delivered in and met by Knockaert for a simple tap in having lost his marker Coulson. For the second time in a week in London Boro found themselves a goal down in the opening minutes. In fairness Fulham were good value for their goal and not to put too fine a point on it had looked by far the sharper side. Too many white shirts were finding acres of space with Boro slow to identify, pick up, close down, mark and allowing them far too much time to build up momentum.

Onomah had a shot outside the Boro eighteen-yard box which to our relief went wide with Boro now reduced to literally chasing shadows, being pulled all over, losing shape and with it their own game plan, second and sometimes even third to every loose ball. Fast, high tempo, slick passing and energy and movement off the ball meant that Fulham were ripping Boro open with ease as once again Onomah should have put the Home side further ahead the fourteenth minute. Thankfully his shot was low and weak allowing Pears time to get down and smother it. Boro were sitting far too deep, unable to mount any offensive with their attackers isolated yet again while the Cottagers swarmed forward with impunity.

Despite Boro sitting deep, camped in the last twenty yards of the pitch, Fulham looked like they had twice as many players as they were finding space everywhere and anywhere they wanted to play it. Those fleeting seconds that we did have on the ball we took far too long and had no movement off it and with twenty minutes gone Fulham had the opportunities to have been three up.

Tavernier, Roberts and Gestede had been anonymous at this stage with Fulham simply bypassing them. It was like watching a boxer with a six inch longer reach than his opponent, picking them off with ease. A corner won by Knockaert off Coulson on twenty minutes was delivered to the far post where Onomah stood completely unmarked and should have hit the target. Next a ridiculous looped clearance from Pears handed Fulham the initiative and as Reid was about to blast it past the unprotected Pears, Howson somehow got a block in to put it out for a corner. Whatever the Form table might have said beforehand on this showing Boro looked relegation fodder and Fulham every inch promotion candidates with just twenty-five minutes expired.

Roberts eventually worked a break all by himself winning a corner for Boro to ease the ongoing relentless pressure. It was delivered in by McNair but Fry got underneath it, looping it back off his head back into the six-yard box but went out via Gestede’s head aimlessly for a goal kick. As well as the front three Clayton and Saville had been anonymous in the game. Even a free kick in the twenty seventh minute was woefully executed with a lumped ball up to Fry in the Fulham box from which Fulham immediately attacked with Cairney and Cavaleiro breaking and the Fulham Captain testing Pears. Shocking that we could actually turn an attack into being ripped apart with ease yet again so quickly.

On twenty-nine minutes Tav fed Coulson out wide who chipped in a cross that was deflected and Rodak was nearly caught out as the ball spun out for a corner. The corner came in and Tav met it at chest height with his left boot raised when it needed a diving header and as a consequence went out harmlessly for another Fulham goal kick. Gestede chased down a weak back pass as Boro finally started to show some intent with the home side looking tired from their high tempo start with thirteen minutes of the first half remaining.

Our wing-backs had been starved of both service and of protection, Saville and Clayton’s roles seemed completely detached from what was going on around them. Then it was the up until then camouflaged Saville who cut out a crossfield ball on the half way line, advance and managed a shot that went out for a corner. The corner was half punched clear by Rodak with Reid back defending clearing the disappointing set play. A break involving Tav, found him getting a cross in to the far side of the six-yard box to Gestede, stretching, he headed it back into the box but there was zero support and it was cleared with embarrassing ease.

A badly skewed cross from Spence in the fortieth minute summed up Boro’s lack of composure throughout the first half. Then a free kick from the half way line from McNair blatantly lumped upfield was a perfect illustration of how agricultural we had become playing Gestede up front on his own. His lack of movement meant we couldn’t play slick, fast paced balls up front and the immobility of the Benin striker was just one of several reasons why our tactics were failing miserably. Howson, Fry and McNair done what they could but they were woefully exposed by ineffective wing backs, soporific midfielders and a non-existing attacking threat. The half ended with more comedic stand-off hesitant defending which eventually Pears got down to once again smother the threat with help from Howson covering his keeper.

Woodgate’s half time team talk seriously required a major rethink and reshuffle. Nothing was working and how the scoreline had remained the solitary goal was down to poor finishing and incredible luck. As a half of football, that was right up there with the worst of them this season. I suspect it was only the tiredness with Fulham after their blazing start that had allowed Boro to have a few efforts rather than as a result of anything we were doing. Gestede is an impact Striker at best or played or as part of a front two. Playing him as a lone Striker wasted what skills he does have and failed to offer any threat whatsoever. The midfield was less than dynamic and the two youngsters playing at wing-back we were struggling up against Knockaert and Cavleiro with Clayton and Saville both ominous by their absence.

The second half got under way with Boro attacking the travelling army. Boro had a few attempted attacks but they lacked any real belief, zeal or serious damage. We looked to be playing with a back four now with Spence pushed further up. Still we endured hoofed balls out from an over worked Boro defence and simply didn’t look to be going to able trouble this Fulham side. A rare run from Roberts in the fifty-first minute ended with Saville tackling McDonald in the Fulham box to concede a free kick. In the second half Saville was seeing more of the ball but to no great effect whilst Gestede and Clayton were passengers. Ten minutes gone in the half and Woodgate needed to change something quickly. Watching Boro players trying to find a red shirt was painful to bear, the only consolation was that Fulham were being infected with the same disease now. Tav was starting to become more involved and instrumental in any Boro forays. Spence was then hacked down by McDonald taking one for his team. Bizarrely Woodgate then brought off Tav for Wing as the free kick was being readied. How he left Clayton, Saville and Gestede on the pitch and took Tav off was baffling.

A break from midfield by Roberts on sixty-one minutes was played out wide to Coulson winning a corner in the process. When it came in it glanced off Gestede and went out for a goal kick in another wasted set piece. That substitution was having no effect at all on proceedings with Wing sitting too deep. A weak handball shout from Gestede setting up Spence was waved away by the Ref. A Boro corner was overhit with Roberts alert to picking up the loose ball but then dribbled his way into trouble in the “D” and allowed Fulham to break with numbers before Spence and Wing managed to combine to thwart the danger. Sixty-six minutes gone and another free kick was wasted by McNair as it was poorly placed to Fry who couldn’t reach it and was easily blocked off. So far, all our set pieces had been extremely poor but at least Fulham had slowed things down a bit and we looked like we might be lucky and nick something if we could just move the ball around quickly instead of playing balls that were already read in last week’s zimmer frame digest.

Bryan then had an effort after cutting inside from Spence but Pears got down to his near post as there wasn’t much pace on it. A Coulson cross was then deflected up into the arms of Rodak on seventy minutes. As the ball was played out of their defence, Fulham passed their way up the pitch quickly and it was Knockaert who had a cheeky twenty-five-yard shot which went wide. McNair was then booked for ripping the shirt off Cavaleiro’s back and it was Cavaleiro who took the free kick himself. A cleverly worked, curved ball dropping into the box for Odoi to head home only for the slow-motion linesman to flag offside by what must have been an elbow. A very fortunate let off for Boro. Seconds later Fulham carved Boro open again and a cross went across invitingly Pears’ six-yard box but it went out without any white shirt sliding in.

Seventy-five minutes had elapsed and Boro were hanging on as Fulham rejuvenated turned the screw and upped the ante once more. The same failed long hoofed hopeful balls were returned with interest as Boro’s frailties hadn’t been addressed either by tactics or by personnel. Reid won a corner off Spence after the youngster was caught ball watching. The resultant corner saw penalty appeals by the Home fans firstly for an alleged hand ball and then a Coulson foul on Knockaert on the edge of the box saw a theatrical dive just the right side of the white line. The free kick incredibly found an unmarked Onomah again but as previously his finishing was poor. A double sub from Boro then saw the two dead legs in midfield leave for Fletcher and Nmecha in a last-ditch attempt to rescue a very undeserved point.

Ten minutes remained and the best we could muster was Wing hoofing long balls that were impossible to reach. Arter had a good shot blocked by Howson after another fast, slick, break down their right. A long ball on the turf out of defence from Wing saw Nmecha give chase but he ran straight into Hector who stood his ground. Five minutes now remained and we looked a disjointed anomaly of parts and not all of which seemed to fit. McNair went down rather easily on the touchline from Knockaert’s attentions and as he swung in his own free kick Rodak got his fingertips onto what suspiciously looked like another miss-hit far post ball. The subsequent incoming corner which resulted was predictably overhit to nobody and easily cleared. A half-hearted penalty claim after Hector collided with Fletcher in the box was ignored as Fletcher seemed to be going down before the challenge came in.

Five minutes came up on the fourth Officials board as Spence frustratingly claimed a throw in that went the other way near the Fulham corner flag. Mawson then came on for Knockaert who had terrorised us all evening with a suspicious looking hamstring suddenly flaring up as he limped off the pitch eating up seconds. A long throw from Coulson down the touchline up to Gestede saw the big Striker control it with all the athleticism and finesse of Bella Emberg, putting it out for a Fulham throw in.

A late, well worked piece of play saw Spence hit a cross headed out by Hector that was delivered to, yep you guessed it, the far post again but it did at least go out for another corner which Pears advanced up the pitch for but the delivery was predictably hopeful rather than creative. Fulham won a throw and as they once again penetrated the Boro box with haste the whistle went to end a miserable week in the capital. MOM was Howson but tactically overall it was a throwback to September/October. That was rank bad with no redeeming features other than we battled more in the second half but never remotely looked like scoring.

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 24-25 discussion page

Spurs 2 – 1 Boro

Tottenham 2-1 Boro
Lo Celso (2)
Lamela (15)
SHOTS (on target)
Saville (83)

Spurs take two!

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s FA Cup replay at the Tottenham Stadium…

A busy schedule in the smoke this week for Boro commenced this evening with Spurs in the Cup. A 1-1 draw at the Riverside just over a week ago saw the two sides lock horns again after Lucas Moura had headed home an equaliser for the Premiership side. As is typical for this time of year and indeed almost fashionable both sides had a long list of the injured and walking wounded. Mourinho announced that Hugo Lloris (elbow), Ben Davies (ankle), Tanguy Ndombele (hip), Moussa Sissoko (knee) and Harry Kane (hamstring) would all be absent for tonight’s event. His limited options he alleged were at bare bones level, declaring that only Toby Alderweireld could be rested from his first team squad.

Previously Mourinho had comically asked if Boro would consider playing their reserve team for tonight’s game. He was clearly unaware that the players selected and those who had made the Boro bench last time out were in fact the Academy side with a remaining handful of fit first teamers. Woodgate did have slim hopes that Britt Assombalonga might have been fit enough to travel but unfortunately unlike limbo victim Darren Randolph he remained at Rockliffe to linger just a little longer. Positively, neither side had any fresh injury concerns, Spurs after their Home defeat to runway Champions elect Liverpool and Boro to Rooney’s raiding Rams at the weekend.

Spurs were last beaten at home by a lower league side in the FA Cup in 1975 (by Forest) so the omens pre kick off were not exactly on Boro’s side for this replay. On the positive they had kept just one clean sheet since Mourinho took over so Boro would be hopeful of registering a few shots on target at least. Despite Randolph travelling Woodgate had already announced that Mejias would be between the sticks again for Boro so perhaps he would be a lucky charm after his previous cup exploits with Boro.

Boro had a few surprises in the team and a shock start for Ben Liddle with Woodgate clearly deciding that Friday nights upcoming game with Fulham was of greater importance. Mejias was in for Pears and Nmecha for Tavernier. Johnson came in at Left Wing Back for Coulson. Mourinho had made five changes himself

Boro won the toss and changed ends leaving Spurs to Kick off. The game started off with Spurs teasing and Boro sitting deep looking for breaks. A simple back pass to Mejias to clear saw the stand in Keeper caught in two minds inviting trouble and instead of booting it clear he passed it weakly to Johnson and invitingly into the path of Lo Celso who slipped it past the errant Keeper. Less than two minutes gone and Boro were one down due to their own failings. Those leaking pre match reports that the Randolph to the Hammers deal off was suddenly looking like it could be good news on reflection.

Boro kept their cool, clearing heads, keeping it tight and sitting off their opponents, trying to put their opening nightmare behind them. Spence chased forward closing down Winks on the edge of the Spurs box in what was the most spirited Boro offering in the opening eight minutes. A Clayton chipped lob chased by Fletcher saw Sanchez head back to Gazzaniga in an anxious moment for the Spurs defence on ten minutes.

A well worked ball by Spence, advancing, taking on three defenders after a sloppy Sanchez ball was slotted through for Nmecha who forced Gazzaniga to get down low to save and keep the slender margin for the home side intact. Psychologically it was a big boost to Boro and a nervy warning to Spurs that they could be undone. On fifteen minutes however a poor clearance compounded by a poorly controlled ball by Howson allowed Lamela to dribble through the centre of our defence and slot it past Mejias with consummate ease, making it two nil.

The game now took on a damage limitation feel to it. Poor ball control on both occasions was the cause of our downfall for the goals. Maybe it was nerves in a busy stadium that got to Boro but with the game approaching twenty minutes there was little to see in terms of us staging a comeback. A well spotted long ball to Fletcher from Nmecha was misjudged by Sanchez but also Fletcher who had given up on it before realising there was still something left of the move thanks to the defender’s generosity. Lamela then went close again for Spurs after some more very hesitant Boro defending. Boro were dropping deeper defending but nobody was picking up the rampant White shirts and therefore allowing them space, time and movement to attack down the middle almost at will.

Twenty-five minutes in and we had a virtual back seven with Nmecha and Fletcher up front 50 yards away making it very difficult to ease the pressure by finding a Red shirt that wasn’t crowded out. Mejias dived across the face of his goal to tip a Sessegnon shot wide for Spurs’ first corner. Two minutes later and Tanganga ran through in acres of space with Johnson out of position to shoot just wide. A theatrical dive from Lo Celsa straight out of Dele Alli’s greatest dives volume 12 was waved away, dismissed as no penalty with the first half reaching thirty minutes. Wing brought down Eriksen on the edge of the “D”, Lamela and Eriksen lined it up and it was the Dane that hit a daisy cutter that Mejias got down for with relative ease much to the relief of those who had travelled down from the North East.

A ridiculous ball from Clayton in the Spurs half to Fry turning attack into chaos was made worse by Fry’s lack of control setting Spurs away on yet another attack from which we were fortunate not to go three behind. A well planned corner from McNair was cleared out, collected by Howson on the edge of the Spurs box and the ex-Leeds man dribbled through and side stepped a series of challenges and threaded a ball through to the unmarked McNair on the edge of the six yard box and with the goal in his sights Paddy hit a shot that probably hit Big Ben. A quick counter attack again caused by Boro players failing to control the first ball saw Spurs carve us open down the centre of the pitch with Luca Moura’s shot going just wide on forty minutes.

Boro continued to occupy a ten-yard band with eight crowded players outside their own eighteen-yard box creating their own problems. Tanganga then barged Johnson off the ball near the Spurs corner flag which Johnson took himself, putting the ball into the Spurs box were Fletcher centrally got his head to it but it went wide in a rare Boro effort on goal. The first half came to a close with Boro in a rare spell of possession but going absolutely nowhere. Despite the inexperience of the Boro side and the dominance of Spurs, that Mejias howler completely destroyed any plan, hope or belief that Woodgate, Keane and Percovich may have instilled before kick-off. Perhaps spending years sat on benches or playing in the Cypriot league isn’t ideal preparation for a live televised FA Cup tie in a large modern Stadium.

At half time I would guess that thoughts could understandably have been more on Friday and Fulham than the second half in a game that we had thrown away in seconds before looking second best for almost the entire forty-five minutes. The team talk must have centred around “a nothing to lose mind set” except dignity itself.

No changes at half time for either side. A free kick awarded for a foul was launched ineffectively by Clayton down the right wing but Spurs came straight back at Boro. In fairness those with Red shirts now looked to be stationed higher up the pitch. In a tussle Vertonghen headed the back of Fletcher’s head leaving them both seeing stars a minute into the half. Spence was then adjudged to have been fouled out on the right wing for the free kick to be sent in by Johnson which was headed out and Spurs once again broke with pace. A familiar pattern was repeating itself. A series of fast, slick interpassing moves from Spurs for over a minute ended with Tanganga slotting a dangerous and teasing ball across the face of the Boro goal with Sessegnon unmarked meeting it but thankfully blasting it well over for a Boro let off.

Nmecha won a free kick twenty yards out which Wing fizzed over a ducking pseudo Boro wall to have Gazzaniga diving at full length to sting his palms. A half-hearted Penalty shout followed when Nmecha fell clumsily in the box after an equally clumsy defensive challenge. This was better from Boro but still far from convincing. On fifty-six minutes George Saville came on for Ben Liddle presumably as part damage limitation on the youngster and a forlorn optimistic hope that he just might nick one back for us against a former Boss. Two minutes later a straightforward cross from Johnson was sliced out by the liability that was Sanchez but the resultant corner was easily caught by Gazzaniga before he launched it up Field with Mejias causing another worrying indecisive moment in not dealing with it.

With thirty minutes left Son then came on for Lucas Moura which wasn’t exactly a sight Boro fans wanted to see. A two-minute purple patch from Boro saw Gazzaniga come out to foil Nmecha and then Spence overhit a follow up cross which was as good as it got up until that point bt at least Boro looked to be trying to get something back. On sixty-five Tanganga brought down Johnson giving Boro another free kick out on our left which was floated in by McNair’s right foot which Vertonghen promptly headed out for a corner. Johnson sent it in but it was cleared and immediately Spurs burst clear again and almost punished Boro but the danger finally eased with conceding a corner which in the end was simply hoofed up to Gazzaniga.

Spurs were back to passing the ball around, probing, trying to draw Boro out with Boro standing off them and dropping deep but I doing so giving them far too much space and time. Son twisted and turned beating three Red shirts cutting into the box but fortunately he slipped at a crucial moment conceding a goal kick. The ball was launched up to Nmecha who won his duel and allowed Spence to get down the wing and win a corner off the covering Vertonghen. Nmecha met the corner but Sanchez done enough this time to prevent him getting a clean header and it sailed over.

A seventy second minute Spurs corner saw a few bodies go down in the Boro box but it went harmlessly out for a Spurs throw in on the opposite side of the pitch. Seventy-three minutes and Tav then came on for Djed Spence with Woodgate rotating his squad, saving the young Right Backs energy reserves for Friday. Tavs first bit of involvement was a stuttering, unconvincing run which in the end was easily read and cleared by Spurs. His next effort was far better, well worked, catching a ball down the wing and cutting it back then playing a cross field ball to Saville who shot outside the box winning a corner in the process.

Gestede then came on for the tiring Nmecha before the corner was actually taken on seventy-seven minutes. After all the drama of the substitution Paddy McNair sent it in perfectly for Gazzaniga to collect it with ease. Seeing it late, Mejias then partially redeemed his credibility with a low reflex save after Eriksen had sent in a shot come deflected cross that evaded everyone in a crowded Boro box. Johnson then sent a cross in on eighty minutes finding Gestede but he got underneath his header and the scores remained the same.

A minute later long ball out of the Boro defence was knocked on by Gestede to Saville who strolled through the Spurs defence almost in slow motion and stroked an eighteen-yard ball inside the upright just evading Gazzaniga to bring Boro back in it with eight minutes left. With Spurs rattled, Boro immediately won a corner two minutes later which Gestede got another connection with but his header went over. Mourinho responded by bring Dier off for Dele Alli to see out the last five minutes. A blocking foul by Howson on Son was delayed as Clayts struggled with cramp which may have been real or tactical to take the momentum away from Spurs. The delay clearly affected Eriksen as he blasted it well over Meias’ goal to probably land on the roof of St. Pauls Cathedral.

Three minutes from the fourth Official went up for added time as Tanganga skinned Johnson leaving him in his wake and put in a cross that saw Mejias momentarily knock Howson out cold as the ball somehow evaded two advancing white shirts. Next up it was Johnson to send in a late cross met by Gestede but agonisingly flashed wide with Fletcher closing in just too late. Alli broke free in the dying seconds, centrally and with only Mejias to beat he managed to fluff his lines and the game ended with the score 2-1 to Spurs and with it also ending Boro’s cup exploits for another season.

A disastrous start and an unconvincing performance which was severely punished but it ended with a much better second half of the second half from Boro. There were no outstanding MOM performances from Boro, Johnson done well in parts but was equally exposed, Howson as ever done well apart from his aberration in not dealing with the ball that led to the second Spurs goal. Overall Djed Spence was the one that caught the eye and stood out in Red. On to Friday night now at the Cottage and the much more important business of ensuring Championship survival or just maybe chasing the Play Offs with a much stronger Boro side!

If you wish to leave a comment about Redcar Red’s match report please return to the Week 22-23 discussion page

Boro 2 – 2 Derby

Pos. 16th (34 pts) SATURDAY 11 DECEMBER 2019 Pos. 17th (34 pts)
Boro 2-2 Derby
Wing (16)
McNair (67 pen)
SHOTS (on target)
Knight (54)
Holmes (90+1)

Late leveller rescues Rams

Redcar Red reports on almost another victory at the Riverside…

This afternoon saw the arrival of Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at a very blustery Riverside. Both sides had recently returned to form and had an almost identical record in the Championship with Boro just marginally shading it by conceding two less goals. Derby were unbeaten in their previous four matches in all competitions and like Boro sat just eight points off the play-off places. They hadn’t won away from home for eleven games prior to kick off but recent back-to-back wins over Charlton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace in the FA Cup had eased pressure on Phillip Cocu.

It’s not just the League placings that show a parallel similarity between the clubs. Just like Boro, Derby also had similar injury problems with George Evans, George Thorne, Mason Bennett, Graeme Shinnie, Jack Marriott and Ikechi Anya all out injured. For Boro it was a case of as you were for injuries with the usual suspects still absent including Dani Ayala. Team news for Boro saw just two changes after the draw against Spurs with Aynsley Pears and Lewis Wing replacing Tomas Mejias and Adam Clayton. Patrick Roberts retained his starting role and made his Boro Championship bow.

Cocu had made seven changes to the side that beat Palace in the FA Cup last week. In came keeper Ben Hamer, defenders Max Lowe and Matt Clarke, and Jason Knight, Max Bird, Duane Holmes and Martyn Waghorn replaced Kelle Roos, Scott Malone, Craig Forsyth, Tom Huddlestone, Morgan Whittaker, Louie Sibley and cup goal scorer Chris Martin.

Boro kicked off with an immediate long ball from McNair to Spence who won the first corner of the game in the opening seconds. Roberts took it and a tantalising Wing header went just wide in what should have been the games opener and a huge let off for Derby.

Coulson and Spence were looking lively for Boro along with Wing and Roberts, lots of pressing causing Derby serious worries. Spence “done” Rooney and left him in his wake as he literally barged him out of the way with little to no respect for the ageing, elder ex-International allowing Fletcher to let fly at Hamer’s goal. Five minutes gone and it was all Boro with Derby looking slow and inhibited by comparison. A McNair slip allowed Waghorn in at the other end but Coulson was alert and quickly swept up as the game approached the nine-minute mark and that was Derby’s first real bit of intent.

A comical Rooney back pass had Rams Keeper Hamer flapping and as he hurriedly cleared it out Howson returned it with interest and with a little more composure could have made it count. Derby were sitting really deep, struggling to get the ball out with any believability while Boro were full value for their enterprise, moving the ball around crisply. Roberts forced an error in the Derby defence winning a throw in on thirteen minutes. It was taken by Coulson but the Man City Loanee then lost possession after a good opportunity to test that nervy Derby defence again.

A misplaced ball from Fletcher after Howson had lost his marker was another wasted opportunity for Boro as the game approached fifteen minutes. Then it happened, the inevitable, a brilliantly worked ball to Roberts with Spence dragging the defence apart allowed Tav to take the ball and back heel to Lewis Wing on the edge of the box to fire in a perfect accurately hit shot leaving Ben Hamer no chance and it was 1-0 to the Boro.

The next five minutes saw Boro continue stretching the Derby defence, their midfield bypassed with Rooney a virtual spectator. On twenty minutes Howson cut out a Rooney pass to ironic cheers from the Riverside faithful. Fletcher nearly added to his recent tally with a fantastic Coulson delivery in which went out for a corner. The far post corner was met by Fry and as a scramble ensued the Ref blew for an infringement or more likely out of sympathy for the beleaguered visitors.

A minute later Coulson and Roberts linked up, carving the Rams back line open once again. Cocu was out and shouting in his technical area as he desperately tried to galvanise his side that at this point had looked porous and an accident waiting to happen. A rare Derby attack started when Saville was caught dwelling, giving the ball away cheaply but Fry was on hand for Boro to extinguish the imminent danger. Half an hour gone and apart from a few forays that were handled with ease it was all Boro and Pears looked very cold and lonely in the North Stand goal. Derby launched a ball via Rooney into the Boro danger area but Spence cleared in a no-nonsense fashion. The Rams looked to be waking from their slumber as Pears had to be quick to get down to prevent Waghorn threatening after Holmes had slid him through.

Coulson then evaded two tackles down the left flank but the last one connected earning a free kick off Bogle. Roberts lined up the kick just outside of the box and delivered it cleverly and surprisingly to McNair rather than launching it into the box, Paddy unleashed his shot but it sailed well wide. Roberts cut in from the right and on the edge of the box rolled it for Tav to hit a shot just wide as Boro continued to push Derby back again after their brief respite. Cocu was screaming at his charges to get up the pitch realising that they were leaving themselves open to conceding a second.

The first booking came for Matt Clarke when he took Fletcher out with the home fans baying for a Red. McNair took this one and floated it to the back post before going out for a corner to Boro. McNair readied himself and took Boro’s third corner catching Ben Hamer in two minds just clearing it and Wing testing Hamer again but it deflected out for yet another Boro corner. Just before that Coulson had been rubbing the back of his thigh as concerns were raised that he had maybe overstretched himself and done himself some lasting damage.

Waghorn clattered McNair as a little bit of niggle started to creep into the Derby game and collected the games second Yellow for the offence of berating Referee Tim Robinson. There was another quick coming together between the two just afterwards as frustration bubbled over with the Rams just before the half time whistle. Coulson and Roberts once again danced their way through finding Fletcher as Derby were defending in numbers, with mere seconds remaining the ball went out for a Boro throw but Tim Robinson blew his whistle to end a very entertaining and exciting half of football form a Boro perspective. The only negative was that we should have been at least three ahead as the players walked off to a rare Riverside standing ovation.

No changes at the restart for either side which must have concerned the Derby fans. The Rams however started lively with an immediate assault towards the South Stand clearly fired up with Rooney pushed further up from his anonymous first half role. The first Derby corner of the half followed, taken short then delivered to the back post but wastefully recycled back to Rooney. It eventually went out for a long throw from Holmes requiring Fry to head clear before coming back in fiercely with Waghorn sliding dangerously in. It was Boro’s turn next, cleared out with Roberts chasing it forcing Hamer into conceding a Boro corner.

Early signs of the half were that Derby had entirely changed their mindset, now pushing up and pressuring Boro. The opening five minutes of the half was all Rams, Boro needed to hold firm and work their way back into the game. Saville done well holding his own to win a throw in out on the left back spot and simultaneously trying to gee up his pressurised defence. It was all Derby with Boro now camped in their own box and as Knight out wide on their right, unopposed, put a cross into the box it looped into the corner of Pears’ net in a freak goal but one that could be seen coming since the second half had started. All those missed first half chances now coming back to haunt us.

Ten minutes into the half and the away fans now found their voices after being mute all afternoon. A Rooney inspired attack saw them break towards Pears with Aynsley having to make a save to prevent the worst possible scenario of a quick second for the visitors. The game was now starting to open up with both sides showing intent, leaving gaps, organisation, shape and discipline all starting to fade. Jonny Howson burst forward finding Spence who sent it across to Wing whose effort was cleared as Boro desperately needed to get back in front. A rash or rather necessary Howson challenge on Lawrence just outside the box provided Rooney the chance to try and beat the Boro wall with a free kick which he managed but he also cleared Aynsley Pears’ crossbar.

Twenty-five minutes remained with both Managers now sensing the opportunity for three points. Fletcher sent Roberts away who tried to slide it back to Fletcher resulting in weak calls for a Boro penalty. Seconds later Fletcher held off Rams defenders laying it off to Coulson who played in Saville but it went out as Boro were now moving it about once more. Roberts then drove into the Derby box from the right evading a challenge then Matt Clarke brought him down for an undisputed penalty this time. Paddy McNair despatched it into the side of Ben Hamer’s net to restore Boro’s lead on sixty-seven minutes. Paddy’s assured approach to taking a penalty is light years away from those early season Assombalonga efforts.

A chorus of “the finest team the world has ever seen” was dusted down and brought off the Riverside South and North stand shelves as the home fans celebrated taking the lead once again. Twenty minutes remained which was plenty of time for this game to still have twists and turns. From a free kick Coulson rounded Bogle and was cynically brought down earning another Boro free kick. Roberts left the kick to McNair which was cleared away with ease after a disappointing delivery, just as well he got the important one right just minutes previously. Roberts once again collected the ball and danced away from his opponents, playing in Tavernier, to Coulson, to Wing but he fired his shot over, failing to deliver after the initial excitement the build-up had deserved.

Woodgate wanted to make his first change with Nmecha readied to come on but the Ref waved to get on with things. A Spence conceded corner was poorly cleared but Pears then claimed the ball falling to the ground, eating a few seconds up and taking the sting out of things. Coulson then clattered Waghorn picking up a Yellow for his misdemeanour, simultaneously the lively but tiring and game short Roberts went off for Nmecha.

Fletcher dropped a little deeper and almost immediately earned a free kick in his new role. Fifteen minutes remained as Cocu had Chris Martin coming on for Knight. Derby were now going for it in the final minutes. Wing blocked a Rooney shot and as the ball spun out Martin was looking to get involved but Boro cleared and Nmecha was blown for being marginally offside over the halfway line trying to get Boro back on the offensive.

Coulson drove forward passing Holmes and earning a throw in easing some pressure as Derby then brought Whittaker on for Lawrence as Cocu added a third striker signalling blatant route one intent. Howson won a launched ball from Hamer and set up Nmecha and Boro were off attacking via Spence whose low cross came off a Rams defender for a corner. The McNair delivered corner saw Hamer getting the benefit of the Ref who decided he was impeded.

Pears then had to come out, punching clear a cross whilst under pressure from Waghorn with the Ref balancing up the goalkeeping protection levels and blowing for a foul. Fletcher then departed for Gestede as Boro now mimicked Cocu’s tactics in going route one. Into four minutes added time now, Derby attacked, Nmecha closed down Bogle but as the crossed ball was cleared out by a header from Fry it came back straight back in with a vengeance from Holmes in a similar spot to where Lewis Wing had been in the first half striking a volley that left Pears no chance to level the scores. Holmes was just outside the box with Boro failing to react quickly enough by throwing bodies on the line to close him down and paid the price.

Two minutes now remained of added time as dejected Boro tried to pick themselves up with Coulson breaking yet again but Davies intercepted setting up Bogle and the ball flew down the other end. In the dying embers Nmecha got a header in on goal which Hamer saved with the whistle sounding to end proceedings.

2-2 was a bitter pill for Boro to swallow after such an enterprising first half and will no doubt rue those missed chances. We lost a little bit of magic when Roberts went off but we failed to keep our heads in those dying moments and for both goals we allowed delivery unopposed. The away fans will have been relieved and the neutrals treated to a great game of football but it was a draw that felt like a loss after coming so close. MOM for me could have been Coulson, Spence, Howson or Roberts but Coulson was the one that kept going and stood out for the full ninety but Patrick Roberts looks like he is going to have a big influence on Boro this season.

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