Sheff Wed 1 – 2 Boro

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

McNair (22)
Assombalonga (90+3)

Warnock’s Wednesday Winners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boro 0 – 3 Swansea

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

Plucked Boro left spitting feathers

Redcar Red reports on Boro’s return to action…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covid 19 – Football nil

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Is Woodgate approaching the final act of his Boro tragedy

Championship 2019-20: Weeks 30-31

Mon  2 Mar – 19:45: Boro v Forest
Sat  7 Mar – 15:00: Charlton v Boro
Sat 14 Mar – 15:00: Boro v Swansea

Werdermouth prepares to watch the relegation drama unfold…

As the amateur dramatics of another Boro season take on some of the similarities of an ancient Greek tragedy (and possibly even a comedy) many on Teesside are seriously beginning to wonder if those in charge are showing signs of having already lost the plot. Perhaps now is a good time for an intervention of Deus ex machina (god from the machine), a technique introduced in Greek theatre whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence to bring the tale to a happy ending – which in Boro’s case would involve the unexpected case of winning a game. Incidentally, Deus ex machina was something like the VAR of its day, where the action is halted by the appearance of an unforeseen character or through the intervention of a god – with the god literally arriving on stage by means of a machine such as a crane.

Whether or not Boro’s season will be saved by some form of unexpected divine intervention remains to be seen but it’s unlikely that we’ll see an exasperated Steve Gibson being lowered from the director’s box by an overhead crane at half-time to unveil a new manager. Though many of the lapsed faithful on Teesside now believe that only the emergence of white smoke over Hurworth and the appointment of a new man to pontificate on team matters will save the club from the cardinal sin of relegation. Others are still awaiting the sight of more acrid black smoke in a pre-match ritual that signals Jonthan Woodgate has finally seen sense by setting fire to his jinxed manager-of-the-month award in a desperate bid to demonstrate to his players the curse of being unable to win has been lifted.

No doubt as the sacrificial molten lump of offending perspex burns impressively at the centre of the Riverside pitch, the message of renewal could be further reinforced by staging an impromptu performance that takes its inspiration from another Greek legacy and the worthy sentiments of the Olympic movement’s pursuit of excellence that it embodies. In an act of homage to the traditional ceremony that heralds the lighting of the Olympic flame, eleven vested virgins from the Boro squad slowly move forward from the centre-circle. They then solemnly light their makeshift torches of rolled-up matchday programmes from that all-consuming infernal flame, before one by one quickly heading off down the tunnel holding their symbolic torches aloft to hopefully ignite the embers their less than glowing season and extinguish any prospects of relegation.

However, the prospects that Boro will set the Championship alight in the remaining eleven games is looking bleak and it seems even Adam Clayton may have now given up hope of reaching the play-offs. Perhaps the well-inked Boro midfielder has already taken precautions and left a suitable space on his torso for his League One Runners-up 2020-21 tattoo to celebrate ending his Boro career on a less ambitious high. Although, Jonathan Woodgate will be hoping his Boro career doesn’t end on a low as he plots ending the campaign at the dizzy heights of 21st place in the table.

Talking of those who are in danger of getting their fingers burnt, Steve Gibson has increasingly come under fire for appointing an inexperienced head coach and he must be hoping Jonathan Woodgate can find a way out of the current predicament. He’s reportedly reluctant to abandon the apparent three-year strategy of developing a sustainable team through the promotion of young players and finding a like-minded alternative for Woodgate who could rescue the season would not be an easy matter. Another option would seem to involve bringing in a more senior coach to assist Woodgate – though again that would publicly totally undermine his head coach and make his position as one of being in charge in name only. It subsequently must mean the temptation to procrastinate and do nothing is an attractive one, which possibly increases the risk that League One is where the club are heading.

Although, given Boro’s status as the Championship’s lowest scorers, it’s surprising that Robbie Keane’s position hasn’t come under more scrutiny. Perhaps we could still see him as the first sacrifice with a more experienced ‘attacking coach’ brought in to replace him. Boro have only managed two attempts on target in five hours of football and you have to wonder what it is exactly he has got the forwards to visualise? Maybe they’ve just ended up in a complete meditative state of bliss and can now only envisage nothingness – much like the those who turn up at the Riverside.

OK, Keane may point to what he’s had to work with and the problems of our strikers profligacy started well before he joined Boro. Indeed, there appears to have been an issue at Boro in scoring goals for many a season, which does make it a brave decision for any manager on Teesside to contemplate developing a team that will blow away the opposition – especially on a budget as the best strikers seldom come cheap or even the not so good ones come to mention it.

The footballing gods have seemingly not been kind to Woodgate in his first season in charge with a series of ill-timed injuries to key players that may have possibly made the difference in avoiding getting dragged back into the relegation mire. Those same gods have also contrived to revive the fortunes of the bottom three clubs as they continue to build momentum for escaping the drop, who incidentally all now sit in the top eight of the six-game form table as Boro languish at the foot with free-falling Hull. Ahead of the Monday evening Riverside clash against Forest, Wigan have continued their winning ways by gaining three points at leaders West Brom to send Woodgate’s team into the bottom three, three points off the bottom and two from safety.

After nine games without a win and three successive defeats without a goal, the situation is getting critical for Boro and the reality of football management means it can’t continue for much longer. If Woodgate fails to win any of these next three crucial games, his tenure must surely become untenable. Anything but victory on Monday will see Boro remain in the relegation zone and another defeat will further erode confidence that the only place the club are heading is League One.

Forest currently sit in fourth place with a chance of finishing in automatic spot looking increasingly unlikely now that Leeds have returned to winning ways. However, Sabri Lamouchi’s side will be keen to consolidate their play-off slot after just one victory in their last four since beating Marco Biesla team, which at the time had taken them to within a point of second but that gap is currently now up to nine. With Boro only winning one of their last six encounters against the Tricky Trees, few will be hopeful that Monday is going to be the start of the revival. However, Woodgate desperately needs to add to that last Riverside victory on Boxing Day against Huddersfield if he is to avoid Steve Gibson’s reluctant intervention.

While Woodgate may escape the consequences of a defeat at Forest, the next game is away at Charlton, who are currently just two points and one place above Boro. At this stage of the season it becomes the proverbial six-pointer and not a game that will likely end well for the head coach if it leaves Boro five points behind his old friend Lee Bowyer’s team – especially as the other club level on points with the Lactics are Stoke and they are at home to Championship whipping boys Hull who seem to gift everyone three points of late. The only cause for hope is that Charlton were thrashed 4-0 by Huddersfield on Saturday but of course they did beat Luton 3-1 in their last home game.

It’s quite easy to imagine Boro not being able to find a way to win a game at the moment as it’s getting harder to see where the goals are coming from – something that has been exacerbated by conceding the first goal in the last ten games. Scraping a lucky 1-0 win is one thing but then needing to score two and then hanging on is another prospect altogether. Woodgate says he wants to see more from his strikers – something which I think he’s not alone in. However, the real problem appears to be the team are not creating decent chances to even give the forwards an opportunity to fluff their lines.

By the time Swansea arrive on Teesside, it could be looking rather grim for both Woodgate and Boro but it’s still a game that provides a good opportunity to gain three points. Steve Cooper’s side have proved to be a bit unpredictable this season and now look to be heading for mid-table obscurity unless they gain some late consistency. The Swans also knocked four past Hull recently but unfortunately they also conceded four against the Tigers too and also lost 3-2 at home to Derby when leading. In truth, Boro would probably have gone on to win in the reverse fixture at the Liberty Stadium but for those red cards received by Browne and McNair. If Boro manage to keep all eleven on the pitch at the Riverside it would help but then again knowing which eleven to select seems to be just as difficult a problem for Woodgate.

Anyway, it’s not impossible that Boro could defeat Forest and also get a result at Charlton but should the bad results continue, in what is essentially a results-based business, then time would surely be over if the chairman didn’t want to entertain fixtures at the likes of Fleetwood, Gillingham, Accrington, Lincoln or Rochdale – all of whom will no doubt be more keen to give everything to beat a relative big name like Middlesbrough than our players would feel motivated for life in the third tier. Dropping to League One would be more than a tragedy (Greek or otherwise), it would put at risk any notion of persuading our better youngsters that their careers remain on Teesside when offers this summer come in from Championship promotion hopefuls or even Premier League strugglers.

There is a mood that even the most patient of Boro followers are not prepared to extend that patience to the prospect of a meek exit out of the wrong end of Championship. There are murmurs on the message boards on possibly getting Tony Pulis back to reprise his relegation-avoidance trick one more time but what then? Some even would like to see the return or Aitor Karanka with his more methodical approach and a promise not to meltdown and fume silently at perceived injustice at the business in transfer window. It would be one of life’s great ironies if defeat at Charlton would herald the return of the Spaniard but perhaps its the kind of contrived plot twist that even Aristotle would approve with his penchant for Deus ex machina – the question is would it provide a happy ending?

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

Optimism outbreak contained as super-spreader is identified

Championship 2019-20: Weeks 28-29

Sat 15 Feb – 15:00: Boro v Luton
Sat 22 Feb – 15:00: Barnsley v Boro
Wed 26 Feb – 19:45: Boro v Leeds

Werdermouth hopes Boro isolate themselves from the relegation pack…

As the Boro faithful disappointedly await their first victory since New Year’s Day, the good news is that there were no further cases of promotion fever being recorded on Teesside this week. Admittedly, it wasn’t a particular virulent strain and contagion was mainly restricted to the young and those who had failed to wash their hands of the idea that they would end the campaign with a trip to Wembley. Just how the play-off pandemic arrived on Teesside is not clear but it’s well documented that optimism is quite infectious – even despite the local population having built up genetic resistance over several generations.

With rumours that some at the club were openly expressing ambitions of closing the gap on the top six, there was much speculation on the identity of the so-called super-spreader who started them. It’s now believed the source of these contagious Chinese whispers is thought to have frequently visited Rockliffe in early December and may have inadvertently passed on the cohones virus to several players in the Boro squad – many of whom quickly grew a pair and transmitted that infectious confidence to their team-mates. Still, at its peak it not even the EFL men in white coats could restore calm as they further fuelled hysteria by awarding Woodgate their coveted monthly prize.

While ‘Patient Zero’ may sound like the game plan of former manager Tony Pulis or even the marks out of ten some unimpressed supporters gave their new head coach after his first ten games, it does in fact refer to the person who was the origin of an outbreak. Perhaps self-confessed optimist Jonathan Woodgate himself was that Patient Zero when back in November he proclaimed “You never know what is going to happen in football. We could win five on the spin.” It was almost prophetic but since he had also added that “Britt could hit five” and “Ayala might score three” it was not necessarily evidence based – especially as Boro were at the time continuing their descent down the table. Such statements appear to indicate that the new gaffer has clearly been an asymptomatic carrier of the positivity pathogen since he took charge – while that is not necessarily unhealthy in a manager, it won’t make him immune from criticism if he fails to deliver on such lofty aspirations.

Nevertheless, just like the innate enthusiasm of many Boro supporters, the promotion fever has now been contained, which was mainly thanks to those among the faithful who opted for self-quarantine in the comfort of their own homes rather than risk the infectious atmosphere at the Riverside. OK, there may still be one or two sporadic cases for those with low resistance – with perhaps Adam Clayton seemingly most at risk after he was still showing strong symptoms back in mid-January when he declared: “There’s always a team that comes from behind and gets a bit of momentum and makes a late push. Why not us? We’re not going to get carried away and say we’re getting in the play-offs for definite but if we keep the form up and keep playing the way we have been it is there for us. We just have to keep playing well and working hard the way we are and if we can keep this run going for another four or five games, who knows?” Sadly, we all now know that those last five games have yielded just three points and now the talk is once again about avoiding being dragged into the relegation battle.

Talking of self-quarantine, it seems Ben Gibson has placed himself in isolation on Teesside after a training ground bust-up with Sean Dyche following his failure to secure a Burnley exit in January. The 27-year old defender openly questioning whether his future still lies in Lancashire after being given just one league start in 18 months and only a single Carabao Cup outing this season, which was way back in August. The Clarets clarified matters with a brief statement claiming that Gibson made it clear that he wanted to leave the club in January but no offers had met their valuation of the player – which for the player wondering why he hadn’t seen much of the turf at Turf Moor since he arrived would appear to be approaching zero.

This arrangement is apparently temporary and shouldn’t last more than a week – though it could be extended should the collision between a Teesside grudge and a manager famous for insisting every player totally buys into his methods fails to see either backing down. These methods apparently include Dyche demanding crunching tackles in training but doesn’t allow the use of shin pads and everyone must adhere to a regimented dress code, which includes wearing shorts at all times and even rules on the socks a player is allowed to wear. According to former keeper Paul Robinson that is policed by the other players who forward videos of any transgressions they spot to Dyche via the video analysis team, who then makes any offenders spin the wheel of punishment on a Friday to discover their penalty – which appear to be based around humiliation or self-ridicule. Robinson says it was all very English-culture based and designed to create a team ethic – though it may explain why Dyche was overlooked for the Arsenal job recently with their multitude of pampered multinational players as he also has a ban on wearing hats and gloves in training!

Whether as The Clarets most expensive signing, Ben Gibson has got himself caught in the middle of Sean Dyche’s mind games that are possibly designed to demonstrate both his absolute authority and that no player is valued more than another. Dyche’s answer to the question of whether Gibson would play again for Burnley was telling: “We will wait and see what the next step is for us as a club and for him as a player” – in terms of making a name for yourself, it sounds like Burnley was probably the wrong place and the wrong time. Although, not quite the same risk of attempting to live up to your name, which may have pushed the new Chief Executive of BP to crazily declare this week that the world’s fourth largest oil company plans to become carbon neutral – especially when your surname is Looney. While BP’s shareholders may question Bernard Looney’s lucidity, he can at least take comfort that nobody worried about the sobriety of a man called Young Boozer when he served two terms as the State Treasurer of Alabama – though it may have helped that he was 62 when entering office.

However, the question remains is would Ben Gibson be training at Rockliffe if his uncle wasn’t the club owner or indeed would most managers have wanted the distraction ahead of two crucial games against potential relegation rivals. It’s hard to see under what circumstances or indeed at what price the chairman’s nephew can return to Teesside in the summer – a loan move was a possibility if Burnley were prepared to pick up a large chunk of his wages but surely only a permanent exit is on the cards now. How many millions would such a deal cost hard up Boro and would it be the best use of limited resources at this point in time – I suspect the numbers don’t really add up on a permanent return.

Anyway, it’s these next two games against the bottom two clubs that Boro need to concentrate on now and first up are Luton, who are currently ten points behind Boro in 23rd place. The Hatters have the worst defence in the Championship and have conceded 66 goals with 41 of those coming on the road – in fact Graeme Jones’ side have lost their last 11 games on their travels and anything other than a Boro win will be seen as failure by any measure. It was that 3-3 draw in the season opener with the Friday evening televised fixture at Kenilworth Road that heralded the Woodgate era and his desire to play exciting attacking football. Ironically, it was a false impression as Boro only managed another 8 goals in the next three months as they struggled to score and looked suspect defensively as the Liverpool-lite approach didn’t fit the players at the head coach’s disposal. Boro started November sitting in the bottom three and it was only after switching to a more pragmatic back three that results for Woodgate began to improve.

At the end of November, Boro were alarmingly sat in joint-23rd in the table, when they finally ended a run of ten games without a win after beating bottom-club Barnsley by a single Ashley Fletcher goal. It was essentially a must-win game and they now follow-up this weekend’s game against Luton with the return fixture at Oakwell, where the Tykes are still in bottom place. Interestingly, after that defeat at the Riverside in only Gerhard Struber’s second game in charge, the Austrian’s team only lost once more before the year ended, with three wins and three draws. Sadly, like Boro they’ve not repeated their December form and have only picked up four points in 2020. Woodgate will be hoping his team can get back to winning ways in these next two fixtures as failure to do so will leave Boro once more looking over their shoulder at the clubs in the bottom three.

One team who has been looking over their shoulder for several weeks now is Leeds United, who after seemingly looking on course for automatic promotion have seen their once 11 point cushion to third spot completely evaporate and are now just in the automatic places on goal difference. Imploding after a good start has become a regular pattern for the West Yorkshire club and their supporters are increasingly becoming resigned to another season of choking. Perhaps the owners will be contemplating pulling the plug on Marcelo Biesla as they consider the merits of gambling on a new manager bounce to see them over the line. They now look a shadow of the team that cruised to a 4-0 victory over Boro at Elland Road at the end of November and if they continue their downward trajectory it will almost be like facing a team in relegation form. Although, typical Boro decrees that the midweek non-derby will probably see the start of the Leeds revival.

Despite the feeling of being in an almost experimental pre-season mode,Woodgate’s team still need three or four victories to secure their Championship status. The return to a back four has produced similar results to when it was the modus operandi in early season as Boro have likewise looked more easily opened up by the opposition. Tuesdays game at Wigan saw Boro have plenty of possession without much penetration as they passed the ball backwards, sideways and occasionally forwards in neat methodical triangles. Interestingly, Lewis Wing spoke this week of how they’ve been “working on little triangles” in training – perhaps many of the players took this exercise too literally as they appeared to suffer from pythagorean paralysis as the ball travelled opposite over adjacent as the concept of threatening the opposition once more went off on a tangent. Indeed, it seems some of Boro’s players seem to disappear in the Bermuda triangle that exists between midfield and the opposition net. Wing also spoke about playing with Ravel Morrison and hailed his quality by saying “It is nice to know you can wrap a ball into someone’s feet and they will deal with it.” I presume by “deal with it” he actually means control it, which seems to indicate he thinks some of his other team-mates are lacking in that department – no names mentioned but I think they know who they are!

While it’s important that Jonathan Woodgate tries to introduce new methods and ways of playing, he himself has warned about complacency and wants to finish as high as possible in the table. The danger is that the head coach has himself taken his eye off the ball a little as he starts to experiment once more with a back four and rotates his squad and introduces new tactics. The wing-backs of Spence and Coulson had been working well and added pace down the flanks, plus Howson had looked like he’d played in a back three all his career. With the Ben Gibson circus also hanging round the club it’s yet another distraction from preparing for what are probably games it is important that Boro not only don’t lose but should be focused on getting back to winning ways and playing to their strengths – especially as Wigan still have to play the other five teams in the bottom six too. So better no mistakes as we enter the last third of the season, otherwise the recovery may be too late to save the patient!