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Match Report: Boro 1 v 0 Luton

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Redcar Red
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Egyptian walked as mad Hatters penalised

 

The midweek maelstrom of the Championship continued with Luton Town visiting the Riverside tonight. Both sides regaled in a three-nil victory at the weekend, Boro at home to Millwall and Luton to Preston. Considering Boro’s sorry showing at Preston this same time last week there were perhaps some grounds for cynical Teesside negative preparedness for potential disappointment.

Nathan Jones will have been buzzing with his sides win as will have Neil Warnock but the question on everyone’s Boro lips was will it be two up top again? That very unwarnock Boro set up clearly disrupted Millwall’s game plan and before they could reorganise, they found themselves three down. Unlike desperately defending Millwall, Luton adopt a high pressing game which may suit Boro if they leave gaps and we go again with two Strikers. Of course equally it could mean we struggle to get a grip of the game if the opponents adopt a high-intensity pressing approach.

There were no fresh injury concerns for Boro but Dijksteel was removed early as a precaution on Saturday while McNair and Fry were also racking up the minutes. When it came the team news was probably as most would have predicted however with Boro going with the same again. True to form NW also went with eight subs again including youngsters Jones and Folarin which underlined just how thin the squad currently is. Nathan Jones made just one change with Rhys Norrington-Davies coming into the starting line-up after coming off the bench against Preston. He had missed their previous two games because of injury. Tonights Ref was Andy Davies.

Boro kicked off and with a long ball won a throw-in. From the throw, Akpom was instrumental in winning a first minute corner. A good positive start from the home side, delivered in it was headed clear. With Dijksteel slipping as the cleared ball came down the pitch, Cornick took advantage closing in on the ball but Morsy read the game and cut out the threat. Luton then won their first corner in the fifth minute courtesy of a deflection. The corner ball flew across the Boro six-yard box and hearts were in mouths as it was looped back across into the six-yard box but a scuffed shot saw it deflected past Bettinelli’s post. That was close and Boro’s defence looked to be caught cold.

Luton were showing far more intent than Saturday’s visitors and were looking ominously dangerous on the break with ten minutes now elapsed. A strong strike from Akpom was parried out by Shea on twelve minutes and then three minutes later a Dijksteel cross to Tav ended with Shea in the Luton goal making a bit of a hash of things but getting away with it.

Bola conceded a corner as the white shirts of the visitors piled forward. A rehearsed and well organised set-piece saw Boro head it clear with Johnson breaking, finding Tav on the opposite wing only for the move to splutter with a curling cross into Shea’s outstretched arms. Twenty minutes now gone and the game was frustratingly scrappy. Luton, as anticipated, were working hard, closing down, not allowing Boro any freedom.

A big worry was the sight of Saville going down, almost collapsing without any obvious cause. Fortunately, he seemed to brush it off and carry on but the last thing Boro needed was to lose another player. Morsy then ended up holding his head after a clash seconds later as the game approached the twenty-fifth minute. The game was a war of attrition rather than a sporting spectacle, certainly hard on the eyes.

Dangerously Collins got behind the Boro defence but Fry managed to somehow get a foot to the ball to put it out for a throw which Morsy then routinely cleared. Akpom sent a ball up to Watmore but the flag went up for offside on what looked to be the beginnings of a decent move for Boro. At the opposite end, Norrington-Davies put a teasing cross into Mpanzu but he didn’t connect despite being unmarked as Bola cleared away the threat. So far Luton had had the better and more credible chances in the game with thirty minutes gone.

A good turn and run from Johnson fizzled out when he ran out of pitch which was the story of his night so far. Boro were going to need some magic from somewhere if they were to get their noses in front in this game and it didn’t look like it was going to come from the left flank. The game was a bit of a dirge, a series of attacks, clearances and rinse and repeat. The big question as the game wore on would be if Luton could keep running and closing down or if NW could shuffle his pack and try something different in the last ten minutes of the half.

Tavernier found Saville but his shot was blocked, Luton broke needing McNair to find his keeper. Watmore then needed some treatment despite not having a great deal to do in the Luton half on thirty-eight minutes. A foul on Dijksteel allowed McNair to hit a free-kick towards Fry in the box, his headed effort came back to him with his follow up going out for a corner. A short corner routine saw Johnson put in a poor ball that was easily collected by Shea. Two minutes of the forty-five now remaining.

In the dying seconds, Luton won a dangerous free-kick. Dewsbury-Hall sent it into the Boro box, it had plenty of strength in it but met by Fry and going out for a throw. From the Luton throw Tav started a break but his ball up to Johnson just didn’t have enough accuracy on it.

The half ended nil apiece with Luton looking the better of the two performances. So far Boro had struggled to get Watmore and Akpom into dangerous areas with Johnson having a poor game by his own recent standards. Tav had been the most likely to produce something but Boro were seriously lacking both quality and coherence in stark contrast to Saturday.

NW’s team talk at half time will have been focussed on how to break the smothering stranglehold of Luton who so far had executed their game plan well.

No changes from either Boss at half time with Luton kicking off and instantly putting the ball out for a Boro throw. A long ball was immediately despatched up to Tav in what perhaps may have been evidence of a basic plan concocted in the Boro dressing room. McNair then won and took a free-kick himself from the halfway line territory. Launching it long into the Luton eighteen yard box it was half headed down by a defender where Saville had to snatch at the loose ball but sent his unbalanced effort well over Shea’s goal.

Roving, Bola then won a corner which McNair sent straight over the crossbar from the corner flag quadrant. Finally, in the fifty-second minute, the spark that Boro needed came courtesy of a move down the right. Watmore played it into the path of Tav centrally but kept running, distracting and keeping the attention of two defenders giving Tav a vital split second to play a great pass to Johnson. Inside the left of the Luton eighteen yard box, Johnson poked the ball forward past his marker and sharply cut the ball across for Akpom to alter the path and deflect it in from five feet. One-nil to Boro and Luton now had to come out to try and get an equaliser.

Boro were awarded a free kick in virtually the corner position. Eager anticipation waned quickly as McNair took it short, with Saville having a tussle at the back post but the ball was meekly recycled back to Bettinelli in what was a poor set-piece from Boro. The Sixty-minute mark now approached and only thirty minutes remained for any purists who had perhaps felt they had sold their footballing soul to the devil.

A low cross from a set-piece found Saville but his header was too close to Shea. A double switch then ensued from Nathan Jones with Ryan Tunnicliffe coming on for Dewsbury-Hall and Luke Berry for Norrington-Davies. Almost immediately a move involving the sub Berry ended with Watmore tracking back, vitally sticking to his defensive duties, he nipped in and toe-poked the ball out for a corner. Much to the annoyance of Nathan Jones the Luton corner came in high allowing Bettinelli to pluck the ball out of the air.

The pace and atmosphere of the game changed entirely when a harsh penalty was awarded on sixty-six minutes. Falling, Morsy tried to save a Bettinelli blunder with his back to the ball but a suspect arm was declared a deliberate point of contact in preventing an effort from Rea. The drama then went up a notch when the taker Collins looked to have taken an accidental double kick identical to Tavernier's from a few weeks back as the ball hit the back of the net to draw the scores level.

Immediately Boro players surrounded Ref Andy Davies with Warnock apoplectic on the touchline. A Boro enforced discussion with his linesman resulted in the Ref ruling the goal out and Boro’s single goal advantage still stood with White shirts now surrounding the Officials demanding an explanation.

Seizing the moment, Lewis Wing then came on for Watmore to shore up the midfield alongside Saville for ten-man Boro. Berry then came close for Luton winning a corner in the process. Luton were still incensed, fighting, sensing that against ten men they now had the upper hand.

Boro meanwhile had dropped deep, resolutely determined to hand on to what they had earned. Another Luton corner came in from the left which Boro headed clear, met by their Keeper Shea near the halfway line as the dynamics of the game seriously changed.

Dijksteel won a vital time absorbing free-kick after being pulled back with a yellow card being issued to Rea. Cornick then made way for Moncur as Jones was frantically urging his charges to press and attack. Boro meanwhile had switched to what looked like a back five with Johnson dropping deeper at the back, three in front and Akpom isolated with only Tavernier in the middle of the three for token support. A few minutes later and Assombalonga then came on for Akpom and Spence for Johnson. Warnock had added some fresh legs and with it, Boro’s defence recalibrated once more to a back four.

Tunnicliffe went down with Saville in close attendance, complaining bitterly to the Ref Andy Davies, Luton clearly still stinging over that penalty incident. Ten minutes now remained, Luton continued to push and probe, Boro continued to resolutely stand firm. An inswinging Luton corner was met by Fry, back again it came and it was Fry again to clear. In a mix up the Luton attack broke down with Boro now breaking, Wing and Tav bursting forward with Britt supporting aending in a tired effort saved by Shea.  

Back on the offensive, Mpanzu had an effort blocked by Wing as the Hatters gathered en masse in the Boro half. A deflected cross came into the Boro box, cleared away by Dijksteel going out for a throw to the visitors. Another set of changes from Jones with Clark on for Rea and Hylton on for Mpanzau with four of the ninety minutes remaining. Every red shirt was now in our own half. Moncur took a shot from distance but it sailed well over Bettinelli’s crossbar and eating up more precious seconds. Three minutes now remained.

Hylton won the ball in the box but McNair reacted quickly earning a foul in the process, further taking the sting out of the game in the dying minutes. Bettinelli launched it up the pitch but Tunnicliffe collected and played it back to his keeper Shea who in turn launched it back up to Collins. Into the Boro area, it came once more with Fry challenging and then McNair clearing.

Seven minutes came up on the fourth official's board as Spence conceded a corner which he immediately intercepted himself, setting up a quick break via Bola, Dijksteel and Tavernier who forced Shea into a good save from a wicked shot and out for a corner.

Another short one taken as Boro attempted to waste time around the quadrant ending with a Luton throw and an Assombalonga booking. Five minutes of the Seven added minutes now left as Saville’s guile cleverly won a free-kick. Assombalonga then conceded a foul from a Fry clearance allowing the Hatters to send the ball back in towards the Boro box. The Alamo came to mind as Luton won another corner with only Shea outside of the Boro third. Bettinelli made amends from his earlier fumble with a great save from a downward Berry header.

One long angst-ridden minute remained as the ball went out of play towards Leo who “delayed” retrieving it much to the angst of the Luton bench. Bettinelli again was called into action, this time dropping to the floor, collecting the ball and taking his time getting to his feet. Once more the horde of White shirts prepared to come towards Boro but the by now indefatigable Saville cleared on the halfway line to a backdrop of the final whistle sounding.

It was an exciting and nail-biting end to what had been a fairly forgetful game. Morsy could and probably will argue that he was unjustly red-carded when off-balance he blocked an effort hit straight at him. Saville had like many in Red been distinctly average at best but when Morsy was dismissed he stepped up and performed like a whirling dervish securing the middle ground.

MOM is difficult as the game was split into three phases, a dreadful first half, a marginally better second half and then the never say die spirit after the sending off. Nobody really stood out in the first half apart from Bola who enjoyed a good second half so over the entire ninety he edged it for me. This was despite Fry and McNair once again putting in a good performance when it counted.

 


PaulInBoro
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RR fine report about a poor match, although I will take the 3 points every day of the week.  If the red card stands the battling middle of the park looks a little threadbare. There does seem to be some team spirit and long may it continue. I will say the lack of creativity is not good, but that statement is on repeat on this board. Hopefully we will get something v boro oldboy at the weekend


lenmasterman
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Excellent report, RR, and much as I saw it.

The dominant narrative at the club this week has been about the thinness of the squad, avoiding injuries, preserving energy, dodging cards and potential suspensions and getting the job done with the minimum of disruption.

By those standards, with the exception of Morsy's red card, this was a job satisfactorily done.

But it was pretty dire to watch for most of the time, and I don't think it's advisable to go into games with so much safety-first negativity in the players' minds. 

It really showed in the first half, and the game was decided the moment we stepped up our energy levels after what I assume was a bit of a rollicking from NW at half-time. 

So I don't for a moment think it was NW's intention to come across as being negative, rather than realistic, in this week's interviews. but an enhanced sense of caution may well have been their effect upon the team.

This post was modified 2 years ago by lenmasterman

K P in Spain
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Thanks RR for your report.  I liked the header.  A dour match but with an incident filled second half and a deserved win after a battling 10 man defensive performance. 

Whilst there was little in the way quality you can only admire the work rate, commitment and team spirit which appears to have a never say die attitude, particularly in the second half.  Win lose or draw that's what I want to see from Boro.

On thing I can't understand is if the linesman saw that there was a double touch on the penalty kick then why did he not bring it to the referee's attention? I thought the officials were all fitted with microphones and that the linesman has a button in his flag handle to alert the referee. 

Why was there a need for the melee that ensued and for Boro players to surround the officials to get to the correct decision; all unseemly and lacking in professionalism!  Sadly, had the players not protested I fear the goal would have stood.

I agree that the red card was harsh and hope that the club appeals and wins.  I know NW has suggested that as it's only a one match ban then they may take it as an opportunity to rest Morsy but given Howson's absence we really need him in the middle of the park for the upcoming tough game at St Andrew's. 

It was good that Akpom got on the score sheet after a barren few weeks and that PMcN managed to get through without incurring a yellow card; on balance a positive night.😎

 

This post was modified 2 years ago by K P in Spain

David in Cumbria
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Thanks for you report RR which was more exciting than watching most of the match. It was a good set up for our goal and the we defended the lead well especially when reduced to 10 men. I don't think a red card should have been shown though I have lost track of what counts as a handball offence nowadays.  

The way Luton closed us down in the first half was disappointing after the Millwall game but I will take a hard fought 3 points over a 0 - 0 draw or a defeat anytime. 


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Redcar Red
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I think Luton had a game plan after watching how we dismantled Millwall and closed us down, smothering any opportunity to build anything. That we are by default a defensive team meant that we didn't create much in the first half. 

Our goal was great teamwork, Watmore feeding Tav, then creating space and even looking for a return ball. Akpom was pointing to Tav to feed Watmore just before he made the pass to Johnson who read the intentions then put an identical low dangerous ball into the box like Watmore's goal previously, it just needed a deflection from Akpom to score. Those sorts of balls cause mayhem in defences as the slightest touch or scuff can end in disaster. Watmore was also lined up behind Akpom should he have missed his chance. Bodies in the box and some attacking intent is an unusual sight for Boro fans to behold.

On the penalty, to me Morsy had been fouled in the build up to it and it should have been a free kick to Boro. Morsy was already going down before the shot from Bettinelli's fumble was taken and to me the Luton Striker cannoned the ball off him rather than a deliberate attempt from Morsy to prevent a goal. Whether its worth risking an appeal is another matter.


John Richardson
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Redcar Red,

Thanks, as always, for the report. A sterling job on a poor game but Boro won and that is the main thing plus the resolute character of the team shone through for me, not pretty but you can't knock it.  I think Boro should appeal the red card and like Redcar Red I think he was fouled too. The Championship really is a grind, like trench warfare but is there a 'Christmas Truce'?

Stay safe everyone.

UTB,

 

John


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Original Fat Bob
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Thanks RR for your excellent match report appreciated as ever 

OFB


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Plato
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@john-richardson

Yea,  and we hold a football match to celebrate.


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Plato
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@david-in-cumbria

Watching the first half, they certainly had a plan, keep that ball in the air at all times. I believe that we did not win a ball in the air for most of the First half, at best we got a few 'top of head touches' but nothing that could be called a header.   


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Powmill-Naemore
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Thanks for the report R. As always giving those of us that don' see the match on TV a great view of the came through someone else's eyes translated so well into words.

 

I did see both the goal and the penalty incident.

It was a quality piece of football that delivered the goal, great to see Boro moving the ball so well and so positively.

The penalty was harsh, but I couldn't get a view of it to judge if Morsy might have appeared to move his arm to block the ball, much as it was fired directly at his falling body. So perhaps it might be as well to do as NW suggests, to take it on the chin as an opportunity to rest him. Does his card count get reset as well?

Enjoying that we can win this sort of game. Over a season, these can be the most important ones to win.

 


deleriad
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Posted by: @powmillnaemore

The penalty was harsh, but I couldn't get a view of it to judge if Morsy might have appeared to move his arm to block the ball, much as it was fired directly at his falling body. 

Only saw the highlights and I can see that from the ref's angle it may have looked as though Morsy lurched forward while falling to the ground to try and block the ball. I don't think he did but if the ref is determined to stick to his guns the view may not be clear cut enough to get the red card rescinded. Think it's worth a try though.


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Clive Hurren
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Posted by: @deleriad
Posted by: @powmillnaemore

The penalty was harsh, but I couldn't get a view of it to judge if Morsy might have appeared to move his arm to block the ball, much as it was fired directly at his falling body. 

Only saw the highlights and I can see that from the ref's angle it may have looked as though Morsy lurched forward while falling to the ground to try and block the ball. I don't think he did but if the ref is determined to stick to his guns the view may not be clear cut enough to get the red card rescinded. Think it's worth a try though.

Well, let’s hope the FA, who definitely have history with Boro in these matters (Alliadiere!), don’t see it as a ‘frivolous’ appeal. I’d hate to see Morsy get an extra match suspension for something that really didn’t look like his fault. 

Not an enjoyable match, and definitely seat of the pants stuff for the last 20 minutes, but we held out magnificently. Things are looking up again after two good home wins. 

Now, which Boro will turn up at Birmingham? Another away win this season is overdue. I still have nightmares about last season’s awful defeat there, when Boro were absolutely battered for 85 minutes, scored a very late, totally undeserved equaliser through Ayala, then promptly threw it away by conceding immediately. It was undoubtedly one of our worst ever performances under Woodgate, amongst several vying contenders. 


Ken Smith
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With only one camera and no replays watching via the red button it’s hard to tell what was going on with Moresby’s sending off. I was left wondering why a penalty had been given anyway without a close-up to observe. Next the penalty and not only me but the commentator were confused  - why were the Boro players surrounding the assistant linesman about the red card after the penalty had been taken but not before, I wondered?  In any case I assumed that there was no point hassling the assistant referee after the event. The score was by that time showing 1-1 on the television screen anyway, then the commentator surmised that Collins had two-footed the penalty kick though we weren’t shown a replay, though I doubt it would have proved one way or the other even in slow motion what had occurred from the one camera angle available. I’m not generally in favour of players haranguing the officials nor in favour of VAR, but at least that would have resolved the situation and avoided such a melee. 

Nevertheless I enjoyed the rest of a poor match and wasn’t a bit concerned that Luton would score as I love the excitement of tight finishes as apart from Boro’s goal it was the best action of another drab match as by that time I was finding it hard to concentrate and it got my rush of adrenaline back. So thanks to Redcar Red for his appraisal of the match and I look forward to his future reports and close finishes as it adds so much more excitement to football than runaway wins and certainly defeats. 

This post was modified 2 years ago 2 times by Ken Smith

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Original Fat Bob
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