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Boro v Huddersfield
 

Boro v Huddersfield

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Andy R
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Monday 18th April. The Riverside Stadium. Huddersfield Town. Quick check of the watch – yep, it’s crunch time…

After Friday’s share of the spoils at Bournemouth, we’re hurtling into the climactic final five games of the Championship season proper. They’re all big games at this stage but home to high-flying Huddersfield (KO 12.30pm) has a real edge to it with both sides scrapping for position at the top end of the table.

Bring it on. Even Ken might steal a guilty glance at the league table as the permutations lead to palpitations and contenders capitulate. There were certainly some nerves on Good Friday as just one side in the top eight – Luton – managed all three points.

Boro sit tantalisingly just outside of the play-off spots following only one point and zero goals from the last three games. Thankfully, equally indifferent form from Sheffield United and Blackburn has kept our promotion dream alive as just three points separate sixth from tenth. This is what The Championship is all about – the most competitive league in Europe – and what a nail-biting pleasure it is to be involved where it matters.

Of course, Huddersfield will feel exactly the same, except that their position is considerably less anxious than ours. Sitting as they do in third place, they are currently best placed of all the hopefuls to make that play-off place stick but, despite failing to beat QPR on Friday, they are looking up, not down.

What a season The Terriers are having. Unfancied back in August, Carlos Corberán’s men have made a mockery of many a pre-season prediction and now look certainties for at least a play-off spot. After ourselves, they finish the season with games against Barnsley (H)), Coventry (A) and Bristol City (H) and who’s to say that they can’t gate-crash the top two by the time the music stops, especially when looking at Bournemouth’s run-in and the fact The Cherries are winless in their last three.

First things first though, Boro need the points….

The previous encounter between the two sides back in November was one of Boro’s best of the season: a 2-1 away win with Duncan Watmore scoring two excellent first half goals in Chris Wilder’s first win as Boro boss. That victory was the start of a superb seven-game unbeaten run that sent Boro soaring up the table and into play-off contention. A repeat of both the victory and the unbeaten run will do just nicely, lads!

Whilst Boro fans may have been nervously looking on in recent weeks as the points have slipped away, our W2 D2 L2 form over the last six is actually mirrored by Huddersfield, though our goal difference is remarkably six goals better than theirs in that time. Of course, the longer the time period you look at, the more difficult this fixture appears but you’d expect that when going up against a side in third place with ambitions of more still.

With 56 goals scored over the season (just 4 more than Boro), and 45 conceded (3 more than Boro), there doesn’t appear to be a huge amount between the two sides but clearly Huddersfield have been that bit more effective than ourselves. That said, were Boro to win, the gap between the sides would be just 4 points and Boro would have played a game fewer, so perhaps that gap in the standings is a touch misleading. Don’t believe me? Check out the odds for promotion… across the board Boro are shorter priced to go up than Huddersfield. It’s all so close up there.

Indeed, sticking the bookies, Boro are well fancied to win this one at odds of around 4/5 against 7/2 for the visitors, with Boro 1-0 Huddersfield the favourite within the correct score market. We’ll take it…

Someone who won’t be scoring is former Huddersfield man, Matt Crooks. Yet another clumsy booking has taken him to 15 for the season – the sort of number you’d expect to be spelled out on the vidiprinter (FIFTEEN) – and he’ll now sit out Boro’s next three games.

That’s far from ideal for the Boro but, in truth, Crook’s influence has waned considerably over the past couple of months and maybe, just maybe, this could be a stroke of luck for Chris Wilder as he’s forced to think again. With McGree back to full fitness and Martin Payero dipping his toe in again, we should hopefully be able to cope without the “wardrobe on legs” midfielder.

Wilder certainly prefers a settled side overall and there was little indication that Crooks would be dropped or rested without it being enforced. Some may feel that the same applies for misfiring frontman Aaron Connolly but he has been rested here and there (see Fulham at home most recently) and I expect him to suffer the same fate on Monday lunchtime. Wilder will most likely mix up his forward options again with Watmore rarely starting back-to-back games – or any games at all – these days and Sporar and Balogun waiting in the wings. The clamour for Coburn continues but I think we’d all be surprised to see the Bedale-baller start this one. Dael Fry remains a doubt but, yet again, Sol Bamba came in to provide a masterclass of calming experience and there should be no concerns about him repeating the trick.

One player who the manager does appear to have lost patience with is goalkeeper Joe Lumley. Career-reserve Luke Daniels capably took the gloves down at Bournemouth and may now hold onto them until the summer, when Boro will surely look to resolve the issue via the transfer market.

There’s certainly scope for other changes such as Neil Taylor at left wingback but Marc Bola has added some attacking balance to that flank and Wilder may not want to overly rotate in such an important game.

Another HUGE game then – they all are now. Are you with the bookies and fancying a Boro win, or is Boro’s season faltering at the death?

Come on Boro.


Original Fat Bob
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Great stuff Andy 

 

OFB


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Powmill-Naemore
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Great opener AndyR. Thank you.

I posted on the Bournemouth thread that I thought it might work well for us that Crooks is on an enforced break so CW will almost certainly have to go with McGree. I read Deleriad who thought Crooks could be missed, but I do think his form has not been good since his 2 match ban several weeks ago now. Had NcGree  been available earlier I think he might have already nailed his place in the starting eleven. As it is, I think we stand to benefit on the run in from his ability to pick out the intelligent pass in the final third of the field.

I don't think CW will start Coburn, although I would like to see that  especially against big and physical opposition.  I have a feeing he might start with Balogun and Sporar on Monday...but let's wait and see.

With a packed Riverside behind them I do believe we will beat Huddersfield, keeping it really tight at the top. All the same, I know we won't beat them unless we bring our best form onto the pitch.

So. I will predict a tight and tense and exciting and physical encounter on Monday, with Boro holding out for 3 points, winning out 2 goals to 1.

CoB


Original Fat Bob
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I will be extremely surprised if Connolly starts on Monday against Huddersfield. Whilst Wilder has persisted with him his recent performances and personal love story’s headlines have brought to the fore a groundswell of opinion  with the Boro faithful that he’s not fit to wear the shirt.

I expect Balogun and Watmore to line up on Monday with hopefully a cameo appearance by Josh Coburn.

Dont be surprised if Wilder changes things and if Dael Fry is fit, line him up with Sol Bamba and move Paddy into midfield. That would allow Howson to move into a more forward midfield position and a bit more creativity for our forwards. Whilst McGree could also replace Crooks in midfield I did pick up on the point that Wilder in an after match statement mentioned that Paddy could move into midfield.

Lets not be too despondent, Wilder has repeatedly said that it would take three of four transfer windows to get the team that he wanted. It’s nearly the end of the season we still are fighting to get into the playoffs, we’ve had a good cup run and we’ve seen the development of some young Boro talent.

So let’s be honest, what’s not to like ?

UP THE BORO 

OFB


Powmill-Naemore
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Posted by: @original-fat-bob

 ...

Lets not be too despondent, Wilder has repeatedly said that it would take three of four transfer windows to get the team that he wanted. It’s nearly the end of the season we still are fighting to get into the playoffs, we’ve had a good cup run and we’ve seen the development of some young Boro talent.

So let’s be honest, what’s not to like ?

UP THE BORO 

OFB

I'll second that.


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exmil
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Thanks Andy for another great opener, I don’t expect Payero to start but wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench, also I think he will stick with the same defence that started against Bournemouth as I don’t know how long Fry is going to be out and he has Hall on the bench.

Come on BORO.


Andy R
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Posted by: @powmillnaemore
Posted by: @original-fat-bob

 ...

Lets not be too despondent, Wilder has repeatedly said that it would take three of four transfer windows to get the team that he wanted. It’s nearly the end of the season we still are fighting to get into the playoffs, we’ve had a good cup run and we’ve seen the development of some young Boro talent.

So let’s be honest, what’s not to like ?

UP THE BORO 

OFB

I'll second that.

Me too.

I haven’t given up on promotion and won’t unless it becomes impossible but whatever happens, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season since Wilder took over.

Part of me even thinks that Premier League is only about glamour and cash - all the fun is in the Championship unless you’re one of the elite.

I mostly want promotion to save Gibbo a few quid and give us a wedge of cash for future seasons. Yet in terms of watching Boro, I’m content in the Championship - more games, more wins, more fun.

Yet I still want promotion for the party!


K P in Spain
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Thanks Andy for another great opener.

Daniels, Bamba, Watmore and Balogun to start. 

A tight and tense encounter with Huddersfield getting everyone behind the ball and looking to hit us on the break or from dead ball situations; they are specialists at the latter and the defence will need to be much better than it has been of late when faced with such situations.

I do hope that Paddy is not played in midfield as for me he can go walk about when used there and we never seem to get the best from him in that position.

I hope we can find a goal and do enough to shade it but I would not be surprised with another 0-0 or even a 0-1 which would probably put and end to getting into the top six unless there are again some strange results benefiting us; we could do with two or three wins in a row but happy with a scrappy 1-0 Easter present. CoB 😎


David in Cumbria
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Thanks Andy. I very much hope that we get an win, even if it's from an own goal as we are struggling to score. It would be quite an achievement if we can stay in contention for the playoffs right until the last game though I won't be too disappointed if we have won our place before then. I agree with OFB that our performances have in the main been much improved since Wilder took over as otherwise we would simply have been trying to settle in mid-table.

I don't know how much difference it would make to play Balogun instead of Connolly but I do think Balogun is more likely to score though how many more is open to question and Coburn is also still learning to cope with Championship football so it is asking a lot for him to make the difference in the pressure of the of these last few games. The only other change I expect is McGree for Crooks though if Fry is fit he may replace Bamba as 2 matches in 4 days may be too much for Bamba.


Malcolm
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I think many fans will be disappointed if he starts with Connolly. Time for him to jump on the train back to Brighton tomorrow, at least he will have a comfortable seat unlike when he is sat on the grass most of the time! 😉 😉 


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Selwynoz
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Posted by: @original-fat-bob

I will be extremely surprised if Connolly starts on Monday against Huddersfield. Whilst Wilder has persisted with him his recent performances and personal love story’s headlines have brought to the fore a groundswell of opinion  with the Boro faithful that he’s not fit to wear the shirt.

I expect Balogun and Watmore to line up on Monday with hopefully a cameo appearance by Josh Coburn.

Dont be surprised if Wilder changes things and if Dael Fry is fit, line him up with Sol Bamba and move Paddy into midfield. That would allow Howson to move into a more forward midfield position and a bit more creativity for our forwards. Whilst McGree could also replace Crooks in midfield I did pick up on the point that Wilder in an after match statement mentioned that Paddy could move into midfield.

Lets not be too despondent, Wilder has repeatedly said that it would take three of four transfer windows to get the team that he wanted. It’s nearly the end of the season we still are fighting to get into the playoffs, we’ve had a good cup run and we’ve seen the development of some young Boro talent.

So let’s be honest, what’s not to like ?

UP THE BORO 

OFB

Agreed. It’s been a very positive season and results have proven on a number of occasions that, when the opportunity presents itself, we don’t quite have the squad depth or quality to lock in an automatic or playoff spot. It’s 50-50 from here on in but a loss on Monday would just about finish it as there are too many teams around us. As a side issue, I’m not sure that Bournemouth will avoid defeat at Coventry who are absolutely flying at the moment. 

I was wondering whether going up this year would be a good thing or would it place too much pressure to buy a bunch of new players who are then always hard to integrate into the team. We’ve been there before. There would then be the Spence question. Economically the sale makes perfect sense but .. On balance I think that he has to go even if we are promoted but at what price? 15 mill plus 15% sell on. 20 mill?

Finally, we have to do something about a new keeper. Daniels looked as nervous as hell and just cleared it long all day. I have to ask just what happens at Boro between promising youngster and first team candidate. They all seem to fall away. Now we have Bryn who is said to be very good but also another kid who has spent a full season playing regularly for a team who are currently top of the Scottish Championship yet nobody seems to mention Zak Hemming. How good is he? Is he better than Brynn and is he a genuine first team candidate for next year.

Plenty to think and look forward to

utb

This post was modified 1 month ago 2 times by Selwynoz

MW in Darwin
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Thanks for the opener Andy.

I don’t know if any of you have watched the video of Matt Crooks working in the ticket office but there is a telling comment from the man himself. Someone says that he is their favourite player and his comment is not after my last few performances I shouldn’t think. In the video he comes across as a really good guy.

At least tomorrow’s game is on at a good time here.


MW in Darwin
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The ref tomorrow is Darren England a Premier League official, who was the referee against Spurs and also Blackburn away where there were 10(TEN) bookings six for us. He appears, according to reports, to have a pretty poor game last time out, Wolves v Villa gave a dubious penalty.


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deleriad
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Thanks, Andy, for a strong start to the thread. Let's hope Boro can do the same on Monday.

It's crunch time all the way down now. Lose this and, if results go against us, the fat lady* will be clearing her throat. I remain cautiously optimistic. I think everyone from Bournemouth down is feeling the pressure so a large part of this is going to be about who handles it best. 

I thought we missed Lumley's distribution on Friday but the change was clearly necessary to reset the issue. Daniels seemed to communicate better with his defence and although he wasn't tested he will at least have the confidence of the players and fans on Monday. 

If we're going to keep clearing long then it might make sense to start with Coburn but presuming that Watmore was just a case of cramp, I think we might see Watmore and Balogun as the latest perm 2 from 5 up front. 

Presumably McGree will come in for Crooks and slot into the right of midfield. If so, it'll be interesting to see if Payero is fit enough to get on the bench. That said, if Fry is fit, it wouldn't completely surprise me to see McNair moved into midfield and Bamba or Peltier play on the left of defence. McGree has looked short of match sharpness since his return and there's clearly a risk that he may break down if he has to play the full 90. Given Bola's injury record, it's also not inconceivable that Taylor gets a run out. 

Although Wilder prefers to make minimal changes, with 2 games in 4 days I think our team is harder to predict than normal. Probably it will just be McGree for Crooks and either Sporar or Balogun returning up front but there may be a lot more changes than normal depending on fitness tests.

On the result front; Huddersfield are much like us. Relatively low scoring and relatively strong defensively. After a long, unbeaten run they had a bit of a wobble but are beginning to pick back up again. Overall this looks likely to be a low-scoring affair with Huddersfield knowing that a draw is much better for them than us. If we get a good start and an early goal, I feel that we can roll them over but if we continue to struggle to hit our best performance levels I can see an OFB, eyes in the sky special.

*other genders are available


Pedro de Espana
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Thanks for the great Headliner Andy and some good comments following from the contributors.

I don’t have a clue on what will happen tomorrow or which Boro will turn up.

As deleriad posted, much will depend on the fitness levels of the squad and importantly whether CW will pick McGree. Normally he likes square pegs in square holes so would not pick him in place of Crooks. Could he move Tav one left, let in McGree and move Howson a little right.

I have been slightly disappointed with Bola and he could be benched.

Well in just over 24 hours we will all know. 


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Andy R
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Some excellent comments as ever on this blog. Re-reading all the posts really gives you a sense of how informed, well balanced and measured this community is. No over-excitement, no panic, just sound reasoning and cautious anticipation.

I’m sure whatever happens, that will continue. You’re a good bunch.


K P in Spain
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Posted by: @andy-r

Some excellent comments as ever on this blog. Re-reading all the posts really gives you a sense of how informed, well balanced and measured this community is. No over-excitement, no panic, just sound reasoning and cautious anticipation.

I’m sure whatever happens, that will continue. You’re a good bunch.

The dialogue you mention is instigated by the well balanced, informative and interesting leaders produced over the years by yourself, OFB and Werdermouth; supplemented by match reports from RR, historical pieces by Ken, the Exmil challenge and OFB's Insights. 

Thanks to you all for an excellent and enjoyable blog, which is a joy to be part of. 😎 


lenmasterman
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A smashing opener, Andy.  Well-written, well crafted and well-informed.  Excellent follow-up analyses from everyone else too.  A credit to the blog. I think we'll win tomorrow's game, the only doubt, as ever, being over whether any of our strikers can either hold up the ball or stick it in the net. Watmore must start if capable of doing so. For his partner perm any one from a pretty useless three, and throw on Josh sooner rather than later. Not perfect, but it should just squeeze us through.


Ken Smith
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Yesterday I continued to watch what was happening at Bristol for Yorkshire CCC, and with the new ball only 4 overs old surely the Tykes won’t slip up now. It looked at one time yesterday that Yorkshire might win in 3 days, but I’ll persevere on the podcast today to hopefully see the win in the early afternoon. 

On the football front I did have time to update the League tables in the Northern League’s two divisions where the final matches will be played next Saturday. One (un)interesting fact is that Bishop Auckland have just escaped relegation to Division 2 at the expense of Penrith and Billingham Town who will now join their neighbours Billingham Synthonia in Division 2, so that will be a couple of proper derby matches next season. 

The National Leagues including the North and South sub divisions all have matches tomorrow, but Darlington’s faint chance of reaching the playoffs was surely ended with defeat at home to Curzon Ashton on Good Friday as were Whitby Town’s in the Northern Premier League which along with the 3 Southern Leagues don’t play tomorrow but their penultimate matches will take place next Saturday.    

I just had time to update the Scottish Leagues where there are no matches scheduled until next weekend with its Premier League now split into the top 6 clubs and 6 bottom clubs playing in separate mini- leagues of 5 matches each to decide the winners and the relegation playoff losers. The other 3 Scottish Divisions including the Championship have only 2 matches each to play with the intriguing match next Saturday between Kilmarnock and Arbroath deciding which of the 2 will gain automatic promotion and which club will be in the playoffs. A win for the Smokies would be a fairytale story.  Meanwhile in Division Two a new club Kelty Hearts are almost assured of promotion, whilst bottom side Cowdenbeath will have to play the winners of   the Highland League (Fraserburgh) and the Lowland League (Bonnyrigg Rose).

The major European Leagues like the English Premier League have some way to go yet in determining the Champions, though Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain, FC Porto, Ajax Amsterdam and Royale Union Saint Gilloise of Belgium are almost there, with only Italy’s Serie A to be decided.

In England Stockport County under former Pools manager Dave Challinor are almost certain to regain their EFL status, Forest Green Rovers after a long unbeaten run are suddenly under pressure in League Two where Scunthorpe United have already been relegated, and where former Premier League club Oldham Athletic are in immediate danger of relegation as well. Our friends from Sunderland are in the playoff positions at the moment, but I’m awaiting Monday’s results as I am in the Championship before updating the EFL league positions.

Of course I’m aware of Boro’s position, though I think we’re all aware that anything less than a home win tomorrow will almost certainly mean another season in the Championship which although poor on content some time looks like being an exciting finale. As Chris Wilder states, like him I haven’t got a crystal ball but there could still be some surprising results to come. Nevertheless, I think tomorrow’s game is a must win for Boro and even then nothing will be decided until the final Sunday of the season. I quoted Charles Wesley’s words recently, and as they are appropriate for me as I approach my final years, so too are they appropriate to Boro. Sometimes attack is the best form of defence, and although scoring goals have become a problem for Boro in recent seasons. So Boro be bold would be my advice. 

Let’s be honest until Chris Wilder drove into town, most of us would have settled for a mid-table position at the end of the season. It probably won’t matter too much if Boro spend another season in the Championship because the future is bright, however having come this far whilst there is the possibility of promotion why not take it. As they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so come on Boro be bold and grab it while you can.

This post was modified 1 month ago by Ken Smith

Ken Smith
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Yorkshire struggling at lunch as Gloucestershire’s lead is now 184 with 2 wickets remaining. Could be an exciting finish. 


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Ken Smith
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Yorkshire need 211 to win from a minimum of 60 overs remaining. It should have been far easier than this. Hope that Boro don’t put me through this tomorrow.


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Ken Smith
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Yorkshire now 54 for 2 wickets after 23 overs at tea needing another 157 runs in 37 overs at 4.25 an over to win. Sounds winnable in one day cricket, but from what I’ve witnessed so far heading for a draw.


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Ken Smith
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Brilliant innings of 65 from a run a ball by Dawid Malan has turned things around although he’s just lost his wicket with 64 required in the last 20 overs with 6 wickets in hand. Should be a stroll in the park from herein, but   nervous if Harry Brook is next wicket to fall.


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Ken Smith
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Half century from Harry Brook has seen Yorkshire home with nearly 11 overs remaining and collect 22 points. I hope that Huddersfield tomorrow will find it as easy tomorrow.


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Malcolm
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From the Gazette today Ref Wilder?

Another thing which would be useful is for Wilder to settle a few concerns over his connections with the managerial vacancy at Burnley. It was quite alarming to see Wilder immediately placed high in the betting while he didn’t appear to totally dismiss the possibility at his post-match press conference on Friday. It would be useful for the players alone to hear Wilder stress in the dressing room that he wants to see the Boro job through.

Certainly we want to see the players running out in a positive fashion against Huddersfield without added weight on their shoulders. Then hopefully the strikers can shoot us back into a play-off position.


Ken Smith
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Sorry, I meant to say that I hope that Boro will find it as easy AGAINST Huddersfield tomorrow. 

This post was modified 1 month ago by Ken Smith

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Original Fat Bob
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Liked by Malcolm
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exmil
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I, for one, am not worried about Chris Wilder leaving Boro for Burnley as he stated on joining Boro, he had job offers (some rumoured to be Premiership) before finding the job that suited him, Boro and Steve Gibson. I think it is pure outlandish speculation and scare mongering.

Come on BORO.


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werdermouth
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Thanks to Andy for another excellent well-written match preview and particular liked the description of Matt 'FIFTEEN-bookings' Crooks as a 'wardrobe on legs' - though perhaps Boro have had more of a wardrobe malfunction on the pitch in recent weeks!

Still today's game could be a dress rehearsal for the play-offs if Huddersfield can consolidate their third spot and Boro sneak into 6th place. While this game will not resolve matters it may well define our season should we lose our third consecutive home game at the stadium formerly known as Fortress Riverside.

Indeed, with Boro v Hudderfield being the only game that sees teams in the top ten play each other, then there is a risk of dropping to tenth place should Chris Wilder's men lose this one - especially as the three teams below us in Blackburn, Coventry and Millwall are all at home.

However, most teams at the top appear to be having a wobble - amazingly the top eight have only amassed 7 wins between them in all of their last three matches (24 games) - which is 3 wins fewer than what the bottom eight have managed.

Although the real worry is losing touch with the top six and even a draw could see that gap stretch to four points with four to play - essentially meaning those above us would need only perhaps 5 more points to finish above us even if Boro win three of their last four.

So ideally Boro need to win this one and hope Bristol City do us a favour in the late game by beating the Blades - that would then make us favourites if we can win our game-in-hand against Cardiff next week.

As for the game - well it could be tense encounter with perhaps one goal deciding it. Boro will need Jones back to his best, McGree also sharper, Tav's energy and Howson's drive - the problem as ever will be whoever plays up front. I'd agree with Deleriad that if Daniels plays and continues to kick it long then Coburn (alongside Watmore) would appear the best fit and hope of retaining possession - Connolly barely got a kick against Bournemouth using such tactics and besides he never looks like scoring. Maybe Lumley will return after being given a day off to contemplate his composure - after all Daniels didn't have a save to make at Bournemouth so wasn't really tested.

Prediction: Boro 1 - 0 Huddersfield with Tav scoring an early goal.

This post was modified 1 month ago by werdermouth

Martin Bellamy
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Mrs B has given me special dispensation to delay our drive to Shropshire until after the game. Don’t let me down Boro. 


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