Boro v QPR
After buzzing Boro burst The Blades bubble, we’re quickly back into the action in front of the Red Faction.
Carrick has taken to management like a duck to water. Next, QPR are the lambs to the slaughter.
There’s danger for Rangers after the Brammall Lane exchanges - this Boro, put simply, are our best for ages. A scruffy goal against couldn’t hold back our men. The Blades were cut deep - Akpom, Archer and Archer again!
What a January signing, what a beautiful brace. He led The Blades backline all over the place.
Our chances of auto promotion look slim but it isn’t so long since our prospects were grim. Michael Carrick, you belter, you beauty - get in! If this carries on we’ll be calling you Him.
Alright, enough of that.
With just 14 fixtures remaining for Boro, we’re speeding towards the business end of the season with Boro well placed in a sort of pleasant purgatory: a little too far away from the automatic spots but clear of the playoff chasers and playing too well to be concerned about missing out.
Defeat at Brammall Lane would have killed any lingering automatic promotion hopes but victory - and what a victory - has left the door ever so slightly ajar just in case the South Yorkshire side fancy a wobble.
For Carrick, of course, it will be the mantra of “one game at a time” and in our case that’s QPR at The Riverside on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.
A promising start to the campaign has long since fizzled out for the visitors with the West London club now sitting in 17th place after a run of 10 games without a win in all competitions. In fact, since talented Head Coach Michael Beale abruptly upped sticks to head back to Glasgow Rangers in late November (where he previously assisted Steven Gerrard through a highly successful spell) The Hoops have a Championship record of P11 W1 D5 L5.
That sole victory was in manager Neil Critchley’s first game and it’s been downhill ever since for the former Liverpool youth coach, including bruising defeats to fellow strugglers Hull City in the league as well as lower league Fleetwood Town in the cup. A 1-1 draw against Huddersfield along the way will have done little to calm any relegation nerves, though there is still a 9pt gap to third bottom Wigan Athletic.
After their latest match, a 0-3 defeat to Sunderland on Tuesday night, Critchley’s comments hinted at crisis:
"I believe in my own ability to get the best out of this group of players.
"I'd be lying if I said I was enjoying the situation and the run we're on.
"But you know what you sign up for when you take the job as a manager. It's a tough moment but you have to roll your sleeves up and fight.
"If you ask any coach what they need, it's always time. I know what I want to do and how I want to do it. I have to find a way to get the best out of these players."
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that QPR sit bottom of the form table. Their away form is marginally better with 6pts from their last 6 away games but those fixtures have been against Huddersfield, Hull, Reading, Cardiff, Preston and Coventry – not sides troubling the playoff spots by any stretch.
In better times for the visitors, QPR did beat Boro 3-2 at Loftus Road back in August but the roles were somewhat reversed back then with QPR hopeful of a playoff season and Boro struggling to get going. Looking back over previous results however, it does appear that Boro have had our fair share of difficulties against the Rs both home and away: we haven’t managed to beat them in our last seven encounters dating back to February 2019. The last three games between the sides have been high scoring affairs of 3-2, 2-2 and 3-2 again and there has been a red card shown in three of the last four. I wasn’t aware of any particular rivalry with QPR but reading the stats it almost looks like there is!
Carrick’s Boro are a different beast, however. Calm, confident, assured, resilient and with a dash of genuine quality – the team appears to reflect the Head Coach with previous hoodoos and “typical Boro” moments coolly expunged. Well that’s tempted fate hasn’t it?
No sane football fan (should such a thing truly exist) could predict anything but a Boro win for this game. It may sound complacent, but Boro’s biggest threat is complacency itself at this point.
I’m sure there’ll be some uncomfortable moments – there always is in the Championship and with the risk/reward way we play – but it’s a comfortable home win for me.
Well done Andy R for another excellent opener, I think MC will have the team focused for QPR maybe saying to them “don’t throw away the brilliant performance at Sheffield by not being up for it on Saturday”. I remember Ferguson once saying “ the season doesn’t really start until after the New Year, that’s when a team has to be on their game for every match”, I am sure MC will get the message across.
Come on BORO.
Thanks Andy for another well researched and informative opener it’s appreciated!
Hopefully after Saturday we can have a bit of a rest and ease those weary bones and aching muscles to get some form of fitness back into tired bodies. The players can relax as well!
It’s been seat of the pants stuff willing the team on and I’m going for a 2-0 win! Will my soothsaying capabilities extend for another game as we hurtle up the table to an automatic promotion slot and a seat at the top table.
I always remember QPR with some fondness as the nearly London team who were too small to be an Arsenal or a Chelsea but acquired a hippy set of celebrity supporters in their kaftans and flares idolising Rodney Marsh and Stan Bowles.
Boro of course in those days had Ayresome park with Big John Hickton whose record of 25 goals in a season May about to be broken by Akpom. Ah happy days Ayresome Park, a Newboulds Pie and a cup of Bovril and a fag. My day was complete.
I’ll settle for a glass of wine and a nice clinical win on Saturday thanks.
What a time to be writing about the Boro and how the enjoyment shines through your every word @AndyR. Thank you for another fine introduction to the next thread.
To be honest I hadn't noticed just how far QPR have fallen off the pace until I read your piece Andy. In my mind I still had them as one of the play off hopefuls. How wrong. Once upon a time we would probably all be writing about the potential of this to be a huge banana skin just waiting for Typical Boro to slip up on. However, I am liking this season's new and very Untypical Boro. I am reminded of watching Jack Charlton's record breaking team of 1973/74, when eventually it seemed we went to every game with an expectation of getting something out of it. It is like that now. There is that air of self-belief that we will get something out of every fixture. It is a long long time since ever we could have that confidence in the team. (I am not forgetting Sunderland, but look how we picked ourselves up after that and did not let it knock us out of our stride.)
So, having said all of that we have to hope this is all for real and that MC will not allow his team to become complacent. Ruthless is a word that I would like to see associated with Boro for the rest of this season. On form, we should probably beat 5 of of our next 6 opponents. Not that any of those teams will make it easy for us, but simply because we know now that we do have the quality to beat every team in this division (even Burnley now). What we need to see is the consistency that comes out of showing each of our opponents genuine respect and if we do that, we should do well against each.
So Saturday, without having to jump through too many Hoops, I expect we will win comfortably enough, without necessarily embarrassing QPR. 2-0 will do very nicely thank you, with good news from The New Den where DW does his old team-mates a big favour scoring a goal to deny the Blades all three points.
Another excellent opener from Andy and yet another type of test for Carrick. After all the hype and excitement of winning away at the Blades can we focus and maintain our form against QPR. Not so much that I worry about "typical Boro" but that all teams can struggle to refocus after a game like that.
One thing that Carrick has is knowledge about managing Man Utd who had to play midweek games in Europe then at the weekend in the league. As we saw under McClaren, it can be difficult to manage this. The players will have been buzzing after last night and managing that will be key.
Right now, QPR are the worst team in the Championship form table and we're almost the best. Despite that they have significant attacking talent and, under the previous manager played a style of football with two #10s that is not a million miles from what Carrick has implemented with us.
Clearly we ought to win this and win it handsomely. Carrick may try and preserve Howson for the WBA game as he is only one booking away from a 2 game suspension. He'll also need to see whether Archer's ankle could do with some extra time to heal. He also needs to see whether he needs to improve the match sharpness of 1 or 2 back-up players. So far this season he has tried to keep the same 11 as much as possible; too many changes now might disrupt the team.
I suspect we might see McNair back for this match so we can draw on his extra ability on the ball and I think we may see Barlaser in for Howson. Depending on Archer's ankle we may also see Archer on the bench with Forss up front and Ramsey on the right.
I must admit that I'm not used to feeling confident. Every team can lose when you don't expect it but I feel that Carrick has been able to get us performing well enough so that even if we have an off day we can find ways to get a result. I'll plump for another 3-1 to us.
Thanks Andy. When I saw how long your preview was and had read the first couple of rhyming lines I wondered how you had managed to to write such a long rhyme but obviously you did well to stop that after five lines.
I wish I had the confidence to expect Boro to continue their great form till the end of the season but I will settle for an odd blip which is a big change from my normal matchday pessimism. No foam hands yet! This is the 10th year of my current season ticket and after seeing us struggle for goals in the previous seasons I am enjoying so many goals being scored and that at last having a regular scorer in Akpom we aren't solely relying on him.
I have been been noticing the yellow cards players have been picking up and I agree that as well as for injuries Carrick will have to make changes to take into account possible/actual suspensions but it seems that the squad is good enough to cope with this.
A big thank you to Andy for starting a new and exciting tread again.
Even it is early doors still (interesting doors for a foreigner 😉), the start Michael Carrick has made is excellent.
The sample size is still small of course. But, with 14 wins from 17 games, Carrick currently has the greatest win percentage (70) of any manager in Middlesbrough’s history.
He has benefitted from the good players bought in in the summer. There were so many arrivals, that it took many months for the new arrivals to settle. I am not taking anything away from Carrick, but it was too many arrivals at a time in the summer.
I think the three arrivals in January was about right amount. We do not need to try bringing in too many new arrivals to the starting eleven at the same time. More over, they all look like good additions.
What is best for me, is that we are bringing in young and hungry players. Every team needs a few old heads, but they must come from inside - the old team - like we have done with Howson and Crooks, like.
It does not make sence to buy these old, experienced players. Having said that, Smith and Lenihan have steadied the ship in defence.
Let's hope we can beat the Hoops on Saturday. It won't be easy after the high of the Sheffield win. But of course, possible. At least Archer was already thinking about the next game in his post match interview.
Up the Boro!
... At least Archer was already thinking about the next game in his post match interview...
It is absolutely the right attitude and I am sure everyone involved in the club will be thinking that way. Concentrate on the next game and leave Sheffield United to worry about the gap. We have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. The Blades have it all to lose and creeping doubt is a debilitating thing in sport.
Master of the mind game was Sir Alex. I suspect at least some of that will have rubbed off on MC.
Many thanks for another terrific opener, Andy.
I agree that this should be a comfortable win. But this is the Championship, where usually any team can beat any other, however improbable, so as you’ve all said, avoiding complacency is key. I know the Hoops are on very poor form right now, so I expect them to park the bus and defy us to break them down. Fortunately, we have a team now that is eminently capable of that! Get one goal and we might get a few.
Just a word of caution. Beware stray bottle-tops! Perhaps if Dimi is still around, he might have a quiet word with Steffen?!
Yes, I too saw that table which put Carrick as our top ever manager in his first 17 games.
It's a tremendous achievement, much to his individual credit, and provides concrete evidence that we are currently witnessing something truly exceptional, Long may it continue. It is certainly something to remember if and when we have any kind of blip or a more sustained run of poor results.
What also took my eye was that Chris Wilder, now almost universally scapegoated and widely reviled, was the fourth name on that list.
PS: Thanks for another very professional opener. Andy
sorry to hear about your ongoing health problems which most of us can’t really start to understand or imagine how awful it must be . I’m just wondering if there’s any help you could get, via your GP, from a health visitor from Social Services to provide some practical help around the house etc.
Many people in your position would be better off in a residential home but I know you would hate it - and very few residents would be able to keep up with your intellectual ability and knowledge - Although you could enhance their lives with your knowledge and life experiences !!
Philip of Huddersfield
Thanks Andy for another excellent starter.
I am still buzzing after Wednesday, not only because we won but the nature of the win which really left the blades and their supporters shell shocked; I think they now know they still have a lot of work to do to claim second spot and are no longer as comfortable as they were.
QPR have to my mind always been a bit of a bogey side but if we continue to play as we have then a win should be on the cards and the benchmark is now by at least two clear goals! Actually I would settle for scruffy 1-0 wins between now and the end of the season but we don’t do scruffy.
I think MC will have a job on his hands trying to rest players as they will all want to stay in the team. Injuries apart, I can see us starting with the same eleven again.
I reckon that another 6/7 wins should see us guaranteed a play off spot and we are now probably safe from relegation😉.
Despite QPR parking the bus, I expect Boro to put them through the hoops 2-0. CoB 😎
Great Headliner Andy. Thank you for the continued time and effort that you put in alongside OFB.
@k-p-in-spain None of the teams is safe from relagation, yet. Even Burnley are not safe mathematically. But one win for Burnley and one defeat for Wigan will make it safe for Burnley, though. Up the Boro!
I feel much better today which has been ‘clean up day’ though which has been exhausting especially with my immobility. Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts, and I may even get to bed before midnight tonight.
@ken. Good to hear that you are feeling much better today Ken.
Hope you have a good night and are well enough to hopefully experience our beloved team win again tomorrow. Best wishes from Espana. 😎
@jarkko. I agree. When I posted I was in realistic mode as opposed to mathematical mode! 😉😎
Well deserved, copied from MFC website.
“Boro striker Chuba Akpom has won the PFA Vertu Motors Championship Fans' Player of the Month award for January.” 😎
@jarkko. I agree. When I posted I was in realistic mode as opposed to mathematical mode! 😉😎
I know what you meant, mate. No problem.
What was facinating to realise how many points there are to be played for. About 15 matches and 45 points to be gained.
Let's enjoy the season. Up the Boro!
A real opportunity for Boro today with some of the other fixtures to be played:
Millwall v Sheff Utd
Luton v Burnley
Sunderland v Bristol City
The latter might not look as juicy but BC are in great form at the moment and could be a test for an injury hit Sunderland.
It’s then Watford v WBA on Monday.
Belated congratulations to Bob for correctly forecasting the most improbable scoreline of the season at Sheffield.
Trying to learn from him I'll go for Boro 3 KPR 1
i did feel pretty confident about that result.
I take it KPR is Key Performance Result ! An acronym I used to use often in my working life.
I’m going for a QPR a Quality Performance Result Boro 2 the Hoops 0
Andy - Thanks for the opener which for some reason seems to have passed me by for a couple of days. I was encouraged to read about QPR's poor form in the last few months. Let's hope, in this game, it goes from Bad to Verse.
Barlaser gets his first start & Jonny H a bit of a breather on the bench; McNair back in for Fry:
Millwall 2-1 up against the Blades with 14 minutes to go!
millwall won 3-2
Boro team Howson Forss on the bench
Forss on the bench
A chance for Ramsey to show what he's made of?
@original-fat-bob I hope all these changes don’t have an adverse affect; I think the continuity has helped to get us where we are. 😟😎
Nearly 30 mins gone and we have been very clunky and lacking the fast and accurate passing of Wednesday.
We are not as dominant and QPR look as if they have the ability to nick a goal.
Need something/someone to make things happen soon. 😎