Boro v Stoke
Definition, to be/get carried away: to become so excited about something that you do not control what you say or do.
- There's far too much food - I'm afraid I got a bit carried away.
- The country was carried away by national sentiment following the war.
- Boro won again – we’re getting promoted!
Ok, take a deep breath everyone. Yet, if you can’t get excited about this Boro team, what really is the point of fandom?
Another Boro win at the weekend and another defeat for Sheffield United has seen the gap to the automatic promotion places gradually contract from what was once a chasm of thirteen points to a slender, nerve-jangling four. The momentum is with Michael Carrick’s men as Boro now top the form table after a fifth win in six whilst the blunted Blades made it a fourth quickfire defeat. Carried away? Maybe but you can guarantee that the South Yorkshire side are anxious.
The superb second half fightback at Swansea was the tenth time Boro have scored three or more goals since Carrick took over in late October. Ten times in 21 games - that is astonishing for a side that for so long has struggled in front of goal.
Chuba Akpom’s well-taken penalty put him five ahead of the man Boro wanted to replace him, Coventry’s Viktor Gyökeres, atop the division’s scoring charts whilst his goals per game (0.86), conversion rate (38%) and shot accuracy (69%) clearly distinguish him as the league’s mostly deadly marksman. On this occasion, however, much of the credit must go to Villa loanee Aaron Ramsey after a man-of-the-match display to back up his impressive recent form.
Much was made of Boro’s decision to allow fans’ favourite Duncan Watmore to leave in January, especially with an injured and inexperienced Ramsey recruited to replace him. However, Boro’s often maligned recruitment team appear to have got this one spot on as Ramsey’s technical ability, reading of the game, movement and cool finishing have added a dimension to the team not seen since his mate Cameron Archer arrived a few weeks previously! It’s fair to say that Boro had a great January window and the team is moving forwards with ever greater impetus. Hopefully this a sign of things to come with the now aligned Riverside backroom.
Watching Boro at the moment feels very similar to what Nott’m Forest did last season – win after win with everyone else wondering why they could never go on a run like that. Well, this year it’s our turn. Lap it up.
Of course, Forest came up short in the end and had to settle for the playoffs, which they went on to win. That said, their start to last season was even worse than ours and they would have made it from our starting position. Can we do it? You bet we can, but only if the players continue to take it one step at a time.
That next step is Stoke City at home on Tuesday, kick-off 8pm.
Alex Neil’s men have been pottering about in lower midtable for much of the season and currently occupy 14th place. Neil replaced Michael O’Neill after the Northern Irishman was sacked in mid-August following a 2-2 draw with Chris Wilder’s Boro. I mean, if you can’t beat Wilder’s Boro….
In his 30 games in charge, Neil has failed to fire his charges to anything like Carrick’s impact with 11 wins, 6 draws and 13 defeats but recent results hint at a brighter future with a 3-1 win at Swansea (sound familiar?), scoring 5 in the game before last (sounds very familiar…) and then a win on the road whilst scoring 3 goals last time out (sounds too familiar now) have surged The Potters up to a noteworthy fifth in the form table. They even managed to fit in an FA Cup defeat at home to Brighton (spooky).
Away from home it’s just two wins from their last six but they were their most recent, two including a 5-1 mauling of Sunderland which must have particularly hurt for the Mackems given Neil abruptly abandoned them for Stoke earlier in the season.
Those big scoring victories do appear to be out of character for Stoke with previous results tending towards more binary outcomes but they are the league’s sixth highest scorers overall and Boro will need to be aware that they are coming up against a side with newfound confidence.
Interestingly (for me at least!) Boro and Stoke are very evenly matched in terms of xG and xGC with us both around 1.62 for goals scored per match and 1.27 for goals against, which makes us the fourth and fifth “best” teams in the division in terms of the difference between the chances we create and those we give up (Burney and Sheffield Utd are first and second, unsurprisingly). The difference appears to be in the finishing itself, with Boro outperforming the expected data by 0.16 per match over the season to date whilst Stoke have underperformed by 0.32 – a swing of half a goal per game on average. That makes a huge difference as the table shows. Incidentally, only Burnley have Blackburn have outperformed their expected stats by more than Boro whilst Sheffield United, West Brom and Luton are surprisingly among the worst underperformers.
What all this means, I think, is that Boro and Stoke may be much more evenly matched than the league table suggests and Stoke’s recent form – where results have more closely matched performances – may give them a confidence that Boro haven’t come up against for a little while. We’ve demonstrated a ruthless, clinical edge to our game of late but we’ll likely need to so again to beat a Stoke side on the up.
Such is our form, Boro should have no fears going into this game but we can expect a difficult contest against a dangerous and possibly underrated opponent where both sides carry a serious goal threat.
No getting carried away here then: Boro 4 – 1 Stoke 😊
Great post Andy
I like the research you’ve done on the stats which makes it obvious it’s not going to be an easy game.
Think I’ll still give my support to my favourite team
Also known as
I expect to see some changes in the team on Tuesday especially in midfield as I can’t see Howson playing three hard games in a week at his age.
I therefore anticipate that Barlaser will get his chance to come into the team and show us what he can do and based on his stats he can be quite impressive
Many thanks Andy for another great Headliner and can I include belated thanks for previously missed Headliners from yourself and of course OFB.
I know I will be criticised for my negative comments during an exciting and prolonged run of outstanding results. However.
As a few others have have said and I posted, all teams tend to have a "blip" even when in a good run. We do not do ourselves any favours by continually giving the opposition a leg up with unenforced errors and mistakes that are basic football in the last third.
With that in mind, I am surprised, but delighted at the form we have maintained, given that the defensive five tend to go to sleep more often than they should. As has been posted, Swansea could have been two to the good before we really got started. That MC and Woodgate especially, has not been able to improve this, gives testament to the defence not being good enough overall.
This defect, which is now too late to eradicate, will leave us vulnerable when we come to the play offs.
I can only hope, we miss out on our blip and United continue theirs, so that we do not have that to worry about. Burnley especially and one or two others may test us. Tuesday it could be Stoke and a draw may be the result. We are due one unfortunately.
Great piece @Andy R
This does look like a bit of a potential banana skin. Maybe because we're suddenly at the point where we can actually catch Sheffield United - win v Stoke and Preston and a performance by Sunderland permitting - and we've all had so many years of 'Typical Boro' that we all expect that at some stage something will go wrong.
The only time when I've gone into games with a feeling of near-certainty that we were going to win was the great Jack Charlton promotion year. I have never felt that again but the casual way that we somehow managed to conjure another 3-1 wwin against Swansea is starting to make me wonder whether this is another classic season. Clearly Michael Carrick is a manager of great tactical acumen and he has the ability to take a group of players and instill an atmsphere of collaboraton and belief.
I would guess that we have this season and next to go up before he goes off to manage in the Premier League and the hope is that we can be there with him. If we do manage to go up then Steve Gibson will have reached his holy grail and may well look round to find someone to take the ownership. Who could that be and is it possble for it to remain in some version of 'local hands'. I don't know and I leave it to more local bloggers to comment. At worst, I would hope that the club can continue with its many community initiatives. It seems to be at the heart of so many genuinely good things.
Thanks for the great opener AndyR. This could very well be a game to bring those of us who might appear to be getting carried away back down to planet earth with a bump. Your research into the current form of these two sides does make this look like it could be a very close affair.
I have to agree with everyone that is commenting on the bad habit we have of giving away at least one goal early on in almost every game. That is our Achilles heel and any one of the well organised teams we have still play against could capitalise on that. Stoke City definitely come into that category.
When I was working out my predictions for the Exmil challenge, I was quite confident this would be a home win. Today I am not feeling quite so confident. All the same, I think this game will be a really good indicator to us, to everyone, of just how good we are. To take all three points, even if it might only be by a single goal scored will give us a lot of confidence that not only are we [one of] the form team[s], but that we are also a match for the other currently form teams that we will have to engage with before the end of the season.
If Howson is to be rested, let us hope that Barlaser (if indeed it will be himself) - or whoever - will fit in seamlessly. It has been a good feature of MC's match practice to get players off the bench and involved in the team and so reducing the risk that a change in the starting lineup is going to need a half a game to get onto the same wavelength as the rest of the team.
So, on balance, I think I am keeping my foam hands active and sticking with my Exmil prediction - home win to Boro. However, I think perhaps we are overdue a scrappy, hard fought, even lucky 1-0 victory. McGree to score.
Thanks Andy for another enjoyable preview. It looks like Boro's good form has rubbed off on to OFB and yourself.
I won't be at the match but it looks like it will be available on NOW TV. (There must be a lot of rich people coming to Middlesbrough on Tuesday as the Premier Inns, Holiday Inn Express and Leonardos are all fully booked!) As with OFB's Swansea preview your details of Stoke's current form has again given me pre-match fears. Perhaps it is good for me to be at home with the remaining 1/2 bottle of Rioja close at hand. I wonder if it is a coincidence that, having given up going to a pub even after the lockdowns ended, the only times I now drink alcohol is on Boro match days.
Hoping for another Boro win, by any score, followed by a Sheffield United loss.
Former Middlesbrough midfielder Caolan Boyd-Munce is training with Scottish Premiership side St Mirren as he looks to find a new club before the end of the season.
Michael Carrick has challenged Isaiah Jones to battle through this testing spell in his career and force his way back into the Boro team.
See more at https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/sport/23383835.middlesbrough-michael-carricks-message-boro-winger-isaiah-jones/
I don't think he becomes a bad player overnight. He is still a young boy finding his way into professional football. He became a father only a couple of weeks ago, so there’s a lot happening in his life now.
Let's hope he finds he mojo back soon. We need competition inside the team. Up the Boro!
Thanks Andy, another great opener and based on the stats and recent form Stoke will be no pushover.
That being said they are a mid table side who we should expect to beat if we are aspiring to be promoted, which we clearly are.
MC and this team have justifiably given us real reasons to get carried away and I am beginning to see parallels with JC’s promotion winning team.
That team did not start the season particularly well, similar to this team, (albeit with CW at the helm) but once it got into its stride it became a very difficult team to stop, similar to this team once we got MC on board.
During JC’s promotion winning season, supporters came to expect the team to win games both home and away, something Boro supporters had not experienced before. Again, that feeling is beginning to emerge again and I believe this team is capable of remaining unbeaten for the remainder of the season.
All games are tough, some more than others but I believe we are more than a match for the likes of Burnley, Norwich and Luton, the three toughest teams we still have to play with two of those games at the Riverside.
I expect tonight may well be one of the closest we have seen for a while but hopefully we won’t concede early or preferably not at all and we should come out on top. CoB 😎
Must admit I'm very nervous about tonight's game, there is a lot of chatter about wining the two home games and we will be in 2nd. Has a situation ever felt more typical boro. Hope my nervousness is unfounded I desperately want us to win, but years and years of bitter let downs are hard to dispell. UTB.......
@paulinboro. I know where you are coming from but take heart from the fact that this team is much different and vastly better than its recent predecessors, who were always good for a typical “Boro performance”.
As I said earlier this season has all the hallmarks of when we were promoted under Jack and whilst tonight might be tight I expect us to win by the odd goal.
What we don’t yet know about this team is how the players will perform once the pressure ramps up as the games run down but on what has gone before I don’t see us cracking; the blades, who knows! 😎
A fine headliner, a lot of points well raised and discussed, thank you for your efforts and well done.
We all worry about 'Typical Boro', that strange shadow that lurks at the edge of our fan's consciousness and has a way of manifesting itself at important games that are too numerous to mention. I think, and hope, that bro have a different mindset now and don't seem to fold when things go wrong or start to go wrong. Are they, as a team, better prepared psychologically? I think they are and they believe in themselves too.
Before I put the hex on them I'll just say try not to concede and just do what you've been doing for the vast majority of Mr Carrick's games in charge.
All the best,
I’m certainly not nervous about tonight’s match. Que sera,sera. I think it’s inevitable that Boro will lose at home sometime this season, and far better to lose tonight against a club unlikely to reach the playoffs than at home to one in the playoffs. Not that I forsee Boro losing tonight’s match, but would settle for a draw if offered one. Boro cannot continue to come from behind to win matches.
Thankfully Stoke City have only scored once this season away from the Potteries in the first 15 minutes of any match, so no mistakes needed early doors tonight. If Boro are to overtake Sheffield United by the weekend they will probably need to win both tonight and on Saturday which would mean 9 successful league wins.
Now here’s a fact that will likely surprise everyone as it did me. Boro have NEVER won 9 consecutive home league wins since the 1913/14 season when they in fact they won 11. They won 7 successive home league matches in Jack Charlton’s promotion season but a goalless draw on 9th February against Blackpool stopped a run which had they won would’ve been 12 winning home league matches in succession. Even in the 1926/27 season when George Camsell scored his 59 goals they merely won their final 8 home matches.
But when Boro finished in their highest ever First Division position of 3rd, although losing 3 home games that season, Boro won 11 successive home league wins from the 22nd November 1913 until the 4th April 1914 scoring 34 goals and conceding only 9. Sadly one more win would have guaranteed a runners-up placing. That in fact was the penultimate season before the First World War.
I spent until 4.30 pm searching for that information perusing every season, and must admit I was staggered by what I had discovered.
interesting facts ken
If we play on our normal level, don’t concede two goals in the beginning and the opposition is not as good as WBA in defending, we should be OK to win or at least draw against Stoke.
In Michael Carrick we trust. Up the Boro!
interesting facts ken
they will probably need to win both tonight and on Saturday which would mean 9 successful league wins
Great bit of research Ken and yes, quite staggering. That said I couldn't fail to notice the tautology a typo has introduced, that any league win is necessarily "successful" ..., I think you meant to type "9 successive league wins" 😉
This evening's starting XI - unchanged, if I'm not mistaken, but Fry back & on the bench:
I must admit to getting nervous about tonight’s game which I haven’t been for quite a while.
The Stoke manager Alex Neill has of course quite a record against Boro most notably when as Norwich manager he masterfully outthought Karanka at the Wembley playoff final.
I feel sure that this game is going to be one of tactical decisions and battles in midfield.
Hopefully Howson will have fit enough legs to continue his role in the team as the playmaker and letting the youngsters around him do the running and scoring goals.
So will we see Middlesbrough3 tonight ?
Yes of course we will !
By the way
Its live on sky at 8pm U.K. time
Nervous about tonight. Just stood in the concourse with my Bovril, listening to those around me talking about.
If we win the next two home games and Sheff blah blah blah.
Don't count your chickens comes to mind. I will settle for not getting beaten.
A bad start. NOW TV won't let me log on! It's Radio Tees for me.
Boro 1 - 0 Akpom of course
For once, Boro score first: Chuba in the 23rd minute, assisted by McGree.
Boo 1 - 1
Saw that coming Howson looks tired needs replacing
An even first half with both sides creating two or three good opportunities. The difference looked like it was going to be that Boro took one of ours but Stoke levelled up right at the end of the half, deservedly so on the balance of play.
There's been a few 50/50 refereeing decisions that have gone our way as well.
Big second half to come. This is on a knife edge.
I feel that I’m sitting on a knife edge at the moment !
Vic's half-time verdict:
HT: 1-1. Preston [sic!] started well but Chuba rattled the bar and Boro took control, scored and looked to be well on top only to get caught cold on the stroke of half-time. Plenty of mileage in this yet.
Subs should have been made at half time
Howson not in it