Hull City v Boro
It’s Tigers versus Lions on Saturday as Boro head to Hull to establish who is King of the Humber.
Remarkably, Neil Warnock’s men make the short journey south with a little pride restored after Tuesday night’s coupon-busting victory over in-form Sheffield United. And it was no fluke.
Boro played well - their best so far this season - as Warnock went with a more trusted XI featuring only Andraz Sporar as a player who hasn’t previously been one of Warnock’s own in seasons past or signed on his say so.
Paddy McNair gave arguably his best midfield performance in a Boro shirt alongside his mate Jonny Howson as Boro rediscovered their midfield. Whilst it didn’t lead to domination of the ball, Boro were more solid, more gritty, more composed and able to play to a gameplan in a way we haven’t seen nearly enough of for much of the calendar year.
The continued return of Bola gave Boro some width and balance, whilst Sol Bamba provided a dominant centre-half display alongside a more assured Fry and the consistent, dogged Lee Peltier.
Whilst it took a lot of energy, a lot of discipline, two superb goals and a good save or two to the win the match, there’s now evidence that Boro have a level of play within them that could be good enough to challenge for the playoffs if it can be maintained. But can we keep it up?
The aforementioned Bola, Bamba and Peltier as well as Duncan Watmore - who was also excellent on Tuesday - are all fitness concerns be that age, playing-time or injury-history related, whilst it’s fair to say that Boro have shown little in the way of consistency for some time. That said, Hull City are no Sheffield United.
Were it not for Derby County’s twelve point deduction, Hull would sit rock bottom of the Championship having picked up only one win thus far. That win came away at Preston on the opening weekend. Since then, it’s P9 W0 D4 L6 F2 A14. Fitness concerns or not, there can scarcely have been a better opportunity for Boro to record consecutive wins and the pressure must be on to do just that.
If we’re prepared to overlook the ghost of Boro player’s past, in this case Richie Smallwood, then 20-year-old forward Keane Lewis-Potter looks the only real threat in this Hull side – the only player to have scored more than once (2) or had more than three shots all season – whilst the Tigers will be without right-back Lewie Coyle after he was sent off in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool.
Boro may be looking to target set-pieces as of Hull’s fifteen goals conceded this term, a whopping seven of them have come from dead-balls. Perhaps that may tempt Warnock to select Isiah Jones as a foul-magnet wide on the left against a second-choice right back, though that would certainly be harsh on Watmore should he make way and you’d think Warnock would want to go with an unchanged XI if he can.
Speaking of fouls, Warnock will be hoping that Matt Crooks and Lee Peltier stay off the referee’s radar as both have picked up four yellow cards to date. With fitness and injury concerns as well as staff shortages in certain areas, it will be difficult for Warnock to continue defiantly selecting a team of “his” players if either of those two were to receive a suspension.
This is an important game for Boro and for Neil Warnock. The win over Nott’m Forest turned out to be a false dawn but Tuesday felt different – a genuinely encouraging display against a good side as opposed to an average performance exploiting a club in crisis.
Arguably Boro’s best results this season have been away at Fulham and at home to Sheffield United, games when Warnock’s men were underdogs, just as the gaffer likes it. Boro did record wins against Bristol City and Forest this season but too often the side have failed when the game was there to be won. A solid win is needed against Hull if Boro are to start convincing and only victory will satisfy Boro fans for this one.
So will it be a rampant red lion crowned King of the Humber as we see a coherent Boro side emerging at long last, or will it be another false dawn? What say you, Diasboro crew?
Fangs for that Andy
Hopefully we will change our stripes and spear the tigers in their lair.
Paws for thought means like you I’m unsure how fit those veterans or crocks who performed so week on Tuesday will be on Saturday. Hopefully we will have a tail to tell and be rampant once more.
Appreciate your post well done
Good opener Andy R, thank you.
Was it OFB after the Sheffield result that quoted "One swallow doth not a summer make" ? How so true of this scenario now. We need to see this team move on from a convincing display on Tuesday, to another, equally convincing display on Saturday.
NW has to balance now how well his aging warriors can continue to play at that level with games coming so frequently, with the need to get this team on a run of convincing performances and victories. Hull is an opportunity for him to rest Watmore and use Jones as you suggested Andy. on the other hand, starting with the same 11 might be a good thing, expecting the same team to carry on in the same vein against Hull and rattle up a demoralising early lead. Then swapping a couple of the "older" members out after 60 or so minutes.
At that point, Jones is more likely to become the "foul-magnet" you suggested Andy, when up against a now demoralised and slightly tiring opponent.
Bated breath here, from now until Saturday tea-time. Hoping Tuesday was really a sign of what is to come, or whether we revert to more to type.
Pending seeing how NW makes his team selection, I am going to be positive for this next encounter and call out a convincing 3-0 win to Boro - Sporar, Watmore and Howson.
Couldn't agree more, Powmill. The performance and victory in midweek was impressive from Boro.
Though it seems a while ago now, there had been pockets of promising play from Boro in the early part of the season but not over ninety minutes and not reflected in results. The hope at that point was that the large number of new players would grow into the side and improve us. Tuesday night was the first time we've seen a full ninety minutes of concentration, high energy and coherence from the team, even if much of it was in defending (in the second half in particular).
If we play at that level on Saturday then I've no doubt we will win and win well but the big question is whether it was a one-off or something we can consistently reproduce, especially when we're expected to win as we will be on Saturday and for the couple of games thereafter. Sheffield United, like Fulham on the opening day, were a bit of a free hit for Boro with low expectations.
Should we fail to win or even sneak it but with a drab performance, I expect all the questions around Warnock's future to resurface. It's only a stay of execution at the moment for him and his team need to back up Tuesday's win with another on Saturday as a minimum.
Unfortunately it was not I that penned the literary quotation but I echo the sentiment we need to repeat the performance of Tuesday evening.
I agree with the strategy of using Jones as an impact sub and also of changing out tired legs if we can.
Well we’re all confident of the result which is quite a turnaround for us Diasborians who have been forecasting defeats including one who thought we were going to be beaten 3 0 ! I forget who it was now?? (Or do I?)
Seriously we are all supremely confident (I’m not!) I’ll go for a 1 1 draw.
One thing I do know is that our magnificent fans have sold out their allocation of 3,500 tickets to support the Boro so it should be a good atmosphere.
🙂 I did upgrade that prediction to a 1-2 defeat! But yes, after performances had been getting worse not better, I didn't think we had that kind of ninety-minutes in us to be honest and was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
I'm sceptical that we'll consistently reproduce it if I'm honest but at least there's hope again.
I think that Hull City may be a better team than their league position suggests. Any team that gains promotion having scored 80 goals and conceded just 38 needs to be respected especially in a league that includes Sunderland. There’s not a large difference between the top teams in Division One and those mid-table Championship teams. We’ve been down this route before thinking that one excellent win is the precursor of an unbeaten run that will see Boro surging up the table. Yesterday’s results with Bournemouth being unable to win at the other promoted side Peterborough is a warning, also Coventry having won all their home games losing 5-0 at Luton. Boro have rarely scored 3 times in any match never mind in an away match, though I would be delighted to beat Hull by any score. In fact a goalless draw would be most welcome. Boro my be only 7 points outside the playoffs if we take goal difference into consideration, but are still only 6 points outside the relegation spots albeit with a superior goal difference to the bottom clubs. I’m not yet convinced that Boro are a top 6 club in this poor league, but again would be pleased to be proved wrong. On paper the next 3 matches all look winnable, but many of us thought when the fixtures came out it would prove to be an easy ride initially towards the top 6, but that proved to be a false dawn, so now I’ve become a tad more circumspect.
Unfortunately it was not I that penned the literary quotation ...
Just been to look back and it was RR actually.
Andy, thank you for an excellent piece which covers many salient points including the inexorable question of which Boro will turn up on Saturday.
We would all like to think the one we saw on Tuesday but I have to agree with Ken that Hull will not be a pushover and there is a danger, as in the past, that the team gets dragged down into a scrappy match and pays the price; as you have pointed out, injuries, fatigue and discipline will all play a part.
I would like to see the same team start again if possible as it had much to offer on Wednesday and after the dirge that has been served up for too long in recent seasons it was clearly a stand out performance for me, alongside the wins at West Brom the season before last and at Brighton in our promotion winning year.
I have been to Hull a few times to watch the Boro, often on British Rail football specials which used to pull up at a dedicated station outside the ground; sadly I can't remember a win!
I cannot countenance losing on Saturday and if we can't win it then I would at least expect to see a performance from a "football team" and one which is continuing to progress; a loss to the team who, on points achieved, should be bottom of the league and just before the international break would be just more ammunition to use in calling for NW's head.
CoB no "typical Boro" please. 😎
Every game is always massive and so is this one. Lose against Hull and we're back to square 0. You normally say "square 1" but beating Sheffield Utd represented us finally making it to square 1. Lose against Hull and you really can't avoid the conclusion that Warnock can't string together any kind of performances. Win and you can argue that we're showing signs of playing to the potential we undoubtedly have.
I think it's fair to say that although the performance was good against Sheffield Utd, it was really still only the minimum you require from a team challenging for the playoffs. It relied on Watmore scoring a goal of the week contender and Sheff Utd missing some chances that were easier than the ones we scored. I suspect that on the balance of play and chances created that Sheff Utd came out ahead. Winning a game by being more clinical in front of goal than the other team isn't exactly in our DNA.
To me this feels like a Desmond (2-2) type of game. That would be the worst of both worlds because it's not bad enough for Warnock to get the boot but also not good enough to persuade the doubters.
Many thanks for your preview Andy with your big cat diary and hopefully the not so exotic Neil Warnock will end Saturday as the Tiger King - though he may well get a frosty reception if Boro put in a less than grrreat peformance!
This a key game for Boro if they are to cement the revival of their season with what looks like on paper a good opportunity to achieve back-to-back victories.
My main concern is that Warnock will do what he did after out last midweek victory against Forest and go with an unchanged team. I suspect there are a number of players who could find putting in a similarly energetic performances just a few days after leaving everything on the pitch against the Blades a big ask.
I would freshen up things a little as Sol Bamba and maybe Duncan Watmore could be in need of a breather - we have Hall and Jones who have so far performed quite well this season and possibly Ikpeazu could start also.
OK, there is an argument to say lets have a repeat performance but that rarely happens in the non-stop treadmill of the Championship. The important thing will to play with intensity and I'm not sure that is likely if some players are still not match-fit - including Bola and from what I've seen Tav too.
Hoping for another win and I'm sure most will be expecting one - so anything less will be viewed as failure!
Was slightly worried by the remark in the opening post 'underdogs, as the gaffer likes it'. You cannot be an underdog without losing frequently, and playing badly. So can we drop that idea?
Unfortunately our win was due entirely to the presence of Bamba playing strictly as a stopper front and centre of our penalty area, this led to his two companions having very good games, and our keeper coming Good. In addition he monitered the behaviour of a few hot heads in our defence and midfield. He did no running, but plenty of thinking. We must persist with this set up, and become used to it, therefore, fit or not, the same team must line up, and repeat the tactics, and see what happens. Just a point, we seem to have dropped the wild rolling on the floor when scoring, for five minutes! It was never a good idea. Much better to kick off quickly and score again.
Given how rare Boro goals are, I'm surprised most of us don't roll around the floor when we see one - though I suspect some may not risk it in case they do themselves a mischief 😉
Ideally, if Bamba can manage to orchestrate the defence without exerting too much energy then start him but old limbs tend to suffer injury if they're little a bit stiff and Boro need to coax their defenders through the next few months until the missing support arrives in January.
Plus we can't afford to lose Bola if Peltier picks up another yellow and is suspended - in such circumstances Bamba will end up going dizzy pointing and shouting at what would then be a very makeshift defence.
Quite a few of our goals have been good strikes this season so it would be nice to get a few tap-ins that owed more to decent crosses and deliveries, which would be a better indicator of the players beginning to play more as a team rather than needing a piece of individual brilliance.
11 goals in 10 games isn't much of a sign that Boro will get points without a solid defence - especially if you consider 5 of those came in the first three games.
Given how rare Boro goals are, I'm surprised most of us don't roll around the floor when we see one - though I suspect some may not risk it in case they do themselves a mischief 😉 ....
I was certainly running tottering around the room (supporting myself on any substantial piece of furniture at hand height) when Watmore scored and had just about made it back to my armchair in time to consider, then reject, the crazy notion I had enough left in the tank to repeat the same exercise for McNair’s rocket !
Playing on Tuesday night gives the extra 24 hours recovery time for the likes of Bamba and Peltier, Watmore is not such a concern. I would certainly start with the same eleven for two reasons, 1 It shows the players if they put in the effort they will retain their place, 2 How do we get consistency if we chop and change every game without injury or fitness issues.
Even on this blog some are for change (start Jones etc) some start the same eleven so as always dammed if he does, dammed if he doesn’t, although a win and everyone is happy.
As a gentle reminder about the championship, on Wednesday, high flying Coventry got hammered 0-5 by Luton, who would have been 2 points outside the relegation zone without the victory.
Come on BORO.
I had a grin imagining our Manager Neil Warnock in a Tutu ! Bally awful.
I'd be wary of rolling around on the floor, I reckon that's how Boro players get these weird untreatable injuries.
Andy, many thanks for the header article, made me smile but with the problems Hull have and Typical Boro it seems an almost certain home win.
Please don't change a winning team Mr Warnock, let Hull worry about us and the astute and scintillating substitutions we're going to make. That control by Bola for Watmore was an absolute treat to see too.
Another win please. But then it is Boro...
I'd be in the "same again" camp if everyone is fit and ready, especially as we have an international break coming up and plenty of recovery time for most.
The question is whether that's possible. I imagine that Warnock will want to put the same team out for the reasons you mention so if it's changed, it's likely because it had to be.
Fingers crossed that Bola is ok and Bamba recovers. Jones would make a good sub to bring on against tired legs as Powmill suggested.
It's fair to say that you have to put in performance in the Championship to get the better of your opponent as there generally isn't much of a gulf in player quality between teams. That means playing with energy and starting on the front foot, which is why I would caution against thinking that picking the same team will see a repeat performance.
I don't know how fit Bamba, Watmore, Bola or Peltier are but if they start then Warnock should at the very least not overplay them and look to freshen up the players on the pitch so that both energy levels don't drop or someone doesn't pick up an injury due to tired limbs. OK, there aren't much in the way of alternatives for some positions but we certainly don't need anymore injuries and Hull shouldn't be the toughest opposition we'll face this season.
Plus players like Jones and Hall didn't appear to be playing below standard to deserve dropping over any others - Jones was arguably playing better than most but got rested, got rested again to accommodate new signings needing pitch time and then dropped for apparently being at fault for a goal scored from a free kick - Hall got dropped after unfortunately scoring an own-goal that he could have done little about.
So Warnock didn't reward Jones but decided for other reasons to play different players as he wanted to try and get Hernadez match fit - who as you know is now injured with a thigh strain, which was possibly because he wasn't fit enough to play so much.
The Championship is a squad game and picking your best first XI every week without some rotation will likely lead to injuries, which is why Warnock bemoans his lack of cover as he knows it's all about managing a squad over 46 games.
OK, it's a valid argument to go with the same eleven who performed well with an international break just around the corner - but it's not without risk!
@original-fat-bob. Hull without key players due to injury and suspension sounds a bit like Reading and we know what happened against them! No typicals please! 😎
I am sure that NW will only change the team if he has to and the fact there is an international break coming up provides a degree of comfort if minor injuries and knocks are picked up. Yes it's a risk but one on balance I think is worth taking.
The fact that Sol Bamba completed 90 mins gives me comfort that perhaps he is fitter then we think and may be able to manage 1+ games a week, I certainly hope so after Tuesday's performance. If anyone is in danger of picking up an injury it is more likely to be Howson given the amount of game time he has had.
Nothing can be done as far as yellow cards are concerned and we are going to have to accept that Crooks and Peltier are going to be suspended for one game following their next one; ideally we don't want then out at the same time. 😎
Barnsley v Notts Forest, another great review this week about (Djed Spence: Looked the most likely to create something in the first half as he was Forest’s strongest attacking outlet. A constant menace with his runs down the right. Rating: 8/10)
Unfortunately it was not I that penned the literary quotation ...
Just been to look back and it was RR actually.
Forever Dormo as well.
But don’t forget that Reading had an even worse injury list and how that finished.
I’m still curious to see what would happen if we played Ikpeazu and Sporar together up front maybe with Watmore in a front three. Somewhere there is a combination that will really click. If we lost Crooks to suspension, I’d try these three up front with Howson, McNair and Tavernier in the midfield.
Anyway, with regard to playing the same side, I think that Warnock has to be prepared to freshen the side by making substitutions earlier. I can’t remember one case where somebody has come on with half an hour left. That would really give somebody like Jones the chance to do something. It’s unrealistic to expect a sub to change a game around in fifteen minutes.
Sorry! I posted my last comment before reading the similar comments from John Richardson and KP, though it shows how nervous some of us are about this match.