Preston v Boro
After nine months of ups, downs, ins, outs, twists and turnarounds, Boro’s hokey-cokey play-off hopes all depend on 90 minutes of Championship action on the final day. It’s so tense even Diasboro.club had to take a lie down for a few hours..
Boro finish the regular season with a trip to Preston North End on Saturday, kick-off 12.30pm, knowing only a win will give us any chance, with help needed from either Fulham or possibly Reading as they take on Sheffield Utd and Luton respectively.
Only the most optimistic among us would have predicted a genuine play-off push for Boro back in the summer but Boro’s walk on the Wilder side since November has transformed the club’s prospects in no time at all. Neil Warnock’s plodding, percentage football has been modernised by Chris Wilder’s press and pass approach and the results have largely followed. It hasn’t all been upwards progression and question marks remain around the January transfer window and our recruitment of forwards in particular but the trend is upwards and with one game to go, we’re in the hunt for an unlikely promotion.
How unlikely? Well, we need the win and a favour from elsewhere, then we’d need to go and actually win the playoffs. So, yeah, pretty unlikely. While there’s a chance though….
Boro’s away form over the season was a weak spot in comparison to the long winning run at The Riverside but - whisper it quietly - since that damaging defeat at Brammall Lane back in March, Boro’s away record is P5 W2 D3 L0 GF7 GA1. The goals scored figure is skewed by that 4-0 win down at lowly Peterborough and three goals from the four other games isn’t good but there’s no doubt that we’ve tightened up and we’re taking points.
With Preston having nothing to play for but pride and Boro in decent nick away from home, Wilder’s men may take some confidence into this game especially on the back of consecutive victories at home.
With 48 goals scored all season, Preston are the league’s joint-5th lowest scorers and that is borne out in the home table too, with just 27 goals from their 22 matches. Meanwhile Boro have the 7th best defensive record overall with 46 conceded, and 6th best away from home with 25 goals against from our 22 games. On paper, “Preston 0” looks a decent bet, and perhaps even more so if Boro can keep Danish forward Emil Riis Jakobsen quiet.
The 6ft 3in 23-year-old has an excellent 18 goals to his name in all competitions this campaign – an astonishing 31% of all Preston goals – and 6 assists to boot. His 0.49 goals per 90mins dwarfs anyone else likely to be on the pitch from either side and clearly he’s the man - maybe the only man - to shackle from a Boro point of view.
Going the other way, Boro are a midtable 12th for goals scored overall and Preston an equally mediocre in 11th for goals conceded. In terms of home/away, Preston have the 7th best defensive record at home and Boro the 14th best offensive record away. “Boro 0” doesn’t look a terrible shout either then I’m afraid!
However, this isn’t an ordinary Championship affair. Sure, Preston will want to sign off with a spring in their step in front of the home crowd - although over 6,000 Boro fans are expected at Deepdale - but, in terms of motivation, that doesn’t really compete with Boro’s aspirations. It may all come down to who can handle the situation, who can hold their nerve, who can rise to the occasion. That goes for Sheffield Utd and maybe Luton too. It’s all to play for.
Following the entertaining 3-1 triumph over Stoke and a week of recovery thereafter, you wouldn’t expect much, if any, change in the line-up from Chris Wilder. Matt Crooks returned with a bang and a brace as the right-sided trio of he, Djiksteel and Jones reprised their mid-season success, whilst the left side looked better than ever with Tavernier shifted to wingback and linking up excellently at times with the sharp Riley McGree.
Watmore and Sporar looked slightly better than any combination we’ve seen up front for some time whilst Fry returned to the heart of defence and found his feet as the game wore on. Daniels made an error for the late Stoke consolation but has looked far more assured than Joe Lumley in the main and will surely keep the gloves.
That only leaves Lee Peltier’s role as left centre-back in doubt as Paddy McNair may return from illness. McNair has nailed that position down and is the more adventurous option of the two but Pelts has never let the side down and looks the better option from a purely defensive point of view. If playing Tavernier at wingback with McGree inside him, does playing Peltier at left centre-back offer a little more insurance? McNair is clear favourite to regain the slot but it’s not the worst decision for Wilder to have to make.
So, this is it. 90 minutes to determine whether its goodnight Vienna or hello playoffs. It’s tense. It’s exciting. It’s Championship football at its finest. It’s Boro all over, but will it be all over at the final whistle?
Just to add, a huge thanks from me to OFB for organising and sharing preview duties with me. It's a long old season, isn't it OFB?! Of course, we may not be done yet but thanks a million anyway.
Also, another huge thank you to everyone in this fantastic Diasboro community for all the kind words, likes and thanks after a preview is posted. It's a pleasure to kick a discussion off in such fine company.
Enough of that now though, a win, a bit of luck, and we're not done here yet....
Thanks to Andy for putting his left foot in to start this off.
We're in cup run mode now. Win 3 games, get promoted. Nothing else matters. Of course one of those games would be over 2 legs and depending on Sheffield Utd and Luton we could still win tomorrow and not make it to the play-offs. Still, it's three matches to the promised land.
It's been season of 3 halves really. The first half under Warnock was 17 games of us flailing around mid-table. The next 'half' under Wilder had us playing like automatic promotion contenders only for us to be derailed by a sudden horror-show run of results that was more akin to a relegation team. We've since stabilised but our future is no longer in our own hands.
Speaking of hands, the outbreak of left and right foam hands has died away and there's a certain amount of tetchiness around yet, oddly, in a few weeks we could be looking at promotion. It's probably fair to say that this doesn't feel like a promotion-winning side. It feels more like the AK side after he took over from Mowbray in 2013. A lot of mis-matched parts but a potentially solid core to build on.
At Preston I expect us to start with the same team as against Stoke with McNair possibly returning from illness. Wilder's not one for shaking things about. There does seem to be a question mark over Jones's fitness so he may end up stepping out. Although Tav may be a better midfielder than wing-back, I think he's a better wing-back than Bola and McGree may be better in left midfield than Tav. I also feel that left wing-back is probably going to be Tav's best position once he's had time to practice it though McGree does seem to lack some of Tav's defensive strength in midfield.
Watmore and Sporar played like it was 2021 all over again. Sporar wasn't brilliant but he was ok and put in a shift. I think Wilder has also decided that Watmore can last 60 minutes from the start plus Coburn did well when he replaced him so I think he may go with that option again.
Preston have had the definition of a mid-table mediocrity season; never in any serious danger of relegation or the playoffs. They have been solid at home; losing only 4 times so the record books definitely have this one down as a draw. That wouldn't be good enough so expect to see Wilder go balls to the wall if we're not winning with 30 minutes to go. My natural pessimism has kicked in so I see us losing this by a couple after we go chasing.
Another excellent piece to finish off your share of preview duties; many thanks Andy to you and OFB for all the previews which have been a pleasure to read, being informative and often humorous.
I don’t think either of you will be called on again this season as whilst I think we may win our last game, I believe that so will Sheffield and Luton to finally put an end to our hopes.
Nevertheless, it has been in the main an enjoyable season with some good football at times from a team which has bought into the CW philosophy.
If the recruitment team gets it right, in the key positions where we are lacking during the summer, then hopefully we can be in the top six mix for all of next season.
For me we have to play Tav at wingback and McGree in midfield both on Saturday and next season. McNair has earned the right to come back into the side if fit on Saturday but I would prefer to see a specialist left footed centre back in the role next season and a little canary tells me they have one who has fallen out of favour recently!
I would be inclined to offer one year contracts to Howson, Bamba and Peltier which would see us well covered in defence and midfield.
As ever, the problem will be in finding a couple of forwards who can hit the net consistently.
For once in a long time, I can’t wait to renew my Riverside Live subscription and for next season to start. CoB 😎
Not unusually, I agree with pretty much everything above from Deleriad and KP.
Like them both, my gut tells me that this will be our last game of the season, though we might well win it.
Deleriad’s point about this feeling like the season before the real promotion push is fair to me. I wrote some time ago about how you often get that feeling about a team and that’s how I feel now. We’re onto something, but it’s 1-2 seasons too soon.
Of course, I’d snap your hand off for promotion now and haven’t given it up, but we’re undoubtedly a work in progress and, as KP says, we need to get it right in the summer. That goes for whichever league we’re in.
Tony Mowbray was rather good at spotting lesser priced talent. Is he doing anything this summer?
Fulham doing the business against Luton. 2-0 up and half the Luton team booked seemingly after just 40mins.
5 - 0 now and Luton have worse goal difference than us
6 - 0
Game on. Luton still favourites but if we win they have to win to pip us as a draw is now no good to them. I think Kenilworth Road is going to be much more nervous than Deepdale and with a Boro away crowd roaring the team on you just never know! CoB 😎
7 - 0
Just watched Fulham destroy Luton 7 nil.
Come on BORO.
Thank you AndyR for another excellent opener for the final scheduled fixture this season.
Both you and OFB have worked and written very hard this season and I don't think any of us underestimate the time and effort this commitment has taken. Bravo. Premier League class. All those likes and complimentary comments are fully justified.
Of course, this is Boro and they are keeping us all on tenterhooks until the very end and hopefully there will be at least two more matches to post about in here.
Fulham have certainly done their very best for us tonight. Let's hope Fulham can carry on and blunt the Blades on Saturday as I don't fancy Reading getting a result for us at Luton.
It is still all very unlikely but at least it is genuinely exciting...
No prediction from me this week. I am simply going to say many many prayers to the Almighty whom I am certain is a Boro fan and then hope the miracle will happen. If it doesn't then roll on next season. We will be good.
Thanks for the mention as they say “it’s been a blast!”
The eyeballs 👀 in the sky have been consigned to the waste bin as we push for a spot in the playoff position.
Lets all believe and hope that “Untypical Boro” prevail and secure a glorious win on Saturday lunchtime.
Thanks Andy for today's preview and for the hard work you and OFB have put into Diasboro since taking over from Werder. The end of season fixtures have been so congested that I have found it hard to keep up with my reading so I have to admire how both of you have been able to put in so much effort.
I agree that it is unlikely that we will make the playoffs but I didn't expect Luton to be hammered by Fulham which has dropped them below Sheffield Utd. If only Luton had a harder final match as their confidence must have been knocked a bit. I hope Fulham have saved their form and some goals for their game on Saturday.
I also expect, barring injuries/illness, that Wilder will only bring in McNair for Peltier as we will be looking for more attacking action but then again I didn't expect the changes he made on Saturday. I think it will be tense listening to Radio Tees and following the three matches that affect us but it has been a good season considering where we were before Wilder took over.
On another note, Tony Mowbray, one of the favourites to return to Hibs.
I would like to see Nottingham Forest win tonight and eventually make 2nd place.
The upturn in their fortunes has been amazing since Steve Cooper took over.
I would like to thank personally all the contributors to this great forum.
After the season is over I wish you all the very best for a great summer.
Me, I'm off to my favourite place in Turkey and that is Dalyan. Three weeks in June and six in September.
No doubt while I'm away, I will be focusing on Diasboro for the latest news.
Also Scotland have a world cup Qualifying game against Ukraine in June. The winners will face Wales for a spot in the World cup.
Keep well and safe everyone. 😎
Thanks to Andy for another grand finale of a match preview and hopefully a few more encores from OFB and himself to come before the curtain comes down on an unlikely promotion season. It's been a bit of no but yes but maybe season with Boro getting their act together only to suffer a little stage fright towards the end.
Still, Fulham have demonstrated that they're not ready for the beach just yet with that 7-0 thrashing of Luton yesterday - a scoreline that will have also caused slight panic at Bramall Lane too no doubt. Luton it seems are struggling with injuries and even had to install an emergency keeper - though given the scoreline one wonders if they forgot to break the glass case he arrived in.
It's now up to Boro to win their last game and hope either the Blades lose their cutting edge or the Hatters are left feeling mad after failing to beat Reading. So there's probably a chance that Chris Wilder's team can sneak into the play-offs and it will be important for the players to go into the game focused and ready to put in a performance.
If we can score early then news will filter through to those other games and to coin a phrase much overused in the pandemic, 'ramp up' the pressure on our rivals. It's the Championship and anything can happen as most teams are not exactly well-oiled machines capable of being consistently on their game. Neither Sheff Utd, Luton or indeed Boro have found scoring goals easy in recent weeks - somebody will likely stutter at the weekend under the pressure to get a result. It promises to be a nervous last day!
Thanks Andy for a typically interesting and polished opener, and to Bob too for all of his splendid work and research throughout the season. The Luton result has opened up another unexpected window, and I haven't given up on Reading producing some kind of result. Not only will Luton be stunned by the magnitude of their defeat, but if any manager can get his team up for the fight it is Paul Ince. He won't accept second best.
I liked the story of the funeral of the writer of the Hokey-Cokey, the Irishman Jimmy Kennedy. When the undertaker put the deceased into the coffin the trouble started when he tried to put his left leg in.
“somebody will likely stutter at the weekend under the pressure to get a result. It promises to be a nervous last day!”
I just hope it is not us. If we win but still do not make top six then so be it I can accept that. I would be extremely upset if we lose or draw whilst the other two clubs do the same and miss our opportunity. 😎
I was at the Slaughtered Lamb early evening yesterday to watch the game: Fulham 7-0 Luton Town. I hadn't realised there were so many Fulham fans in our village. A cracking evening's entertainment was had by all.
The vital thing, as others have commented, is to make sure that Boro gets the required win at Preston on Saturday. If we win, we put ourselves in the lottery and can hope one of the other two "candidates" slip up. If we don't win, we don't have a lottery ticket and therefore CAN'T get into the play-offs. It will be a very nervy Saturday lunchtime.
Thanks to everybody for a great series of comments, and especial thanks - yet again - to Andy for a brilliant opener. To all those of you who have provided these starters throughout the season, I add my sincere thanks. This really is devotion beyond the call of duty.
No prediction from me - I’m always wrong anyway. I just reiterate the hope that we turn up, give it everything and come away with the three points. As has been said, if we miss out on the opportunity of the play-offs by not getting the win were results elsewhere to go in our favour, then that would be really galling.
As it is, it’s unbelievable Jeff that we’re still in with a good chance at game 46! Come on Boro!
The season end is near
As Boro face their last opponents
My friends, I'll say it clear
This season really had some moments
We played in grounds quite full
And kept clean sheets, but oh so sadly
To score, much more than one
We did it badly
Upsets, not one but two
But one in blue, no let’s not mention
And in the league we flew
From down and outs to in contention
In Wilder-ball we found
A way to play and be successful
Except at scoring goals
Which has been stressful
Yes, there were games, that we all knew
We gave one away so needed two
But through it all, though there was doubt .
Enough were scored, for us to shout
And stand tall in our defence
Of our goal difference
We've still an outside chance
To make it through for playoff glory
So when the cheers subside
Let's pray the scores support our story
And typical we'll say
And may I say, not in a shy way
Boro only ever does things in the hard way
For what are we fans, what have we got
If nothing to cheer, no silver pot
We post all the things that we truly feel
The Premier League? It's no big deal
Diasboro shows, we can take the blows
Boro is our way
Powmill-Naemore, great song done your way 👍
Come on BORO.
Bournemouth v Forest, pretty even first half, as a matter of interest, if Boro were to finish 6th would diasboro prefer us to play Bournemouth or Forest.
Come on BORO.
Thanks Exmil. That is kind.
Re who to meet in the playoffs if the miracle happens..
It would have to be a deflated Bournemouth for me, rather than an in form Forest.
I am Barcelona for a few days. Any of our bloggers living in Spain now in Barcelona? Or are you more in the south, perhaps?
I have a free Thursday morning, if anyone interested in meeting with me.
Exmill, I would choose Forest. We won both matches already. Wait a minute, we beat Norwich twice before losing to them in the play-offs.
Perhaps Bournemouth, then.
Up the Boro!
Brilliant Powmill from Mr & Mrs P.
Exmil - Bournemouth for me for same reason as Powmill. 😎
Would have liked to have met up but I am way south on the Costa Blanca so about 5 hours away.
Enjoy a wonderful City. 😎