Sheffield Utd v Boro
Sheffield Utd v Boro
Wednesday 15th Feb 2023
Bramall Lane k.o. 8:00 P.M.
After a professional display on Saturday against Cardiff when the Boro showed their inter passing and attacking skills in the first half, they then showed their defensive attributes in the second half when Cardiff stepped up a gear in an attempt to salvage something from the game.
Let’s be honest Diasborians, it wasn't quite as comfortable as the scoreline might suggest, with Boro's third coming in the 90th minute after withstanding heavy pressure from the home side in the second half. Nevertheless, in what was his first home game in charge of the Bluebirds, their new manager Lamouchi was left disappointed. He said after the match, that his Cardiff City side were beaten by the better side, as he admitted Middlesbrough's quality told in Saturday's Championship clash.
It will be a different story on Wednesday when the Boro may get cut down to size by the blades, who seem destined to gain automatic promotion to the Premiership. Determined to put Boro to the sword, I expect Sheffield United to start in a high press fashion anxious to prove a point against other promotion hopefuls in the Championship. I anticipate that the majority of the game will be played on a knife edge and for Carrick to have his team well prepared and have a cutting point with Forss and Akpom spearheaded by Archer. Akpom was quite subdued on Saturday and shanked an open goal (based on his recent chances and form). I trust that hopefully he will scythe through the opposition to score on Wednesday.
Hackney, McGree and Howson seem to be pulling all the strings in games in the Boro midfield these days and a delightful forward pass by Hayden set up Archer to make his goal scoring debut.
Turning to the opposition, Billy Sharp has an injury concern for Sheffield United before the game against the Boro on Wednesday and they might have to make a switch blade.
Their manager Paul Heckingbottom hailed his teams aggression in a dominant 3-0 win over Swansea. Goals came from Sander Berge and Jack Robinson who gave the Blades a first-half lead before substitute Oli McBurnie rounded off their victory with a goal in the final minute.
Heckingbottom said: “I thought we were good, we were fully committed to it. I know Swansea can dominate games and they were brave early on. We stepped onto them, especially in the second half, and were aggressive with it, which made the game predictable. We try and be prepared for every team, through possession and counter-attack, and today we had to get the message across really quick.”
On his decision to not include McBurnie from the start, he then went on to say: “I saw how upset he was. He wanted to play even more because Swansea is his former club, but I wanted to know if he was fit, so I didn’t take the risk. “It’s a relentless schedule. The three-day matches are not a problem but when it’s consecutively week after week it’s a problem. We try to use the experience to our advantage. It’s just the focus. We need to make sure we can work on things.”
McBurnie was eventually introduced after an injury to fellow striker Billy Sharp and Heckingbottom said: “That’s the story of the season. I can’t wait to have everyone back! “It’s a relentless schedule. The three-day matches are not a problem but when it’s consecutively week after week it’s a problem. We try to use the experience to our advantage. It’s just the focus. We need to make sure we can work on things.”
Swansea came close to scoring within minutes of kick-off when Joel Piroe’s strike from just inside the box was pushed away by goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Berge made it 1-0 in the 21st minute after incredible ball movement from Iliman Ndiaye to McAtee on the flank, who found Berge for a placed finish from outside of the box.
Swansea manager Russell Martin then received a yellow card for protesting the referee’s decisions.
Swansea’s hopes sunk further as Oliver Norwood’s direct free-kick rebounded off the bar and landed perfectly for Robinson to strike a powerful half-volley into the roof of the net.
Tough tackling from both teams continued in the second half as both McAtee and Swansea’s Ben Cabango were shown yellow cards for dangerous challenges. Swansea replaced Liam Cullen with Morgan Whittaker while for the hosts, McAtee and the possibly injured Sharp were replaced by Ben Osborn and McBurnie.
Swansea were unlucky not to get a goal back after Oli Cooper’s shot was saved by Foderingham after a quick counter-attack.
But Robinson hit the left post after a pass by Norwood and McBurnie made it 3-0 with a simple tap-in from close range with a minute of the 90 remaining.
The win keeps United 10 points clear of third-placed Boro, whose visit on Wednesday looks set to be huge in this cut throat League.
Heckingbottom said after the game, “Middlesbrough is next and we have got to keep standards and levels high in preparation for this game. We have high expectations. I know they are all big games coming up and our opponents’ approach will be different. They will go for the big game. We can’t be complacent with other teams. He has also admitted his team can “do damage” to Middlesbrough’s hopes of winning automatic promotion if they beat Michael Carrick’s side at Bramall Lane on Wednesday night.”
But speaking ahead of a match which pits second versus third in the Championship table, Heckingbottom insisted the contest with Carrick’s men is no more important than United’s games against Milwall and Watford which follow this week’s clash.
I don’t particularly care if Boro score a scruffy goal or win with a scissor kick, but I do know that if we lose it will be like a dagger to my heart ❤️!
So come on you Diasborians let’s have your rattling of sabres and give us your forecasts for the game…..
I’m going for a 1-3 win for Boro !
Oh these foam 🖐️ hands 🙌!
nice piece @ Original Fat Bob
My concern about this game is that we may make things too easy for Sheffield United. They don't worry about having dominant possession but instead seem to be very expert at pressing and feeding on errors by the opposition. I know that our close passing style has been very easy on the eye and the team is playing with a lot of belief. However, we have to acknowledge that both Blackpool and Cardiff had some very good chances to score but weren't particularly clinical. Sheffield United could be the opposite and we could find ourselves behind without having done anything particularly different from our recent successes.
Quite what all this means ....I'm not sure. Do we still play out from the back? Yes, but maybe not every time. If we suddenly play a few balls into the channels and bypass their press, it will add some uncertainty and create more room for our midfield.
All in all, it will be a real tactical challenge for Michael Carrick and his team and I'm very curious to see what approach they take.
Can we win? Yes, but we're not favourites.
Would I take a draw? At this stage of the season, probably not because the only way that we can realistically have a shot at the top two is by catching Sheffield United and this is our best chance. It would shake Sheffield United ahead of a very tough run of fixtures.
@OFB Thank you for a great opener.
I think we will travel to Sheffield as the undersdogs. We have nothing to lose. If we would lose, we would still be in the top six and a play-off position.
But United have something to lose. They need to keep a distance to us as they have the last automatic promotion spot. If we won, everything will be possible - at least in our Boro dreams.
But it won't be easy. United has played as well as us over the past few weeks and their points tally shows that.
They will be happy with a draw but we must be geared to winning the match, though. But as said, it is not the end of the world for either team, if they would lose the match on Wednesday (I mean a day, not a club in Sheffield).
It will be a massive match for the spectators - but for the players it is just one game of the Marathon season. There is still so many matches to be played, so nothing is lost or won this week.
I hope for a Boro win as it would make the season more exciting. And we are playing really well. McGree is not much behind Marcus Tavernier in form anymore.
Our attack and midfield are in a good shape, too. We can really play decent football now. Best since the haydays of the McClaren days as deleriad wrote yesterday.
I am just enjoying the season now. If we got a point or three on Wednesday, that will be a bonus. Up the Boro!
Thanks for great opener Bob (as always).
Wednesday cannot come around soon enough for me as I am really looking forward to see how we measure up against the Blades.
It is an unhappy memory recalling CW's visit to Bramall Lane with us when expectations was high, but Boro simply didn't show up and were outclassed on the day.
We are a different proposition now and it is hard to imagine that we will not present a challenge to Sheffield this time around. That said, our performance against Sunderland does demonstrate that we are still capable of delivering a below par performance. The hope is that MC has leaned form that experience and so will have the team ready to go from kick off this time out.
We shared the spoils at The Riverside earlier this season, but since then we have become a much more convincing team and I am cautiously optimistic that we might prove to be more than a handful for the Blades to handle.
I perhaps would prefer to see Fry in the starting line up, rather than McNair, but otherwise do not see any reason to change the team. I am not sure about 3-1 Bob. I would like to see us keep a clean sheet. That will mean at least 1 point for us, but it will also be frustrating for their team and supporters, perhaps enough for us to steal it later on. 1-0 to Boro then, but as other shave said, it is quite possible to imagine any of a win, draw or defeat.
Thanks to OFB for another great opener, although a defeat on Wednesday may put a big dent in our automatic promotion hopes, it will not kill off our playoff hopes, my hotel for the final was booked weeks ago.
Come on BORO.
Fry versus McNair debate, what is the general opinion on who should start 🤔, do we think against a fast moving attack (Utd) would we have the more mobile Fry or the game reading qualities of McNair.
Come on BORO.
I think Fry is better as a defender, and McNair is better with a ball. I like Paddy travelling with the ball and even scoring a goal or two occationally. He is a quality player.
But Paddy can sleep sometimes and his concentration level is not as good as Dael's. Far too often, the goal is conceded from McNair's side. Like at Cardiff.
So if we need to defend more, I would go for Dael. But both players are good on this level. When McNair is in a game, he is fabulous. But Fry is more steady and practically never has a bad day. His red card was because Steffen did not come out early enough.
I'll let Carrick and Woodgate to deside. I just watch and injoy the ride. Up the Boro!
It’s all about accumulating as many points as possible at the moment. I’d settle for a point, though I’d be more concerned that other top sides keep on winning. It’s up to the Blades now to make sure that Boro don’t win, so equal points sounds about right as no way can Boro get automatic promotion from their current position.
Fry versus McNair debate, what is the general opinion on who should start 🤔, do we think against a fast moving attack (Utd) would we have the more mobile Fry or the game reading qualities of McNair.
Come on BORO.
Fry for me in this game on Wednesday
Ex-QPR, Middlesbrough, and Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock agrees a return to the management, a report claims.
So they say he did not retire. Or his wife got bored the chap was hanging around the house talking constantly. Up the Boro!
OFB - thanks yet again for the opener.
Everyone else - what a game in prospect on Wednesday. My mate tells me that the Sheff U v Boro game is the main game on SkyTV so THAT will be the match shown at the Battered Badger. Apparently there is a game being played elsewhere, Arsenal v ManC but, realistically, we all know which is the Big One. (The pub doesn't have Amazon Prime, on which the other game is being shown - WHAT A TERRIBLE PITY!!). I can catch up with developments in London via my BBC Sport App on the mobile phone but concentration will be firmly upon events at Bramall Lane.
A 1-3 prediction by OFB. I'll have a pint of that, please! That would be a dream result. It is possible but the game will clearly be a very difficult one. I hope OFB is correct in his prediction and hesitate to jinx things by putting forward an alternative score.
Given the choice, I'd have Fry in as a starter with Lenihan at the centre of defence. It would be great if Cameron Archer, now that he has broken his duck, could stretch a few defences with his speed from here onwards to the end of the season and hopefully he can bag a few vital goals. I'd LOVE IT, LOVE IT if he scored on Wednesday and if Akpom can return to the goal standard. In light of his recent form, does the Cardiff City game constitute a "barren spell" or a "goal drought" for him?
I realise this may cause an avalanche of unhappy comments but I think Riley McGree is a much better player than Macus Tavernier. His vision, the cheekiness of some of his deliveries and that scissors kick goal a few weeks back! His energy to run for the whole of the 90+ minutes (as he did for his late goal at Cardiff) isn't to be sniffed at, either. I accept there were times last season when it looked as though Tavernier was the only spark of creativity in the team, and I am not having a go at Tavernier, but McGree is now showing the confidence to display his ability as a result of a successful World Cup campaign. I doubt that is a sentence that will ever be typed with Tavernier's name included.
And then there is Forss who appeared to have been a forgotten man under previous management (A "player for the future" we were told) and Hayden Hackney. Finding him as a linchpin in the team is like - I imagine! - finding a still-valid and winning lottery ticket stuffed down the back of the settee. We didn't know we had it because we can't remember buying it, let alone misplacing it. But now we have unearthed it (him)... happy days!
Football is now something to look forward to, once again. That will not be affected whether it is win, lose or draw on Wednesday. But I HOPE it will be a win.
Lovely post FD
A great post many thanks.
I must admit it got me thinking that with the emergence of Hackney and the growing confidence of McGree it’s relieved some of the load of our beleaguered captain Howson who was under pressure after losing the strong running of Tavernier.
It could be said that the transfer of Tav that left a glaring hole in the midfield could account for the shortfall in our tactics which were cruelly exposed after our previous manager didn’t know how to deal with it. The new Carricature of the team playing Akpom in a withdrawn no 10 position and giving Forss the role to play on the right wing allowed McGree the freedom to roam and exploit the gaps which appeared in the opposing ranks as the fluidity and movement meant that Boro were not reliant on Jones or Giles to pump crosses in. The midfield emergence of Hackney who can win a ball and has also developed the ability to play a killer pass forward has given a new dimension to our attacking play.
Howson must be relieved knowing that he has other players around him who can do his running for him and he can play a more calculating role in the team whilst helping the younger members to develop further.
Let’s not forget that Leadbitter and Carrick who were both excellent midfield players are spending a lot of time on the training pitch with this team and their coaching would appear to be bearing fruit and confidence within the team.
The defence has also improved as a result of having Woodgate coaching the back 4 and Lenihan is a proven leader at this level.
Although it is easy to criticise the keeper for mistakes and misplaced passes, the ownership by Carrick of taking the responsibility for any errors is commendable and the sign of a good leader.
Does anyone think Wilder would have held his hands up and said “it’s down to my tactics that we conceded a goal!”
The more I think about Wednesday and the game I’m going to stick by my forecast !
it’s a 1-3 win for Boro !
Wednesday. The juices are starting to run...
Thanks OFB for your excellent opener.
For me, Fry in for McNair and I agree with Forever Dormo that McGree is an all round better player than Tavernier and I think makes a greater contribution in terms of goals and assists.
I would be happy with a clean sheet and expect the blades to be trying to high press and be all over us like a rash, so we need our A game if we are to come away with at least a point.
Not a season defining moment for either team but it will be interesting to see how we cope with the intensity and the pressure.
This game could tell us a lot about the team and how they will cope when it gets down to the last 5/6 games when the pressure will really ramp up. CoB 😎
I’m starting to get excited about Wednesday’s game, especially with the prospect of being able to watch it live on TV.
I’m also trying to work out when I can escape from opening removal boxes to catch a game at the Riverside- it’s about 90 minutes from here, so definitely doable occasionally.
@martin-bellamy - Helmsley? Selby? Beverley?
@forever-dormo Sherburn between Scarborough and Malton.
Thanks Bob for yet another well-informed starter.
Agree that United will probably do what they did so successfully to us last season. Go for a high press, try to overwhelm us and put the game to bed in the first half hour.
It's what Burnley did to us in the second half after giving us too much respect in the first and ultimately conceding the Watmore goal. After half time we scarcely got out of our half, conceded three (could have been more) and Steffen did not have a good game.
The keeper (along with Giles) will undoubtedly be targeted by United. He seems to offer the opposition at least one unearned opportunity per game, and yet another major mistake in such a high profile game would do little for his confidence in spite of Carrick's understanding and support.
I've always feared that this weakness of Steffen, which we all know about but is largely tolerated, could really come back to bite us in a big game such as a play-off final. Would Boro fans be so tolerant then? Critics could hardly be accused of hindsight.
And, of course, that precise scenario has played out before in front of an audience of millions when Steffen dithered on the ball, took a touch too many and allowed Mane to put the ball in the net with a sliding tackle. It was a crucial League Cup semi-final. If memory serves, Liverpool went three up in the first half, City managed to pull two back in the second, so with a final score of 3-2 City fans were entitled to believe that Pep's faith in Steffen cost them the game and a possible trophy.
To their shame many City fans did rather more than this, taking to social media and shredding Steffen with a torrent of the worst kind of abuse. Pep's defence of his keeper was necessary, immediate and honourable, but did not prevent the violent and indefensible reaction which followed.
Goalkeepers are a vulnerable species. One bad mistake can finish their careers in a way that doesn't seem to apply so much to strikers who fail to put away the simplest of chances. Yet the end result might well be the same. A blatant error costing a game.
I well remember Jerzy Dudek, an outstanding Liverpool keeper over a number of seasons and a member of their European Championship winning team, once, and only once, dropping the ball from an innocuous headed back pass. Unfortunately it was in front of a full house at Anfield, and it presented a game that Liverpool had dominated to arch rivals Manchester United. I don't think that Dudek played for Liverpool again, and sadly he pretty much disappeared without trace. No consideration of the rarity of the event, no contextualising of his past performances. One mistake and he was out.
I found Deleriad's recent description of the way in which the team and coaching staff showed their support for Steffen after a recent game both heartening and reassuring.
Some years ago I recommended on the blog, A Life too Short, the tragic but wonderfully well told story of the German international goalkeeper Robert Enke. It was a deeply affecting account of the events leading up to his suicide and brought home the human costs of the way in which we as fans can too often feel free to abuse players for their mistakes with little concern for the consequences.
Steffen has already been to hell and back once, and by all accounts seems to have suffered something of crisis of confidence earlier this season. It speaks volumes for his courage that he appears willing to continue to carry out his coach's instructions, because, however supportive his colleagues and coach might be, he is the one who will ultimately carry the can and be scapegoated by the fans.
It's unfair on Steffen to put him in the way of another possible social media meltdown. Which of us could suffer that fate without the danger of severe psychological damage?
Might it not be in Steffen's best interests to modify our tactics by encouraging him play the ball out when it is safe to do so, and to clear his lines when it is not ?
With the pace of Archer and Forss up front, the long ball behind the defence now becomes not only a viable option, but with McGree and Hackney encouraged to move up in support to pick up the second balls, probably the best method we have of beating the tight press which Sheffield United will almost certainly employ.
We shall see
@martin-bellamy In the spring you can take a train from Pickering, change at Grosmont and head to Boro. And a nice walk to Riverside. If lucky, with a steam train!
A fabulous way to spend a day 😉. Up the Boro!
@jarkko The Esk Valley line holds special memories for me. As a young boy my Mam would take me on the train from Nunthorpe Station to Grosmont and we’d walk to Beck Hole. As a very young teenager, I used to catch the same train to Lealholm to go fishing (largely unsuccessfully) with a school friend. Glorious days that I look back on very fondly.
I’ve ridden the NYM Steam Train a few times when my own children were young and stayed in Grosmont overnight on the penultimate day of walking Wainwright’s Coast to Coast with my two girls when they became adults. It’s a beautiful part of the world and an important part of my childhood.
@lenmasterman An excellent post - they say you have to be a bit crazy to be a goalkeeper and they’re probably right. If Steffen is being told by his Manager to play out from the back, he’s in an invidious position if the fans are on his back for doing so. As many times as Mark Schwarzer kicked the ball out of play with a hoof upfield, I doubt it ever cost us a game. His mistake in the Final at Cardiff was forgiven because ultimately we won the Cup, had Bolton equalised and gone on to win, I wonder if our fans would have been so forgiving.
Back to Steffen, and I think he needs support from his fellow defenders - from the highlights that I’ve watched, I don’t think he was helped by PM who seemed to lose a bit of concentration. If the GK has been tasked with playing out from the back the other players should be looking to receive the ball whenever Steffen has got it in his area.
Boro will be looking to win a fourth consecutive game when they make the trip to Sheffield United but they've won just one of their last ten games at Bramall Lane. The Blades, meanwhile, are currently on a 13-match unbeaten run across all competitions.
Just saying, like. Up the Boro!
@lenmasterman. Excellent post Len and an appropriate reminder of the damage that inappropriate comments can have on players, many of whom we have never or will never meet; consequently we fail to see the destructive impact that can be inflicted on them. 😎
Zeffen cannot take such chances against the Blades. Safety first should be his mantra.
Great opener, OFB, thanks again! And many excellent posts to follow up, playmates.
I think we’ll give the Blades a game tomorrow night. It is, after all, the game between the second and third best teams in the division. I mean that genuinely - United are well ahead of us on points, goal difference and goals scored, and their consistency is strong. But Boro are streets ahead of every other side in the Champo in my opinion, Burnley apart obviously. We’ve scored 50 goals! With 16 games left to play! It’s unheard of. We haven’t seen such a free-flowing side for centuries!
Having said that, I don’t think we’ll catch Sheffield United, whatever the result tomorrow. Even if we reduce the gap to 7 points, they still have a much better goal difference and a game in hand and they’re just too good for most teams. But can we give them a fright? Yes we can! Come on Boro!
Rolando Ugolini was a hero in the 50s. I saw his debut against Everton during that time, but had the habit of making the easiest of shots look difficult. Whilst Peter Taylor was the first goalkeeper I recall who was able to throw the ball to a colleague in the opposite half of the pitch with regularity.
Incidentally Boro’s biggest win was at home to the Blades in 1933, 10-3 being the final score, yet one of the lowest attendances that season.
@martin-bellamy - Malton: food paradise? Scarborough and Whitby just up the road. The Great Yorkshire Brewery at Cropton and Kirbymoorside & Pickering not far away. Anyway I hope you're happy in your new home and, as you've said, within striking distance of The Riverside.
@martin-bellamy - The Birch Hall Inn at Beck Hole! The TINY bar (and the much larger other room), the sweet shop, the Beck Hole Butty or pork pie & pickle. Usually a glorious "guest beer". And now with a very decent beer garden. One of my favourite ever pubs.
Clive: You are right. We should be able to give Sheff U a good game. But I thought that barely a couple of weeks ago against Sunderland.
Then again I thought we might well get blown away at Norwich, which we were for 20 minutes. But we ended up being the better side.
So I have no idea how tomorrow's game will eventually pan out. But the pattern of the match might be more predictable.
The home team urged on by a big partisan crowd will surely come fast out of the traps and be ultra aggressive with the danger that some of our key men could easily get either crocked or booked.
I suspect that the reason for our woeful first half against the Mackems might have been Howson incurring both a severe knock and a booking early on, compromising not only his own effectiveness but spilling over to Hayden who had his worst half since being in the team. This cut off the supply line to the front men and meant that we were totally ineffectual.
Let us hope that that is not the scenario for tomorrow or we could be in for the kind of hammering that the Blades inflicted on Burnley.
If I had to predict I would guess that we might be a goal or two down by half-time, but come our fighting in the second half, get one back and give the crowd some nervous moments. So my predicted score would be 2-1, Next best 3-1 with United scoring a late clincher. Best hope: that we achieve a fighting 2-2 draw.
With the proviso that anything might happen and that I'll be as far out as I was against Sunderland and Norwich- to name but two.