WELL, that went well. An archetypal "typical Boro" moment that probably goes straight into the top 10. Millwall's casual 2-1 win was a real kick in the teeth for anyone naive and daft enough to have the calculators and fixture lists out plotting a path to a far-fetched sixth spot. And a shoo-in for the cynical veterans who betted against Boro.

We all know the time-honoured ingredients. And, bar he damning presence of the TV cameras, they were all in place

In-form Boro, on a roll and with something to play for. TICK
Coming off the back of a battling display in which the team showed real spirit. TICK
Build-up bubbling with people who should know better 'daring to dream.' TICK
At home with a decent crowd just willing to be won over. TICK.
Match played just before the season ticket deadline. TICK
Opposition in bottom three and looking vulnerable. TICK
We battered them in reverse fixture. TICK
They have a couple of players we have flogged as flops. TICK

At least Scott McDonald didn't score. That would have really rubbed it in.

PROMOTION party poopers Boro ruined the expectant Burnley crowd's coronation plans with an industrial double-shift of frantic defending. And a dash of luck.

The home fans were waving their pitchforks and hysterically screaming at the referee after two "seen them given" penalty shouts were waved away. It didn't help that before Boro's winner in the hard-fought 1-0 victory at Turf Moor physical Lee Tomlin had put a half-Nelson on a defender and thrown him aside before slotting through for Jacob Butterfield to score his second in successive games.

FOOTBALL... bloody hell. Nine man Boro beat Birmingham in a pulsating 3-1 win which was by far and away the most entertaining spectacle of the season.

It wasn't always pretty but it was gripping, energising non-stop drama climaxing with a breakaway first goal for Lee Tomlin to seal it after Boro shrugged off a Blues barrage in an incredible atmosphere. There was pride, passion, spirit, skill and a real will to win and an almost tangible sense of unity between crowd and team. It was fantastic. It was exactly what supporters are talking about when they demand their team "give it a go." It was the kind of game that creates a word of mouth buzz and shifts tickets.

Aitor Karanka - still dizzy after a nasty bout of the dreaded lurgey - described it as "crazy" and said it could have finished 7-5 and that for a coach it was heart-stopping stuff. It was the same for everyone else. Heart-stopping. Breath-taking. Crazy. Dramatic. Absorbing. And at times barely believable.But it was brilliant. And it bodes well for the future.

THE RIVERSIDE crowd gave Steve McClaren a warm reception - but that's all he did get on his Riverside return. There were no points packaged as a home-coming gift.

Instead Aitor Karanka's battling Boro worked hard to frustrate our former master tactician and make sure he went away empty-handed. Karanka out-McClarened McClaren, wrapped the game in a stifling tactical shroud to stop the opposition playing then hit them with a well worked counter to claim a deserved 1-0 victory over Derby.

That helped take the sting out of what otherwise could have been a taunting, haunting emotional reunion.

BLOG regular Forever Dormo was whisked around swanky Rockliffe Park earlier this week as Boro invited some of their most masochistic fans - those who pay for their season tickets three years in advance with no get out clause or escape hatch - to have a look behind the scenes of what is a fantastic facility.

He wrote up his report and posted it on the comments of the last blog bit but as the debate was fizzling out a lot of people may have missed it. It deserves a wider audience so I've nicked it, polished it, inserted a few photos and hey... job done. It is well worth a read. Not just for the physical descriptions but for how it picks up on the mood music within the club.

Read on....

BRIGHTON rocked. Twice. Boro soaked up the pressure - and rode their luck at times - then broke out to score two well worked goals. Keep it clean, take the chances: that is exactly what Aitor Karanka has been working towards. The 2-0 win was a glimpse of a new improved Riverside recipe... now with added goals!

BORO are suffering an existential crisis as the season splutters out into a long tail of meaningless. Football's self-appointed philosopher-king Joey Barton would have appreciated the atmosphere of alienation and angst when he visited the Riverside with QPR on Saturday.

Boro are a club suffering from a profound sense of dislocation, adrift in circumstances beyond their control and seeming powerless to control their own destiny or even explain their own situation. The match went beyond reason and descended into confusion and the absurd.

For a bright spell in the first half Boro looked to be in charge of their own destiny. Then they were undone in a freak moment of fate beyond comprehension or rational explanation. It was a cypher for a season that has left fans feeling powerless to understand the logic or direction of the world they exist in. It has been a season that for long spells felt like a joke at our expense.

IT WAS SCRAPPY as hell but still entertaining as Boro twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Huddersfield. After months without an away goal that felt like a decent result.

Sluggish starters Boro were behind in the third minute as former Boro slapstick step-over merchant Adam Hammill scored - naturally - then again as one timed mooted transfer target Nahki Wells dipped in a cracking goal but both times Albert Adomah squared it up, first rounding the keeper then lashing home a sizzler down the middle. That's 11 now.

The positives were that Boro fought back from behind; that after the break changed the tempo and flow of the game by making an attacking tweak (the direct Tomlin for conservative Chalobah) ;that they scored their first away goals in seven games since the 2-0 win at Blackpool on January 11; that Albert looked a lively and influential figure again as he got his first goals of the year and finally appeared to be back on song after a disrupted start to the year; seeing a bunch of kids on the bench; George was good again; and the fans.

The negatives were a very slow and disjointed start; the frequent sloppy balls that conceded possession in dangerous areas; gifting two goals to a limited side that have struggled to score of late; losing that impregnable clean sheet aura with five leaked in two games ;another ineffective show from isolated Danny Graham; and making Adam Hammill look good;

It was low on quality it has to be said as both sides competed to give the ball away more often and in more dangerous areas as the mistakes piled up. All four goals came from woeful individual errors: poor touches, way ward square passes cut out, ill judged and poorly executed backpasses, cheaply conceded throws... it wasn't one for the purists. But hey, this is a mid-table Championship dead-rubber between ailing sides. It was never going to be El Classico.

Tired now. More later...

BORO came Acropolis as Dimi suffered a Greek tragedy. A stoppage time bobble blunder handed QPR a 3-1 victory that looked very unlikely when rampaging Friendinho got the opener.

BORO took to a sun drenched pitch wearing a brilliant all white third kit.

I didn't even know Boro had a third kit, much less that it was white. It was eye-catching and very nice but seemed a strange choice and another unforced change to the line up. The normal blue away strip is far from being a retina burning colour clash with Bournemouth's red and black.

For a few moments there Aitor Karanka must have felt right at home as the fans whacked on Factor 30, squinted against the dazzling Costa glare and got ready to cheer on their gleaming heroes in bright white shirts.

But if the unfamiliar strip was cunning subliminal psychlogical trickery geared to inspiring Boro's Galacticos to play like his former side Real Madrid it didn't work.

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Anthony Vickers

Anthony Vickers


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