Second Best Boro Scrape A Point
MALAURY Martin unleashed his mandatory screamer against Bristol and salvaged a point - but not much pride for Boro. Struggling City had not won an away game this year. They hadn't even scored a goal. Yet they will be gutted they didn't win at the Riverside. They should have.
They had the best of the chances, broke away at pace several times and caught jittery Boro cold at the back time and again. They were handed the opner on a plate and had they been a bit sharper they would have sealed it with a couple of golden chances either side of the break.
Second best Boro looked laboured. They lacked zip. They lacked imagination. They lacked creativity. They lacked hunger. They failed to put sustained pressure on a limited side. They were sloppy at the back and were repeatedly caught out of shape, barged out of possession, failed to clear and were run ragged by the energetic honest ordinariness of Jon Stead.
They were pedestrian in the middle with the conservative Bailey and Thomson sitting too deep in a sluggish start that handed the initiative to City while the game bypassed Zemmama and Hammill - serial stepover and dragback king - over-elaborated for England and repeatedly failed to deliver the ball early. Most of the best supply came from much-maligned Hoyte in the first half and increasingly late from a couple of good diagobnals from Bennett.
It was brighter after the break with Martin pushing forward more and there was more possession in the Bristol half but overall, Boro failed to boss the game. They failed to impose a tempo or shape on the game or force City into mistakes.
Up-front Jutkiewicz worked hard to win flicks and knockdowns (and a lot of free-kicks) and Ogbeche had some good touches, a few half-chances and one good stabbed close range effort that was well saved. Boro arguably should have had a last gasp penalty too when Hammill was sandwiched in the box but we shouldn't need to be looking for the ref to decide these games.
Boro weren't good enough to beat a limited Bristol who arrived in poor form and presumably poor morale, which was a worry - although it is par for the course in a crazy division. What was a bigger worry was there was no sense of urgency about the game. It started flat and stayed there. You be hard pushed to believe Boro were chasing precious points for a play-off place.
It was a poor perforrmance greeted by routine half-hearted booing at the break and the whistle.
Yet despite the insipid display, despite a poor return of just two points from three tough games in the past eight days, despite Boro's frustrating failure once more to beat lowly visitors, despite the rest of the results going our way once again and despite Boro looking to be running out of steam, somehow, incredibly, they nudged up a place as all their peers continued to commit collective hari-kari. It is the play-off battle that no-one wants to win.