Second Best Boro Scrape A Point

By Anthony Vickers on Mar 24, 12 08:05 PM

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.

More later...


SteveH said:

"They lacked hunger"
"no sense of urgency"

That's damning criticism for a team that's supposed to be pressing for promotion.

richard evans said:

It’s not a crazy division. It’s a rubbish division.

We can’t continually soften our results by playing them off against the greater inadequacies of others. ‘OK, we’re bad, but not as bad as you’ etc. Monty Python would be proud.

A summer rebuild, and in the Championship please.

gt said:

I've just watched Stoke v Man City. Now I have to say up front I'm not a big fan of Mancini, I think his tactics are too negative for a club with the talent they have (Johnson for me has gone back over the last nine months, doesn't attack anymore, I think hes been told to pass and move now, he doesnt seem like the same player)

BUT the sooner Stoke get relegated from the Prem will be a day I will celebrate. They are a disgrace, thugs thats all they are ,and Webb the referee yesterday needs to be suspended. Stoke (and ive seen them enough) dont even hide the fact they have any intention of trying to play the game the right way,

Why do I bring this up as a Boro fan? Because its obvious if a team doesnt entertain, crowds eventually drop, creating a morgue of a stadium, it then effects players(it shouldnt but it does) and it takes along time to get the missing fans to trust again.

Boro are in a play off race, just a few years ago,there would have been Im guessing regular 25,000 crowds but not today. Mogga, its time to forget playing head games with tactics. We are told, players on the training pitch are talanted players,then lets start using the ones that dont freeze at game time.

Andy, Angola said:

Is it time to dust off the conspiracy theories? Or have Boro really turned to crud in the space of a couple of months?

David of Redcar said:

Footy is about results, and on the face of it we should have big grins - in a play-off place with only few games left to play.

But footy is also, about entertainment - and you know, I am about to ask for my money back. I can see what Mogga was trying to achieve, solid in the middle with “flair” down the flanks and starting with Ogbeche was expected.

But the Bailey and Thomson chemistry created a virus that spread a malaise round the whole of the riverside. Everyone was infected, the other 9 on the pitch and the 15,000 in the seats. I have never felt the place so flat.

I sat with my mental game of championship manager trying to solve this at half time for Mogga; in the end I went for pulling Thompson and having a stab with Martin. Mogga solved it in a different way but I didn’t care it was the relationship that was the problem.

I disagree with AV – we deserved that point – once MM was introduced the patient recovered enough to warrant some reward, but the slow start had made the Boro fragile and given City a confidence they didn’t warrant.

The legacy of this game is not the disappointing result – but the feeling I am left with. Even if we had stolen all three points, it would have been yet another poor home performance – no pace – no drive- no guile – no guts – no entertainment - and for 500 odd quid I can take my kids to Butlins for a week.

spartakboro said:

I believe I maybe repeating myself and apologies if I am but when a team is consistently dropping points at home to all and sundry (no toilet jokes AV- it's beyond that now), then you have to consider their self-belief.

Where's the presence of the captain on the pitch when you need him?

Where's the collective do or die for the club and badge?

Mogga I believe is an excellent motivator but something is seriously wrong in a team that fails to deliver time after time.

I've said it before so I'll say it again more directly - if it's going wrong on the pitch you have to look at the management first. There I've said it!

demented buddha said:

Probably the worst 45 mins this season and it's not as if there's limited competition.

We must hope that the returning triumvirate can re-galvanise us for the final push.

BoroPhil said:

I don't know what has happened to us in the first half recently, it's reminiscent of GS2's reign when we started matches so slowly and either needed half time or an opposition goal to get us going. It wasn't like this when Mogga first took over.

Also, earlier in the season we pressed the opposition hard all over the pitch, like Leeds did to us last week, yet now we stand off all too easily.

We've won four out of our last 15, it's unbelievable that we are still in the playoffs.

You were right about Hoyte, I think we'd have won if he'd stayed on - McMahon's lack of pace at the end showed exactly why, despite being a fantastic pro, he's not in the team.

Nikeboro said:

Two wins out of the last 8 home games. Not good enough. Southampton have based their push, like the majority of top-six sides, on a fortress at St Mary's. I said last year that, unless the Boro rectified their home form, they would suffer. Any team with such relegation form does not deserve promotion.

At the risk of sounding like a told-you-so clever clogs, I also said months ago that despite our then excellent defensive record, we did not have especially good defenders. Our impermeability was based on defending in numbers allied to good organisation.

That has largely gone. With our defensive teamwork long since dissipated, the individual limitations our our defenders are exposed, leaving us with a disorganised, brittle and porous defence. As yesterday, any determined run has a good chance of success.

David of Redcar said:

control c - control v -

Could this be what we have now or then ??

"another heartless, spineless, shapeless and frustrating display in a massive match they should not need motivating for. Good. There was no pride, no passion, no hope and they should not be able to walk away without knowing exactly how poor it was.

"Too many players lack bottle, determination and steel. There are too many weak links. No organisation, communication of coherent, collective passages of play that threatened to hurt the opposition. That was not a team out there. Yes, there were a couple of bright spells at the start of either half. Yes, there were a few chances. Yes, there were a couple of individuals who did 'alright'. And yes, a few BIG decisions went against us."

kev B said:

To be honest AV, we don't deserve a play off place, and are not good enough ... but then again, neither are the clubs battling for the top 6 with us. At least now the crazy idea that we can win a top 2 spot has gone!

Steve said:

To be fair was it actually anything different to every home match this season?....I have said before that only once have I seen us play really well in the league and that's against Blackpool and we still 'imploded' resulting in a 2-2 a draw.

The 'stats' do not lie. We can go on all day about how teams are 'well organised' or play '4-5-1' but the fact is how do we still not have a way of breaking it down? Bristol City are 4th bottom (3rd bottom if Pompey were not deducted 10 points). They had not won away this year or even more amazing haven't even scored since December. So how despite playing 4-5-1 with a none scoring average front man(Stead) not only score but actually create more chances??

Another 'stat' is we have failed to beat three of the bottom four at home this season drawing against Pompey, Coventry and now City. So if we fail to beat Doncaster we will have failed to beat the Bottom four (although they are 'well organised' eh?).....enough said!!!

I think its clear to us all that we lack creativity. We cannot play Bailey and Thomson in the same midfield as they are so slow turning defence into attack and nothing seems 'instinctive' with them. They always need a second touch.

Someone phoned in on the radio on the way back last night and made a good point. He asked how many games have Boro won with Thomson in the side?? They said they were going to look it up (Help AV?). He came into the side at Xmas so I am guessing not many. It seems like Mogga is finding a place for him to justify his probable £20k+ a week wages.

Only three positives for me yesterday. The first was a superb and probably best game yet for the Boro by Juke. I thought he worked tirelessly and held the ball up superbly with little or no reward and looked a real threat if only he had service from his team mates. He probably got more at Coventry.

I though that Martin played well and not just because of his goal. He clearly adds 'class' and is a 'footballer' so lets forget about his lack of defensive skills and play the man especially at home. He has some lovely touches and if it means changing from a rigid 4-4-2 to find a place for him then so be it!!

The third 'positive' is that Wolves can recall Hamill from Wednesday (if they want him) so fingers crossed. What's with the step overs? Just cross the thing as we have a 6ft+ CF crying out for a cross. I saw more in a 40min cameo from Adam Reach against Sunderland so where is he? We also keep hearing how good Cameron Park is and how we will 'wonder why he never plays' when he gets his chance......god if we ever needed wide men its now. I cannot believe they are not better than Hamill and without his wages.

Bart/Martin/Park/Main/Smallwood and Reach should all be fresh so give them a chance as we have so many players looking jaded (polite for out of awful).

I will leave you with a Funny quote of the day yesterday came from a bloke behind me in the North Stand........

"Mark Hamill? My foot (censored) they pulled Jedi mind trick and gave us Mark Hamill".

That was the 'highlight' of my day so kinda says it all.

UTB.....May the Force be with us!!

John Powls said:

Well, at least Robbo will be available on Tuesday - Crockliffe permitting - after his suspension and possibly Haroun too.

But if freshness is a problem - as well as the rest of the issues - as Mogga seemed to suggest why was Smallwood, who made a positive difference to the midfield energy at West Ham dropped again? Why was Main not even on the bench.

And then there's Adam Reach, Cameron Park and Luke Williams. At least they're used to playing at The Riverside in The Ressies when the atmosphere was like it was in the first half yesterday!

Why buy a centre-forward/line leader and then play split front two so that both he and the goal-snifffer he's playing with are condemned to the wings with no sign of a pedestrian midfield getting past them and through the middle?

Very poor - and you can't blame folks for not turning up to watch it. The only saving grace is that - bar the top two - the rest are as good or bad as each other. And that's not very good at all.

Redcar Red said:

Midfield compromised of diminutive tippy tappy Jaffa style antics in the 1st half allied to total confusion over who was doing what and where let alone how. Two Strikers playing miles apart with no link up and nobody picking up knockdowns. Tactically it was an absolute shambles and Bristol should have taken all three points as they showed more pace, passion and belief.

It was nothing to do with playing in front of plastic seats indeed it was the very stuff that ensures more plastic seats at a time when excitement and fervour should be reaching a peak.

It was only when Martin came on that some pace and fervour was injected and when we did finally breakthrough we reverted back to dead pan Jaffa style “to me, to you” football. The only certainty was the guarantee of more plastic seats if it continues.

Thankfully there are only another three occasions left to suffer this Jaffa Football at the Riverside. Defensively Bates and Co. need to start watching and reading the game instead of continually watching the Referee's Assistant on the line

If we make the Play-offs it will be in spite of and not because of the Riverside performances.

Forever Dormo said:

If that match was a meal out in a restaurant, it would have been a very unsatisfying one.

We were very lucky not to have been 1-0 down in the first minute and how their chap later managed to hoof the ball 50 feet over the bar (when free, in the middle if the goal and only about 10 yards out) only he will ever know. They had several chances they were obviously too surprised to take.

We certainly lacked urgency. We ALWAYS start off slowly. We are an institutionally SLOW team. Yet against struggling teams like Bristol City, a goal or two in the early stages of a game could blow them apart, destroy their resolve and could lead to a rout. So that is what we should be aiming to do, isn't it, if we want to win?

I could forgive a hung-over amateur Sunday pub-team player not showing signs of urgency or hunger (words you used in your piece, AV) but surely not professional players in a team fighting for a play-off place? I think we can all accept now that automatic promotion is unrealistic, but if we keep on performing like that, even remaining in the play-off positions may be beyond the team.

Too many players having off-days at the same time. Loads of misdirected passes.

Bates ambling back after the ball as it rolled into our half near the West Stand half way line, deep into injury time, when everyone else (him and our keeper apart) were in the opposition half and the ball HAD to be put back into the mix for a last gasp attempt at a winner. Eventually it was Steele who played the ball.

I heard several times people saying "And after this they ask us to renew our season tickets...". Not good. There can be no doubt that if the club offered "home" and "away" season tickets, the latter would offer the better value, and enjoyment.

And there will be those who criticise those who booed at half-time and at the final whistle. I did not boo, but I can understand why others did.

What else does the club expect? 5,000 polite letters; "Dear Sirs, I write to express my disappointment at another less than satisfying afternoon at the Riverside. I come home depressed and my wife asks whether it would be a better and cheaper way to spend Saturday afternoon if we went out together to the cinema or stayed in for some quality time with the grandchildren..."

Maybe the writer could give the club another chance or two? Southampton at home? Bound to be an easier game than Bristol City, surely? Won't feel down after that one!

Obviously I WILL be there for the other games. But the size of the crowd tells its story, doesn't it? I would have thought there were about 13K there yesterday. Season ticket holders are doubtless counted as if present. Never seen shorter queues at the bars and food counters in the West Stand Upper.

If we are the converted and will be there anyway, we should worry about the "irregulars", the ones who might be tempted to buy a ticket, but are not committed to doing so. The club NEEDS those supporters to put their £35-20 (or whatever) over the counter, and into the food and drinks concessions, and into the club shops.

The club cannot survive on the "committed" alone. Even their ranks will diminish over time. We cannot have a club that challenges for promotion on 10K crowds - and that is where we would be going... Not with our ground and overheads. Not unless the playing staff were to be further filleted.

Lack of zip, creativity, imagination, hunger and no sense of urgency you said. On the hand we were sloppy, barged out of possession, pedestrian and run ragged at the back by Jon Stead. Not the sort of fare to encourage season ticket sales, is it?

It's not about failing to win. It's about the manner of the failure, and who we are failing against. Even though honest endeavour is not enough, it is the least paying supporters are entitled to expect. We can accept a good effort made in vain against a better team, or that sometimes we might be unlucky. But poor efforts at home against much lower teams must mean we re-evaluate where we are as a club - if we repeatedly fail to be beat teams at home maybe we aren't better than them after all. Or is it that we are doing something wrong when preparing to play the games?

Any team can have on off day. Top of the table teams can lose or fail to win against ones lower down. But if it happens repeatedly, so that it is almost expected, it can't all be bad luck. Can it?

It's a good job that most of the other clubs round and about us are doing their best NOT to cement their play-off positions. It's as if everyone realises that going up to the Premier League isn't all that it is cracked up to be, and there has been some secret agreement between the clubs to try to avoid going up.

Jarkko said:

Well, I was waiting for the good run to start yesterday. It didn't - so I am very disappointed.

Wasn't able to follow the match because a business commitment - I did had a look at the results on the motorway back home - but the BBC say we have some shots. Shots Boro 18 Brissol 9, on target 8 to 3 and the corners were won by 5-3.

According to AV we were second best but the statistic show something else.

Well we will have two tough away matches next. Now we need to win both. Perhaps too much is expected but at least this is better than during the Strachan era! And we cannot be relegated anymore.

Up the Boro

Jarkko said:

Sooooooo close in the Championship now:

4 Brighton 39 8 62
5 Middlesbrough 38 3 61
6 Birmingham 38 19 60
7 Blackpool 39 10 60
8 Cardiff 39 7 60
9 Hull 38 6 58
10 Leeds Utd 39 2 57

We need to learn to score soon. Up the Boro!

Ian Gill said:

I was busy throwing rubbish away so 'missed' the first half on the radio.

Second half didnt sound too bright and seemed to be summed by Higgie's comment that why did we stop doing what we did to get back in to the match. In other words push up and put pressure on the opposition.

Borophil -

Go and have a look at the report for the Cov home 25th April last season, it starts along the lines that Boro came from behind for the 5th home game in a row.

Mogga has already said he likes to take 20 to 25 minutes to sus out the opposition. We also tend to sit and try and hold what we have at the other end of the match

Here are Mogga's exact words after yesterdays match

"Winning matches is hard work for us. We have created an expectation this season with where we are in the table but the reality is that we not a team that can dominate games. We are not a team that can go out and win games three or four nil. "

If that is what Mogga thinks and says can you find any clues to our home performances in there?

As John Powls mentions above (I may have mentioned it the odd time myself), where are the fresh legs of the much vaunted academy kids? Johnson, Catermole, Downing, Morrison, McMahon were making their names at age 17/18 against the likes of ManU. Twenty minutes against the likes of Bristol City shouldnt be beyond them.

Robbo should be back for the Ipswich match but what are the chances he will play in his most effective position through the middle and drive the team forward?

boro1953 said:

This season reminds me of the season after Rioch was sacked and Colin Todd was manager and we actually made the playoffs in a poor season and the fans had no faith in the team.

They were right of course, getting knocked out in the first round by Notts county (1-1 at home 0-1 away). Mind it did not help that Toddy had said that half of the team would be leaving at the end of the season!

The image of Mogga as a Messiah has diminished, the fans thought that he would bring with him the exciting attacking play that he achieved at WBA. We all know his hands are tied to an extent and this is not his team yet but he is not helping himself by playing the same tired players and tired tactics, lets have some youthful exuberance in the team and experiment a bit.

I can't believe Steve Gibson will be happy at what he is seeing and the lack of opportunity coming out of his investment at Rockliffe but I suppose Mogga's reply to Gibbo would be that he has got us into a play off place.

It is amazing and almost surreal that we are well placed for a playoff place and even some of the season ticket holders are staying away. Gibbo must be having nightmares about season ticket renewals.

Redcar Red said:

When Mogga first took over one of the most memorable things was how he would change things tactically during a game and sometimes even 3 or 4 times. This was a refreshing change from the monotonous tedium experienced with Strachan and the apparently clueless confusion with Southgate. Neither had a plan B and if it didn't work then they simply scratched their heads and meekly succumbed to impending defeat, then along came Mogga with his entertaining football, changing tactics, formation and reshuffles mid-game.

These last few months and especially the last few weeks in particular has seen this area of Mogga's management almost disappear. He appears to have lost the confidence to radically alter things.

This time last year younger players were being given a chance but now it seems that only the old leggy regulars are considered. I'm not suggesting an all out change and only having five on the bench doesn't help but Smallwood added some mobility, bite and pace against the Hammers but wasn't even started yesterday. Reach has never let us down, in fact much the reverse, he aways looks pacy, willing and with a dash of youthful exhuberance. Halliday looked much better under Mogga's tutelage than Strachan and made progress but has been pushed sideways. Cameron Park was going to be the next great thing yet has been ignored along with Luke Williams.

Maybe these kids aren't the answer but something has to change, someone or something with a bit of pace and verve. as an example Bails, Tommo and Arca are all slow and defensively minded yet if we play two of them the third will be nailed on to be on the bench.

I struggle to see how that will change the shape of a game by changing like with like. Perhaps it is all just down to the 5 Sub rule but as one of them last season would have normally been Danny Coyne then that only left one more place.

I'm really struggling to get my head around the sudden conservativism from the bench its almost as if Mogga is doubting himself or perhaps its what the Celtic fans warned us about and to a lesser extent Baggie fans that he does sometimes confuse and when he does confuse stubbornly.

tim from sa said:

Sorry we ae just not good enough.

Geordie la Forge said:

The usual bipolar reaction then? Great at West Ham and terrible at home to the Robins.

It was a poor performance overall but if we had been a bit more clinical with the second half chances we would have won.

I disagree with the use of terms such as "half-hearted or "lacking hunger" all we see is what happens on the pitch, how can we be justified in being so sure as what was in the minds of the players?

Even the criticism of tactics and selection can be a bit contentious. If we had won we would never have heard quite so much criticism of choosing two defensive midfielders. To the best of my understanding we had two wide players on the pitch, Hamill and Zemmama. Bearing in mind the fact we also had two attacking fullbacks as well, to my mind it was not such a bad idea to have had two defensive midfielders to play them through and mind the shop.

The fact that Mogga's master plan didn't work is to the credit of the players from Bristol City who set out precisely to achieve that.

Let's at least give Mogga credit for changing things by bringing on Martin who did score.

On the foam handed or factual side of the argument, we went up to 5th. Although we may have a flawed and unbalanced squad, there are some key players coming back to fitness, amongst whom I would include Thomson and Bailey. If we can return to the strength of squad and the form we showed at the beginning of the season we will be playing in the Premiership next season.

As far as the other teams not being good enough this season, I am not enough of an anorak to do the detailed research properly, but didn't the same thing happen last season? Wasn't it a surprise that neither Cardiff nor Swansea, - whatever happened the them? - were able, (or good enough?), to secure a place in the top two? Surely it's great there are so many teams with something to play for this season, all fighting to take points off each other.

To quote my favourite Zen phrase from Tony Mowbray: "it is what it is"

What it is is 5th place on March 26th with eight matches to go. I would have taken that at the start of the season. Despite the fact I have not really enjoyed many of my trips to the Riverside, I will still take it now.

Let's see where we are at 14:00 on April 28th.

johnjay said:

To me, to you. That just about sums us up, MFC: The chuckle brothers of the championship. No urgency, no drive, no ambition.

To quote Higgy are the Boro players thick?

Pedro de Espana said:

Forever Dormo -

That was an excellent piece. It summed up precisely the problems that need to be solved on and off the pitch. I cannot start to understand how we will fund the team next season through the part that comes from the gate receipts.

Fortune favours the brave someone posted, well TM is certainly not being that. Again as has been said countless times before, we do not expect him to throw caution to the wind, but would expect the inclusion of at least one of the youngsters in each match. We will then see what they are made of (Main is a good example, not sure what has happened to him though..maybe AV can tell us ).

Yes the defence has not been good enough, but unfortunately it more or less picks itself, not a good position to be in. And with the rest of the team, TM appears to be afraid of upsetting the "senior" players by not including them at least in the match day squad. I have said all along, Mr Bates and Williams are not as good as they like to think, and Thomson, well thats been posted I do not know how many times. Everybody cannot be wrong, can they??

Werdermouth said:

Another poor home performance shouldn't have surprised anyone by now - but the fact remains that if Boro beat Ipswich tomorrow (though probably a big IF) and Hull fail to win at Portsmouth then we'll go into the last seven games with a four point play-off place cushion.

Though, I'm still wondering whether ultimately promotion will basically curtail the opportunities even more of the current crop of academy graduates.

If we don't get promoted then surely these youngsters should be allowed to play together in order to form an enthusiastic energetic team capable of lasting the season.

But with the economics of football today promotion and then last place in the PL would serve the club quite well as long as they don't spend all the cash and end up with another unsustainable wage bill.

Anyway, I think Mogga seems just as jaded as the rest of the players - it must be hard work continuing to get an average group of players to perform above average - still the end game is in sight and who knows it may yet be achievable.

Jarkko said:

At least we know where is the problem: the Riverside's capacity was amended to 34,988 in June 2008 but there were only 15,275 to watch Bristol City. That is just 44 percent of the full capacity.

So the home form is the problem. Quite an opposite to the Strachan era when we lost all away matches!

Geordie la Forge -

thank you for bringing the points up. We had more shots on goal than them and could have won with better finishing. I think Mogga is trying to find some consistency and do not like to chop and change all the time. Let's hope it brings some success soon.

Play-off are the aim now as Reading are playing well again. Cannot catch them but we must finish 4th this season - just.

Up the Boro!

Andy R said:

I said on the previous blog that Bristol City will pose a completely different problem to West Ham and that it was up to us to find a way to overcome the sort of well-manned defence with which we opposed West Ham.

It seems that the game plan for home matches, as well as the squad, is still a work in progress. Either that we just don't have the necessary quality.

I was happy with the team selection when I saw it at 2.30pm and will not criticise it. Again, as I said on the previous blog, I was hoping for Ogbeche to replace Emnes and for one more attacking midfielder to replace one of the three defensive ones (Thomson, Bailey or Smallwood).

Even if the shape wasn't what I imagined I got what I wanted in terms of personnel, and realistically I don't think TM could have been much more attacking in his line-up. All he could have done was to add another attack-minded midfielder, which he did at half-time.

So I don't put this down to team selection or tactics (besides, we've seen many different Boro line-ups struggle to win at home). For me it's more likely to be about the ability of the team. When left to defend and counter they are good enough in this division. When asked to do the opposite they repeatedly cannot, because they are not quite good enough to do it.

That, for me, is all it is and there are no need for conspiracy theories.

Hopefully we will make the play-offs and come up against more ambitious sides who allow us to play to our strengths. If not, TM will be much more able to put together his own squad in the summer and then he will be more open to criticism.

Powmill said:

Dear oh dear. You really would start to believe that every other team in the top half of the table is conspiring to make sure Boro end up in the playoffs. Some time soon I expect one or two teams to begin to find some form. If we are not one of them we will struggle to finish in the top six, especially with our weak goal difference.

I reckon any team as far down as Crystal Palace (in 14th and on 53 points) that gets a decent run between now and the end of April is in with as good a shout as anybody.

COB, a play off position is there for the taking.

peterboroangel said:

We needed to start a good run.

Any team can have an off day, but it seems to be more than that.

Bloody rubbish by the sounds of it and very, very disappointing!

Hade Edge Boro said:

As bad as we are playing, and as disappointed as everyone was with Saturday, If everyone takes their five match form into the remainder of the season, the four play off teams are West Ham 77, Brighton 73, Middlesbrough 69, and Watford 69.

So we would face Brighton home an then away in the semi final. Even if they got a draw at the Riverside, we would fancy our chances, and then (probably) West Ham at Wembley. This will feel like a home game for them, and an away one for us, thus making us favourites.

So, all to play for.

ron in the delta said:

19 years since we have won at Portman Road!!
Trying to stay positive.........

Eric the tash said:

When is the Juke going to start and re-pay us for the £1.3m we spent on him? He can't hit a barn door with a banjo. Who is giving him target practice, Stevie Wonder? Let's hope he starts to score some goals now eh.

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