Boro's Biblical Battering At Blackpool
WE SHOULD have known we were in for some cataclysmic event when a sinister sky turned Biblical black.
The game started ominously under a bruising, brooding shroud and suddenly, frighteningly, the heavens opened with swirling, stinging rain lashing down from all directions in a howling wind. If you believed in omens and portents, they were all there.
What followed was a massive, unstoppable deluge that swept a powerless Boro aside pathetically - and we are not talking about the weather.
Boro were battered into submission by the sheer elemental force of Ian Holloway's Blackpool blitzkrieg. The pace, penetration and prolific goal threat of the relentless orange swarm overwhelmed a ponderous side that simply couldn't cope.
High-octane Blackpool press high up, close in aggressively in organised packs and ruthlessly pick off anyone who dawdles over the ball with the speed and vicious edge of a steaming street-gang.
Boro's chugging engine room were wide-eyed innocents strolling through unforgiving alien urban turf swiftly relieved of their Iphones and left stunned and sheepish.
Having mugged the midfield, Blackpool were quickly knocking it down the diagonals for their sprinting strike-force to tear forward unchallenged and scythe through a static and exposed defence and then square it for the untracked run of two or sometimes three tangerine shirts into the box.
Boro's players were taking too much time on the ball, taking a touch and looking up for a pass, which is normally a good habit for a side looking to build patient, passing moves but in this game proved fatal. That considered fraction of a second of the midfield artisan was all it took for two or three orange shirts to zip in.
Blackpool were awesome. They ripped into Boro, cutting down the channels exploiting the gap between the full-back and the statuesque stoppers and then, almost every time, produced a real threat.
Holloway was gushing after the game about the slick display of perpetual movement and bubbling threat presented by in-demand Thomas Ince, the Championship's top striker with six so far, describing him as being "on fast forward."
But it wasn't just him. The entire team was zipping and buzzing around in a blur. And it felt like there was about 15 of them in and around the Boro box at any one time.
And the shots were flying in from all angles. It was frightening. Boro fans were wincing at the systematic one sided beating. It was painful. And they were powerless to defend themselves against it.
At the high tide peak of the orange waves crashing over the Boro box they were unleashing a shot on target every three minutes.
Blackpool scored four, had a couple of other efforts well saved or pushed onto the woodwork by Jason Steele, had two ruled out for offside and believed they had a strong shout for a first half penalty as Bikey skittled over Delfouneso with a robust tackle.
Seriously, it could have been six, seven or eight. It was embarrassing. You won't see a more one-sided game at any level this season.
Yet somehow Boro were still in it at the break. They had wobbled, and stumbled and looked battered and bruised but regrouped to launch a fight-back just before the interval and, as Blackpool took a breather, claw a goal back.
They had carved a few chances against the run of play, Ishmael Miller lashing the best into the side netting after a well weighted pass from Josh McEachran but rarely looked to have much to offer up front in a toothless display.
The goal came in scrappy fashion, Bikey first thumping a header against Friend and onto the bar from a chaotic corner, then when McEachran chipped it back in he forced a second piledriver header through the crowd and home.
And Boro could have levelled soon after the restart in a respectable but short-lived revival as a crisp passing move took Muzzy Carayol into the box and when he cut the ball back McEachran sent a low shot fizzing just wide of the far post. But that was it.
Almost immediately Blackpool regained control and the deluge continued.
Tony Mowbray probably got it wrong tactically. He set out to sit deep and draw Blackpool forward hoping to exploit the space behind their full-backs as they pushed on.
The plan was to knock quick balls into those areas for Miller to hold up and for Marvin Emnes and Carayol to streak forward in support. That was the plan.
In fact, isolated Miller was completely ineffective. He still looks ring-rusty after a long lay-off and is misfiring in the box while Marvin Emnes - back again after a spell out on compassionate leave - was anonymous throughout. Boro were toothless.
But Blackpool were rampant. Boro were battered. There is no two ways about it.
In the past few years Bloomfield Road has become a bogey ground for Boro. It is always a miserable, freezing night - the police are not happy about the prospect of a stag weekend themed Saturday invasion - it is always a no-show by Boro, and we always get tonked. They are starting to shape up as the new Aston Villa, always good for an annual hammering, although usually at our place. In the last three trips over there, Blackpool have scored two, three and four. Next term is not looking good.
In the wider context it was another poor away day defeat for a side that were happy travellers last season. Boro had an opening day no-show at Barnsley and played well in flashes but missed sitters at Millwall.
In three defeats on the road Boro have not a single point to show, have conceded eight goals and scored just one from open play - and that came after a corner was scrambled away and thrown back.
A year ago this week Boro won at Crystal Palace to clock up a new all time club record of six successive away wins and eight in all competitions having found an effective system that suited life on the road.
Having shored up the awful home form, with a reshaped squad Tony Mowbray, must o quickly find an equally productive plan for his travels if this season is to ignite.
For all the Biblical portents at Bloomfield Road this is not the end of the world. But it is certainly a stark warning.