Smoggies 2 Cloggies 1
BORO showed great character and resiience to claw back from a goal down to beat Bolton and clock up a fourth successive league win.
Would they have done that last year? Would they have kept their confidence and swagger? Would they have stepped up the tempo and kept the initiative? There was a time when the 'typical Boro' reaction to bossing a game and then leaking an unlucky goal would be to lose heart and lose shape. Not this time.
That second half show was a massive positive. As was the dogged resistance to the Cloggies late onslaught. As was the reaction of the fans. They too stayed patient as the passing game unfolded, stayed supportive when the Bolton goal went in and they too stepped up a gear when the team was pressing forward. Mogga said it was like when he was a lad cheering on Boro on the Holgate. Some of that is of course spin, part of the on-going attempts to win the hearts and minds and get a sometimes sceptical crowd on board. But it was a cracking atmosphere.
That said Boro got lucky. Bolton may have been fortunate with the deflection off Haroun for their opener but they missed a sitter soon after when Bikey had his disastrous weekly wobble and failed to deal with a routine ball letting Lee (insert your own Dong Gook joke here) through free on goal only to miss the target completely.
Some things of note:
McDonald continues to work his way back into Mogga's good books, taking advantage of injuries to come into games and score (his first goal at the Riverside in 2012 - his last was against Peterborough last December). From naughty step to key player in three short weeks. That's a good thing. Both of his finishes were polished and showed good instincts but perhaps the most important thing is his new willingness to be a team player. If he keeps scoring people will soon forget his spell in internal exile (and will increase the possibilities of a sale because the real issue around him hasn't gone away.)
Big Ish is getting some stick for a string of missed chances - a couple of missed one on ones have been followed by a couple of close range headers going astray. But he scored in midweek and got an assist and played pretty well against Bolton, working their defence well, going on some good runs and adding a troublesome physical presence. He's gradually getting there.
Marvin Emnes injury may only keep him out a couple fo games but he will be a big miss. For all his frustrating moments he still carries a potent threat and the ability to turn the match in a moment. He brings pace and trickery that is hard to replace.
The cross from Ledesma for McDonald's header was fantastic. It was an inch perfect delivery that invited a perfect finish. The low ball in a few minutes earlier for Haroun was perfect too but he stabbed it wide. Ledesma is far from the finished article but he is starting to hint at being a far better football than his early frustrating cameos suggested.
Kevin Davies must be 40. Surely? He played for Chesterfield in the FA Cup semi in 1997 and that is practically pre-history. He's still dirty mind. Poggie's gonna knack you!
Chris Eagles dive was pretty embarrasing really. He deserves public ridicule. Instead of booing the crowd should have laughed. It was a good spot by the referee though. He was quite a distance away and the leg did stretch out inviting his tumble. That said, Bikey scares me the way he dives in. He is a penalty waiting to happen.
Four league wins in a row. Five in all competitions. Four away wins on the bounce. Joint second. A decent crowd - quality and quantity. A pattern starting to emerge along with a growing momentum and the first signs of the kind of consistency that Woodgate is always banging on about. A derby cup clash looming. It's all good.