Boro's Tactical Gridlock At Leicester
SO ANOTHER 'tactically interesting' game where we have the edge for long spells but can't finish - not even from the spot - and end up empty handed.
The balance of play was different but the outcome was similar to the televised Friday night game at Birmingham when Boro were getting plenty of post-match plaudits for playing with panache but went away frustrated. Bloody repeats.
Leicester have the red hot form team in the division but Nigel Pearson admitted afterwards that Boro's striker-light Spanish style Teesside tiki-taka set up had stifled them for long spells and that the game could have gone either way. Tony Mowbray agreed that it was another 'fine margins' game and Boro had played well.
And they did... up to the box. With no out and out striker - "Jose" McEachran was often the furthest foward with Scott McDonald and Emmauel Ledesma wider and deeper to pen in their attacking threat from the full-backs - Boro's best slick passing interchanges were in the middle third. It was fluid and mesmerising at times but at the crucial points, that is, when it picked into the box, it broke down.
Both Boro full-backs went one on one in the box but took a crucial poor final touch to lose the angle for a shot while McDonald and Ledesma both missed the target from good positions. Several times. Their keeper only had to make two real saves - in the first half, the best when he clawed away a Bikey header - before the penalty.
Incidentally, it has become the vogue to slag off Emnes and the penalty was the signal for a cyber free-for all. Fine, get the frustration off your chest, but it was a great save. There is no point scapegoating Emnes for the failures of the full 90 minutes. Boro looked far brighter in the final third after he and Jutkiewicz came on. There is no point slagging Ledesma either. He "is what he is"... a tricky but inconsistent prospect who was in League One last year. Mogga is not playing them out of bloody minded determination to spite you. We all know that Boro need a clinical finisher - a Chris Woods, A Mataj Vydra, a Charlie Austin - and no doubt Mogga and Steve Gibson know that too. But right but we haven't got one so we have to crack on with what we've got.
Boro played well at the back too. There were some fantastic blocks and tackles from Hines and Bikey and Rhys slotted in at righ-back like a natural (he could do a job there long term "when" everyone is fit). If you like icy sliding challenges it was great. Largely Boro contained Leicester. And Steele made some good stops in very difficult conditions for a keeper. It was entertaining stuff.
That said, it is getting boring leaving games with glowing references but no points. For all the talk of Boro's tactical edge Leicester hit the woodwork four times and had two ruled out for (very narrow) offside decesions while Knockaert and Nugent seemed to have a free run at the Boro defence and our own attacks were far rarer and far blunter. It felt far more torrid and obviously tilted towards them than either manager suggested.
Not that it should even have been on. The pitch was fine - Leicester was grid-locked. Both teams struggled to get there through the static nose-to-tail traffic with Boro taking two hours to cover two miles and Leicester players (and the Gazette posse) ditching cars on the ring road to walk the last few miles. Just under 9,000 fans made it through but over 19,000 tickets had been sold.That tells a tale.
With those conditions widely predicted and with police throughout the Midlands and in the North-east putting out "no unneccessary travel" APBs why was a realtively trivial sporting event not postponed in good time to prevent thousands travalling in very dangerous conditions? Because the cameras were there? For the sake of an £85k facility fee? It shows a cavalier and outrageous disregard by the man paying the piper for the safety of supporters. Utter contempt for the travelling fans again.
HERE'S my snow-shoes and thermals extended icy blast at the stupidity of letting the game go ahead from today's paper.
AND here's Leicester City's satement on Friday's chaos - ironically on Sky's website