April 2009 Archives
THE SHIFTING statistical sands of the struggle for survival have moved in Boro's favour once again. Hot on the heels of Sunderland and Hull helpfully opting to crash and burn, a demoralised Newcastle's failure to win against Portsmouth was a fantastic result.
Not just because it kept the Geordies firmly in the mire - but also because it has exposed the so called "Shearer factor" as a little more than a desperate and impotent PR stunt that has had negligible impact on what remains a poor and unbalanced team. He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy. And his vanity - and poor judgement - in taking the poisoned chalice has just added another layer of dressing room confusion on what was already a dysfunctional club. That can only help Boro.
MIND the gap. The tube's incessant urging of caution proved prescient. Boro were taken apart by a team from another footballing planet. Talk earlier in the week about some of Boro's players thinking they were in the playground was apt too - at the Emirates Arsenal's big boys pushed them around like show off six former humiliating the fuggies.
Here's my match report.
IT'S always nice to break records. Hmmmmm. If Boro lose at Arsenal on Sunday - and let's be honest, given the form and the history it is not totally beyond the realms of possibility - it will be the club's worst run of consecutive away defeats in a single season EVER.
THREE years ago today I was in Bucharest - and it was brilliant. One of the best trips and one of the best displays. A young Boro team - Morrison and Bates both played - put in a real shift in the away leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final first leg and Mark Schwarzer was absolutely outstanding. Whatever happened to him?
As a bit of light relief from the current unremitting grind of treading water and clawing for the lifelline dangled so temptingly close, here's a flash-back to that previous dreamed existance: a match report, and a colour piece from the paper .
It barely seems possible now that we so recently carved a swathe through Europe, more than holding our own against some of the biggest names in the game and having a bloody good time doing it. It is sad that such a wonderful adventure seems to have left such little lasting impression on the club. It is like the whole thing never happened. But it did, and I was there.
IT'S ALL ABOUT timing. Boro have just fought out a goalless draw against a side with the fifth best defence in the division, generally had a real go and attacked with pace and movement and only been thwarted according to script by a former player. Yes, they were a few little wobbles at the back and Fulham hit the woodwork but on the whole Boro bossed the game. It would have been a decent display back in September.
Now, with time and games running out fast it is hard to salvage too many positives.
IF YOUR glass is by inclination half full, drink up in confidence and get another round in; if it is half empty, prepare to smash it to the floor in pessimistic anguish and fear... Fulham have never won at the Riverside in the Premiership.
In fact, the statistics are so starkly stacked up in Boro's favour that even Ali Brownlee's innate Teesside doom-monger DNA must be screaming "typical Boro!" in silent alarm.
PHEW! The boss had finally dubbed the weekly six pointer a "must win match" and Boro duly delivered with a spirited if sometimes scrappy display in a crucial 3-1 win over a tame Tigers side that now look prime candidates for the drop.
Boro played with energy, purpose and a bit of steel at the back and were roared on by a galvanised crowd to a deserved victory. Yes, there were jittery moments: Brad Jones spilled a few balls in the box to cause chaos, David Wheater had to nod one of the line and there was the mandatory slow motion late retreat to the 18 yard line inviting pressure - but then, this is Boro and that comes as part of the package.
What we also got this time was a few breaks - a dodgy corner that led to a goal, some generous refereeing, that 'player scoring against former club' routine working in our favour for a change - and some decent finishing plus more than two goals for the first time this season. Now we need to push on and complete a great escape. Come on!
IT IS that stage of the season when thoughts must begrudgingly turn to the thorny question of Boro's Player of the Year. Yes, incredibly someone is going to walk away from this smoldering twisted wreckage of a campaign clutching a tainted trophy and with their name engraved among the list of the greats.
BUNGLING Boro were plunged deeper into the relegation mire as Bolton hammered four more nails into our Premiership coffin - but it was Gareth Southgate's suicidal side who handed then the hammer.
All four goals were self-inflicted wounds, the inevitable product of a repeated shambolic failure to deal with set-pieces and routine balls into the box. It was embarrassing. With almost every attack Bolton carved open Boro and with better finishing on their part they could have won scored six or seven.