Self Inflicted Wounds
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.
The gaffer had set out to be 'bold' and played as most supporters had demanded with width, two up front and Tuncay in the hole. Boro's survival hopes were gambled on an all out attack - but the problem was at the other end where Boro were simply awful.
All four goals were unmitigated disasters, textbook examples of how not to do it. For the opener the defence stood off Gardner and allowed him to cross to the far post where Pogatetz failed to deal with a situation he must face in training 100 times a week and the ball was allowed to sail through to unmarked Davies to score. Pathetic. Seven minutes gone and the dye was cast and the game was gone.
Boro were tortured in a torrid ten minute spell in which Jones kept them in it, then there was a brief flurry at the other end and Boro scored what was a well worked goal with neat touches from Alves and Tuncay before Gary O'Neil stroked home. It was the first away goal since Hull in December and they looked like they fancied it for a while... but that thin veneer of resistance cracked quickly as Bolton won a harmless looking free-kick and Boro's fragile defence capitulated again.
The second was the season encapsulated as Bates failed to clear a free-kick, the loose ball fell to an unmarked attacker and he was allowed to control unchallenged and roll it casually inside for Cahill, unmarked eight yards out, to rifle in and it was game over.
Bolton sat back after the break but despite being handed the initiative Boro could not break them down and whenever the home side broke quickly a panic-striken defence looked hopelessly exposed time and again.
The third goal was comical, a deep free-kick that sailed towards the wall and through Huth's airspace then inexplicably sailed over and bounced in at the far post. Pathetic. Was there a shout? Why didn't Huth head clear? Chaos and confusion. Pathetic.
And the fourth summed it up. Taylor given the space to wander down the left unchallenged and put in a cross towards an unmarked player on the far side... it was an exaggerated version of the opener but with even the token appearance of effort on Boro's part removed. No lessons learned.
The key words here: unchallenged, unmarked, space, freedom, time, quick break, failure to deal with a ball into the box, chances squandered.... that was not a team that showed the energy, desire, urgency or spirit to scrap for survival. There was no leadership, no spirit, no belief after the second goal went in. There was a muted air of resignation. It was embarrassing.
Afterwards a shell-shocked Southgate finally, belatedly, admitted that the next game - Hull - was a 'must win' match. If the team that turns out in that game shows the same shapeless, heartless defeatism, the same tactical confusion and the same emotional cowardice that was evident at Bolton then Boro face a humiliating, unequivocal disaster.