Up The Boro

Now, I’m not going to make a habit of talking about football on here, but sometimes it’s difficult to get your message across in less than 140 characters. It’s 2am and this probably won’t be the most succinct and well written piece of prose I’ll ever conjure up, but stick with me…

Tonight I witnessed yet another “typical” Boro performance. They drew 0-0 at home to relegated Doncaster Rovers, in a game that they simply had to win to keep their play off ambitions alive.

To be fair, they probably should have won. They had 19 shots on goal, 8 of which were on target and of those that weren’t on target, well, let’s just say I’m not sure anybody in the ground understood quite how Scott McDonald managed to miss the target with his header. The 14,967 fans at The Riverside were also treated to numerous refereeing blunders, but the bottom line is: we didn’t do enough to win the match.

To win football matches, you need to score goals – ideally more than the opposition. A cliche and downright obvious I know, but with almost half of this season’s 22 home games drawn and only 20 goals scored at The Riverside, it’s fairly easy to see why Middlesbrough haven’t managed to cement a play off place. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s not all doom and gloom.

The Championship is a tough league. Pre-season, I predicted that we’d finish just outside the play offs – looks like I’m going to be right, unfortunately. I remember saying to the lads I sit with that with our relatively young and inexperienced squad, it’ll be unfair to expect them to perform consistently for 46 games. Next season, players like Joe Bennett and Richie Smallwood will be a year older and a year wiser – which should stand them in good stead.

This year we’ve had the best away record of my lifetime, we’ve seen players like Seb Hines, Rhys Williams and Jason Steele emerge as vital first team members and we’re going to finish with the most points and our highest league position for three years. Yes, the last few months have been very disappointing, but let’s not forget just how bad things were a couple of years ago.

When Gordon Strachan was in charge, we regularly went entire matches without testing the opposition goalkeeper or even looking like we had any idea how we were going to score a goal. At least under Mowbray, it’s clear for all to see how he wants the team to play, even if we rarely manage to do it for more than about 20 minutes out of 90.

My only disappointment this term has been the lack of game time for some of our promising youngsters. With our form deteriorating horrendously since the turn of the year, it would’ve been nice to see the likes of Luke Williams, Adam Reach and Andy Halliday given a chance – at least with some cameos from the bench. They definitely couldn’t have done any worse than Adam Hammill and his pointless stepovers or Kevin Thompson and his backwards passes – or even Marvin Emnes, who has clearly been carrying an injury for months and could really do with a 6 months golf holiday in Argentina. The impact that Curtis Main has had in some of his appearances from the bench makes me wish that we’d been willing to blood a few more of the youngsters, as I say – they can’t have done any worse over the past few months than some of our seasoned pros!

Luke Williams was one of the few positives to take out of the Strachan era and his ability to link the midfield and attack is something that I reckon we could’ve really done with over the last few months. Too often, Jutkiewicz has been left isolated up front and that could potentially have been rectified by chucking Williams in. I appreciate that he’s only a young lad and I have every confidence in Mowbray to manage his players effectively, but with our team lacking cohesion and struggling to string passes – let alone results – together, I reckon Luke Williams would have been worth a punt. Hopefully we’ll see more of him over the next few seasons.

One player who I’ve felt pretty sorry for this season is Justin Hoyte. From what I’ve seen in the Championship over the past couple of seasons, I genuinely reckon he’s the best right back in the division. Unfortunately, his poor performances when he’s been played out of position have stuck in fickle fans memories and he’s on the receiving end of a very unfair amount of criticism. Is it because he came from Arsenal? Is it because he’ll be on a Premier League salary? Is it because he doesn’t show the same heart-on-sleeve commitment as Tony McMahon? Probably. In my opinion he’s been one of our most consistent performers this season and aside from a couple of glaringly obvious errors leading to goals for Hull and Leeds, I’d have hoped that he’d have managed to silence a few of his rather harsh North Stand critics…

Anyway. I could type all night. Well done if you’ve read this far and apologies for the inevitable typos and grammatical errors. In Mowbray we trust. Here’s to next season!

UP THE BORO

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