Boro defeat hardly a shock, but the manner of it was.

CoymayLast night was one of those periodical away games that I don’t even get to listen to on the radio (I was out and so was only able to get away to catch up with things on my car radio for a few minutes at half time and then again after the match). Therefore, as most of you who get to read this will have seen and heard more of the game than me, I’ll keep this piece a lot shorter than normal and just offer a few general thoughts on our 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough.

Firstly, while it’s frustrating that we were unable to follow up on that fine performance against Brighton on Saturday and recording successive wins seems as far away as ever, defeat to a team who had only lost twice at home in fifteen games during which they had conceded just four goals shouldn’t have come as a shock. Unfortunately, based on the snippets I’ve heard and read and the brief highlights I’ve watched, the same cannot be said about the manner of the loss.

Middlesbrough are one of a few sides (Derby and Sheffield Wednesday are others which spring to mind) who are challenging for promotion on the back of having spent very significantly on new players despite not being in receipt of relegation parachute payments – to me, it seems pretty certain that these sides have to go up if they are to escape sanctions under the FFP rules next season.

Besides the likes of Stuart Downing, Jordan Rhodes, Christian Stuani and David Nugent (who, according to some of the more conservative reports I’ve read, cost Boro something like £19 million between them), last night’s squad had a couple of players in it in Gaston Ramirez and Richie DeLaet who, surely, must be costing them a tidy sum in loan fees and wages.

Therefore, when you consider how we have been run this season in comparison to them, they should be beating us on their own patch really, but, should they be doing so by scoring three times while also affording to miss a penalty and what’s been described as a “host” of chances which fell to the expensive Rhodes (who, apart from a couple of goals for Huddersfield in a League Cup tie, has a pretty moderate scoring record against us)?

Truth is, that Boro owe their lofty position almost entirely to their vice like defence – the stats confirm my opinion that they have, by some way, the best defence in the Championship. However, despite all of their spending, they are hardly prolific in attack – we are one of ten teams in the division who have scored more goals than them this season. In fact, after a few big home wins at the start of the campaign, their recent goalscoring record at the Riverside Stadium was very poor, with only eight goals scored in their last ten matches in all competitions on their own ground – over the past four months, the tendency has been that away teams do not lose at Boro if they manage to score.

A third own own goal for Matt Connolly. Fans of Danny Malloy, a serial own goal scorer at the club in the late 50s and early 60s, say that he only scored so many of them because of a combination of his bravery and anticipation which took him into areas where it was likely he'd get the last touch on a ball destined for the net - I can see elements of this in Connolly's misfortunes this season and I'd still say that game in, game out, he's been our best defender this season.*

A third own own goal of the campaign for Matt Connolly. Fans of Danny Malloy, a serial own goal scorer at the club in the late 50s and early 60s, say that he only scored so many of them because of a combination of his bravery and anticipation which took him into areas where it was likely he’d get the last touch on a ball destined for the net – I can see elements of this in Connolly’s misfortunes this season and I’d still say that game in, game out, he’s been our best defender.*

So, when Fabio put us ahead with what was a superb first goal for the club, the opportunity was definitely there to feed on any anxiety in the home team and their supporters that had grown over a winless five game run. Sadly, City were prone to expensive individual mistakes all night which made it so much easier for their opponents to, first, get level quickly and then pull clear to record what was a big win by their standards.

Among the most culpable apparently were our usually reliable centrebacks. Matt Connolly may have been a little unfortunate when the ball rebounded off his knee on to his arm and then in to record his third own goal of the season to get Boro back on level terms, but there were unusual errors from him besides that, while Bruno Manga had one of those matches he is occasionally prone to where a player who normally makes plying his trade at this level look very easy, is suddenly sloppy in possession and unsure in his defending.

As for our left back, well, the word “enigma” could have been invented with him in mind. Scott Malone has been with us for over a year now, but I still never know what we are going to get from him from one game to the next.

When you see him at his best, those reports which claimed that Borussia Dortmund were interested in him last season seem almost believable – despite Fabio’s goal last night and his occasional quality in the final third, Malone, for me, is our best attacking full back.

Indeed, even though he was deemed worthy of only a four out of ten marking in Wales Online’s ratings for last night (not sure how reliable these were mind when you consider Fabio was given man of the match with a seven, yet David Marshall received an eight!), Malone still put over two lovely crosses which presented decent headed opportunities for Lex Immers and sub Kenneth Zohore. However, when you look at how feebly he lost possession, and then stayed down,  in the build up to the equaliser, you begin to think that the marking was a fair one.

Certainly, although I heard criticisms of other City players in the snippets of Radio Wales’ coverage that I caught, Malone was copping the brunt of it. Now I know I shouldn’t really be too critical of any player after a game that I have so little knowledge of currently, but the truth as I see it is that, based on the evidence of the last thirteen months, Scott Malone is a player who can easily go from the seven or eight out of ten performance he turned in on Saturday to the four out of ten we got last night – it’s far from the first time it’s happened and I believe that he is too inconsistent to be the sort of full back a side that wants to put in a meaningful promotion challenge can afford.

So, City move on to a home game on Saturday with a Preston side that, Burnley apart, have to be seen as the Championship’s form team with seven wins and just one loss to show from their last ten matches. The Lancashire side must now be considered credible Play Off contenders, but we showed on Saturday that we are well capable of beating such a team – the problem we are no closer to solving is that does victory on Saturday preclude the same outcome happening when we travel to Bristol City in our following game seven days later?

* picture courtesy of




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10 Responses to Boro defeat hardly a shock, but the manner of it was.

  1. John Walker says:

    Will FFP be your excuse at the end of the season because frankly if a team like Cardiff starts bleating that itys not fair we are in real trouble. What about when Cardiff had Bellamy playing for them on loan. What about the fact That Tan saved them from relegation and then spent a fortune to get you up to the premiership. You are on a par with Leicester who have a permanent room booked for the receiver.

    We have a Chairman who has the best interests of Middlesbrough at heart. FFP was designed to maintain the status quo and has no actual validity in any competitive sport.

  2. Clive Harry says:

    Morning All. I’m going to keep it brief because I’ve only listened to the commentary and seen the goals. However, the point I want to make is that with the team behind and heading for defeat, there was no apparent reaction from the manager until the tired old like for like Ameobi substitution was made with not long to go. This was followed with only seven minutes left by O’Keefe off and Gunnarsson on – another pointless, uninspiring substitution. Zohore was finally brought on with only minutes left. What was Saadi doing still on the bench? If he’s fit enough and good enough he should
    have been brought on – or can we expect to see him out on loan soon?!

  3. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks Clive. I’ve seen very little of both players so far, but I must say that if City needed a goal, Saadi would be more likely to come up with it than Zohore – it’s hard when you know as little about what happened overall last night, but the substitutions did have a bit of a “management by numbers” feel to them.

    John, it’s always good to hear from opposing supporters on here – even ones who appear to have misunderstood what I meant when I talked about your club and the FFP rules. As you correctly point out, a Cardiff who was “bleating” about the unfairness of big spending Boro beating poor old City would be a hypocrite given the huge debts my club ran up while they were trying to get to the Premier League. My only point was that you are one of at least three teams chasing promotion who look to be prime candidates for sanctions if you do not go up. I make no comments on the validity or otherwise of the FFP rules (if you read the other piece I’ve done today about our latest accounts, you’ll see that the “crime” which caused our embargo was an arguable one), but they are what we’ve got presently. Also, apologies if I’m wrong, but I believe that your club, like mine, voted to accept them.

  4. Colin Phillips says:

    Have only seen the second and third Boro goals so I am in no position to comment on what went on but if you look at the BBC stats of the game they look fairly even but as we know stats don’t always tell the truth.

    On to Saturday and Preston I would like to see the same City performance but it would be nice not to have the driving rain we had last week.

  5. Anthony O'Brien says:

    I absolutely agree with Clive’s comment re Saadi. At a time when we were desperate for a goal, what was he doing on the bench YET AGAIN? If he’s not fit, why put his name forward as one of the substitutes? Is it a case – as I think it must be – that the manager is afraid to put him on the field of play in case his injury returns? Mr Slade has the kind of safety first attitude which means that, too often, the players go onto the field aiming not to lose rather than aiming to win – as is demonstrated by his favoured tactics and timid (or even puzzling) use of substitutes. Even in the much vaunted defeat of Brighton, there was a kind of negative approach from Cardiff in the second half, and like most of the fans, I’m sure, we were all expecting something to go wrong until Whittingham’s penalty made a victory more or less certain. That being said, the impression I got from the wireless commentary last night was that Cardiff – for much of the game – were not inferior to Middlesborough, but as usual were defeated by sloppy play and individual mistakes. Changes were clearly needed as the second half progressed, but when BELATEDLY they came, they were effectively negative. Gunnarsson is not the man to get us a goal, despite his other admirable qualities, and Ameobi seems to be given playing time because he must have received some sort of promise when he agreed to play for us in the first place. I long ago suggested that Pilkington would do better than the role performed by Joe Mason, but I’m sure he could also link up well as an attacking force with Saadi (assuming Saadi is fit and will be given an opportunity to perform). Let’s see what Saturday has to bring!

  6. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Paul, as ever, for a fine piece.
    I see the Boro fan has all the friendly charm of his fellow Boro fan, Roy Chubby Brown.
    I thought your reply to him was dignified in the extreme, and were the roles reversed, I doubt whether we would have seen it matched.
    One word from me though re your mention of Sir Daniel Malloy being a serial offender of own goals.
    Not fair, my dear Paul.
    And I say that as someone who once saw Danny score two in the same game!
    And here’s for why.
    Because somewhere in the 1960s there was a change in what constituted an own goal.
    From that date, if the ball was going in anyway, it was not classed as an own goal.
    Before then, and certainly with two of the Danny OGs I recall, if the ball deflected off a defender, it was classed as an OG…even though the shot was on target.

  7. Barry cole says:

    Well Paul having just got back from the match I can say one thing. If slade is kept on after the end of the season I will not spend anymore money inn wasted journeys couple this with my refusal to renew my season ticket after last seasons rubbish then I have a feeling I am not on my own.
    We could have lost 6-1 without a doubt but it was clear early on that the manager needed to tweak the midfield. From slade absolutely nothing he just stared and looked as though he hadn’t a clue.
    Half way through the first half there was a need to bolster the midfield but he waited and waited and then put on the useless ameobi.
    The worse part was that we gave the goals away but slade decided to name Malone as the main culprit. For goodness sake how on earth can you get players to play to their potential by doing that. Those problems should be carried out behind closed doors.
    The inconsistancy that is slade will finish off any hopes of a top six place and we will be lucky to get into the top ten. I have said all along that we have the players to get into the top two but we haven’t got the manager to achieve that.
    After a season of saying that slade is out of his depth he continues to meet that criteria with aplomb. How on earth tan expects to bring us all together while he continues supporting slade I have no idea. He has started his PR campaign and well done to him but it will be shot down if he continues his support of a very poor manager

  8. Clive Harry says:

    Hi Dai. Danny scored a total of 14 ogies, as he used to call them, during his time with City although I think you’re right that if they got a touch from a defender on the way in, the poor bloke got the credit/blame. More specifically, the game you refer to was a 3-2 home win over Liverpool in August 1959 which was the start of our promotion season. I can still remember missing the kick off because there were huge queues for the entrance to the boys’ enclosure.
    Paul, I think there might be a strong case for altering the title of your blog to Old Farts Army.

  9. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Keep your fingers crossed Colin, but it looks like we might actually stay dry on Saturday!
    AMO, Saadi may be a little lacking in match fitness, but he’s being picked on the bench in front of Macheda who you would have thought would be there if there was any doubts as to Idriss’ readiness for the first team. Regarding Tuesday’s match, I’m still not sure what to think. I’ve read a lot of comments about how the teams being evenly matched and we were just undone by individual mistakes, but we were beaten by two goals by a team which also missed a penalty, while their £9 million striker was missing a “host” of good goalscoring chances. Barry, who was there watching the game, says we could have lost 6-1 and the snippets I heard on the radio at full time made it sound like we were well beaten – to be honest, I’m not sure we had the personnel on the bench to change the outcome of the game, but, as I said to Clive yesterday, Russell Slade’s change struck me as predictable and pretty cautious given we were trailing.
    Barry, I’ve always thought Russell Slade would see the season out and we’d have a new manager for 16/17, but, after what Vincent Tan said about him, I’m not as sure as I was about that – for me, no change of manager must surely also mean no increase in season tickets sold.
    I think you’re probably right about the definition of what constitutes an own goal being changed in the late fifties/early sixties – when I was helping Richard Hoad with his research into games played by the club a few months ago, I came across a season (57/58 I think it was) where the Western Mail had us scoring something like 14 own goals.
    Clive, with me still waiting to use my bus pass after having had it for a fortnight, I wonder if there is even one regular contributor on here who doesn’t have one?

  10. Dai Woosnam says:

    Thanks Clive for also seeing that Liverpool opening game.
    I had gone hoping for another 6 -1 like I had seen inflicted on Liverpool some 20 months previously, but was happy in the end to settle for a 3-2 win, with Graham Moore quite superb, in a thrilling game.
    And one thing I should have said re Malloy was this: a braver lionheart never existed. Nearly all his own goals resulted from him hurling himself, John Terry style, in last ditch attempts to stop a goal.
    By contrast, two of Matt Connolly’s OGs this season have been the total antithesis: farcical attempts to get his feet right as he fumbled/stumbled over the line, taking the ball with him.

    Mentioning JT there, makes me think that he was the British centre back with a playing style closest to Malloy’s. That said, Malloy’s gait and facial features (though not his hair style!) weirdly were uncannily close to Carles Puyol (sp?) of Barca fame.

    A final word on the debut career goal from Fabio.
    Why are we not all congratulating Vincent Tan for it?
    He has been trotting out the thoughts of my all time hero Charles Hughes, and his words have obviously registered with the Brazilian.
    More goal attempts in future please Fabio.
    Pity Scott Malone did not take another leaf out of the Dr Hughes POMO masterfile: do not go sideways on the halfway line!
    There can only be one cry:
    And it is …


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