This is my first blog of 2013, it’s also my first Boro blog for quite sometime, so it’s a shame it comes off the back of a Boro defeat.
I’m still quite depressed having endured the Boro v Watford match, so I’m going to kick off with the positives. (Ironically Boro started positively, with some nice build up play which, ultimately, we failed to make count.)
First up is my man of the match once again – Jason Steele.
Jason Steele has come on leaps and bounds and is, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in the Championship, I certainly haven’t seen anyone better come to the Riverside. Against Watford, he made timely and effective saves and showed his judgement has improved along with his confidence in his own ability – he deserved better out of the game and was let down by his defence.
Secondly, we didn’t get thumped and Scott McDonald denied the Hornets a clean sheet.
Thirdly, we only dropped one place down the table, and Sheff Wed did us a favour by beating high flying Hull.
But the bad far outweighed the good.
We needed to get the first goal and we failed to do so, and then we went to pieces. We lost the ball far too often, made silly errors, panicked and reverted back to the Boro of old – inviting far more pressure from the opposition than we could reasonably deal with and just praying for it to be over.
The combination of Seb Hines and Rhys Williams, with Nicky Bailey playing out of position would only see us through if all three were in top form, sadly Bailey and Hines were hit and miss and Williams had, by his standards, one of the worst games I can remember. We miss Jonathan Woodgate and Andre Bikey.
Rhys Williams is one of my favourite ever Boro players and he’s allowed a couple of mistakes, unfortunately for the Aussie – and everyone concerned with Boro – his mistakes came one after the other yesterday and proved extremely costly. No-one will be more upset than Rhys himself and to be fair to him he did try to make amends by getting himself forward, however this left our defence exposed and did more harm than good. Never mind Rhys, at least you’re not Jon Walters!
Other than the captain having a nightmare, it wasn’t really anyone’s day. George Friend worked tirelessly as per usual but most of his teammates came in and out of the game and were rarely on the same wavelength.
I was delighted that Jukiewicz and McDonald started up front because, for me, they are our strongest front two pairing but aside from McDonalds’ consolation goal their endeavours came to nothing.
Which brings us to the substitutions.
Three subs and as the saying goes two out of three ain’t bad!
Off: McEachran, On: Reach
I’d play Reach over McEachran right now because the former, unlike the latter is brimming with confidence. Both are young players – both 19 if I’m not mistaken – but while McEachran is on loan from Chelsea, Reach is yet another of our academy products and like Messers Downing & Johnson before him, has a cracking left foot.
McEachran began his loan spell at Boro full of promise but has faded for me and looks as if he’s finding the physical nature of the Championship difficult – perhaps he would be wise to build himself up a bit if he can.
Reach, in contrast is 6 foot and weighs more than a stone and a half more than McEachran making him a whole lot harder to brush aside, he’s also in form.
Off: Ledesma, On: Zemamma
Ledesma had a shocker but Zemamma replacing him on 71 minutes didn’t really have any impact on the game.
And here’s the one I didn’t agree with:
Off: Jukiewicz, On: Miller
Miller scores, occasionally, but Jukiewicz is a superior player in every aspect. It may be that The Juke had simply run out of steam but he offered far more goal threat than his replacement and there was no way Miller was going to do anything like Juke’s running.
Watford for their part executed their gameplan almost perfectly. Having taken a while to match Boro’s energy, or indeed get hold of the ball in the early stages, they set about breaking us down and made us pay for our mistakes, with two goals from Matej Vydra giving the Hornets the win.
On a side note – the standard of refs and their assistants in the Championship really is dismal, and I haven’t seen so much handball action since the Olympics.
However, we didn’t do enough to get anything out of the game and although the following sentence will annoy any players reading, and probably make me unpopular with some fans – I’m just not convinced we tried hard enough to get something out of it.
Our squad is looking bigger and stronger as players return from injury, but perhaps making so many changes destabilised us a bit? Whatever the reason, we dropped another three points at home and need to get back to winning ways sharpish.
Next up it’s Leicester away, a Friday night match and a chance for our first league win of 2013 – onwards and upwards, Up The Boro!