Having been on holiday and missed the opening day defeat against Leicester, it’s fair to say I approached yesterday’s match with more trepidation than excitement.
But arriving into the new-look stadium and watching the team warm-up, I started to feel a bit more positive.
Unfortunately, that feeling was short-lived.
Despite new faces, it was pretty much the Boro of old – negative play, not being able to string passes together, not winning balls, wasting chances (Carayol) and, finally, conceding when it didn’t really look possible.
George Friend had a nightmare, Lukas Jutkiewicz was muted and overall play was hit and miss.
None of our new signings did anything to catch my eye or really impress me and I still don’t feel like the players put enough pressure on themselves to win. We lack the attitude, confidence or even arrogance of a team who wants out of their current position and believes they can do better.
Mowbray’s tendency to say we’ve been punching above our weight for years seems to have created a feeling that, actually, we are where we belong and promotion, or even the play-offs, would be an achievement of epic proportions, rather than a realistic goal. As a lifelong fan, that makes me angry.
Captain Rhys Williams seems to have decided (or been told) that to compete as a centre-back in the Championship, he needed to build himself up slightly. Always tall, the young Aussie looked noticeably broader through the chest and will be hoping it increases his physical presence alongside Jonathan Woodgate at the heart of Boro’s defence.
To be fair, we had little to defend, as Blackpool struggled just as much as us to really create anything in the final third, and Jason Leutwiler looked solid enough in place of the injured Jason Steel, despite conceding a scrappy goal from Chris Basham on 83 minutes after a mistake by Williams.
The bright side is that we did manage to pick up a point.
I’m no fan of Marvin Emnes – I think he’s a luxury player, and a luxury player in our position is just a liability by another name – but he did liven up play as a late substitute and, crucially, bagged a last minute equaliser to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat.
The new family zone looks great and concessions such as a free drinks voucher for every match with your season card are great marketing, but crowds of less than 14,000 in a 35,000+ seater stadium is dismal however you look at it. And what worries me is that, despite Emnes rescuing a point in extra time, I don’t think those who stayed away will be regretting their decision.
What needs to change, and quickly, is the standard of football being played by Mowbray’s team. The club is doing all it can to try to entice supporters back to the Riverside, but without results and entertaining football on offer, it’s a thankless task.
Judging by the win away at Charlton, our form is still better on the road, so fingers crossed we can beat Wigan on Sunday and get a taste for being on the winning side, otherwise it’s going to be another long hard season.