This week’s match was against Liverpool. Though I had to work, I managed to keep an eye on the game (gotta love Slingbox and P2P technology) and saw Boro forced into a late change to the line-up as keeper Brad Jones injured a hand in the warm-up and Ross Turnbull took his place between the sticks.Boro were good value for the money and more than held their own for the bulk of the match. The first half ended scoreless but was uptempo and entertaining. On the hour Mido, last week’s hero, came on for Alfonso Alves who again struggled to make an impression on the game. Just 10 minutes later Mido made his presence known as Aliadiere fed a short ball to his feet and the Egyptian drilled in a low, accurate shot that Pepe Reina could not reach at the foot of the right hand post. 1-0 Boro !
I felt the turning point in the match came on 75 minutes when new signing Justin Hoyte debuted. I found it odd though that he was put in at left back in place of Taylor as that is not his natural position. In the final minutes Boro started defending too deep and inviting shots at goal. The back four had been solid and I’m not sure a change was warranted.
Liverpool got back into the match at the 85 minute mark as Jamie Carragher, the most unlikely of threats, launched a shot from just outside the box that deflected off Pogatetz and past Turnbull.
Gareth Southgate then put on Didier Digard for Tuncay on 87 minutes to try and firm up the midfield and hold on to at least a point. The signs were pointing towards a Liverpool late miracle as Turnbull was forced into making a brilliant save, going full-out to palm away a Gerrard free-kick that was heading towards the far top corner. I thought maybe we’ve done it….maybe that was Liverpool’s last chance. But in the closing seconds Reina’s long free-kick was not strongly cleared and it fell to Gerrard. Of course he belted in an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box leaving Boro empty handed and taking all three points for the Reds.
A scrappy win and a good sign for Liverpool who in previous seasons would have found a way to drop points. If they can continue to put points up while they struggle for form, they could make the title race a three-team affair.
Overall it was a wonderful showing for Boro as they matched Liverpool in many areas (passing, work rate, creativity) and I thought we controlled large sections of play. I also thought that Wheater and Huth were very solid in shutting Keane and Torres down. There are a lot of good feelings that can be taken from Saturday’s game. That doesn’t mean that my heart didn’t hit the floor when Gerrard scored….it was a very cruel ending to what had been an inspiring performance.
But there is still plenty of positivity to be had and ahead of the Carling Cup clash against Yeovil Southgate has expressed his desire to challenge for the trophy.
“Maybe we cannot win the Premier League, but we can win the Carling Cup. We have done it before, and we will be looking for a decent run in the competition. It is a competition that we can genuinely win. We have to believe that. It is a tournament we can go a long way in, and we have done that in the past. We need a good run in the Carling Cup. So much about cups is in the lap of the gods, but we have to maintain the form that we have shown already.”
I would compare Southgate to another ex-player turned manager, Chris Coleman, as someone who speaks honestly and intelligently about the game and does not make excuses for his side. I respected the job that Coleman did with Fulham and the two managers and millions of pounds spent since his departure have thus far produced little more than he did on a tighter budget. If Southgate can continue to grown and learn as a manager, good things should come soon for Boro.
On the community side of things, I introduced myself to the North American Boro Supporter’s group and have joined in their conversations. I was also directed to check out a couple of Boro-related websites: ComeOnBoro.com and the Evening Gazette (a Middlesbrough newspaper). Of note is the blog started by Anthony Vickers under the title “Untypical Boro”. Both sites are entertaining reads and are helping me to gain a sense of the general mindset and outlook of the Boro supporters. Thanks to Dave and Darren for the recommendations.
This week’s project (beyond following the Carling Cup match v Yeovil and the league game against Stoke) is to research the academy and reserve teams. I also need to find a good recipe for, and perhaps attempt to make, Parmo.
Come on Boro!