Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Can We Outfox The Foxes - And Save Our Season?


A quick glance at the Championship table tells me my rallying cry from after the Coventry match may have come a little too late. While last month, West Ham and Southampton dropping points in such a fashion (especially the Hammers) may have given us reason to gloat, they're no longer our chief concerns. Another quick glance at the Championship table tells us we're not in the play-off places any more, let alone the automatic promotion spots.

No doubt that all of you will tell me to give the table yet another quick glance and realise that there's only one point between 4th and 8th, and we have a game in hand. But that means there is even less margin for error. Even if we win tonight, Cardiff will still be two points clear of us with a far superior goal difference, and then there will be the matter of the "Big Two" having to drop points again if we are to have any hope of catching up with them...

Is there any reason, therefore, to be overly optimistic about tonight? Kevin Thomson's back in the side, yes, but he hasn't given us cause for celebration. A 'keeper crisis may well force us to plant poor Connor Ripley between the sticks again, and you know what normally happens when that happens. (Although in fairness to Ripley, he's not alone - how many other talented young goalkeepers have suffered when, as in the case of Brad Jones and David De Gea, they have one heck of an act to follow, or, as in the case of Ripley, they're only in the team because no other 'keeper is fit?)

Our league record against Leicester over the years isn't exactly one to shout about either. You have to go as far back as September 2001 to find the last time we beat them away, or later that same season for the last time we beat them at home. (And even then, the first win only came because of two late goals in a game we'd trailed in for more than 70 minutes, and the second win only came because of Frank Sinclair's astonishing own goal from thirty plus yards.) Add in the fact that in four of our last five games against them, we haven't scored at all, and you can see why I'm not expecting too much this evening. Also, they've won their last three games, while, barring cup matches, we've lost our last three. And, of course, we're facing Nigel Pearson, who I'm sure would like nothing better than to put one over his old club.

But, as they did with Sunderland a few days ago, all these facts and statistics might just give us a chance. We have, after all, developed a habit of upsetting the form book over the years. And with Matthew Bates looking something like his best again, Barry Robson running the engine room like his life depends on it (your mistake against the Black Cats is forgiven, Robbo) and Lucas Jutkiewicz slowly starting to find his feet in a Boro shirt, there's no reason why we can't surprise again. Lest we forget, Leicester are 14th in the table too. The unpredictability of this league gives us as much a chance as anyone else. Let's wait and see what happens...

* * *

Finally... as another transfer window closes (and why on earth were games played on the same night? You know that does no good for team morale) another Boro player exits the club. And sadly, none of us is surprised. As I predicted after the Shrewsbury game, it's goodbye for Tarmo Kink, who has just had his contract terminated. When Strach signed him, we all hoped he would add vital creativity and class to both sides of midfield and up front. There were indeed moments of class, not to mention a few very crucial goals, but the trouble is, they were very few and far between. At the end of the day, he was little more than the Estonian Afonso Alves of the Championship - for every moment of magic and classy finish he was capable of, he was just too lightweight for the demands of the league he played in.

So long Tarmo, and better luck at your next club.

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