Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Mardi Gras For Buoyant Boro

Well... we certainly made hard work of that one, didn't we? But how good it feels. A 3-1 away win against a side we would have struggled against under Gordon Strachan. Double Dutch Delight from once-again Marvellous Marvin. A very smartly taken First Boro Goal (for Malaury Martin, read Curtis Main). Successive victories. Five goals in two games. And, a key player has signed a new contract. It's like that spell in August and September, where we won five league games out of seven, all over again.

Fears that Boro would fall as flat as a pancake last night were quashed during the opening ten minutes, which almost saw the consistently improving Lukas Jutkiewicz net a hat-trick. Soon after, we got the lucky break we needed as Rolls Rhys's shot hit Marvin Emnes on the head and flew over the line. He followed it up more than twenty minutes later with a much, much classier strike that suggested that both him - and we - were back in business.

An important aside: I feel his first strike, which he probably knew little about until it went in, is the kind of deflected goal that any striker needs to get their confidence back. But in truth, I saw signs of an Emnes resurgence even before the Forest game. When he came on in the replay against Sunderland, he was running at the defence with real conviction, and didn't seriously put a foot wrong. All he needed to really get going again, I felt, was a goal - and he got it against Forest.

Alas... (you knew that word was coming, didn't you?) we were found wanting at set pieces again minutes later, letting Millwall back into the game with their first effort on goal in the entire match. It's this kind of set-piece marking, coupled with uncharacteristic defensive mistakes (like one from Bates in the second half that nearly saw Millwall equalise) that are as much to blame for our campaign not fulfilling its promise as the thin squad and injuries. Too many draws have seen us fail to keep pace with the top two - yet shockingly, if we win our game in hand we'll only be three points off automatic promotion.

Thankfully, this wasn't one of those "many draws", as we somehow weathered a storm we shouldn't have had to weather to begin with, before wrapping the game up with Curtis Main's first ever Boro goal. No doubt that The Main Man (methinks young Curtis is going to hear that headline a lot now) was delighted, but on reflection, I think Mogga, the squad and the fans were just relieved. Me? I was both relieved and delighted, for the win had put us back in the play-off positions and maintained our new-found momentum. The emergence of Main and the improvement of Jutkiewicz appeared to have strengthened our front line beyond belief. Come to think of it, maybe the fact that he has those two competing for his position has given Marvin a wake-up call...

On to Reading this weekend. And now that they're above us in the table, it will be a much tougher test than the 0-0 draw in October.

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As another aside - I know you were all celebrating Pancake Tuesday yesterday, but there's additional cause for celebration today. Opinions of a certain ex-are more varied than you may think - indeed, Anthony Vickers has done his best to debunk the cult surrounding him on a few of his blog posts (here's one of them). And, in fairness, Vic has made some pretty convincing points.

But there's no doubt that said ex-player symbolises, like JJ Abrams' Super 8 and Michel Haznavicius' The Artist - and you might as well have called him an Artist on a football pitch - both the epitome of, and a lament for, a bygone era. In this case, a time when, as Vic said, Boro were "reshaping the dreamscape of possibilities". A time when anything seemed possible.

He played a major part in making me a Boro fan. He gave us so many memorable moments. Who will forget his tears at Elland Road in 1997, or the sight of him collapsing on the pitch at Cardiff in 2004? Certainly not me.

Happy Birthday, Juninho!

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