Saturday, 28 April 2012

Wasteful Boro Fail To Bridge Watford Gap

Let's be honest... were you really expecting anything else?

We had approached the Southampton match with trepidation, believing we had no chance. Our dreadful home record and flat display against Doncaster gave us no right to beat the soon-to-be-promoted-anyway visitors. Or so we thought.

But beat them we did, and our play-off hopes remained alive.

But, as has often been the case this season, that game was defined by three not so little words:

To what end?

Southampton knew that all they had to do was beat Coventry at their place to go up, and they rolled them over today without any difficulty. What we needed, merely to get into the top six at all, was much more - a win against Watford away in addition to hoping Cardiff slipped up at Palace.

And you have to admit we were setting ourselves up for a fall before kick-off. 2,000 Boro fans in great voice at Vicarage Road, lots of #Believe hash tags roaming the Twitter-waves, stirring songs to get us in the mood for the occasion... We were hoisting ourselves by our own petard, and nothing had happened yet.

Even when Palace took the lead against Cardiff, I remained relatively unfazed. It was tempting to argue that Wilfred Zaha could be Boro's Gary Mackay at that point, but I had remembered that Mackay's goal had come three minutes from the end, not thirteen minutes from the beginning. Cardiff only needed a point... and they still had the whole game to get it.

Forget about the Eagles and Bluebirds, I thought. It's more important that our own lads do their job at all costs - for no win meant no dream.

And Boro were doing their best - but Scott Loach was having a blinder. No matter how hard Robson, Haroun, Bennett, Jutkiewicz and Emnes all tried, Loach was in a position to keep their efforts out. Worse still, the local commentators warned us at half-time that the best of Watford was yet to come.

So too, alas, was the best of Cardiff. Two goals in ten second half minutes switched the Selhurst Park scoreline in the Bluebirds' favour. The news clearly got through to the Boro lads, despite Mogga's hope that it wouldn't, and Boro's early dominance was soon a thing of the past.

From the moment Chris Iwelumo scored, Boro's performance regressed into something dangerously close to the West Brom surrender, with Emnes' equaliser a rare moment of light relief in a really uncomfortable final twenty minutes. Cardiff held on for their win, Boro went on to lose a crunch match - again - and I was left to reflect on what might have been.

We'd had three times as many shots on target as the opposition today, and we were sucker punched by a late (well, if you call after the seventy-minute mark "late") goal for the tenth time this season. Ultimately, you could sum up this game - and indeed the whole of 2011/12 - in just one word.


Something for the lads to remember next season...

That is why we haven't gone up this season. True, we have been betrayed, as Boro have been in the past, by a thin squad and injuries/loss of form to key players - particularly Bailey, Emnes, Bates, Williams, Haroun and McDonald. That, and our once untouchable manager has justifiably come under fire for some questionable tactics in the second half of the season, such as not giving more game time to the likes of Martin, Ogbeche, Halliday, Reach and Main. (Although, in fairness, Mogga hasn't been helped by a smaller substitutes bench.)

But I think, when we look back at 2011/12, what we will really remember is our inability to score enough goals. Brighton aside, our goal difference was the worst in the top ten. That's played as much a part in our awful form in the second half of the season - six wins in twenty-three matches - as anything else.

But hey, things could be worse... right?

More later. In the meantime, I'll cheer you all up with a classic TV commercial featuring a Boro legend from Watford. One that makes me want some pizza...

1 comment:

Mike said...

Nicely summed up Si. It looks as though we're heading into a summer of extreme reshuffling and could emerge with a quite different team, one that will almost certainly give more game time to the likes of Reach and Halliday (the others are out of contract so I guess it depends on whether they can agree Champo wages).

Not to bang on about an old point, but I would happily have taken 7th back in August, it's just a shame this became a season of two halves with all our limitations exposed in the second. A consistent set of results across the year would have been much kinder to Mogga...