Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Not Very Powerful Game

The more things change, the more things stay the same. As Boro returned to action last Saturday with a 2-1 win over Bury in the Capital One Cup, there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

Woodgate made it through the whole ninety minutes unscathed, undeterred and mostly untroubled. (As did, miraculously, Kevin Thomson.) Our new Football Friend slowly but surely grew in confidence as the match went on. Carayol, despite having to go off injured (hopefully it's no more than a precaution), had a very promising first half. And Ledesma, rather unfairly likened to Fabio Rochemback by Marc Hamari on Twitter - "skill, determination and ability but sadly no end product" - showed that he did have some end product after all with a debut goal (even if it was scuffed). Better still, Adam Reach and Luke Williams both impressed in their cameo appearances, and Grant Leadbitter's all action display (which warranted, but did not get, a goal) showed he had all the criteria to be the next Barry Robson, if not better.

But at the end of the day, it was a goal from Marvin Emnes - remember, the guy who could do no wrong at the start of last season - that kicked our performance into a higher gear midway through the first half. And just when we thought it was safe to start dreaming of victory... it happened again. From poor marking at a set piece (yet again), Bury scored and found themselves back in a game that really should have already been beyond them at that point.

It didn't matter this time, as we saw the game out. But continuing to rely on the same old faces and continuing to make the same old mistakes could really come back to bite us in the proverbial end, just like last season.

More seriously, though, teams don't fear us. During our last successful promotion campaign from the second tier, we developed a siege mentality at the Riverside that had some of the division's lesser sides deliberately coming to play for a point. Of course, a full stadium virtually every week helped, but still.

By contrast, last season we developed a counter-attacking style away from home that, for the most part, worked very well. But at the Riverside, teams tended to park the bus in front of goal in the hope of nullifying our attack and guaranteeing at least a point for themselves, if not three. (The better counter-attacking visitors seemed to prosper this way.) It was as if we had all the gear, but no idea. All huff and puff but little or no end product. Our lack of goals last season, especially compared with our "promotion rivals", says it all.

So, a solid start to the season. But if we really are to challenge for promotion this year, there needs to be more penetration, more power, in our game. Will one more striker make the difference?

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